Chewy, flavorful, and satisfying, this Easy Vegan Meat Sauce for Pasta will become a new household favorite. Make a single or multiple batches easily and save in the freezer for a quick meal later.
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Hey Internet, it’s time I gave you another pasta recipe--or rather, something FOR your pasta. Why? Because pasta is a major vegan staple and, honestly, I just find it to be incredibly versatile and delicious.
So I’m sharing with you today a vegan meat sauce that’s perfect for pasta, but it’s also a great base for chili, or you can eat it with rice or bread or whatever else you like. I actually even love to dunk my vegan garlic bread in it.
TVP is a high protein soy product that’s incredibly low in fat, inexpensive and versatile. It comes in dehydrated “crumbles” that can be rehydrated into a variety of things including meatless ground (basically the vegan version of ground beef), vegan bacon bits, vegan chorizo, vegan taco meat (coming soon!), etc.
I love using TVP because it’s super fast and very cheap, even cheaper than soy curls which I also love and are a similar product.
So this TVP meat sauce is really easy to make, and it really tastes like a traditional meat sauce for pasta.
“Meat sauce” may sound like a strange term to those who didn’t grow up with it. It’s basically a marinara sauce for pasta that contains meat.
Some do ground beef, some do a mixture with sausage, vegetables like onion/garlic/bell peppers, etc. It varies regionally and based on tradition.
This sauce obviously has no meat because it is vegan, but I like the TVP because it adds a nice chewy texture to the sauce and it also adds a whole bunch of protein.
I mentioned above too that a great thing about this sauce is it freezes well. So whatever you can’t eat--or if you make a double batch--just let it cool a bit, store in a freezer-safe container or bag, and defrost in the fridge about 12-24 hours ahead of when you’d like to make it. Heat it up and serve over freshly cooked pasta!
What You’ll Need
- Tomato paste: The better quality, the better the flavor. I recommend Muir Glen canned tomato paste as they’re organic, have a BPA free can, and are definitely the best flavored tomato brand I’ve found. I also love Cento tomato paste.
- Olive oil, optional: I like to add a splash of olive oil to the tomato paste for body, a little richness, and a complement to the acid of the tomato. However, feel free to skip if you are oil-free.
- Canned whole peeled tomatoes: Technically, to make a marinara, all you really need is tomato paste, water, and some spices. But it’s really easy to add a few more things here to get a much better texture and depth of flavor. And I highly recommend canned tomatoes. Store-bought tomatoes often have little to no flavor. If you have homegrown tomatoes, by all means use those, but I sadly can’t grow any produce in my apartment, so canned it is. And canned is amazing if you can buy Cento San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes, because they are THE BEST.
- Diced tomatoes: More body and texture--this sauce is everything. I like to use Muir Glen diced tomatoes here, but any will do. Give fire roasted tomatoes a try for a smokier flavor.
- Sugar: I use just a tablespoon of sugar here to balance the flavors. I use regular organic cane sugar (at least in the US, non-organic sugar is often processed through animal bone char), but any sweetener such as coconut sugar or agave should work.
- Spices: Dried oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, and dried thyme add a lot to the flavors here.
- TVP: Textured vegetable protein (TVP) is our meat substitute here. You can purchase it online or from some grocery and health food stores. I can actually find it at my regional chain grocery store in the “Bob’s Red Mill” section. As a substitute, you could use lentils. Red lentils will become very mushy when cooked (so add near the end if that’s what you have), whereas brown or green lentils actually require more cooking time than this recipe allots. So if you’re using the brown or green lentils, I recommend pre cooking them and adding them near the end. You could also use a store-bought ground meat substitute like a pound of Beyond Meat Plant Based Grounds--just brown it in a pan first and set aside, then add back in for the last 10-15 minutes of cooking the sauce.
- Vegan beef or vegetable broth: The broth is for rehydrating the TVP (way more flavor than just doing it with water) and either vegan beef broth or vegetable broth will work. I prefer the vegan beef broth for this recipe--I love to use Better Than Bouillon No Beef Base and just mix it with hot water (1 teaspoon paste per cup) but bouillon cubes will also work. And if all you have is vegetable broth, that will work just fine.
How to Make Vegan Meat Sauce with TVP
- Heat a nonstick pot with tall sides (as the sauce tends to splatter) over medium high heat and add the tomato paste. Stir constantly while it cooks for about 30-60 seconds, then add olive oil if using. If using the oil, stir well for about a minute. If not, move onto the next step.
- Add the whole peeled tomatoes, diced tomatoes, sugar, and spices. Stir well and bring to a boil.
- Turn the heat down to around medium low to medium--keep it at a strong simmer--and cook for 10 minutes. You may want to cover with a splatter screen. Keep in mind if you cover it with a pot lid, the sauce may be a little thinner since not as much liquid is evaporating, but it will still keep your kitchen from getting messy! That’s why I like the splatter screen, hah.
- Add the TVP to a bowl and cover with the broth. Give a stir and soak for 10 minutes.
- Give it a good stir and replace the screen. Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until the tomatoes are easily mashed with the back of your spoon. You may choose to blend with an immersion blender if you don’t want any chunky tomato bits, but we like to just mash any large chunks with the spoon. Much more satisfying this way in my opinion.
- Drain off any excess broth and add the rehydrated TVP to the tomato mixture in the pot. Let the whole thing come to heat. It should be *perfect*, but if you want the sauce to be thinner add a little water and if you want it to be thicker, cook it a little longer without a lid.
- Serve over freshly cooked pasta, with vegan garlic bread, or just let cool and freeze.
- This TVP meat sauce can be stored in the fridge for up to 4-5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. It freezes very well, so it’s a great little recipe to rely on to stock your freezer with vegan lunches and dinners for later use.
More Gluten-Free Meat Alternatives
Don’t get me wrong, I love making seitan. But I also know some of you who can’t eat it or prefer not to. So here’s some of my other meat alternative recipes, sans gluten.
- Vegan Sausage Crumbles (Tofu Based)
- TVP: Vegan Chorizo
- TVP: Vegan Bacon Bits
- Portobello Bacon
- Vegan Shredded Chicken
- Vegan Meatballs
- Portobello Steaks
- TVP: Meatless Crumbles (substitute for ground beef)
As always, I hope you love this TVP pasta sauce recipe–I know I do, and Mr. Zardyplants does too. He kept eating it off the cooking spoon while we were trying to take photos.
This vegan meat sauce is:
- Chewy yet tender
- Moist (sorry)
- Herby and well seasoned
- Protein packed
- And perfect for pasta, bread, etc.
Let me know in the comments below if you make this recipe or tag me @Zardyplants on Instagram so I can see your beautiful recreations! If you tag me on IG, I will share your post in my stories :)
Also, one quick request: if you love how this recipe looks or tastes, please leave me a 5-star rating and a nice comment–ratings help more people find my recipes which helps me keep providing them! Thank you!