Satisfying and oh-so-delicious, this Easy Vegan Ragu is a plant protein-packed weeknight meal. It only takes 30 minutes to make this family-friendly, hidden veggie, healthy recipe.
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Hey Internet, I was really craving a “meat sauce” for my pasta the other night, but of course not real meat from an animal since we’re vegan here.
So I started researching Italian meat sauce ideas, and wanted to figure out the difference between bolognese and ragu. Apparently, ragu is more of a meat-based sauce with some tomato in it--but the idea is that the meat is more of the flavor front runner here.
That meant two things for me: I’d have to create a really delicious and flavorful meat for my vegan ragu, and that it would be a great dish for my husband who is vegan but enjoys a protein-packed meal.
And when I finally started testing this recipe… oh baby! So good!
This is a super satisfying meal and the flavor is delicious. It’s a little meaty without being too realistic and not greasy at all.
The base starts with shredded veggies that enhance the flavor, but pretty well hidden for those who are not big fans of eating their vegetables.
Shredded veggies is REALLY fast with a food processor, so you won’t spend more than a few minutes on the prep for this recipe.
The sauce includes some tomato (but it’s not the heart of the sauce like most marinara), herbs and spices, a little balsamic vinegar (or you could use red wine, details below), and TVP as a beef replacement. I’ll detail plenty of substitutions below so you can customize this recipe to your and your family’s preferences.
But oh man, this sauce is amaaaaazing. It's also very kid-friendly! If you're looking for more of that kind of thing, check out my list of vegan kid-friendly recipes or my list of 50+ vegan snacks for kids!
Enough trying to tell you how amazing it is, let’s get started.
What You’ll Need
The true base of this vegan ragu is the veggies. They get shredded up in a food processor (or you can use a box grater) so they just kind of melt into the sauce, enhancing the flavor as they are natural aromatics.
Onion, garlic, celery, and carrots are delicious and flavorful, especially blended up (not pureed, but shredded) together. That sautes and gets all fragrant while we do the same thing to the mushrooms.
Not a fan of mushrooms? You won’t taste them in this sauce. Don’t omit them unless there’s an allergy because they pack sooooo much flavor! It’s just an enhancer in the sauce. Not the star.
And I’ll put the tomatoes here too, but I just use canned tomatoes because I’m blasphemous. Honestly, I hate store bought fresh tomatoes because they don’t have any flavor.
If you home grow your own, use those! I’ll cry in the corner because I live in an apartment and don’t have anywhere to grow my own tomatoes.
For this recipe, I used a 14-oz can of petite diced tomatoes. The petite is key if you don’t want big tomato chunks in your sauce. Crushed tomatoes would also work.
I also used a 14-oz can of no salt added tomato puree. I prefer to add my own salt, and I find this just amps up the sodium too much if it comes pre salted.
Oh and just a smidge of tomato paste.
To add a ton of protein and nice meaty texture, I used about a cup of TVP, which stands for textured vegetable protein.
It is a soy product, and it is rich in complete protein and contains virtually no fat so it’s a great meat alternative. TVP is often just as cheap as ground beef, or close, and a whole lot healthier.
If you cannot have soy or don’t want to use TVP, you could substitute lentils or a store bought ground beef alternative like Beyond Meat or Gardein. If you replace it, don't use any broth or just omit the TVP and broth altogether.
Speaking of which, we need to rehydrate the TVP because it comes dry. I used vegan beef broth for this. Specifically, I used Better Than Bouillon No Beef Stock Concentrate, which is a concentrated stock paste you just mix with hot water. It’s delicious, economical, and lasts forever in the fridge.
You could also just use vegetable broth or hot water.
A little bit of balsamic vinegar -- or ¼ - ½ cup of dry red wine are also big flavor boosts here. If you use the wine, cook just a few minutes longer to accommodate the extra liquid.
It can be challenging to find vegan wine (some of the filtering agents are not vegan). Barnivore (not sponsored) is a great resource for finding vegan beer, wine, and liquor.
Finally, spices! I used Italian seasoning, fennel, smoked paprika, and red pepper flakes to round out the flavors in my vegan ragu sauce. You can use more red pepper flakes if you like spicy food, or omit it if you aren’t a fan.
Oh and one more thing--you’ll probably need pasta to serve this on top of. I used this tagliatelle but any will work. Use gluten-free if needed.
Top it off with some fresh parsley and nutritional yeast or vegan Parmesan topping.
Tips for Making Vegan Ragu
- If using, start the TVP soaking in a medium bowl. Pour hot broth or water (it doesn’t need to be boiling, just hot to the touch, and safe to touch, is fine) over the TVP and lightly press them down.
- First, chop your onion, carrots, and celery into 1-inch-ish chunks and toss them and your peeled garlic cloves into your food processor fitted with the standard S-blade (looks like an S) OR you can use a box grater to shred them. Heat a large nonstick pot over medium high heat. If using a food processor, pulse until the veggies are very finely shredded and add everything in the bowl to your pot. I use a Breville Sous Chef Food Processor and I’m obsessed with it, but any standard food processor should do the trick.
- Let the veggies saute for 3-4 minutes while you work on the mushrooms, stirring every so often. If you cook with oil, you’re welcome to use that, but I prefer to cook with water, so I just add a splash (about a tablespoon) every time the veggies start to stick (I just keep a cup of water by the stove whenever I’m cooking.
- Clean your mushrooms and quarter them (or halve the small ones), tossing them in the food processor (no need to clean out the bowl). Pulse until shredded finely and add them to the pot when the 3-4 minutes is up. Add your spices and cook for an additional 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Next add the tomato paste and rehydrated TVP. Stir well and cook for 4 minutes, still on medium high heat.
- Now add the balsamic vinegar (or red wine) tomatoes and tomato puree. Turn down to a simmer (around 4 on my stove) andcover. Cook for 7-8 minutes, then remove the lid and cook for another 4 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened.
- Serve your delicious vegan ragu with cooked pasta, garnish with parsley and nutritional yeast flakes or vegan Parmesan topping, and enjoy!
More Quick Vegan Pasta Dinners
I probably love pasta more than anything--sorry Mr. Zardyplants, aka Paul.
Here’s some of my fave pasta dishes right now--if you loved this vegan ragu recipe I bet you’ll like these:
- Vegan Cajun Pasta
- Chickpea Florentine (one pot)
- Vegan Ricotta Pasta with Tomatoes
- Savory Coconut Pasta
- Vegan Baked Feta Pasta
- Tahini Pasta with Broccolini
- Vegan Vodka Sauce (with pasta)
- Vegan Manicotti
- Vegan Hamburger Helper
As always, I hope you love this recipe–I know I do and so does Mr. Zardyplants, who is vegan but occasionally misses the flavor of meat (but not the cruelty–he insisted I add that line).
This vegan ragu is:
- “Meaty” (hold the cruelty)
- Nutrient dense
- and great for anyone in your life that either isn’t vegan or vegetarian yet and needs to be convinced or is already and just kinda misses the taste and mouthfeel of meat.
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!