Because meat and dairy are what define bolognese sauce, coming up with a convincing vegan alternative is quite difficult. By blending the flavour and texture characteristics of mushrooms and seitan, as well as adding layer after layer of savoury, meaty, and rich flavour, this dish manages to succeed.

I made the ragù (Ragú is a meat-based sauce that is usually served alongside with pasta) similarly to how I would if I were using meat, beginning by sautéing minced aromatic vegetables, such as onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, in olive oil until they are soft and starting to turn golden. My meat replacement is then added in place of the meat.

To replace meat, I use two substitutes. Due to their intensely delicious flavour, mushrooms are a natural first option. However, I didn’t want to use only mushrooms because they also have a distinct earthy flavour and a texture that is a little silkier than that of ground meat. Using only mushrooms would make my sauce taste exactly like a mushroom ragú, which is also excellent but it is not what I hope to achieve with this sauce.

I add the same amount of seitan, also known as wheat gluten, to the mushrooms to complete them. Seitan has a mild, curiously bread-like flavour and is moist, chewy, and spongy, but it also takes on other flavours nicely. It also excels in terms of texture, having a bite that is significantly more meat-like.

I hand-crush and shred the mushrooms and seitan into tiny pieces to give them a properly ground-meaty feel. Even while cutting them into smaller pieces may save you time, you wouldn’t get the crucial tactile cue that makes your tongue believe it is eating ground beef.


Preparing the Vegan Seitan and Mushroom Ragù Bolognese

I cook the mushrooms and seitan in a pot until the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated and the mushrooms are beginning to brown. Given that seitan is rather moist as well, the browning process can take some time. When the browning does begin, I add a sizable tablespoon of tomato paste and then a significant amount of wine.

In a traditional Bolognese, I prefer white wine, but for this vegan sauce, red wine is my best option. Red wine has a more robust flavour that more aggressively tempts your taste buds—and the more aggressively your taste buds are tempted by the red wine, the less likely they are to notice that you aren’t eating meat. After the raw alcohol smell of the wine has cooked out, I add a can of puréed tomatoes (I prefer to start with canned whole tomatoes and purée them myself), then I add other flavour smokescreens like sprigs of rosemary and sage, soy sauce, and red miso.

These earthy herbs go great with Italian braised and grilled meats, so they’re great for making a dish taste like it has meat even when it doesn’t. While unquestionably out of the ordinary, the soy sauce and miso offer richness and a rich, savoury flavour that are often found in the meat. I add a spoonful of flavourless refined coconut oil as the sauce’s finishing touch. Its function is to give a traditional Bolognese sauce the silkiness and richness that emulsified beef fat adds. The sauce would be too lean without it, making it clear that it was a vegan impostor.

A small amount of my vegan béchamel is added to the sauce after it has simmered and thickened. This gives the ragù a light creaminess. It can now be used in your vegan lasagna alla Bolognese.



  • 1/4 cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely minced
  • 1 large carrot, finely minced
  • 3 ribs celery, finely minced
  • 5 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 450g cremini mushrooms, stems discarded and caps crumbled into small pea-size pieces
  • 450g seitan, drained of excess liquid and torn into pea-size pieces
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 355ml dry red wine
  • 1 can peeled whole tomatoes, puréed with a blender or immersion blender, or crushed by hand
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 sprig sage
  • 2 tablespoons of refined neutral coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup red miso
  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg



  1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, and simmer, turning and scraping frequently, for about 8 minutes, or until the aromatics start to turn golden.
  2. Add the mushrooms and seitan and heat, swirling and scraping often, until most of the water in the mushrooms and seitan cooks off and a brown film forms on the bottom of the saucepan.
  3. Add the tomato paste and simmer for 30 seconds. Add wine and bring to a boil while scraping any browned bits from the pot’s bottom. Simmer wine for about five minutes, or until it has almost completely reduced and the raw alcohol scent has vanished.
  4. Bring to a simmer after stirring in the puréed tomatoes. Mix in the bay leaf, rosemary, and sage. Cook until the sauce has reduced and thickened, about 30 minutes, after adding the coconut oil, miso, and soy sauce.
  5. Remove the bay leaf, rosemary, and sage sprigs. Season with salt and pepper (taste first, as it may not need much salt). Stir in nutmeg.
  6. For a maximum of 5 days in the fridge or three months in the freezer, the sauce can be stored. It can be used to make vegan lasagna or to serve on pasta or polenta.

By Elijah Hughes

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