This vegan tofu bolognese sauce is a non-traditional take on the Italian meat-based sauce yet it is so flavorful, quick and simple! All you need is 10 ingredients and 30 minutes to make this tofu spaghetti sauce. Serve over your favorite pasta with vegan parmesan cheese, fresh parsley and vegan cheesy garlic bread!
Tofu and pasta are two of my favorite ingredients to use when I don’t have a lot of time, but want something hearty that will keep me full for a long time.
Although authentic bolognese generally requires a long, slow cook with sautéing and braising finely chopped beef and pork until a thick sauce is achieved, we’ve used a few short cuts in this tofu pasta recipe to make it both vegan and under 30 minutes of cooking.
Perfect for when you want the flavors of an Italian bolognese on busy weeknights, quick lunches, and make ahead meals!
Why This Recipe Works
- Crumbled tofu is the perfect vegan meat substitute when replicating a minced beef texture.
- Using pre-made marinara sauce helps make this tofu bolognese come together quickly and easily – prevents the need to simmer a homemade marinara sauce for hours.
- Oat milk is very creamy and my favorite vegan substitute for whole dairy milk. It gives this tofu pasta sauce the perfect smoothness!
Ingredients and Substitutions
- extra firm tofu – After baking, tofu is similar to the texture of the ground beef you’d find in a more traditional ragù or bolognese.
- carrots – adds a nice sweetness to balance the salt and spice.
- celery – enhances umami flavor.
- tamari and smoked paprika – replicates the smokiness and salt in ground beef
- marinara – using pre-made, jarred marinara sauce instead of making your own cuts the time needed to make this tofu bolognese drastically.
- oat milk – provides the best creaminess without the need of dairy. You can substitute any unsweetened plant-based milk, but oat milk is my favorite.
Step by Step Instructions
Preparing the Tofu
- Mix together the avocado oil, nutritional yeast, tamari, and smoked paprika in a large mixing bowl. Omit the oil as desired if oil free. The tofu will still get crispy on it’s own without the oil.
- Crumble the tofu block into the large bowl with your hands. No need to press liquid out of it before hand! We want that extra moisture to prevent the tofu from drying out too much in the oven.
- Add the finely diced celery and carrot to the mixing bowl.
- Mix together until the tofu, celery and carrot is evenly coated in nutritional yeast, tamari and smoked paprika mixture.
- Spread mixture on parchment lined (or silicone) baking sheet.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and crispy. You do not want the tofu to be soggy or your tofu bolognese as a whole will be soggy.
Preparing the bolognese sauce
- While tofu mixture is baking, cook the pasta according to package instructions and warm the marinara and oat milk in a large skillet.
- Mix the baked tofu mixture into the marinara sauce, then serve the tofu bolognese sauce over pasta. Enjoy immediately!
I tested this recipe by sautéing the tofu first instead of baking, but the baking method is preferred as it crisps the tofu mixture much better. When doing it on the stove top, the tofu steams more than it crisps and makes the bolognese soggy.
Yes! Once cooled, freeze the bolognese sauce in a freezer safe bag or container for up to 6 months. Thaw completely in the refrigerator before using.
Yes, you can store this in the refrigerator for up to 5 days!
Yes! If you’d like to make this tofu bolognese recipe even simpler or are out of celery and carrots, you can omit them. The carrots and celery do add a subtle flavor to the bolognese, similar to preparing a mirepoix, but it is not necessary and the flavor is just as good without.
Yes! This tofu mixture can be crisped up in the air fryer, instead of the oven if desired. I’d recommend doing batches to prevent overcrowding the air fryer basket. I’d recommend air frying at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, or until crispy.
What to Serve this Tofu Pasta With
Tofu bolognese is a hearty dish, but I’d recommend pairing it with garlic bread, a light salad, and/or lighter sides. Here are a few ideas to inspire you:
- Vegan Cheesy Garlic Bread
- Vegan Caesar Salad
- Instant Pot Vegan Collard Greens
- Sautéed carrots
- Simple Green Salad
- Oil Free Roasted Asparagus
- Dice the celery and carrot finely so it bakes all the way through!
- Serve with tagliatelle pasta for a more authentic dish or serve with angel hair pasta when short on time – it cooks the fastest.
- For the best crispiness, bake on a silicone baking mat!
- Top with a generous amount of vegan parmesan cheese!
More Vegan Pasta Recipes to Try
- Vegan Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats
- Garlic Butter Pasta with Whipped Tofu Ricotta
- Easy Vegan Crockpot Lasagna Soup
- Vegan Lasagna with Zucchini and Summer Squash
Vegan Tofu Bolognese Sauce
- 1 (16 ounce) block extra firm tofu
- ⅓ cup carrot - finely diced
- ⅓ cup celery - finely diced
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon tamari or coconut aminos
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 8 ounces pasta
- 1 (25 ounce) jar marinara sauce - I prefer Rao's
- ½ cup oat milk
- sea salt and black pepper - to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Mix together the avocado oil, nutritional yeast, tamari, and smoked paprika in a large mixing bowl.
- Crumble the tofu block into the large bowl. No need to press it before hand.
- Add in the finely diced celery and carrot and mix until tofu, celery and carrot is evenly coated in mixture.
- Spread the tofu mixture on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until slightly golden.
- While the tofu bakes, prepare the pasta according to package instructions.
- Warm the marinara sauce and milk together in a large skillet.
- Once tofu has cooked, add it to the marinara sauce. Stir until combined and serve immediately over pasta.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Freeze the bolognese separately in the freezer for up to 6 months. Do not freeze it with the pasta.
- Pair this recipe with my Vegan Cheesy Garlic Bread (Pull Apart Bread!).
- Serve angel hair pasta when short on time – it cooks the fastest.
- Bake the tofu mixture on a silicone baking mat for the best crispiness!
- Be sure to finely dice the carrots and celery so it cooks through in the oven. If you want extra soft carrots and celery, I recommend sautéing them on the stovetop as opposed to baking for 5-7 minutes before adding the marinara the sauce.
General note about salt
Please pay attention to the type of salt called for in the recipe (if applicable). Not all salts are made equal and cannot be substituted 1 for 1. If you are substituting table salt for kosher salt, you will need to cut the amount called for in the recipe by at least half.
Disclaimer: The Nutritional Information provided for this recipe is only an estimate. The accuracy of the facts listed is not and cannot be guaranteed.