Walnut ‘Bolognese’ Spaghetti Sauce – Vegan & Gluten Free

by Sharon on September 1, 2014

Walnut 'Bolognese' Spaghetti Sauce - Vegan & Gluten Free-

OK! So this recipe turned out so much better that I anticipated. Being my very first time using walnuts as a meat substitute there was no point of reference so I really had not idea how it was going to turn out. Well, turns out I LOVE using walnuts to replicate beef in a rich pasta sauce to . die . for.

For real.

Walnut 'Bolognese' Spaghetti Sauce - Vegan & Gluten Free-

For starters, walnuts have a wide variety antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. Nice!

Walnut 'Bolognese' Spaghetti Sauce - Vegan & Gluten Free

And secondly, they taste freaking amazing when processed together with a bunch of delicious spices. 😉

Walnut 'Bolognese' Spaghetti Sauce - Vegan & Gluten Free-

My inspiration was from a ton of recipes floating around using walnuts as taco ‘meat’. “Hmmm”, thought I. “What an interesting idea.” So, I set about making an Italian-ish version to add to some leftover tomato sauce that I had in the fridge. My thinking was it would replicate that rich, beefy Bolognese sauce that is so popular in Italian cucinas.

I say Italian-ish because I know things like smoked paprika aren’t your typical Italian seasonings but it lent the walnuts a remarkable essence of grilled meat. The spice blend that I came up with worked beautifully. I was really patting myself on the back on this one!

I just couldn’t help myself. Too easy and so delicious. Win and win. 🙂

To get started I put some jarred tomato sauce on the stove to heat. I know a ton of people are in the process of jarring all of the late summer bounty of tomatoes we have around these parts. This recipe was tailor made for those fresh sauces. 

Walnut 'Bolognese' Spaghetti Sauce - Vegan & Gluten Free-

Meanwhile, the walnuts were tossed into the food processor with the spices and pulsed into crumbles resembling ground beef. Be sure not to over blend or you will wind up with a spicy butter. Not that there’s anything wrong that. 😉

Stir the crumbled walnuts to the sauce and stir.

Walnut 'Bolognese' Spaghetti Sauce - Vegan & Gluten Free-


Walnut 'Bolognese' Spaghetti Sauce - Vegan & Gluten Free-

In the meantime, I cooked up my pasta. This brand of brown rice pasta is tried an true for me. I’ve used the shells before in this Chipotle Baked Pasta and they work like a charm. This time I opted for the spaghetti noodles and was not disappointed.

Walnut 'Bolognese' Spaghetti Sauce - Vegan & Gluten Free-

My favourite thing about brown rice pasta is how easily it digests. No stomach bloat or sluggishness like with the white pastas. The key to perfectly cooked brown rice pasta is to not over cook. Keep your eyes on the prize, people!

Speaking of prizes …

Walnut 'Bolognese' Spaghetti Sauce - Vegan & Gluten Free-

Your reward is this creamy, tomatoey, savoury spaghetti sauce that could even fool your Nona!

Well … maybe not … but it was delicious.

If your looking to minimize your red meat intake or maybe just don’t eat meat period, this is such a fabulous meatless option.


Walnut 'Bolognese' Spaghetti Sauce - Vegan & Gluten Free-


Serves 4

Walnut ‘Bolognese’ Spaghetti Sauce – Vegan & Gluten Free
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  • 1 cup walnuts
  • ¼ tsp each dried rosemary, parsley, garlic powder, smoked paprika, fennel, sea salt
  • 3 cups tomato sauce


  1. In a medium sauce pot, set your sauce over medium heat
  2. Meanwhile, place walnuts and spices in your food processor and pulse until crumbled. Don’t over mix or it will turn to butter
  3. Add the crumbles to the sauce and stir well
  4. Cook 4 portions of your choice of pasta. I use brown rice spaghetti, which is awesome
  5. Serve sauce over pasta



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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Nathalie September 1, 2014 at 8:12 am
So funny!! I saw a recipe in Veg News a few days ago using walnuts as taco "meat" and was wondering if it would work in spaghetti sauce!! Great spirits think alike :-) I will definitely try this!
Sharon September 1, 2014 at 8:28 am
I can't think of a better compliment than being a 'great spirit'! Thanks so much Nathalie. :) This is such a keeper recipe. Enjoy September!
Thalia @ butter and brioche September 1, 2014 at 10:02 pm
This is an awesome recipe for a meat free bolognese.. I definitely will be making it for my vegetarian household. Thanks for the great idea!
Sharon September 2, 2014 at 7:24 am
You will die!! It's so good, I was blown enjoy. :) I hope you enjoy it too! Thanks Thalia. :)
Karen September 2, 2014 at 10:24 am
Yum! What an awesome idea Sharon, I haven't seen this walnut craze going around, but your recipe looks fab!
Sharon September 2, 2014 at 10:29 am
I've seen it done the same way but as taco 'meat' with chilies/hot spices. I'm trying that next! This tasted so so good, I'm inspired to try other things!
Millie | Add A Little September 2, 2014 at 3:52 pm
This looks fantastic Sharon! I never thought to add walnuts as I always use mushrooms for a meaty taste and texture!
Sharon September 2, 2014 at 8:27 pm
They were incredible! The texture was bang on. I was surprised how much I liked it! Thanks so much Millie. :)
Rebecca September 2, 2014 at 7:48 pm
This looks amazing! Great photos!
Sharon September 2, 2014 at 8:28 pm
Why thank you! We thoroughly enjoyed this dish. :)
Allison September 4, 2014 at 8:54 am
I LOVE adding walnuts to my dishes to give it that little somethin' somethin' -especially pasta! I believe there's nothing a walnut can't make better. And pasta, be still my heart. This dish rocks! Perfect for the comfy cozy days of fall ahead. Yum :)
Sharon September 4, 2014 at 9:23 am
Thanks so much Allison! I was absolutely blown away by how delicious this was. I'm super excited to see what else I can toss seasoned walnuts into. :)
Allison September 4, 2014 at 8:56 am
PS. Hello from one Southern Ontario dweller/blogger to another :)
Sharon September 4, 2014 at 9:24 am
Yay Ontario bloggers! :) I think there is a little army of us. A powerful, healthy army. ;)
Maria Villela September 11, 2014 at 10:25 pm
I just cooked and it was amazing! I didn't have fennel seeds, though :( but I used some cumin and overall it was great (: I am happy to say that this new recipe has joined my (vegan) mom's recipe collection ♥ thank you very much for sharing it ^^ greetings from Costa Rica (:
Sharon September 11, 2014 at 10:44 pm
Oooh! Costa Rica! My brother visited your beautiful country last year and absolutely loved it. His pictures were incredible!! Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Maria. This recipe is a personal favourite. I was blown away how great the walnuts were in this sauce. And cumin? Love it. Great substitute. :)
Sharon Floyd January 5, 2016 at 5:30 pm
I don't have fennel but always have cumin in the house so I'm going to try that. Can hardly wait to try this TONIGHT!
Sharon January 6, 2016 at 1:13 pm
Yay! I hope you love it, from one Sharon to another. ;)
Sandra September 13, 2014 at 1:31 pm
That looks heavenly!
Sharon September 13, 2014 at 4:02 pm
Thanks so much, Sandra! It is one of the nicest surprises I've had since starting this blog. I was so excited to share it. :)
Ivy September 13, 2014 at 8:46 pm
Oh my goodness! World changed! :) I can Not wait to try this! Thank you in advance!
Sharon September 13, 2014 at 11:53 pm
Thanks so much, Ivy!! I felt the same way. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. :)
Cheryal September 14, 2014 at 10:10 pm
Tried this and was super happy with it! Yummy :) And I will try same technique for taco meat.
Sharon September 14, 2014 at 10:17 pm
I'm all over the taco version too!! Isn't it so amazing how walnuts are just transformed? Thanks so much Cheryal. :)
Meredith @ Unexpectedly Magnificent September 15, 2014 at 6:44 pm
I made this tonight, adding a dash of onion powder and nutritional yeast. Sharon, my eyes rolled into the back of my head, it was so good! I ended up doubling the walnut mixture because I couldn't get enough. One of the best meals I've had in a long time.
Sharon September 15, 2014 at 6:51 pm
Right??!! I'm so glad you loved it. It's like a new world has been opened. I can't wait to experiment further using walnuts like this. Thanks for the positive feedback Meredith! I appreciate the kind comment. :)
Christy September 25, 2014 at 11:29 am
I just tried this recipe and while it tastes good there are a few bits I'm wondering about. The walnuts never quite softened up for that nice chewy texture you get from ground meat. Should I have soaked them first or do they just need to simmer for a long time in the sauce? I used a canned tomato sauce and by the time I finished the color of the sauce had changed from a bright red to more of a BBQ sauce brown. Is that because of the can or a reaction from the walnuts and spices? I'm curious if the leftovers will have impoved from the chill time so we'll see. Overall, a nice dish that I'll definitely be making again.
Sharon September 25, 2014 at 12:47 pm
Hey Christy! I'm so glad you tried out the recipe. :) Let me see if I can answer some of your questions. When I make this the walnuts do still have a tiny bit of crunch to them for texture but not soft per se. You could try toasting the nuts a bit first which would add even more flavour and texture. As for the tomato sauce, I would really try to avoid anything with tomatoes that is canned. Tomatoes are very acidic and there have been studies that show they will leach chemicals (BPA) from the lining of the cans. This ends up in your food and is not good to say the least. Look for the glass jarred tomato sauce to be on the safe side. It doesn't take long to cook really. Just until it's completely heated through. For me, it's the time it takes to cook up my pasta. ;) I hope this helps, Christy! Let me know how the leftover turn out. I haven't experimented with leftovers yet. It all ends up getting eaten same day. ;)
Christy September 27, 2014 at 2:42 pm
Normally I do use glass jarred sauce but since I was out I had to raid the pantry lol. I did saute the walnuts with the seasoning in some oil before adding the sauce and it did help make them more aromatic. The leftovers are good and the walnuts did soften a little bit. I think next time I may try a 50/50 mix of the walnuts and ground crumbles so you still get some of that soft chewy texture in there. Great recipe though. Thanks for sharing!
Sharon September 28, 2014 at 12:10 am
I'm glad the leftovers turned out well. Thanks so much Christy! :)
Nain January 5, 2015 at 4:40 pm
Have you ever tried burgers with walnuts ? I would love any suggestions !
Sharon January 5, 2015 at 6:40 pm
I haven't personally, but this one --> looks promising. Oh She Glows seldom disappoints. :)
Zanna March 9, 2015 at 9:04 pm
Thanks for the great idea! I actually have an amazing bolognese recipe, but wanted to make it vegetarian for meatless Monday. I left out the meat and added nuts at the end. So yummy and satisfying!
Sharon March 10, 2015 at 11:20 am
Thanks Zanna! I was shocked how delicious it was, too. Enjoy your new meatless option! :)
Melinda January 5, 2016 at 11:13 am
Made this last night and it was a big hit! The vegans of the house and the visiting non-vegans all enjoyed the walnut sauce. Thanks :)
Sharon January 5, 2016 at 2:10 pm
I'm so glad it was enjoyed by all. :) Such great flavours in that sauce. Thanks Melinda!
Lisa December 31, 2016 at 7:19 pm
We just had Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Walnut Bolognese at Marche restaurant in Eugene, OR on a road trip from CA to WA State. I was apprehensive when the waiter told me it was one of his favorites. I was shocked at how much I LOVED it! And it's gluten-free! Even better. I immediately set out to find a recipe online, and I found yours. I'll be trying it after the holidays and our drive back to CA. Thank you!
Sharon January 1, 2017 at 2:50 pm
Wow, that's such a cool story! I was shocked at how good it was too. ;) Who would of thunk it! I hope you enjoy this version. Happy New Year, Lisa!

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