Instant Pot Lentil Bolognese (vegan, gluten-free)


This easy lentil bolognese is a pour and cook recipe made using pantry ingredients!

instant pot lentil bolognese

This is definitely the easiest vegan lentil “meat” sauce ever. This recipe requires three main ingredients: brown lentils, marinara sauce and water.

Chubby brown lentils are meant to mimic the meat in bolognese. I like using brown lentils because (as I discussed in this brown lentil dal post), they keep their shape even after you pressure cook them.

instant pot lentil bolognese

A few years ago, I’d be hesitant about sharing a recipe like this on the blog. I mean, can you be a (respectable) food blogger who shares a recipe that calls for a jar of store-bought marinara? Aren’t I supposed to make marinara sauce from scratch and insist you do the same?


Now I’m a mom. Of two. And have zero time to care about such things. Please give me all the store-bought marinara. Rao’s, please.

instant pot lentil bolognese

At the risk of coming across as a marinara snob… I have yet to find an easily accessible store-bought marinara sauce that I enjoy more than Rao’s Homemade (not sponsored). I actually haven’t bought another brand in years… but if there’s another brand you recommend, let me know. As someone who needs a lot of food variety in life, I tend to be a creature of habit when it comes to the ingredients that I use.

instant pot vegan "meat" sauce for spaghetti

how to prevent tomato sauce from burning:

The first few times I made this lentil sauce, there was some marinara burnt at the bottom of my pot. I’ve since figured out how to prevent any burning. You have to first press the sauté button and once the display says “hot” pour oil into the pot. Swirl it around to completely coat the bottom of the pot, then add lentils, marinara and water. I’m adding these directions to the recipe card but wanted to explain the reasoning behind step 1.

instant pot lentil bolognese

This is one of those recipes you can keep in your “need to make dinner but don’t want to cook dinner” brain folder. And yes, “brain folder” is a thing. I have several filing cabinets in this mind of mine. Other recipes in this folder include coconut chicken curry and Thai chicken curry.

Serve this sauce over the pasta of your choice and top with parmesan and fresh basil. Maybe throw a little crushed red pepper on top too.

lentil bolognese

Instant Pot Lentil Bolognese (vegan, gluten-free)

lentil bolognese

Instant Pot Lentil Bolognese (vegan, gluten-free)

5 from 16 reviews
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  • 1 tablespoon oil I use avocado oil
  • 1 cup brown lentils soak for 3-4 hours
  • 1 24 ounce jar marinara sauce (highly recommend Rao’s Homemade)
  • ¾ cup water

Later (optional):

  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Red chili pepper flakes to taste
  • Basil leaves
  • Fresh parmesan


  • Soak lentils for 3-4 hours. Drain, rinse and set aside.
  • Press sauté and once the display says hot, add oil and swirl it around to coat the bottom of the pot (this will prevent burning).
  • Add the lentils, marinara and water and mix well (fyi, I first empty the jar of marinara into the pot then add the water to the jar and swirl it around to make sure I don’t miss a drop of sauce!).
  • Secure the lid, close the pressure valve and cook for 15 minutes at high pressure.
  • Naturally release pressure.
  • Taste and add/adjust salt and pepper if needed.
  • Top with fresh basil, red chili flakes and parmesan if desired. Serve over pasta.
Did you make this recipe?Tag @myheartbeets on Instagram and hashtag it #myheartbeets!

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Find out more about my cookbooks Indian Food Under Pressure and South Asian Persuasion.

About Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley. Thanks for being here! I truly believe that food brings us closer together. Gather around a table with good food and good people, and you’ll have the ingredients you need to create some happy memories. My hope is that you find recipes here that you can’t wait to share with family and friends.


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  1. Kait says

    5 stars
    Thank you for this awesome, easy recipe! I used Aldi brand marinara (make sure whatever you use has no sugar or your sauce will be too sweet!) and I only was able to soak the brown lentils for 20 minutes before cooking. I also quick-released after letting the pot sit for 15min after the high-pressure… natural release takes so long. Still, it turned out perfect! Just had to add a bit of salt and red pepper flakes at the end.

  2. Irene says

    5 stars
    I love this recipe! I think it will easily become a regular for me. I know you wrote that you were unsure about putting store bought marinara sauce in the recipe, but for me it was perfect. It’s hard to find recipes that are both healthy and can be made easily on a weeknight, and this checked off both for me. Thank you!

  3. Genevieve says

    5 stars
    This recipe came out amazing! I didn’t soak the lentils at all and used a trio of lentils(green, brown & black). I also put 1full cup of water and it came out perfect! This is definitely a keeper for busy working days! Thank you!

  4. Liz says

    Wondering why we have to soak the lentils for so long? I thought that was the beauty of the pressure cooker to not have to soak lentils/beans?

  5. Marc says

    Going to try this recipe! Quick question, I was planning on adding some frozen vegetables to the recipe for extra veggies. Do you think I need to make any adjustments to the water amount? Or should it be fine as is?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Marc, veggies release water so I’d decrease the amount of water – not sure by how much – maybe try half a cup? If it’s too watery you can also press the sauté button to thicken it up at the end. Let me know how it goes!

  6. Cheryl says

    5 stars
    I am so happy you DID post this! I am always open to time savers like this. I am a vegan so this recipe will provide me with a high protein quick meal, I will put it on top of some high protein pasta I found at costco along with their organic kirkland brand marinara. Thank you so much!

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