Tempeh bolognese

Everyone loves  good spag bol, right? And everyone’s got their own recipe they think is the best, right? Well, I’m not saying mine is the best, but it is a way of making spag bol vegan-friendly and making use of that vastly underrated ingredient: tempeh.

Tempeh, in case you’re not already familiar with it, is an Indonesian soybean product that’s made by fermenting whole soybeans until they squish together into a probiotic slab of protein that’s great for maintaining good gut health. Now, that doesn’t sound too appetising, so you’d be forgiven for just giving it a miss on the basis of the description alone… except, it’s a wonderfully versatile ingredient that every meat-free cook should have on standby for when you need a probiotic jump-start. And if you cook it right, it tastes just fabulous 😉

When I first discovered tempeh I didn’t really know what to do with it. I had a few not-so-great experiments involving stir-fries, before realising it could be easily used as a healthy and tasty mincemeat substitute if you chop it up finely. So, my spag bol makes use of chopped, seasoned tempeh stirred into a luxuriously thick tomatoey-herby sauce,

Here’s how to whip up a comfort-foody spag bol that’s great for your gut, and will have you salivating in anticipation…!

Flavour: Savoury & tangy

Serves: 4 as a main meal


  • 1 package tempeh
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced finely
  • 6 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped (see here for how to peel a tomato)
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (fresh is even better, of you can get it – but you’ll need a lot more)
  • half teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (I like to use coconut sugar or rapadura)

Optional extras:

  • Eggplant
  • Zucchini
  • Capsicum
  • 1 bird’s eye chilli or a small pinch of chilli flakes (I like my spag bol with a bit of a kick to it 😉 )
  • a few leaves of fresh basil, coarsely shredded (toss these in at the end, just before you serve)


  1. Finely slice your onion, and caramelise it (see here for how to caramelise an onion) in half of the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan  – allow 20-30 minutes to do this properly while you prepare the rest of the ingredients (note that the saucepan will seem too large for now, but you’ll see it’s the right size once you get around to adding the tomatoes, etc.)
  2. While you’re waiting for your onions to caramelise, get a start on your tempeh: chop it finely until it resembles ground pork
  3. Pop your chopped tempeh in a frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil, and cook it on high heat until it’s nicely browned all over – then add the paprika, stir through, and take off the heat and set aside (the paprika will give it a smoky depth of flavour that marries great with tempeh’s natural fermented flavour)
  4. Once your onions are nicely caramelised, add your finely minced garlic, and stir through – cook for another 3 minutes
  5. Stir your chopped, peeled tomatoes into your caramelised onion mixture, and turn heat up to high
  6. Once your mixture is boiling, reduce heat to medium, and simmer tomato-onion sauce, stirring regularly, until the liquid is reduced by about a third
  7. Peel and chop your carrots into small dice
  8. Add oregano, sugar, salt, pepper, and carrots to tomato-onion sauce, stir, and continue to cook until the liquid is reduced to a thick pourable consistency
  9. Stir in your tempeh (notice how it soaks up a lot of the sauce, thickening it even more), and remove from the heat – wait a couple of minutes before serving, as it will continue to thicken as it cools to an edible temperature
  10. Serve over freshly cooked spaghetti, and chow down!

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