Several years ago I posted a recipe called the ultimate vegan meat(less) sauce and I have to say, that recipe is pretty great. The only problem is, it’s kind of hard to make because you first have to prep some homemade veggie burgers and then a homemade marinara sauce. If you have a few hours to make dinner (ha) it’s great, but I wanted to come up with something quicker and easier that’s still just as good. In the end I came up with this one –

This sauce starts with a base of spiced onions, lentils, and riced cauliflower that cooks down into a meaty consistency, and then you just throw in a jar of your favorite sauce (or you can make my homemade marinara sauce) and simmer for a while until it’s done. The end result is a flavorful, nutrient-dense sauce that is packed with fiber and protein. Pair with some whole wheat pasta for a perfect plant-based dinner in about 30 minutes start to finish.

Makes: 4-6 servings


  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder blend
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 cups cooked black lentils
  • 2 cups riced cauliflower
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • pasta, for serving

Step One

Begin warming a large saucepan with a splash of water and add in a diced yellow onion, 2 cloves of (minced) garlic, salt and pepper, and a bunch of spices right onto the onions. Just like with a curry, you’ll get a ton of flavor if you add spices right into the onions. As far as which spices to use, you can have some fun with this. I used a bunch of chili powder, smoked paprika, and Italian seasoning (the idea is to give this a hamburger meat flavor, even though I actually have no idea how one would cook hamburger meat). Allow to simmer over medium heat until the onions turn translucent (5 minutes).

Step Two

Add in about 2 cups of cooked lentils and 2 cups of riced cauliflower*. Gently mash these ingredients into the spiced onion mixture and give at least 10 minutes to simmer until the cauliflower cooks down and everything starts working together.

* Riced cauliflower is just cauliflower that has been broken up into tiny pieces resembling rice. You can make it in the food processor by pulsing a few times, or you can actually find both pre-cooked lentils and pre-riced cauliflower at Trader Joe’s if you’re fortunate enough to have one gracing your neighborhood.

Step Three

Finally, add in a jar (16 oz) of marinara sauce. Again, you can make your own with my recipe if you’re less lazy than me, or just use an unprocessed store-brought variety that you like. I also threw in some basil chiffonade for fun. Give this another 10 minutes or so to heat up and simmer while preparing the pasta.

When done, drain the pasta, toss with the sauce, and garnish with some more basil: