Tempe Bolognese

Yes, you can make bolognese without meat. This Tempe Bolognese is my healthy, plant-based twist to the old family favourite. It’s simple to make, delicious and satisfying.

If you didn’t grow up eating tempe (or tempeh), you may not be familiar with its strong taste. Tempe has an earthy fermented aroma, kind of like cheese, and has a chewy, almost meaty texture. Back home in Indonesia there are only two kinds of popular tempe dishes: deep fried tempe, or stir fried tempe with traditional herbs and spices. One is salty, and the other one is sweet. That’s it.

It wasn’t until I become vegan that I started experimenting with tempe. Turns out that there are so many meat dishes which you can duplicate with tempe, including pasta dishes such as bolognese.

The secret to making this bolognaise work is to pan sauté the tempe cubes so that it has a firmer texture which will hold their shape once the sauce is added.

I also added a bit of cayenne pepper to give the tempe bolognese sauce a nice spicy hit. I think the pepper adds extra depth to the flavour of the sauce. That said, if you are allergic to chilli, like my boyfriend, you can definitely omit using the pepper or swap it with something milder like ground paprika.

Tempe Bolognese


  • 1 packet of tempeh (350gram), sliced into small cubes
  • 1 packet (375g) dried spaghetti or fettuccine (I use spinach fettuccine by San Remo)
  • 1 can (400g) of peeled tomato
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • ¾ cup (170g) tomato paste
  • ½ cup of water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Vegan Parmesan (optional)


  1. Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Add another 2 tbsp of oil and diced tempe cubes. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up any lumps for 3 minutes or until golden brown.
  2. Add the tomato sauce and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta following packet directions until al dente. Drain.
  4. Divide the pasta among bowls and spoon over bolognese sauce. Serve with some fresh basil and a sprinkle of vegan parmesan.

Tip: Replace peeled tomato and tomato paste with your favourite marinara pasta sauce to save time.


Please let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and/or share a picture on Instagram and tag me in the picture. I’d love to see your creation.

Keren x

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *