This easy vegan marinara sauce with red lentils is gluten-free and has a rich, deep flavor thanks to the Instant Pot. It’s a great alternative to a meat-based sauce!
Did you know that you can make a rich, hearty marinara sauce that is totally plant-based?
This vegan marinara is always a huge hit, even with those that usually eat meat-based spaghetti sauces! The secret is to make it in the Instant Pot, which allows us to extract so much flavor in a short period of time.
The sauce tastes like it’s been simmering for hours. No one will ever guess how easy it was to make.
How to make marinara sauce with red lentils
This whole recipe comes together in the Instant Pot, so you don’t have to worry about dirtying any other dishes!
You can see how I make the recipe in this short video or follow the step-by-step instructions below.
Step 1: Pick over the lentils, remove any shriveled pieces or stones, and rinse in a fine-mesh strainer. Drain well.
Step 2: Set the electric pressure cooker to the Sauté setting. When the pot is hot, pour in the avocado oil.
Step 3: Add the onion and green pepper to the pot and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. Hit Cancel on the control panel once the vegetables are ready.
Step 4: Add the broth to the pot and scrape up any brown bits. Stir in the tomato paste.
Step 5: Add the lentils, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes with their juices, bay leaf, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and brown sugar. Stir well.
Step 6: Close and lock the lid. Make sure the pressure valve is set to “Sealing.”
Step 7: Cook the sauce on high pressure for 13 minutes.
Step 8: When the cooking is complete, hit Cancel. Allow the pressure to release naturally.
Step 9: Once the pin drops, unlock and remove the lid. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir well.
The consistency of the sauce will depend on the amount of liquid in your tomatoes. If it’s too thin for your liking, there are two easy ways to thicken it up.
First, you could use an immersion blender to blend the sauce to the desired consistency. Second, you can turn the pot back to Sauté and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens.
Choosing your lentils
Lentils come in many different varieties. For this recipe, I recommend using red lentils.
Red lentils tend to be more delicate than green or brown ones. They break down when cooked at high temperatures, which makes them perfect for thickening sauces, soups, and stews.
If you use green or brown lentils, the sauce will still have great flavor, but the consistency may be a little different than what you’re used to.
Variations for marinara recipe
Not only is this vegan marinara a great substitute for meat-based sauces, but it’s also subject to endless variations!
One option is to switch up the seasonings to try out different flavors. Some cumin or even a little cinnamon could be a great twist on this recipe.
Or, if you like things spicy, consider adding some red pepper flakes. You could also replace the green bell pepper with a hotter pepper to really bring on the heat.
Feel free to get creative with your sauce!
How to serve marinara
There are so many great ways to enjoy this marinara. I love adding it on top of zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash for a low-carb pasta dish with tons of flavor.
There is no shortage for tasty ways to use up this homemade sauce.
This recipe is for 12 servings of marina, so you will likely have some sauce leftover!
Any extra can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and should be eaten within 4-5 days.
Other delicious vegan recipes
I love creating easy vegan dishes that are packed with flavor. If you’re looking for more recipes to try, here are a few I think you’ll enjoy:
You can also check out my roundup of diabetes-friendly vegan recipes for more inspiration.
When you’ve tried this sauce, please don’t forget to let me know how you liked it and rate the recipe in the comments below!
Marinara Sauce with Red Lentils (Instant Pot)
- ½ cup red lentils
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- 1 medium onion (chopped)
- 1 small green bell pepper (chopped)
- 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 14½ ounces diced fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- Pick over the lentils, removing any shriveled pieces or stones, and rinse in a fine-mesh strainer. Drain well.½ cup red lentils
- Set the electric pressure cooker to the Sauté setting. When the pot is hot, pour in the avocado oil.2 tablespoons avocado oil
- Add the onion and green pepper to the pot and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. Hit Cancel on the control panel once the vegetables are ready.1 medium onion, 1 small green bell pepper
- Add the broth to the pot and scrape up any brown bits. Stir in the tomato paste.1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth, 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- Add the lentils, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes with their juices, bay leaf, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and brown sugar. Stir well.28 ounces crushed tomatoes, 14½ ounces diced fire-roasted tomatoes, 1 bay leaf, 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- Close and lock the lid. Make sure the pressure valve is set to “Sealing.”
- Cook the sauce on high pressure for 13 minutes.
- When the cooking is complete, hit Cancel. Allow the pressure to release naturally.
- Once the pin drops, unlock and remove the lid. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir well.kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper