Mushroom and spinach bolognese, 38p (VEGAN)

I’ve been meaning to write about my ‘mushroom mince’ for months now – I use it instead of soya mince or Quorn as a cheaper alternative that isn’t full of unpronounceable ingredients or a gazillion processes. It’s simple, quick, and actually tastes like food, and can be dried out and stored in a jar for months, or frozen to use as required.

Basically, finely slice your mushrooms, then chop them up like billy-o until they’re finely diced. They’ll shrink a bit in the pan as they lose moisture anyway. Then either use them straight away, or freeze, or spread thinly on a baking tray (or any tray) on a layer of kitchen paper and leave to dry for a day or two somewhere safe and not moist (not the bathroom, for example).

Now for the fun part – a bolognese packed full of veg, costing pennies, suitable for your vegan friends but convincing enough for the carnivores – enjoy! This is my new favourite winter comforting bowl-food.

Serves 2 adults and 2 children at 38p each – or 3 adults, or 2 seriously hungry adults who don’t want to move for the rest of the evening. All prices based on my most recent Sainsburys shop, Basics range where available, most supermarkets have similar products at similar prices.

200-250g spaghetti or pasta, depending on above scenario, from 14p (500g/35p)
1 large onion, 10p (1.5kg/90p)
4 fat cloves of garlic, 8p (2 bulbs/35p)
2 tbsp sunflower oil (or other), 3p (3l/£3)
a pinch of salt, <1p (750g/25p)
a good grind of pepper, <1p
4 tbsp tomato puree or a can of chopped tomatoes, 35p
250g mushrooms, 61p (400g/97p)
1 tbsp bottled lemon juice, 3p (50p/250ml)
100g frozen spinach (or fresh), 13p (2x1kg/£2.50)
1 tsp basic mixed dried herbs, 2p (14g/40p)

First bring a pan of water to the boil.

While it’s warming through, peel and slice your onion and garlic, and mince your mushrooms. Toss into a pan with the oil, salt and pepper and turn the heat up high for a minute or two, taking care not to burn anything by stirring well to disturb it. Turn the heat down to low-medium, depending what hob ring you have it on.

Toss the pasta into the hopefully-now-boiling water and reduce to a simmer for 8 minutes, or until cooked.

Turn your attention back to the other pan. Add all remaining ingredients and stir well. Bring back to a high heat, add half a small cup of water to loosen the tomato puree, stir well to combine and reduce the heat back down, stirring occasionally.

When the pasta is cooked, your bolognese should look – well, like a bolognese. Taste it – and season as required. It may need a dash more lemon juice or a smudge of vinegar, and any vinegar will do, even the malty stuff, or a pinch of salt, or a smattering more herbs – it’s up to you. And enjoy! If you aren’t a vegan, top with cheese as you normally would, if you are, then you probably know of good vegan cheese alternatives already (I don’t, so could you recommend me some in the comments?)



Jack Monroe. I’m on Twitter and Instagram at @MxJackMonroe and my cookbooks are available to buy from Hive, supporting local independent book shops 🙂–100-Delicious-Budget-Recipes/15403047

My new book, Cooking on a Bootstrap, is now available to order HERE.

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  1. Mate my heart skips a beat every time I see your name in my inbox emails or fb you are such a inspiration on so many levels loving that your vegan friendly too and have just received back issues of diva mag that you are in love you, you rock Xx

  2. I’m still looking for a good vegan cheese, would love to see what your other readers come up with!

    • Tesco do a couple of vegan cheeses that are pretty good. They’re in the “free from” section, one is called soya medium and one is soya smoked. Also I like to make fake parmesan by combining ground almonds, nutritional yeast, a bit of miso, and salt, but I’m not sure how cheap it works out as.

      Nice recipe, Jack. We’re planning to make a pasta bake with this sort of sauce later, and it hadn’t occurred to me to put in some of that frozen spinach I never know what to do with.

    • Violife. It’s pricey and tricky to get hold of but by far the best vegan cheese.

      I put a little sprinkle of nutritional yeast on my pasta dishes for a bit of a “cheesy” kick.

    • Violife solid and cream cheese sold at some tescos and some ASDAS as well as holland and barrett and sheese sold at holland and barrett are good best ones found so far

    • I love using Enegevita nutritional yeast flakes, I use it instead of cheese in all sorts of recipes. It’s great for sprinkling ore meals you would normally add cheese. And it lasts for ages in the cupboard, so works out good value.

      • Hi there
        I really want to try this recipe but am a bit confused about what you do with the mushrooms. Is drying them out part of the recipe or is that just if you want to store them? Also, where it said mince your mushrooms, does that just mean fry them with the onion?
        Thanks in advance!

  3. A decent vegan cheese I am using is the violife range. I reckon the general cheddar flavour in violife grated woukd do great on this… or go for the vegan parmesan cheese – parmezzo cheese by vegamigo. .

    • +1 to the recommendation of Violife for a vegan cheese. It actually tastes like cheese.

      The Toffutti slices you can get are also a fair substitute for horrible, processed cheese slices.

    • Violife cheese in my opinion is by far the best out there. I usually sprinkle some of Free and Easy’s dairy free sauce granules over bolognese in place of Parmesan shavings.

  4. Jack,

    What a great meat substitute, especially for the mushrooms that seem to deteriorate overnight!

    Just one small comment: boiling the water in a pan can take much longer than using a kettle. I boil water on the stove (the US has far fewer electric kettles that are fast, and my gas is cheaper than electric) and in a race two pints in the saucepan vs. the kettle it was the kettle that won. This might make the pacing more challenging, but is cheaper and more environmental!

  5. Thank you! Look forward to trying this- brilliant and accessible recipe because most ingredients are staples in the cupboard and freezer x

    • You can cook pasta by bringing to the boil, covering and turning off the heat. The pasta continues to cook and you save more on fuel. Works with soft/hard-boiling eggs too 🙂

      • Many other things as well, potatoes for mash, most other veg, rice etc. I remember my Mother doing this back in the 50s.

  6. Perfect for when mushrooms are reduced in the supermarket! Going to do this tomorrow! Being vegan I love this idea!.. Might put the mushrooms in my dehydrator

  7. Hi Jack! I use nutritional yeast by itself but here’s a quick recipe for vegan parmesan:

    I don’t know how reasonable nutritional yeast may be in the UK but I buy mine from a bulk bin here in the US and it lasts quite a while for me.

    Also, I LOVE the gooey cheese recipes on but, again, not sure about the ingredients list.

  8. Brilliant! As a veggie I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of doing this. I definitely have issue with the processed quorn. Will be cooking this tomorrow 🙂 thanks x

  9. I’ve tried the no-muh blue fake cheese when I have been desperately missing cheese. It’s ok. Have even tried it as ‘cheese’ on toast. It even gives me heartburn like real cheese
    We do use the tofutti fake cream cheese – the kids like it on bagels etc. and I have sometimes added a dollop to pasta sauces to make them creamier (when they are cooled a little so it doesn’t curdle)

  10. Awesome recipe! Have added it to my to-make list.
    I LOVE talking about vegan cheese, I consider myself an expert 😉
    A lot of it is down to personal taste – personally my favourite brand is Vegusto No-Moo. It’s pricey (£5 for a 200g block) but it’s delicious and keeps very well. I’d recommend the “Piquant” (gruyere/extra mature cheddar) and “melty” (dairylea/babybel) flavours. I use the former to make a mean vegan macaroni cheese (if I may be so arrogant)
    Violife is another good brand and they make a fantastic vegan parmesan wedge. Seriously, incredible. They’re best known for their slices which melt very well in a burger or cheese toastie. Violife is probably the easiest to get hold of, I’ve seen it in Tesco and Waitrose but you might be in with a chance at ASDA as well (if not, Holland and Barrett should have it)
    Another favourite is Mozzarisella (mozzarella di bufala), but it’s not widely distributed in this country.
    I hope this is useful!

  11. As someone with working taste buds, I find shop-bought vegan cheese vile- like cardboard! I like homemade swaps though….

    A good Parmesan swap is cashews, garlic granules, salt and nutritional yeast flakes (found at Holland & Barrett) roughly processed- great for sprinkling on pasta & pizzas.

    Otherwise have a look at this list, I’ve been quite successful with most:

  12. I never use white pasta. Has no nutritional value. Wholemeal pasta is good if you are a veggie as it has fibre and extra vitamins. Costs more than the white though. Spinach is quire expensive isn’t it? Not 13p!
    Sounds a tasty recipe.
    Good that people can cook cheaply as the food bill is so expensive.
    With the government targets for finding unjust sanctions anyway they can then people may need this. Along with the zero hour contract insecurity.

  13. Brilliant – I’m veggie but my other half isn’t. He is happy to share veggie meals with me but Quorn and TVP give him the poops so we’ve not had a spag bol together for yonks! This recipe should be one we can both eat together. <3 xx

  14. I’ve made mushroom bolognese before and I’d recommend grating the mushrooms. It feels a little bizarre at first, but it does replicate mince really well!
    Enjoy all x

  15. I buy nutritional yeast in bulk from Amazon in the UK. I use it with cashews and seasoning too. Vbites do a parmezan style Cheezely. It’s not cheap but lasts a while. Thanks for this recipe Jack, looking forward to trying it.

  16. Good idea using mushrooms and not soya. I use them for Not Meat loaf, too. Perfectly good taste with lots of garlic.

  17. If you bring water to the boil (either in pan or from a kettle) then add pasta and bring back to the boil, put close fitting lid on and turn the heat OFF it still cooks in the same time it says on the packet and saves fuel.

  18. You can boil the water (either in a pan or from a boiled kettle) then add the pasta and bring back to the boil, put close fitting lid on and turn the heat OFF. Leave undisturbed for time shown on packet and the pasta will be perfectly cooked. I didn’t believe it at first but it does work!

  19. I blitz my mushrooms in my food processor to get the mince consistency. I’ve always done this in meat bolognese as my kids won’t eat mushrooms if they see them and it pads out the mince so that it goes further. I tried your idea of using strong tea instead of wine in my bolognese yesterday and it worked a treat! Love everything you do Jack 😊

  20. I like Violife cheeses too. The smoked one in particular. I haven’t tasted any other vegan cheese that I actually like and I feel it would be a right faff to make my own with cashews (no time or equipment). Would appreciate it if someone proved me wrong though! 🙂

    Nutritional Yeast is a lifesaver for me – I have it on everything! Plus it makes a lovely ‘cheesey’ bechemel sauce for lasagne, etc.

    I look forward to using your muchroom mince – that sounds easy enough!
    Thanks Jack, for being an inspiration once again.

  21. A sprinkle of nutritional yeast dies the job nicely. I have yet to find a vegan cheese I like. The yeast really does lend that cheesy flavour to a dish and can be stirred into white sauces, soup, mash, most things where a good dollap of cheese is required to create something yummy and comforting. I get it from health food shops at £2.36/100g.

  22. As a low-carber, I don’t eat pasta, but I can recommend this with cauli-rice (cauliflower grated – by hand or processor – and then steamed). I use cauli-rice a lot to replace pasta and rice, and mashed it makes a good potato replacement. I use nuts and/or cheese to bulk up the protein where necessary.

  23. This looks great. I’m seriously thinking about going vegan initially a few days a week so will definitely try this out. Lovely to see you back Jack x

  24. H we use nutritional yeast on its own – it’s very reasonable from Amazon and if you don’t want to just let the flakes melt on the hot food you can mix with hot water and herbs and garlic – my gldaighter and I are vegan and gluten free and sugar free so we use it on Pizza too it’s great and Good for topping up your vit b, love your recipe will be giving it a go tomorrow x

  25. Just made this, used grated carrot instead of spinach which I didn’t have. Lovely meal, thanks Jack.

  26. ALDI do sell quorn products at great prices if you anyone likes using it or wants to add it to this at little extra cost. I’m a fan of quorn as cooked with skill by someone who understands how to get flavour into it, it is very acceptable to meat eaters and greatly reduces fat intake.

    Mushrooms can be very expensive at certain times of the year and in certain shops so I’d be inclined to use both interchangeably.

  27. Bought the ingredients for this today…just a quick question though…do you do the mushrooms first and then add the onion and garlic or does it not matter if you cook them
    at the same time?

  28. Instead of Parmesan cheese, I often use Gomasio: toasted ground sesame seeds with a little salt. You can buy it in health food shops, but it’s expensive, so I always make my own. I toast the seeds (careful, they burn quickly), add a teaspoon of salt and then blend them until coarsely ground. It’s a rich source of calcium, too.

  29. Omg can’t believe my kids ate this! You are magic. Husband ate it too and he also hates mushrooms.

  30. Thank you – made a huge vat of this today and it is lovely (we added lots of extra veg) one vegetable I don’t usually eat is mushrooms as I’m not a fan of the texture but I’ve just eaten a huge portion of this in a pasta bake and not noticed. Honestly – a brilliant invention…great depth of flavour – we are not veggie but like to eat meat free when we can.

    • Just ate the left overs today – topped with a layer of spinach and cheese (could use vegan alternatives) and then filo pastry crunched up to make a pie

  31. finely grated brazil nuts with a bit of salt is a convincing vegan alternative to parmesan – but I don’t know that you could call it frugal (although you only need a couple of brazil nuts per person so maybe???)

  32. Tesco’s Free From hard cheese is the best vegan cheese I have tasted – no acidic after taste that I have experienced with others. They also do some really nice soft spreadable cheeses as well.

  33. Hi Jack,
    I’m a great fan of mushrooms-as-meat. Have you tried salting them (sparingly!) once they’re on the tray? It draws water and also helps preserve them once dried.
    I have great respect for your blog, please keep it up!

  34. Anyone contemplating making it (or already done so) with tinned mushrooms?

    I think whatever the result of tinned vs not tinned ‘shrooms, this will be on my list of things to make for next week..

    (I’ve been working my way through Jack’s Book No.1 this week, and reacquainted myself with such lovelies as soda bread and the peach and chickpea curry. It’s been a lot of fun.)

  35. Loved your use of mushrooms for this dish. I made it without the spinach (forgot to put it in) and it was really, really rich and tasty. As you say, far better for you than any manufactured processed stuff . Loved it and will continue to use this recipe from now on. Thanks Jack Monroe.

    • Brilliant. Did not believe it would not just taste of mushroom but tried it anyway, and everyone loved it! Great quick meal for when I got in late from work.

  36. Totally delicious, mushrooms give a real meaty depth that I know lots of vegetarians, including myself, crave sometimes!!

  37. This also makes a delicious filling for a lasagne ( I see dairy but I expect there is a vegan version). I did cook everything for much longer than the recipe suggests though.

  38. Absolutely incredible !
    My youngest would live on Jan, cucumber, sprouts and bolognese if she could.
    I tried this last night and it was bloody amazing !
    (I had a bit of red wine leftover from Christmas which added a really nice flavour) – made a big batch and used it to Mach a veggie lasagne which was a winner too !
    I don’t know if I’ll bother going back to meat for this as it tastes so good !
    Does the mushroom mince work for other dishes like a chilli maybe ? Or tacos ?

  39. I love these recipes! I went to Aldi today and spent £20 on a huge amount of food, and going to try this and the mushroom rogan josh! Excited to save money and try some vegan food!

  40. Just returning to sing the praises of your mushroom bolognese recipe :). In addition to the fact that this meal tastes out-of-this-world good it also brings together my veggie (aspiring vegan) girlfriend and I (non-vegetarian, meat eaten around twice per month) in an area which can be tricky otherwise!

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