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Black lentil marinara sauce served with spaghetti in a white bowl with a white marble background.

Quick and Easy Black Lentil Marinara Sauce

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  • Author: Elaine Gordon
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 5 1x
  • Diet: Vegan


Give pasta night a nutritional boost with this rich and creamy black lentil marinara sauce! The lentils essentially go unnoticed in this black lentil recipe, making it perfect for turning a simple dish into a gourmet meal. 



  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, finely diced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper chili flakes
  • 6 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1, 15-ounce can black lentils, drained and rinsed (or cook your own and use 1.5 cups cooked black lentils)
  • 2 cups marinara sauce 
  • ½ cup homemade dairy-free heavy cream sauce
  • Garnishes (optional): fresh basil (finely diced), red pepper chili flakes and/or vegan parmesan cheese


  1. Sauté the shallots and garlic. Heat a sauce pan or 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, diced shallot, salt and red pepper chili flakes and sauté for about 5 minutes until the shallots are soft, fragrant and translucent. Turn the burner to low and add the minced garlic. Sauté for another 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently to evenly cook and avoid burning.
  2. Add the black lentils. To the skillet, add the drained and rinsed black lentils from a can (or the prepared cooked lentils if you are using fresh). Stir well to combine and cook 5 minutes to warm the lentils and infuse them with flavor.
  3. Stir in the marinara sauce and heavy cream. Cook until everything is warm. Taste and add more salt and red pepper flakes if desired. 
  4. Garnish and serve. Garnish with finely diced fresh basil, more red pepper flakes or vegan parmesan cheese. Serve while hot over pasta.


Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Only use black lentils. I do not recommend swapping out the black lentils for brown lentils, red lentils or yellow lentils. Black lentils are tiny and hold their shape best, which prevents them from affecting the overall texture of the sauce. Other varieties of lentils will be more noticeable due to their size (brown lentils) or cook down into more of a mush (red and yellow lentils), which is great for some dishes but not this one!

  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 15
  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian