Meatless “Meat” Sauce

By: Eleni Saltas

To make a vegetarian version of the beloved kima (Greek meat sauce), simply swap ground meat for mushrooms and chickpeas. The vegetables make a hearty texture, creating a meatless “meat” sauce. My brother, who thinks literally, argues this dish’s name doesn’t make sense. However, it does sound better than “mushroom sauce”. Regardless, the sauce works well for vegans, vegetarians, and has even won the hearts of meat eaters as well.

Prep Time:


Total Time:




Good For:



  • 16 ounces mushrooms (cremini or white button)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 16 ounces preferred pasta
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 celery stalk, very finely diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon dry oregano, or more to taste
  • 3 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons pepper, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 28 ounces canned crushed tomatoes or tomoato passata
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 pinch of chili flakes
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • ¼ cup soy milk (optional)

Step by Step Instructions

Step 1

Rinse and pat dry the mushrooms. In a food processor or blender, pulse the mushrooms into fine uniform “meatlike” pieces. Pulse in batches so it doesn’t turn into paste. You can also use a knife and finely dice your mushrooms. Remove and then pulse the chickpeas in your food processor until you have fine pieces. Set aside.

Step 2

Set a saucepan to medium heat and add olive oil. Add the onions and celery and season generously with salt. Saute together for 5 minutes and then add the garlic.
Add the mushrooms and season well with salt, pepper, cinnamon and oregano and continue to cook until the mushrooms brown and liquid begins to evaporate.
Stir in tomato paste and cook in the pot for 2-3 minutes. Deglaze with the red wine and allow the wine to evaporate.

Step 3

Add the crushed tomatoes, water, chickpeas, chili flakes and bay leaves. Cover the pot with a lid (leave the lid off slightly) and lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, being sure to stir occasionally. Check the sauce and add more salt and pepper, cinnamon and oregano if needed. Since mushrooms and chickpeas don’t carry much flavor on their own, be sure to season well to your liking.

Step 4

While the sauce cooks: prepare your preferred pasta according to package directions. 

Step 5

Once the sauce has thickened, remove the bay leaves and stir in soy milk. You can omit this step and leave the sauce as is, but I love the addition of some “cream,” like an Italian bolognese. 

Remove the sauce from heat and serve atop pasta.