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A Meatless Spaghetti Sauce With a Chopped Sunflower Seed Base

Athlyn Green enjoys whipping up tasty dishes in her home kitchen. She's received many requests for her recipes and is happy to share.

Want a Rich-Tasting Meatless Sauce? Start With Sunflower Seeds


Chopped sunflower seeds make a good substitute for meat in this vegetarian spaghetti sauce

Years ago, while leafing through a vegetarian cookbook, I stumbled across a recipe for spaghetti sauce that suggested using chopped sunflower seeds in place of meat. While doubtful, I tried it and loved it! Once the seeds were chopped and fried with onions, they looked very much like meat and better still, when added to spaghetti sauce, they added a pleasing meat-like consistency.

There’s nothing better than a plateful of noodles, topped with a mouthwatering and tangy sauce. But, how can you cut out harmful fat and cholesterol while still enjoying spaghetti, a traditional dinnertime favorite?

We all know that meat can be high in saturated fat and that animal products contain cholesterol.

A diet that includes seeds is a step in the right direction. You can replace the meat in recipes with plant alternatives, such as sunflower seeds, thus cutting consumption of the wrong kinds of fats and reducing dietary cholesterol.

Protein-rich sunflower seeds can be used as an alternative to ground beef when making spaghetti sauce. As reported in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, in a November 8, 2005 article entitled "Phytosterol Composition of Nuts and Seeds Commonly Consumed in the United States" sunflower seeds contain important plant compounds (phytosterols) that help to lower blood cholesterol levels.

Because sunflower seeds actually help to lower cholesterol levels, it can be seen why they make such a good meat substitute.

While all this sounds well and good from a health standpoint, let's be honest, meatless sauces may be chock full of good things but ... they may also be lacking in flavor. For someone who has grown up eating meat-based spaghetti sauce, "meatless" may not offer enough satisfaction for the taste buds.

I was happy to discover that chopped sunflower seeds add both flavor and texture to spaghetti sauce and other vegetarian dishes.

This is one of my favorite vegetarian pasta toppings and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

A Vegetarian Sauce


Making Meatless Spaghetti Sauce Using Sunflower Seeds

This recipe uses unsalted, toasted sunflower seeds. These should be chopped in a food processor, prior to adding to sauce mixture.

I loosely chop the sunflower seeds. Don't overdo it and turn them into meal.

Meatless Doesn't Have to Mean Tasteless

A vegetarian pasta topping doesn’t necessarily mean a shortage on taste. Sunflower seed spaghetti sauce is easy to make and, best of all, it is rich, thick, and satisfying.


Sunflower Seed Mixture:

When this mixture is browned, it resembles hamburger.

  • 1-2 cups of chopped unsalted, toasted sunflower seeds.
  • 1 onion, chopped
  1. Sauté chopped onion in butter or olive oil until browned
  2. Add in chopped sunflower seeds and stir on low heat until mixture is evenly browned
  3. Set aside

Seeds Chopped, Fried and Added to Sauce

Scroll to Continue

Sauce Ingredients

In a medium to large pot combine:

  • 1 14oz. can of tomato sauce
  • 1 large can of diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 4 tbsp. basil
  • 1-2 tbsp. oregano
  • 1 tbsp. marjoram
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. taco seasoning
  • 3-6 drops of hot sauce
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms

Doesn't This Look Rich?



  1. Add seed mixture to tomato sauce
  2. Cook for at least one hour on low heat setting. Stir frequently to prevent seeds from sticking to bottom of pan
  3. Add the mushrooms and olives 15 minutes before serving pasta sauce.

Additional Ingredients for Vegetarian Spaghetti Sauce:

  • Olives-- add 1/2 cup of sliced black olives
  • Red Wine--add red wine (to taste) to spaghetti sauce prior to serving
  • Parmesan--if you enjoy Parmesan but are worried about the fat, combine equal amounts of Parmesan with ground almonds. The ground almonds will absorb the cheese flavor.

Tasty and Healthful Noodle Topping

Sunflower seed spaghetti sauce is a tasty and healthful noodle topping you can use in place meat-based spaghetti sauce.

© 2013 Athlyn Green


Judy Filarecki from SW Arizona and Northern New York on September 21, 2014:

I have found so many uses for sunflower seeds. My favorite is homemade sunflower seed butter topped with a little of my homemade strawberry jam. YUM.

Athlyn Green (author) from West Kootenays on September 20, 2014:

Hi EcoGranny, I actually made a nut sauce tonight. I was out of toasted sunflower seeds so added almonds, garlic, zucchini, onions, basil, oregano and pizza sauce and chopped everything up in my food processor, then tossed with my whole wheat noodles. So flavorful and if I had, had Parmesan on hand, it would have been awesome to add that to the sauce, as well.

Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on September 20, 2014:

Oh my, I can tell I'm going to enjoy reading and trying your recipes. We like to add sunflower seeds to lots of things, often as a garnish. I can just imagine how they might be in a spaghetti sauce. While we prefer marinara sauce to meat sauce on our pasta, I appreciate the nutrient value that the sunflower seeds add. Can't wait to try this! Perhaps tonight.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 13, 2013:

This is a very innovative sauce and vegetarian too. I enjoy Non vegetarian food but only once or twice in a week. And Sunflower seeds are very healthy as well.

Thanks for sharing this wonderful sauce recipe!

Athlyn Green (author) from West Kootenays on November 12, 2013:

I love this recipe. The sunflower seeds add a richness to the sauce. The cinnamon ads a slightly exotic flavor.

Maggie Griess from Ontario, Canada on November 12, 2013:

I like sunflower seeds, always have. This is truly a unique spaghetti...another of my favs. I am curious about cinnamon in the sauce. It all sounds delicious!

Athlyn Green (author) from West Kootenays on July 22, 2013:

Hi Random, years ago I came across this idea in a vegetarian cookbook and I've been hooked ever since.

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on July 22, 2013:

I never would have thought to add sunflower seeds to spaghetti sauce! I'm intrigued now. What a unique, healthy option.

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