Cooking with Quorn for the 5:2 Diet – #Vegetarian Pasta Bolognese

Pasta Bolognese – a 5:2 Diet Recipe with Quorn:

Quorn Bolognese - 5-2 Diet Recipe

I first came across meat substitutes when I was a kid.  My mum used to add dried soy mince to our regular mince and dried soy meat to casseroles.  Although we were a seemingly well off professional family, my brothers were both sent to boarding school from the age of 7 and when the school fees went up, my father’s salary did not.   So, then there were a lot of economies made rather than force the boys to move school.  Most of our clothes were homemade – even my brothers’ jeans – mum used to cut out the labels from the old pairs to try to fool them!.  Home décor was retro by necessity –  my mother reupholstered junk shop and auction-house furniture and made all the curtains for the house.  During winter I usually woke to a window with frost on the inside and our holidays were always in a rather ancient family tent that leaked very badly!  Our food was not bad though, we had a large vegetable garden and orchard (although I yearned for ‘real’ frozen chips, like my friends had).  Meat wasn’t always so great and I seem to remember that I rather liked the addition of the soy faux meat, mostly because there was no danger of fat or gristle.  We could always spot it, even though mum tried to disguise it with rich gravy or lots of ketchup.  Just like the onion, which she chopped up super-fine and which all three of us meticulously picked out and left on the side of the plate.


Quorn wasn’t commercially available until a lot more recently – although it was first produced in the 1960.  Now it is a mainstay for many vegetarians who want to eat dishes that look like meat – there are sausages, breaded ‘chicken escalopes’ and a whole range of meat substitutes created from what is actually a fungus called mycoprotein.  But, apart from the advantages for vegetarians, it’s also something that potentially has a lot of value for those of us trying to lose weight.  The label happily calls it a ‘nutritionally healthy protein source’ because it is naturally high in protein and low in saturated fat.  Perfect for those of us on the 5:2 diet.

Just to give you an idea, this quorn mince has 105 calories per 100g and 2g of fat (.5g saturated)  which is at least 30% lower than the best lean beef mince I can buy (5% fat).  It’s also good value at around £2 for a 350g pack.

So when I was asked to sample some quorn, I thought I’d have a bit of fun experimenting with some of my favourite dishes and making 5:2 diet recipes that I can’t normally eat on a 5:2 diet fast day.  I’ve started by making a pasta bolognese sauce.  Generally I add chicken liver and pancetta to my bolognese to make it richer, but in the interest of keeping this version veggie friendly I’ve left those out.  I did, however, add a glass of red wine, even though I was making this for a 5:2 diet fast day.  When you cook with red wine, there’s a theory that you reduce the calories a bit, so I’ve assumed (rather unscientifically) that my large glass (175ml) of red wine has the calories of a small glass (125ml).

Quorn Bolognese for the 5-2 Diet

Serves 2-3
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 35 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Allergy Egg
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Pre-preparable, Serve Hot
Region Italian


  • 175g Quorn mince
  • 400g Tinned Chopped Tomatoes
  • 2 stalks Celery (Trimmed and chopped finely)
  • 2 Medium Carrots (Trimmed, peeled and chopped finely)
  • 1 Medium Onion (Peeled and chopped finely)
  • 2 cloves Garlic (Peeled and crushed or chopped finely)
  • 1 piece Five Star Anise
  • 1/2 teaspoon Marmite
  • 1 teaspoon Worcester Sauce
  • 2-3 shots 1 Cal Spray
  • 175ml Dry Red Wine (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 teaspoon Dried oregano (or 2 teaspoons fresh)


  • 2-3 sprigs Rosemary (Leaves only)


Step 1 quorn bolognese mirepoix
Spray the base of a heavy pan with one cal olive oil spray or wipe with a little olive oil on some kitchen paper. Add the onion and soften for 5 minutes. Add the garlic celery and carrots, continue to soften for 5 minutes or so.
Step 2 Add the fresh and dried herbs and stir around to mix well.
Step 3 Quorn Bolognese - Tomato Reduction
Add the tomatoes, marmite, worcester sauce, red wine and star anise. Stir to mix well and bring to a gentle simmer. Partly cover and leave to cook for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally and adding water or stock if the mixture starts to get too dry.
Step 4 Quorn Bolognese Cooking
Once the sauce has cooked thoroughly, season with salt and pepper then stir through the quorn.
Step 5 Cook for a further 10-12 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Step 6 Serve with pasta and freshly grated parmesan

Reading through the packet instructions, it’s obvious you are not supposed to cook quorn for a long time.  Unlike meat, it doesn’t need slow cooking to tenderise it.  So, to make a good bolognese sauce I thought it would be important to cook the tomato base first, get a real depth of flavour and then add the quorn in, almost at the last minute.  It would be interesting to see how Heston would use quorn (and I have to say I’ve borrowed a few ideas from a chilli recipe of his that I made last year).  If you are keen to try but want to minimise the cooking time, you could easily make double the quantity of the tomato base and freeze it, or even keep it in the fridge for a week or so.

Quorn Bolognese for the 5-2 Diet recipe

This bolognese sauce has around 178 calories per portion.  Unfortunately my nutritional analysis tool doesn’t have quorn so I can’t give you a breakdown of the protein, fat and carbs, but since I’ve used NO ingredients with a high carb or fat content, the end result should be low fat and low carb.  If you add 30g of dried pasta and 5 grams of grated parmesan (the quanties in the photo) you need to add an extra 120 calories or so.  And of course, if you really want to keep the calories down, you could use courgette/zucchini tagliatelli.

The result was very tasty.  It DIDN’T taste like my normal beef based Bolognese, but it was no further away from the original than, for example, the turkey mince version I’ve tried in the past.  And, it was both cheaper and lower in calories than the beef version would have been.   I can’t imagine a meat eater would complain and obviously the result is suitable for vegetarians (though NOT vegans as there is egg in the quorn mixture).  So, yes I will try another quorn recipe soon. If you want to find out more, check out the quorn healthy protein page on their website

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  1. says

    I’m not sure i really trust Quorn, the growing process sounds a bit dodgy, but I do resort to it from time to time, especially the sausages. Your sauce sounds delicious and would be good with what ever you put in it.

  2. says

    I used to eat lots of TVP when I was growing up, which is pretty similar isn’t it? My family were all veggie for over 10 years and often ate veggie bolognese like this, and was always a fave of mine. I really should get back into using it for all the reasons you mentioned. Lovely recipe!

  3. says

    I only use Quorn mince, I hate the gristle and amount of fat that comes out of normal mince. I love serving it to people who don’t know or notice the difference 😉

  4. says

    We use quorn almost every single day and rarely eat meat any more, granted my partner is a vegetarian but I actually like the taste a lot better and I think it absorbs the flavours better too!

    • says

      I think too many people try to ‘cook’ it – you really don’t need to. And, it picks up the flavour of the sauce you use. I was aiming for something veggie friendly – but if I’d wanted a ‘meatier’ flavour, I’d have used beef stock or bovril in the sauce

  5. says

    In the 80s my mum who was following low fat diet used to feed me a soya mince mix from a sachet called Beanfeast. I don’t think you can get it now but I was mighty relieved when Quorn came out as it was an alternative to Beanfeast!! I love eating veggie food but my husband does tend to complain if the meat is missing. I always think it’s hilarious if I can feed him some Quorn and he doesn’t question it 😉

    I ought to buy Quorn more, I seem to have got out of habit of frozen chunks, they’re very handy to keep for emergencies.

  6. says

    I’m allergic to quorn, so could i substitute with soy mince instead or would that affect 5:2? I’m seriously thinking about starting this fasting diet as I could do with shifting some unwanted weight. This recipe is fantastic and nostalgic too. My mum used to cook with soy mince when we were growing up as meat was too pricey to have all the time. She did a great lasagna with soy too.

    • says

      It wouldn’t affect the 5:2 in terms of ingredients, you’d just have to check the calories! Allergies are a pain – I am allergic to strawberries and chia seeds – both of which SHOULD be healthy options!

  7. says

    Great recipe and I love Quorn, especially the mince. These days meat is actually cheaper for me as we grow it here, but if I can’t be sure where meat come from I would much prefer to cook and eat Quorn.
    Janie xx

  8. says

    I’m not sure we have this product in the states, but I love the fact that it’s a veggie friendly recipe! Gonna give this one a try Fiona…(also enjoyed hearing about how it reminds you of childhood, aren’t those the best kinds of food?)

  9. says

    I love veggie bolognaise, but I can’t use quorn for it as Graham and when he was just veggie, it always gave him a dodgy tummy. I usually use frozen soy mince, but that came of the shelves the best part of a year ago and hasn’t been replaced, so I am back to dried soya.

    • says

      I am rather in favour of black lentils at the moment, though I haven’t tried with bolognese, only shepherds pie. The quorn works for me, but it’s not suitable for vegans anyway as it has egg in it to bind it.

  10. says

    I use Quorn a lot, great alternative to meat but the sausages dont taste like the real thing! I seriously need to get on this die and aid some weight loss.

    • says

      No, it’s a mycoprotein (a kind of fungus – mushroom). TVP is soy based. It doesn’t contain gluten, but it isn’t marked as gluten free because some of the ready meals made with quorn come from the same factory (e.g. the breaded quorn ‘chicken’) and there may be cross contamination. Probably ok if you want to keep your gluten levels right down but not OK if you have a full blown intolerance/allergy

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