This is the best vegan meatloaf you will EVER eat! Full of lentils, vegetables, and savory goodness. And if you love this vegan meatloaf recipe, stuff a bell pepper, portobello mushrooms, or some pasta shells with this yummy lentil mixture!
When I was little, my mom cooked the BEST meatloaf in the world. Although this was before we all started eating plant-based, I remember a meatloaf sandwich in my lunch box the next day. But vegan meatloaf is in a class all its own. This vegan meatloaf recipe is so good; you should make two loaves!
Despite everyone in the family wanting their meatloaf sandwiches covered in ketchup, mine was covered in yellow mustard. So, I created this vegan meatloaf that reminds me of my childhood. Unfortunately, most vegan meatloaf recipes come out dry and tasteless.
This new recipe I've developed cracked the code - which I've coined vegan meatloaf with lentils! Lentils are the secret ingredient.
Vegan meatloaf tastes like mom's recipe. Not only does it have the texture and flavor, but this vegan meatloaf with lentils is loaded with vegetables and high-fiber lentils to make it much better than the mom's version.
Mistakes to Avoid
Of course, creating a vegan meatloaf took a lot of trial and error. My multiple failures always produced a dry loaf or a moist and crumbly loaf.
Also, my other loaves stuck to the pan and tasted bland. Finally, my lentils were too wet after cooking, making my loaf soggy and looking back at my mistakes.
Another mistake I made was over-blending vegetables and lentils, again causing an overly soggy loaf. Ironically, cooking the vegetables before making the loaf was better than leaving the vegetables raw.
Instead, I suggest using fully drained lentils and not overly cooked ones. Or use vacuum-sealed pre-cooked lentils from the produce section.
For example, Trader Joe's sells pre-cooked vacuum-sealed lentils, which work perfectly for this recipe. Sometimes, a shortcut like this saves a lot of time.
Looking back, I suggest sautéing the vegetables before making the loaf, reducing the water released while cooking. This makes the loaf sturdy, but it sticks together better when removing it from the pan.
Furthermore, I use a silicone bread pan to prevent sticking. If you don't have a silicone bread pan, use parchment paper, so the loaf lifts easily from a bread pan.
Finally, after many trials and even more errors, I mastered the vegan meatloaf recipe. I focused on combining amounts of flaxseed meal, bread crumbs, and quick oats.
As simple as all this sounds, the struggle was real. But once I figured it out, the better my results.
Lentil Loaf Ingredients
- Prepared brown lentils: Prepared lentils means to cook them first. I prefer Trader Joe's steamed brown lentils. They are oil-free and a great shortcut when cooking with lentils.
- White or yellow onion: I love onions, and the more onion in a meatloaf the better!
- Carrot: Did you know carrots provide more antioxidants when boiled or steamed than when eaten raw?
- Celery: Celery's natural saltiness and slight bitterness add depth of flavor to mirepoix.
- Red pepper: Sweet in flavor and beautiful in color, red bell peppers offer a crunch as well as a nutritional component to the lentil loaf.
- Mushrooms: When added to the ingredients, the mushrooms act as meat, and the moisture helps bind the ingredients together.
- Garlic: I love garlic in everything. Fresh garlic is best.
- Tomato paste: Just a little goes a long way in terms of flavor and texture.
- BBQ sauce: I make my own BBQ sauce, but your favorite bottled brand also works.
- Yellow mustard: My mom always added yellow mustard to her meatloaf recipe. It gives it a little tang.
- Flaxseed meal: This provides a binding ingredient and works well with the ingredients to make everything stick together.
- Fresh parsley: Parsley brings freshness to the ingredients in the meatloaf.
- Salt: A little salt is all you need for this recipe to enhance the flavors already in the recipe.
- Pepper: Black pepper changes the flavor of food, adding depth and some spice.
- Quick Oats: The oats act as a secondary binder and a healthy ingredient in the loaf.
- Whole wheat bread crumbs: I used Dave's Bread and made my own), but prepared bread crumbs are fine.
Lentil Loaf Ingredient Substitutions
- For baking, regular rolled oats and quick cooking are usually interchangeable in a recipe. If your recipe calls for quick-cooking oats and you only have old-fashioned rolled oats, pulse the old-fashioned oats in the food processor a few times.
- Out of tomato paste? Use ketchup as a quick substitute.
- Make your own bread crumbs by tasting bread and crumbling the toast in a food processor. You can even make gluten-free bread crumbs with gluten-free bread.
- Use green pepper instead of red bell pepper.
- Add jalapeno for a bit of spice, but remember to wear gloves when working with jalapenos.
- Replace white or yellow onion with red onion for a sweeter taste.
How to Make the Recipe
First, saute the minced garlic, chopped onions, celery, carrots, and mushrooms in a large skillet.
While sauteing the vegetables, combine all the other ingredients in a food processor with a large blade. Then add the sauteed vegetables and pulse until the ingredients are combined.
However, avoid over-pulsing. The texture should appear thick and chunky.
Next, you can prepare a loaf pan. To cook without oil, use parchment paper to line the loaf pan. This process also removes the lentil loaf and makes it easy to clean up once it cools.
Next, transfer the processed lentil mixture into the prepared pan, cover it with aluminum foil, and bake.
Remove the aluminum foil, spread additional barbecue sauce over the meatloaf (optional), and bake an additional 10 minutes uncovered for 10 more minutes.
Allow cooling for at least 10 minutes before removing the pan and slicing. And, if desired, make this vegan meatloaf a day ahead of time and reheat, or eat it cold on sandwiches. Hot or cold, this lentil loaf doesn't disappoint.
Since my mom always served mashed potatoes with her meatloaf, I decided to do the same.
So, I served my vegan mashed potatoes on the side. We used to dip our meatloaf in mashed potatoes as a kid.
Watching my husband dip his vegan lentil loaf in his mashed potatoes made me smile.
Ground flax, breadcrumbs, and oats are suitable binders in various vegan recipes. These will keep your meatloaf together instead of using eggs.
The most popular base ingredients in making vegan meatloaf are lentils, beans, quinoa, tofu, brown rice, and tempeh.
Store the loaf in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Or, freeze the meatloaf whole or in individual slices.
- They must be dry if you cook your own lentils or use canned ones.
- Do not over-pulse the mixture in the food processor. Over-pulsing causes the mixture to become too moist and doesn't bake through.
- Use a silicone loaf pan with parchment paper instead of a standard loaf pan.
- Or, line a baking sheet and use your hands to form a loaf on the baking sheet.
- Another alternative is using a large muffin pan for individual meatloaves
- Mini loaf pans are a cute way also to make individual lentil loaves.
- Be aware, however, if using muffin pans or small loaf pans, cut the cooking time in half.
- Allow the loaf to set up before cutting.
- I love this meatloaf sliced cold the next day on a sandwich.
- I realized this mixture is an excellent lentil loaf and makes meatballs for vegan spaghetti and meats. Or use vegan meatloaf inside red or green peppers for stuffed peppers.
- If you are single, another great idea is to put the lentil loaf into muffin pans for single servings and freeze the individual servings for future meals.
The next time you crave comfort food, give this vegan meatloaf a try! You will love every bite!
More Suggested Vegan Recipes
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- 2 cups prepared brown lentils
- ½ cup white or yellow onion diced (½ onion)
- 1 large carrot diced (about ¼ cup)
- 2 stalks celery diced (about ¼ cup)
- ½ cup red pepper diced (half a red pepper)
- 1 ¼ cup chopped mushrooms
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 Tablespoon bbq sauce of choice
- 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
- 2 Tablespoons flaxseed meal
- 1 Tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- ½ cup quick oats
- ½ cup whole wheat bread crumbs I used Dave's Bread and made my own bread crumbs, but prepared bread crumbs is fine
- Extra bbq sauce for the top after cooking
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Chop onion, celery, mushrooms, red pepper, and carrot (diced). I used the small blade on my favorite vegetable chopper.
- In a large skillet, cook onion, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, celery, and salt and pepper until browned. (You may use a little vegetable broth to avoid sticking )
- Pulse the prepared lentils, quick oats, flaxseed, bread crumbs, cooked vegetables, tomato paste, bbq sauce, mustard, and parsley in a food processor.
- The finished product should be chunky; do not over Pulse.
- Use a silicone backing or place parchment paper in the base of a glass loaf pan. If you don't have a loaf pan, you may form the dough into a loaf shape on a cookie sheet.
- Place dough into the loaf pan and gently press the top to form a bread shape.
- Cover with aluminum foil.
- Bake for 35 minutes, covered.
- Uncover after 35 minutes, and drizzle additional bbq sauce on top.
- Return to oven for 10 minutes, uncovered.
- Remove from oven; recover and let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.
- I find it easier to remove it from the pan before cutting.
- Do not over-pulse the mixture in the food processor.
- Allow the loaf to set up before cutting.
- Put the mixture inside a bell pepper and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
- Stuff this mixture inside stuffed shells and pour your favorite marinara sauce over the top; then bake covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
- Fill large portobello mushroom caps with the lentil mixture, and drizzle BBQ sauce or marinara over the top. Bake covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
- Make meatballs by rolling the mixture into balls; bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
- Or, make lentil loaf muffins in a large pan for individual meatloaves.
- And my favorite is a cold lentil loaf sandwich with mustard on crusty toasted bread!
Hi! My name is Kathy, I am a retired high school English teacher & vegan enthusiast and blogger. My entire blog is fully plant-based vegan. I truly believe what we eat & how we live determines our health & the preservation of our planet! 🙂