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Vegan Meatloaf (Easy Lentil Loaf)

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This Vegan Meatloaf is a delicious vegetarian main entree to impress your dinner guests. It gets its hearty texture from a mixture of lentils and walnuts, so it’s loaded with plant-based protein, healthy fats, and plenty of filling fiber. The flavor goes perfectly with your favorite holiday sides, like mashed cauliflower and vegan gravy.

vegan meatloaf sliced on a plate

How to Make Vegan Meatloaf

This lentil loaf is relatively easy to make, but you will need to start with cooked lentils. (Or you can save time by using canned lentils– I only recently found out that’s an option at stores!)

If you need to cook your lentils from scratch, they only take about 20 minutes of simmering on the stove to become tender. That time will fly by if you multi-task as they cook!

lentil loaf in food processor

Maximize Your Time

While the lentils are cooking on the stove, use that time to chop the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic, and start sautéing them in a separate pan. By the time the lentils are done, the sauteed vegetables should be ready to go, too– and then the rest of the process moves quickly.

To complete this vegan meatloaf, you’ll process the cooked veggies and lentils in a food processor with rolled oats, walnuts, and spices. And ground flax acts as a binder in the meatloaf, instead of using eggs. The flax will help absorb any excess moisture from the cooked vegetables, and makes this lentil loaf easy to slice and serve later.

lentil loaf before and after baking

How to Make this Lentil Loaf in Advance

I don’t recommend baking this entire loaf ahead of time, as it may dry out when you reheat it, but you can cook the components ahead of time (like the lentils and veggies) and store them in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the loaf.

If you’d like to assemble everything in a loaf pan ahead of time, I recommend letting the loaf come to room temperature for at least 1 hour on the counter before baking it, to make sure the center is heated through. Let the loaf cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes to help it set and be easier to slice.

Vegan Meatloaf Glaze

I like to top this vegan meatloaf with a quick glaze made of tomato paste, vinegar, and maple syrup– which basically makes a quick homemade ketchup. You can use store-bought ketchup if you prefer, or BBQ sauce, as an even faster solution. The glaze helps lock-in moisture, and adds a nice contrast of flavor for this savory loaf.

vegan meatloaf slices on a white plate

vegan meatloaf sliced on a plate with thyme
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4.85 from 20 votes

Vegan Meatloaf (Easy Lentil Loaf)

This Vegan Meatloaf is a delicious vegetarian main entrée that will impress your guests! Made with lentils, walnuts, and oats, it's hearty & filling!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword lentil loaf, vegan meatloaf
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 8 slices
Calories 166kcal

Ingredients

Lentil Loaf:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion , chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 carrot , chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 celery , chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked lentils (green or brown; see notes)
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats (certified gluten-free, if needed)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 2 tablespoons tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Glaze:

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375ºF and line a 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper. (I like to use a spray oil on the pan first, so that the parchment paper will stick in place.)
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Stir occasionally until softened, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • In a the bowl of a large food processor fitted with an "S" blade, combine the cooked lentils, oats, walnuts, flax, tamari, thyme, cayenne, salt, and several grinds of black pepper. When the vegetables are tender, add them in, too.
  • Pulse several times, just until the mixture starts to stick together when you press it between your fingers. You don't want it totally smooth, for the best texture. (See the photos in this post for reference.)
  • Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf pan, then press firmly to pack it together. Stir the glaze ingredients together and brush it over the top of the loaf. Bake uncovered at 375ºF for 30 minutes.
  • Let the loaf cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes, then use the parchment paper to easiliy lift it out of the pan. Slice and serve warm.
  • Leftover slices can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, but the leftover loaf will be a little more dry in texture when you reheat it, so you might want to serve it with gravy for added moisture.

Nutrition

Calories: 166kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 491mg | Potassium: 314mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1497IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 59mg | Iron: 4mg
Vegan Meatloaf Nutrition (per slice): Calories: 166, Fat: 8g, Carbohydrates: 19g, Fiber: 5g, Protein: 6g

Recipe Notes:

  • To cook lentils from scratch, start with 3/4 cup dry lentils and cover it with 2 1/2 cups of water. Bring a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Measure the lentils after cooking them to make sure you only use 1 1/2 cups in this recipe. You can cook extras to use in a lentil salad, if you want to!
  • To save time, you can use a 15 oz. can of cooked brown lentils in this recipe. Make sure the can has no added salt, otherwise you’ll need to adjust the added salt in this recipe.
  • This recipe is gluten-free when you use tamari and certified gluten-free oats, but you can use soy sauce if gluten isn’t an issue for you.
  • To make this recipe soy-free, try using coconut aminos instead of the tamari. You’ll need to add a little extra salt to compensate, as the aminos are sweeter than tamari.

If you try this recipe, please leave a comment below letting me know how you like it. And if you make any modifications, I’d love to hear about those, too. We can all benefit from your experience!

More Vegan Recipes You’ll Love:

If you need some more ideas to go with your Vegan Meatloaf, try one of these popular recipes!

Reader Feedback: What’s your favorite vegetarian main entree?

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Comments

Kim

Do you have a substitute for the walnuts? My son is allergic to them as well as peanuts, cashews and pecans. Was considering almonds? Thanks, Kim

    Megan Gilmore

    I bet almonds would work! You might want to pulse them in the food processor first, to help break them down into a coarse flour, then add in the rest of the loaf ingredients.

Sandra

Can you use gluten free rolled oats instead of quick cooking oats?

    Megan Gilmore

    Quick cooking oats are better in this recipe because the texture pretty much disappears. If you use rolled oats, I’d recommend pulsing them briefly in a blender or food processor to help them break down first.

Jenn

So delicious!!

Anne Jackson

One of my all-time favorite recipes!

hOLLY

I made this last night and it was so good! And today I made lentil “meat” loaf sandwiches, yum.

    SavannaH

    My family doesn’t eat soy (soy sauce, tamari, etc). How much salt would you add in place of this ingredient? Or is there another substitute you’d recommend?

Daryl

I’ve been thinking about this recipe since it posted. In fact, I made mashed potatoes a week ago, and a few days I made vegan gravy, so it was bound to happen as we inch closer to Thanksgiving. I’m single and no one else in my family is a vegetarian or has any food allergies, (at least none that they recognize), so when I go to my parents house for dinner I have to bring my own food — and an entire loaf felt like a huge commitment. Luckily, it’s a delicious commitment, because this is by far the best lentil loaf I have ever had. It’s not too soggy or too dry, it’s not bland and it’s not overpowered by herbs and spices until it’s inedible — all adjectives that could describe my previous forays into vegetarian loaf recipes. Besides the great taste and texture, I also love that I had every single item on hand in my kitchen. No trip to the grocery store needed. I only wish I wasn’t allergic to gluten and yeast, because I bet this would make one heck of a great sandwich. This will definitely be added to my meal rotation.

    Amber

    Made this for dinner last night, and it was excellent…reminiscent of stuffing with cranberry sauce. A couple of friends stopped, by, so we fed it to them too. Everyone loved it, and we didn’t have any leftovers!

Amy Guirlinger

Can I use regular oats in place of quick oats? I don’t have any.

    Megan Gilmore

    Probably, but they won’t blend into the loaf quite as well as quick oats do. You might want to pulse regular oats in a blender a few times to make the pieces a little smaller, so they will cook faster.

Jeanine Mitchell

Delicious! Would this recipe work if I doubled it for a taller loaf?

    Megan Gilmore

    I’m not sure– it might be difficult to get the inside to be totally cooked without the outside getting too crispy. But I’d love to hear if you experiment with it!

SONYA

This was delicious! Very meaty in texture with great flavor. This will surely be a staple in my fall/winter and holiday cooking. Next time, I’ll make some gravy and mashed potatoes to go with it. It was delightful on its own though! Thank you for this lovely recipe!

Romy

Loved it! I did 1.5x the glaze and it came out perfectly!

Barbara Gilbert

The taste was amazing. My boys and husband ate it and thoroughly enjoyed it! Directions were easy to follow and simple ingredients i had on hand. I try to cook vegan when I can and this was a winner recipe. I combined this recipe with cauliflower/ potato mash and mushroom gravy also roasted root veggies.

Andrea

Oats don’t agree with my wife. Could I substitute potatoes, rice or something else?

    Megan Gilmore

    I haven’t tried it with another grain yet. Possibly bread crumbs could be a good substitute?

      AndRea

      Thanks for the suggestion! I substituted a large grated potato and an egg for the oats, and it came out pretty well. Tasted good but was a little too moist. Next time I’ll try adding an extra tablespoon of flax meal. I also made it with the oats, and that was perfect. Great recipe!

Najla

Hello. I am new to vegan cooking. Do you need to drain the can of lentils?
Thank you

Jenn

Love this recipe! My husband had no idea it wasn’t actual ground beef and he’s tough to trick with food. I used bell pepper instead of celery because I didn’t have any on hand and it turned out great!

KatiE

Would a Vitamix work in place of a food processor with these ingredients, or would it need more liquid?

    Megan Gilmore

    I wouldn’t add more liquid, but maybe process it in batches in the Vitamix? It can over-puree things pretty fast, so I think I’d try using the lowest setting in small batches.

    Marissa

    I used a Vitamix.
    I pulsed the dry ingredients together.

    Then pulsed the lentils and cooked vegetables together.

    Then stirred them both up together in a bowl.

    Worked fine for me

Deboorah

I made the vegan meatloaf-easy lentil loaf today. It was fantastic! We are on about Day 20 of vegetarian makeover. My husband loved it! Thank you so much for posting it!

Paula Moors

Made it this morning just the way you said and it as great. Thank you. I did use gluten free oats and gluten free soy sauce.

Sarah

This was surprisingly pretty easy to make. We had everything on hand except walnuts. I subbed pecans & it turned out beautifully. My husband blurted out “I love it!”during his first bite. He kept raving about it & I also was very impressed with how deep the flavor was with fairly ordinary ingredients. This was a home run!!

    Megan Gilmore

    Yay! I’m so glad to hear it was a hit! Thank you so much for coming back to let me know.

Rebecca

This looks delicious, but I’m sensitive to nuts. Can I omit the walnuts? Or is there a substitution you’d recommend? Thanks!

Ashley

What could I substitute for the flax seeds! I love all your recipes and can’t wait to try this one. Thank you!

    Megan Gilmore

    Maybe ground chia seeds?

    Cristina

    You think I can prep/make it the night before, leave in fridge, and bake the next day? Trying to minimize cooking tomorrow on Easter 🙂

Bethany Thompson

I made this and used sunflower seeds in place of walnuts (son has a peanut and treenut allergy). I added them and the oats to the food processor first and pulsed it a few times to break them down before adding the rest of the ingredients. It turned out great and served with mashed potatoes, gravy, and corn!

Thanks for another recipe!!

Hazel

Made this, added some rosemary. Made our own glaze.

Fantastic! Even ate a sandwich the next day. So happy to have a quick tasty loaf.

Cristina

You think I can prep/make it the night before, leave in fridge, and bake the next day? Trying to minimize cooking tomorrow on Easter 🙂

Anne

Made this for Easter and my family loved it! Used chickpea (from dried) instead of lentils (because stay-at-home) and processed the rolled oats (no instant) and it came out great!! Texture was perfect. Also did a bbq sauce and ketchup mix glaze (again, used what we have)! Thank you!!

Meredith

Staples like lentils seem to be hard to come by these days with COVID-19. Can I use French (puy) lentils in place of the green or brown lentils in this recipe? I know if I do that, I’ll need to cook them longer. I’ve never used them before, so I don’t know how the flavor compares other than needing a longer cooking time. Thanks!

    Megan Gilmore

    Yes, since you’re cooking them separately, I think it’s okay to start with those for this recipe!

The Speed Vegan

It was very tasty, the glaze was nice and the loaf was not not dry; I love a good lentil loaf but some of them can be dry; I added a little more cayenne and I didn’t have quick cooking oats, so I pulsed them in the processor for a little bit and they worked great. I might try it with smoky paprika or chipotles

Clara Ang

Hello,

I was wondering could I use green split peas to replace the lentils?

ElizabEth Santos

This is my favorite vegan loaf!! It has so favor and simple to make. I cooked my lentils in the IP.

Bev

I made the recipe exactly as written and it was delicious! We prefer a crusty top loaf served with gravy so next time we will omit the glaze. Served it with mashed potatoes, corn, Brussel sprouts, and gravy. Will definitely make again.

Cindy Kobbe

This meal checked all the boxes of that home cooked country dinner I’ve been missing.

That said, I did do a little embellishing so as to mimick my standard meatloaf recipe and was blown away at it’s overall likeness to my own.

I always incorporate prunes and cranberries into my “regular” meatloaf and add a heavy dash of cinnamon and a liberal squirt of mustard to the ketchup sauce for a full bodied tangy richness.

Going forward, I will refer to this dish as Megan’s NEATLOAF.

Rose

Very dry with little flavor. The sauce on top helped give it some flavor, but overall I was very disappointed.

Jo Peters

This was awesome! I will be making this again.

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