Vegan Lentil Loaf (Vegan Meatloaf)

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This hearty vegan lentil loaf is packed with flavor, loaded with plant-based protein and makes for a delicious vegetarian entree for a holiday meal.

Oh boy do I have a treat for you today! It’s a vegan lentil loaf that’s like the meatloaf my mom used to make only with lentils instead of meat. It’s amazingly flavorful and works beautifully as a vegetarian or vegan entree for a holiday meal. That said, don’t be surprised if you find the meat-eaters in your life enjoying it as well.

An overhead shot of a cutting board with a partially sliced lentil loaf on parchment paper. A knife lays on the cutting board perpendicular to the loaf.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • This lentil loaf has plenty of flavor and texture like traditional meatloaf but… it’s vegan!
  • The sweet and savory tomato-based glaze is free of refined sugar and absolutely delicious.
  • This vegan meatloaf holds together super well and doesn’t crumble when you cut it for serving.
  • It’s the perfect meatless meal for a casual weeknight but fancy enough for a holiday meal as well!

WATCH HOW TO MAKE THIS VEGAN LENTIL LOAF:

Ingredients measured out to make a lentil loaf: apple cider vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, tamari, onion, water, celery, oats, flaxseed, lentils, bay leaf, nutritional yeast, carrot, tomato paste, maple syrup, spices, walnuts and garlic.

Ingredients & Substitutions

  • dry brown or green lentils – you need to purchase dry brown or green lentils for this recipe. I don’t recommend making this loaf with red lentils because unfortunately they’re too soft and your loaf will be mushy
  • vegetables celery, carrot, onion and garlic add a ton of flavor and texture to this recipe! You’ll sauté the veggies before adding them to the rest of the ingredients.
  • walnuts – pecans would work as well. You can also swap in more lentils for the nuts if you’d like to keep this recipe nut-free.
  • rolled oats – I’m using rolled oats in place of breadcrumbs to help bind this loaf together. If you don’t need a gluten-free option, you can use breadcrumbs!
  • tamari – soy sauce, liquid aminos or coconut aminos can be subbed for the tamari. I just prefer to use tamari to keep this loaf gluten-free.
  • tomato paste – adds a robust flavor to the loaf! It’s also a key ingredient of the tomato-based glaze that tops this loaf.
  • ground flaxseed – or ground chia seeds to bind the loaf together. Plus, you get extra healthy fats and fiber!
  • nutritional yeast – you can leave out the nutritional yeast if needed. It does add a nice savory flavor, so I do recommend picking some up at the grocery store if you don’t have any on hand. Look for it in the natural foods section or with the condiments at your local grocery store. Of course you can also order nutritional yeast online.
  • olive or avocado oil – to sauté the vegetables in.
  • pure maple syrup – remember to use 100% pure maple syrup, not the processed syrups sold for pancakes. The first ingredient on those syrups is corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup… no thanks!
  • apple cider vinegar – part of the glaze that tops this loaf. The acidic vinegar really helps the flavors pop!
  • balsamic vinegar – I love using a high quality balsamic for the glaze.
  • seasonings and spices – bay leaf, dried thyme, dried oregano, dried basil, cayenne pepper, ground pepper and sea salt.

Dry vs. Pre-Cooked Lentils

For this recipe I used dry lentils. The 1/2 cup of dried lentils results in about 1 1/2 cups of cooked lentils. To make this recipe even easier, you can totally use pre-cooked, steamed lentils. I would measure out about 1 1/2 cups and skip steps 2 and 3 within the recipe below.

I’ve seen steamed lentils at different grocery stores in the produce section. Stores like Kroger carry Melissa’s steamed lentils and steamed lentils are one of my favorite items to buy from Trader Joe’s.

tip!
If you're using dry lentils make sure you don't overcook them and to drain them well. If your lentils have too much moisture in them it can result in a mushy lentil loaf. 
Collage of four photos showing the process on how to make a vegan meatloaf, two photos of the lentils and other ingredients before and after being processed, a photo of someone brushing ketchup on the top of the loaf and the ketchup brushed loaf in a pan.

How to Make Lentil Loaf

Prepare the lentils by rinsing them and adding them to a pot with water and a bay leaf. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat down and simmer covered until all the liquid is absorbed and lentils are tender (about 15-20 minutes). Remove from heat, discard the bay leaf and set the lentils aside to cool. This step can be done in advance.

Toast walnuts by spreading them onto a baking sheet and toasting them in the oven for about 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Heat oil over medium heat in a medium sauté pan and cook onions, garlic, carrots and celery until they’ve softened and become fragrant. About 5-10 minutes. Once cooked remove from stovetop to cool.

A food processor with ingredients to make a lentil loaf inside of it.

Add lentils (reserve ½ cup for later), cooked veggies, toasted walnuts, oats, tamari, tomato paste, ground flaxseed, nutritional yeast, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, thyme, oregano, basil, cayenne pepper, ground pepper and sea salt to your food processor. Pulse until the mixture is just combined and the texture is to your liking. You want the mixture to be combined enough to stick together, but you don’t want it to be completely pulverized.

Ingredients for lentil loaf after being blended, inside of a food processor.

Stir in the reserved lentils and press the mixture into a parchment-lined loaf pan.

In a small bowl stir together glaze ingredients and spread the glaze over top of the loaf.

Lentil loaf mixture in a bread pan being coated with maple sweetened glaze by a hand using a small brush.

Bake covered with foil for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for about 8 more minutes. Let the loaf rest 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Lentil loaf coated with maple sweetened glaze in a bread pan lined with parchment paper, ready to be baked.

How to Prep Lentil Loaf in Advance

If you want to prep the lentil loaf ahead of time I recommend prepping it fully, covering it with foil or plastic wrap and keeping it in the fridge for 1-2 days before baking as instructed in the recipe.

Serving the Lentil Loaf

As I mentioned, this lentil loaf is the perfect vegetarian main for a holiday meal, but you can also serve this for a regular weeknight meal.

If you’re making it for Thanksgiving or Christmas you might consider serving it alongside a few holiday side dishes. I’d recommend my healthy sweet potato casserole (also vegan!), this healthy green bean casserole, my wild rice stuffing or even something simple like these roasted root vegetables.

For a non-fussy meal you could pair the lentil loaf with a simple salad (this garlicky kale salad would be perfect) or go more traditional with a side of mashed potatoes (or mashed cauliflower). You could also keep it really easy and do baked sweet potatoes as a side dish.

Two plates with two slices of lentil loaf and salad greens. Additionally, there are two forks and two glasses of water.

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

Leftovers should keep for up to 5 days in the fridge, but you can freeze the lentil loaf too. To freeze, just bake the lentil loaf and let cool to room temperature, wrap slices in foil or plastic wrap and freeze for up to 1 month.

To reheat, thaw slice(s) in the fridge then heat in the microwave or bake in a 275°F oven until the lentil loaf slice has heated through, about 15 minutes.

More Lentil Recipes to Try

More Holiday Recipes

Be sure to check out my full collection of vegan Thanksgiving recipes and all of the vegan recipes here on EBF!

4.50 from 203 votes

Vegan Lentil Loaf

This hearty vegan lentil loaf is packed with flavor, loaded with plant-based protein and makes for a delicious vegetarian entree for a holiday meal.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 8 slices

Ingredients  

  • ½ cup dry brown, green lentils
  • 1 ⅓ cup water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil or avocado oil
  • ½ large onion, about 1 heaping cup, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 rib of celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 3 Tablespoons tamari
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt

Maple Sweetened Glaze:

  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • pinch of sea salt

Instructions 

  • Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
  • Prepare lentils by rinsing them and adding to a pot with water and a bay leaf. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat down and simmer covered until all the liquid is absorbed and lentils are tender (about 15-20 minutes). Remove from heat, discard the bay leaf and set the lentils aside to cool. This step can be done in advance.
  • In the meantime toast walnuts by spreading them onto a baking sheet and toasting in the oven for about 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
  • Heat oil over medium heat in a medium sauté pan and cook onions, garlic, carrots and celery until they've softened and become fragrant. About 5-10 minutes. Once cooked remove from stovetop to cool.
  • Add lentils (reserve ½ cup for later), cooked veggies, toasted walnuts, oats, tamari, tomato paste, ground flaxseed, nutritional yeast, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, thyme, oregano, basil, cayenne pepper, ground pepper and sea salt to the food processor. Pulse until mixture is just combined and the texture is to your liking. You want the mixture to be combined enough to stick together, but you don’t want it to be completely pulverized.
    Ingredients for lentil loaf after being blended, inside of a food processor.
  • Stir in the reserved lentils and press mixture into parchment lined loaf pan. I used a 9″ x 5″ x 2½”.
    Lentil loaf mixture in a bread pan being coated with maple sweetened glaze by a hand using a small brush.
  • In a small bowl stir together glaze ingredients and spread the glaze over top of the loaf.
    Lentil loaf coated with maple sweetened glaze in a bread pan lined with parchment paper, ready to be baked.
  • Bake covered with foil for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for about 8 more minutes. Let the loaf rest 15 minutes before cutting and serving.
  • Store leftovers in a sealed container for up to 5 days in the fridge. Or freeze for up to 1 month.

Video

Notes

  • To prep the lentil loaf ahead of time: I recommend prepping it fully, covering it with foil or plastic wrap and keeping it in the fridge for 1-2 days before baking as instructed in the recipe.
  • To freeze the lentil loaf: bake lentil loaf and let cool to room temperature, wrap slices in foil or plastic wrap and freeze for up to 1 month. To reheat, thaw slice(s) in the fridge, then heat in the microwave or  bake in a 275°F oven until the lentil loaf slice has heated through, about 15 minutes.

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 140kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 377mg | Potassium: 169mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Lunch/Dinner
Cuisine: American
Keyword: lentil loaf, vegan meatloaf
Did you make this recipe?Mention @eatingbirdfood and tag #eatingbirdfood!

About Brittany

Hey there, I’m Brittany, the creator of Eating Bird Food, cookbook author, health coach and mama of two littles. Here you’ll find quick and easy recipes that make healthy fun and enjoyable for you and your family!

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341 Comments

  1. 3 stars
    Really wanted to like this but unfortunately not really a fan of flavor, texture and time spent on preparing it (took way more than the listed 55 min). Sorry!

    1. Oh no – so sorry this recipe didn’t turn out as you had hoped, Geli. Thanks for giving it a try!

    1. Ahh this is amazing, Em! I am so glad this recipe is a hit and everyone loves it. Thanks for coming back and sharing your review & star rating, I really appreciate it!

  2. 5 stars
    I’ve been making an effort to eat more nutrient dense foods and I though that this would be a good recipe to try. I’ve made lentil loafs before and enjoy them, but the flavor in this one is absolutely amazing. So so yummy. Thanks for sharing such a great recipe!

    1. WOO! I am so glad you gave this recipe a try and are loving it, Charlotte. Thank you for coming back and sharing your review & star rating, I really appreciate it!

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