Vegan Lentil Loaf (Vegan Meatloaf)

DF GF V VG

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!

Vegan Lentil Loaf

4 from 173 votes
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.
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.
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
  • ¼ 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
Course: Lunch/Dinner
Cuisine: American
Keyword: lentil loaf, vegan meatloaf

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

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Recipe Rating




    316 comments
    1. Jill
      August 26, 2022 AT 8:31 am

      5 stars
      This was delicious! Well done.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        August 26, 2022 AT 2:08 pm

        Thank you! So glad you loved this lentil loaf, Jill. Thanks for making it and for coming back to leave a review. I appreciate it!

    2. Julie
      August 9, 2022 AT 9:22 pm

      5 stars
      I made this tonight exactly as written and it was spectacular in every way. I actually cannot believe how satisfying it was. Also how well it went together and sliced so beautifully. It will go even quicker next time and there will be a next time! So good!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        August 10, 2022 AT 12:37 am

        Ahh yay! So pumped to hear that you loved this lentil loaf, Julie. Thanks for making it and for the review. I so appreciate it!

    3. Theresa
      August 8, 2022 AT 4:49 pm

      Has anyone froze this entire loaf as a whole, not individual slices, did it turn out ok once you re-heat/ cooked, and if so did you cook then freeze or freeze before cooking?

      1. Brittany Mullins
        August 9, 2022 AT 12:03 am

        Hey Theresa, I haven’t personally froze this loaf, but it should freeze just fine! I would bake it, let it cool completely and then freeze the loaf in an airtight container or wrapped in tin foil. It should last about a month or so if stored properly! Let me know how it turns out for you if you end up trying it.

    4. Jennifer
      August 5, 2022 AT 8:34 pm

      5 stars
      I’ve tried lots of veggie meatloaf recipes, and this one is definitely my favorite. Great taste and texture, and it holds together when you slice it! Thanks for this!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        August 6, 2022 AT 11:27 am

        WOO! I love that this recipe worked out for you and that you enjoyed it, Jennifer. Thank you for your review + star rating, I so appreciate it!

    5. Heidi
      May 25, 2022 AT 8:59 pm

      5 stars
      I’ve made this multiple times for our family and even my toddler and preschooler love it! I like to add portobellas to add more meaty earthy flavor to it but it’s just as delicious without it! I do always double the sauce though, because it’s that good!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        May 26, 2022 AT 8:16 am

        Yay! So glad this recipe is a hit for you and your family, Heidi! Thanks for sharing your review, it means so much to me.

Parchment paper lined with protein balls.

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