The Ultimate Vegan Lentil LoafThis post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure.
In this classic vegan lentil meatloaf, the walnuts and lentils combine with carrots, shallots, and savory spices for a blend of flavors that’s sure to impress. Topped with a slightly sweet tomato glaze, it’s the perfect vegetarian entree. The leftovers make great lunches too!
This vegan lentil loaf is one of my favorite hearty vegetarian recipes to make for dinner! It’s super easy to make and most of the ingredients needed are things you can find in your pantry – which makes it even easier. The best part is, this lentil meatloaf is so delicious that no one will miss the meat in this dish at all!
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Using lentils instead of meat does wonders for this dish. I wasn’t sure if lentils would be a satisfying enough substitution for meat, but it turns out that the texture of this meatloaf is reminiscent of the classic recipe! Lentils make this loaf super savory, hearty and satisfying. When paired with mashed potatoes and roasted veggies, it’s comfort food at its best!
I guarantee you will love this simple lentil loaf recipe. It’s perfect for a family meal, or for feeding a crowd. And with only 20 minutes of prep time, you’re not going to be spending hours in the kitchen making this lentil loaf. It’s also easily made gluten-free, and kid-friendly too! Win win for everyone!
Ingredients for Lentil Loaf
Onion, carrot, garlic and shallots: I highly recommend sticking to fresh garlic cloves for this vegan meatloaf recipe. That said, don’t not make it if you don’t have it on hand. Simply replace with a heaping tablespoon of pre-packaged minced garlic or 2 teaspoons of garlic powder.
Cooked lentils: Any type (or color) lentils will work. However, red lentils tend to cook up tougher while brown and green lentils remain more tender.
Walnuts: I chose walnuts for this lentil nut loaf because it blends well with the lentils and provides stability and extra protein. Optional: You can toast these in the oven until golden brown for a more robust flavor.
Breadcrumbs: I love homemade whole wheat breadcrumbs because you can really control their flavor that way, but any you have on hand is fine. Just like with classic meatloaf, the breadcrumbs help hold everything together and absorb excess moisture. To make this a gluten free lentil loaf, just use gluten free breadcrumbs.
Flaxseed egg: To make this vegan, I substituted egg for 1 tbsp flaxseed and 2.5-3 tbsp water.
Sauces and spices: This is where the magic happens. You can customize to your liking, but the combo used in this recipe is deliciously savory – and a tad umami – as is. The balsamic vinegar and soy sauce blend is on point, and the smoked paprika really enhances the more “usual” spices like thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper.
Tomato glaze: Definitely don’t skip the balsamic vinegar or maple syrup in this vegan meatloaf glaze. They really are the perfect pair, perfectly complemented by the sweet paprika.
How to Make Vegan Lentil Loaf Step by Step
Step 1: Line a loaf pan with baking paper and set aside. Dice garlic cloves, onion and carrot into very small pieces. Sauté garlic in a heated pan with olive oil until fragrant. Then add onion and carrot and sauté for 4-5 minutes or until onion is translucent.
Step 2: Chop shallots and add it to the other vegetables. Cook for two more minutes.
Step 3: Place the cooked vegetables in a big bowl and add 2 cups of lentils (leaving ½ cup of lentils apart). Using an immersion blender, process the vegetables until they form a smooth paste. Then add the walnuts and blend again. This can be done with a food processor or standing blender as well.
Step 4: Add all the spices, the rest of the lentils, breadcrumbs, flaxseed egg, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce and salt and stir to combine.
Step 5: Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf pan and press with a spoon to get a compact loaf.
For the Glaze:
Step 1: Whisk all the ingredients, and spread it with a spoon over the top of the loaf.
Step 2: Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until golden brown on the edges.
How to Prep Lentil Meatloaf in Advance and Store Leftovers
This has become one of my favorite vegan meal prep meals. You can do this two ways:
- Option 1: Batch cook the lentil loaf ingredients ahead of time, then store until ready to assemble. For instance, you can cook up a large batch of lentils and store in an airtight container; and then chop and saute all your vegetables and store them in a separate airtight container. You can also make the tomato glaze and store it in a third airtight container. Doing it this way, you can easily double the recipe if needed. You can do this up to 3 days in advance, and then combine the ingredients and bake on the day of. I’ll show you how to freeze individual slices for long-term storage below.
- Option 2: Make the entire loaf the day before. With this option, you would cook and assemble as you normally would but leave off the tomato glaze. Place in the loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator. When ready to cook, let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then top with the glaze and bake.
You can store leftover lentil meatloaf in the fridge for about 5 days, but it also holds up in the freezer nicely. You just want to make sure it cools completely before freezing.
When storing, I recommend storing slices instead of the whole loaf. This ensures it cooks evenly and reduces the risk of a soggy loaf. And nobody wants that! Store in glass containers or an airtight bag – vacuum sealed is ideal for longer storage.
If you ever wonder what to do with leftover loaf, I encourage you to make sandwiches with it! While it may seem a little odd, it’s seriously so good sandwiched between bread and topped with fresh tomatoes. If you’re a mustard fan, mustard pairs surprisingly well with vegan meatloaf!
Now I want to address a few frequently asked questions.
What Should I Serve With Lentil Loaf?
For everyday meals, vegan meatloaf pairs well with a simple side salad, mixed steamed vegetables, and vegan mac and cheese!
I also have a vegan roasted potatoes with rosemary that really complements the flavors in this lentil walnut loaf. Sweet potatoes would be delicious too!
If you’re making this lentil loaf for Thanksgiving, I highly recommend pairing with traditional favorites like mashed potatoes and vegan gluten-free stuffing.
Should I Use Dry Or Pre-Cooked Lentils?
Depends on how much time you have on your hands! I prefer the budget-friendly option of cooking dried lentils from scratch, but canned lentils or even the steamed “ready to eat” lentils work as well.
To cook dried lentils, you’ll use a ratio of 1 cup lentils to 3 cups water and simply bring to a boil, then simmer on the stovetop until tender. For reference, ½ cup of dried lentils equals 1 heaping cup cooked.
On the flip side, 1 cup dried lentils turns into 2.5 cups cooked.
But I’m also a busy mama, so sometimes I just pop open a can of lentils and call it a day. This vegan lentil loaf recipe can handle it! Just be sure to drain thoroughly and use paper towels to pat dry. You want the lentils as dry as possible before adding to the loaf.
How Long Do Lentils Take to Cook?
Fortunately, lentils are nothing like dried beans when it comes to how long they take to cook. You can go from dried lentils to tender, recipe-ready in about 20 minutes.
Some lentil varieties need to be soaked before cooking, so be sure to check instructions on the package.
If you are using split lentils, it’ll be even faster – about 7 minutes. If you cook lentils yourself, make sure to add the salt after cooking. This is very important because adding salt during the simmering stage can result in tough lentils.
But most importantly, you want to cook lentils until barely tender. Trust me, you do NOT want overly soft lentils for this vegan meatloaf recipe. In fact, let me touch a little more on that…
Why Is My Lentil Meatloaf Mushy?
Lentils that have cooked too long retain excess moisture, and too much moisture is the cause of soggy lentil loaf.
I honestly haven’t had that problem with this particular lentil meatloaf recipe, and I think that’s thanks to the breadcrumb and walnut combination. This loaf has a sturdy structure and holds together really well. It’s tender and a tad juicy without being mushy!
If for whatever reason, you still struggle with a soggy loaf, try reducing the amount of water in your flax egg from 3 tablespoons to just 2 tablespoons. In fact, if you’re using canned lentils, you may want to go ahead and do this from the start.
I think that about wraps up the questions people have about making lentil meatloaf. I hope you enjoy the recipe, and please share if you have any creative substitutions!
Want More Vegan Lentil Recipes? Try These:
- Vegan Wellington with Lentils and Mushrooms
- Vegan Bolognese with Lentils (Healthy, Kid-Friendly)
- Instant Pot Lentil and Cauliflower Curry
- Red Lentil Dal
- Protein-Packed Lentil Pasta with Superfood Marinara Sauce!
- Rice and Lentils with Indian Spices
If you have tried this Vegan Lentil Loaf recipe or any other recipe on my blog, then please rate it and let me know how it turned out in the comments below! You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, and PINTEREST to see more delicious, healthy, family friendly food!
Best Vegan Lentil Loaf
For the Lentil Meatloaf
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2½ cups cooked brown or green lentils
- 2 shallots or green onions, diced
- ½ cup walnuts
- ¾ cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
- 1 flax egg (1 tbsp flaxseed + 2.5-3 tbsp water)
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- ¼ tsp cumin
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- ½-1 tsp salt
For The Tomato Glaze
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- ½ tsp sweet paprika
- ¼ tsp salt
- Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- Chop garlic cloves, onion and carrot in very small pieces.
- Sauté garlic and 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pan over medium heat until fragrant. Then add onion and carrot and sauté for 4-5 minutes or until onion is translucent.
- Chop shallots and add it to the other vegetables. Cook for two more minutes.
- Place the cooked vegetables in a big bowl and add 2 cups of the cooked lentils. Using a hand blender, puree the vegetable/lentil mixture until it forms a smooth paste. Then add walnuts and blend again. This can be done with a food processor as well.
- Add all the spices, the rest of the lentils, breadcrumbs, the flaxseed egg, 1 tbsp olive oil, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce and salt and stir to combine.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf pan, pressing with a spoon to get a compact loaf.
- For the glaze, whisk all the ingredients together and spread it with a spoon over the top of the loaf.
- Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until golden brown on the edges.
- Make sure your lentils aren’t wet when you combine them with the rest of the ingredients! That will result in a soggy meatloaf!
- If you don’t have a food processor or hand blender, you can chop the walnuts fine with a chef”s knife and use a potato masher to mash the lentils with the other ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
- When blending the ingredients for the lentil loaf, blend until the ingredients are still slightly chunky – you don’t want it to be fully pureed.
- Feel free to make extra glaze! It’s fun to use as a dipping sauce for the meatloaf once it comes out of the oven (this is especially fun for kids!)
- If you want to add some heat, try adding some cayenne, crushed red pepper, or chipotle chili powder into the lentil mixture before baking.
- Feel free to use pre-steamed or canned lentils instead of dry to save time.