Vegan MeatloafThis post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my disclosure.
This classic vegan meatloaf, loaded with walnuts, lentils, 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 vegan or vegetarian entree. The leftovers make great lunches too!
This vegan meatloaf is one of my favorite hearty vegetarian recipes to make for dinner! It also happens to be vegan, making it if you have dairy-free or vegan guests.
Classic meatloafs traditionally include ground beef, but this healthy version is packed with protein, healthy fats, and flavor. This is the best vegan meatloaf recipe, and it doesn’t contain any Impossible burger or store bought vegan meat.
My protein-packed vegan meatloaf is 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 vegan lentil meatloaf is so delicious that no one will miss the meat in this dish at all!
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 and walnuts make this loaf super savory, hearty and satisfying. When paired with mashed potatoes and roasted veggies, it’s comfort food at its best!
If this is your first time trying any vegan cooking, you will love this approachable and simple recipe. You’ll also be hooked on plant based cooking after you try my healthy vegan meatloaf!
I guarantee you will love this simple lentil loaf recipe. It’s the perfect main dish for a family meal, or for feeding a crowd. And with only 20 minutes of prep time (and 40 minutes of cooking time), you’re not going to be spending hours in the kitchen making this walnut lentil loaf. It’s also easily made gluten-free, and kid-friendly too! Win win for everyone!
👩🏽🍳 Why You’ll Love This Vegan Meatloaf
- Simple Wholesome Ingredients: Traditional meatloaf recipes can be high in fat and less-than-healthy ingredients. Every ingredient in this vegan recipe is one you can find nutritional value in so you can feel good about feeding this vegan meatloaf to your family. This is also a budget-friendly dish and it’s great for meal prep!
- Family Friendly: Kids and adults alike (even non-vegans/vegetarians!) will love this vegan lentil loaf. It’s flavorful, meaty, delicious, and satisfying!
- Perfect For The Holidays: This recipe for vegan meatloaf is a showstopper! It’s perfect to serve at a family gathering for a holiday (like Christmas dinner or Thanksgiving) or a special occasion. It’s also easy enough to prep in 20 minutes (and do other things while it bakes!) to serve any night.
- Delicious Leftovers: The leftovers of this easy vegetarian meatloaf are delicious even days later. Serve it up in a meatloaf sandwich or as is for an easy and satisfying lunch.
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You might already have most of the ingredients for this wholesome vegan lentil loaf (no animal products!). If not, these simple ingredients can be found at your local grocery store. See the recipe card at the bottom of the post for nutritional information.
- Red Onion, Garlic, Shallots, And Garlic: The onion (red onion or yellow onion is fine), garlic, and shallots are aromatics that add a lot of delicious flavor to this recipe. The carrots also add some earthiness and a slightly sweet flavor (plus extra nutrients!) to this vegan meatless meatloaf.
- Dry Lentils: Any type (or color) lentils will work. However, red lentils tend to cook up to be more mushy while brown lentils and green lentils remain more tender and hold their shape. If you want to use a combination of lentils, that’s fine, but remember that the red lentils cook faster, so either add them near the end of the lentil cooking process or just use green and brown lentils.
- 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 bread crumbs, but any you have on hand is fine. Just like with traditional meatloaf, the breadcrumbs help hold everything together and absorb excess moisture – this keeps you from ending up with a mushy lentil loaf!
- Flaxseed Egg: To make this vegan, I substituted egg with 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed meal and 2 ½ to 3 tablespoons water. Ground flax seeds also add some healthy fats to this easy vegan meatloaf!
- Sauces And Spices: This is where the magic happens. You can customize to your liking, but the combo used in this no meat meatloaf is deliciously savory — and a tad umami — as is. The olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and soy sauce (or coconut aminos or vegan Worcestershire) blend is on point, and the smoked paprika really enhances the more “usual” spices like thyme, oregano, sea salt, and black pepper which gives this great recipe a rich flavor. Feel free to experiment with Italian seasoning, nutritional yeast, or other spices.
- Tomato Glaze Ingredients: You’ll find tomato paste, balsamic vinegar (or apple cider vinegar), sweet paprika (or liquid smoke), maple syrup (or brown sugar) and salt in this vegan meatloaf glaze. This slightly sweet glaze is downright addictive!
🍲 Ingredient Substitutions
- Garlic: 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.
- Carrots: You could substitute another veggie like bell pepper (these cook up quicker) but if you use a water-filled vegetable like zucchini or mushrooms, make sure you cook out the extra liquid so you don’t end up with a soggy vegan loaf.
- Lentils: You can also use canned beans (if you have dry beans, you’ll need to cook these first) and skip the lentil cooking part of the instructions (you can also use canned or lentils — Trader Joe’s also sells pre-cooked lentils in their prepared foods section).
- Walnuts: If there’s a walnut allergy, other nuts like pecans, cashews, or almonds will work. For general nut allergies, raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas) or sunflower seeds will work!
- Breadcrumbs: Regular breadcrumbs or panko breadcrumbs are also fine (use gluten-free breadcrumbs if needed). Garbanzo bean flour (besan), quick oats, or oat flour can also be used.
- Flaxseed: Chia seeds are a great substitute for flaxseed (use the same seed to water ratio). Note that flaxseed must be ground to gel properly, whereas chia seeds can be left whole. If you can only find whole flaxseed, you can grind it in a spice grinder or coffee grinder.
- Tomato Glaze: If you don’t want to make the glaze from scratch, you can also use barbecue sauce (try my homemade vegan bbq sauce!) or even cranberry sauce on top of the lentil loaf.
🔪 How To Make Vegan Meatloaf
This healthy vegan meatloaf with lentils and walnuts comes together in only 20 minutes of prep with simple steps and minimal effort! Here is how to make my vegan lentil loaf:
For The Vegan Meatloaf
Preheat Oven, Prepare Baking Pan: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F / 180 C and line a standard loaf pan (or a smaller baking dish) with parchment paper and set aside.
Cook The Lentils If Not Using Canned/Prepared: To cook dried lentils, you’ll use a ratio of 1 cup lentils to 3 cups of water and simply bring everything to a boil, then simmer on the stovetop in a small pot until tender, stirring occasionally. For reference, 1 cup dried lentils turns into 2 ½ cups cooked (what this recipe calls for). Keep in mind that red lentils cook much faster than green or brown lentils. Do not salt the lentils until they are done cooking, as this can make them tough. While the lentils are cooking you can prepare the vegetables.
Chop The Veggies & Cook: Dice garlic cloves, onion and carrot into very small pieces. Chop the shallot and set that aside. Sauté garlic in a heated large skillet or pan with olive oil over medium heat until fragrant. Then add onion and carrot and sauté, stirring frequently) for 4-5 minutes or until onion is translucent.
Add The Shallot: Add the chopped shallot to the cooked veggies. Cook for two more minutes stirring frequently.
Make The Flaxseed Egg: Mix the ground flaxseed and water (do not use hot water) in a small bowl and let sit at room temperature for at least 5 minutes (you can do this while you blend the lentil loaf mixture – see the next two steps below).
Add To A Large Bowl: Place the cooked vegetables in a large mixing bowl and add 2 cups of cooked lentils (leaving ½ cup of lentils aside).
Blend The Mixture: 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, countertop blender, or even a potato masher as well.
Add Seasonings And Binder: Add all the spices, the rest of the lentils, breadcrumbs, flaxseed egg, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce and salt and stir to combine.
Add To Loaf Pan: Transfer the meatloaf mixture to the prepared loaf pan and press with a spoon to get a compact loaf, ensuring the top of the vegan loaf is flat and even.
Make The Vegan Meatloaf Glaze
Whisk Together Glaze Ingredients: In a small bowl, whisk together the glaze ingredients. (Skip this step if using barbecue sauce or another prepared sauce.)
Add The Glaze: Using a spoon, add the glaze on top of the meatloaf. Use the back of the spoon to spread the glaze evenly to all edges of the lentil loaf.
Bake The Vegan Meatloaf
Bake 40 Minutes: Put the whole loaf in the oven and bake for 40 minutes in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F / 180 C, or until golden brown on the edges.
Rest The Meatloaf: Let the vegan meatloaf sit in the pan for 10 minutes. This will help it slice better.
Remove From Pan: Grasp the edges of the parchment paper and carefully transfer the cooked vegan meatloaf to a wire rack. To make sure the slices cut nicely, let it rest for another 10 minutes.
Slice The Meatloaf & Serve: Carefully move the loaf to a cutting board or serving platter. Use a sharp knife to cut the vegan meatloaf into individual slices for serving. This recipe is best enjoyed immediately, though it tastes great the next day too! Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.
💭 Expert Tips
- Don’t Overcook The Lentils: If the lentils get mushy, you may need more breadcrumbs to help this vegan meatloaf stay firm. Try not to overcook them.
- Reduce Excess Moisture: If there’s too much moisture in the cooked veggies, drain them or blot with a paper towel before adding to the bowl. This will help avoid a mushy vegan meatloaf.
- Drain Lentils: Similarly, if your cooked lentils have leftover cooking liquid or you’re using canned lentils, you will need to thoroughly drain them first for best results.
- Too Wet? If the veggie meatloaf mixture feels too wet, add a bit more breadcrumbs.
- Too Dry? If the lentil walnut meatloaf mixture feels too dry or crumbly or won’t come together, you can add a little bit of olive oil or soy sauce. You can add an extra flaxseed egg too if you want, but make sure to give it 5-10 minutes to set up before adding it to the mixture.
- No Loaf Pan: If you don’t have a loaf pan, you can line a baking sheet with parchment paper and form the loaf with your hands.
- Vegan Meatloaf Muffins: You can make my vegan lentil loaf into individual muffins using a muffin tin! Bake for half the time. These freeze great, making meal prep and portion control easier. Plus they’re cute!
- Mini Meatloaves: Similarly, you can buy mini loaf pans and make smaller vegan meatloafs. I would also recommend baking these for half the time. The edges should be golden brown when the lentil loaf is cooked.
- Beyond Meat Meatloaf: Use two packages of Beyond Meat ground meat (or another similar brand of plant based ground meat) and the same flavorings/binders I used in my vegan meatloaf recipe below. You may need to adjust the ratio of dry and wet ingredients. The mixture should be firm and moist but not mushy or too soft. If you can pinch a bit between your fingers and it stays together, then it’s probably going to work well. You can also use cooked, crumbled tempeh instead of Beyond Meat to make a tempeh meatlof.
- Chickpea Meatloaf: Replace the lentils with an equal amount of cooked chickpeas to make this veggie loaf recipe with chickpeas instead of lentils!
- Vegan Meatballs: This recipe for lentil meatloaf also makes great meatballs! Use a large cookie scoop and roll the balls between your hands (if it’s too moist, add some more breadcrumbs and mix). Cook in a large skillet with a little olive oil and turn until golden brown OR bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F / 180 C on a lined baking tray for around 20-30 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through and golden brown (I recommend flipping the meatballs halfway through).
🍽 Serving Suggestions
This vegan meatloaf is the perfect main dish! Here are a few of my favorite sides to serve it with:
- Roasted Green Beans And Potatoes or Vegan Roasted Potatoes
- Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts
- Healthy Baked Potatoes
- Chick-fil-a Kale Salad
- Healthy Mashed Potatoes and vegan gravy (or mushroom gravy!)
- Air Fryer Sweet Potato Fries
- Other Mixed Roasted Vegetables
🙌 Dietary Adaptations
This recipe is already vegan, vegetarian and dairy-free! See below for two other dietary modifications
- Gluten-Free Lentil Loaf: Use certified gluten-free breadcrumbs in place of the regular breadcrumbs and swap the soy sauce for certified gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos. You can also use coarsely ground gluten free oats or gluten free oat flour instead of breadcrumbs to make a lentil oat walnut loaf.
- Nut-Free Option: You can try using pumpkin seeds instead of walnuts in the lentil loaf mixture!
⏲️ Meal Prep / Make Ahead Instructions
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.
- Option 2: Make the entire lentil and walnut 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 your vegan meatloaf sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then top with the glaze and bake.
Here is how to store and keep this vegan meatloaf:
- Refrigerating: Let any leftover lentil meatloaf cool completely, then slice the remaining loaf. Transfer to an airtight container. It will keep in the fridge for about 5 days.
- To Freeze: This vegan meatloaf’s meaty texture holds up in the freezer nicely. Follow the same directions as if you were refrigerating it, but instead just place it in the freezer. You can use a freezer bag or a freezer safe vacuum sealed container. It will keep for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
- Reheating: To reheat, place a slice of vegan meatloaf on a plate and microwave, or you can reheat on a baking sheet in the oven or toaster oven.
🥪 How To Use Leftovers
- In A Meatloaf Sandwich: Use leftover lentil loaf slices in place of deli meat in sandwiches. Pair with whole grain bread, fresh tomatoes, baby spinach and a dollop of mustard.
- In a Salad: Crumble up the loaf and use it for added protein in green salads!
My healthy vegan meatloaf is made up of simple and wholesome ingredients like lentils, walnuts, carrots, onion, shallots, garlic, spices, and other seasonings. This is a plant based meatloaf you can feel good about serving your family.
Depends on how much time you have! 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 of 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, and 1 cup dried lentils turns into 2.5 cups cooked.
But if you’re short on time, you can totally 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.
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. Adding salt during the simmering stage can result in tough lentils.
The key is: cook your lentils until barely tender. Trust me, you do NOT want overly soft lentils for this vegan meatloaf recipe. The only thing worse than a mushy lentil loaf is a soggy one.
The flaxseed egg (made from ground flaxseed) and water (let it gel for 5-10 minutes until it is a thick gloopy paste) is the binder in this vegan meatloaf recipe. But a good vegan or vegetarian meatloaf recipe will use multiple ingredients to keep the loaf together such as a mixture of wet ingredients (like the flax egg, olive oil, and soy sauce) and dry ingredients (like the breadcrumbs and spices) to help everything stay together and make a firm loaf.
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 easy lentil meatloaf recipe, and I think that’s thanks to the bread crumbs and walnut combination. This easy vegan lentil loaf recipe gives you the best texture that’s sturdy 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 excess water in your flax egg from 3 tablespoons to just 2 tablespoons next time. In fact, if you’re using canned lentils, you may want to go ahead and do this from the start.
🌱 More Vegan Recipes!
- Vegan Wellington
- Vegan Bolognese
- Instant Pot Lentil and Cauliflower Curry
- Vegan Eggplant Parmesan
- Vegan Schnitzel
- Red Lentil Dal
- Red Lentil Pasta Recipe
- Vegan Turkey
- Rice and Lentils with Indian Spices
- Vegan Recipes For Beginners
Love this vegan entree recipe? Please leave a 5-star rating 🌟 in the recipe below and/or a review in the comment section further down the page!
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🎥 Watch How to Make It
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
- 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.