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This Vegan Meatloaf is the perfect main dish to make when you’re craving something both hearty and healthy. It’s high in protein from lentils, vegetable-rich, and naturally gluten-free and oil-free. You only need about 1 hour to make this whole food plant-based favorite!
Meatloaf was one of Chris’ favorite recipes growing up, so I wanted to create a special meatless version for him to enjoy now that he is vegan. This lentil version is not only reminiscent of the flavors of traditional meatloaf but packed with veggies and is naturally gluten-free and oil-free. Top it off with our healthy mushroom gravy and a side of vegan mashed potatoes for the ultimate comfort food meal!
Why Lentils are the Superior Choice for Making Vegan Meatloaf
Lentils are one of our favorite healthy meat substitutes. Compared to legumes like chickpeas, lentils are higher in protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals such as iron, phosphorus, and various B vitamins. Most importantly, the texture of lentils makes for a much less mushy meatloaf! All in all, lentils are our top choice for making vegan meatloaves and roasts like vegan Wellington.
Vegan Meatloaf Ingredients
- Aromatics: This vegan meatloaf is packed with tons of veggies, giving it both a boost of nutrition and flavor. You’ll need onion, carrots, bell pepper, celery, garlic, and mushrooms.
- Lentils: We developed this meatloaf using cooked brown lentils, but green lentils will work as well. Avoid red lentils – these are too soft to use when making this meatloaf recipe. Reserve them for recipes such as Feel-Good Red Lentil Soup.
- Oats: Quick-cooking oats work similarly to breadcrumbs and absorb extra liquid and add a nice texture to the lentil meatloaf.
- Walnuts: Similar to our Vegan Vegetable Wellington recipe, we added walnuts to add texture and fat to the mix.
- Flaxseed Meal: Whether you’re new to vegan cooking or a seasoned pro, you’re likely familiar with using flaxseed meal as a vegan egg replacer. In this lentil meatloaf recipe, we’ll add flaxseed meal directly to the mix – no need to whisk it with water beforehand.
- Ketchup: Classic meatloafs are topped with a ketchup glaze. We went with store-bought ketchup to make the glaze quick and simple, but if preferred, opt for homemade ketchup.
- Tamari & Vegan Worcestershire: These two vegan kitchen staples add an umami flavor that mimics the flavor profile of traditional meatloaf. If you prefer and are not gluten-free, feel free to use soy sauce or even coconut aminos for a less salty lentil meatloaf.
- Fresh herbs and spices: Using fresh herbs in our Thanksgiving cooking is one of our favorite tricks for boosting flavor and making the meal as vibrant as possible. In this vegan meatloaf, we recommend fresh rosemary, sage, thyme as well as smoked paprika to give this lentil meatloaf a smoky undertone.
Vegan Meatloaf Variations and Substitutions
- Lentil options: Either home-cooked or store-bought canned lentils (drained and rinsed) will work in this vegan meatloaf recipe. If you opt for home-cooked lentils, we’d recommend making them ahead of time and allowing them to cool completely. If you add hot lentils to the meatloaf mixture, it can make the lentil meatloaf mushy.
- Oats substitution: If you cannot find quick cooking oats, opt for regular rolled oats and pulse them a few times in the food processor until slightly broken down. This will help them cook faster like quick oats.
- Walnuts substitution: If preferred or allergic to walnuts, use finely chopped pecans or brazil nuts.
- Vegan Worcestershire sauce options: We always use store-bought, but on the off chance you cannot find a vegan-friendly version in stores near you, try this highly reviewed homemade vegan Worcestershire sauce.
- Oil-free vegan meatloaf: As written, this vegan meatloaf recipe is oil-free. If you use oil in your vegan cooking, feel free to substitute the water saute with oil.
- Gluten-free vegan meatloaf: If you are gluten-free, opt for tamari and gluten-free certified quick cook oats.
How to Make Vegan Meatloaf
- Cook the mirepoix. In a large skillet over medium heat, add 3 tablespoons of water or 1 tablespoon oil. Once warm, add in the onions, carrots, bell pepper, and celery, and cook for 3 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
- Add mushrooms. Stir to combine. Cook until the moisture the mushrooms release evaporates and the mushrooms have browned and shrunk in size, about 5 minutes.
- Mash the lentils. Push the sauteed vegetables to one side of the skillet, then add the cooked lentils to the empty side of the pan. Mash the lentils using a fork or potato masher until the texture resembles refried beans. Once sufficiently mashed, mix the lentils meatloaf mixture together until uniform.
- Add remaining meatloaf ingredients. Stir in the quick oats, walnuts, flaxseed meal, ketchup, tamari, vegan Worcestershire sauce, fresh herbs, smoked paprika and black pepper. Mix until uniform.
- Transfer to a 9-inch loaf pan. Gently pack the mixture into the loaf pan and spread evenly.
- Bake. Tightly cover the loaf pan with foil, then bake for 30 minutes.
- Make your meatloaf glaze. While the vegan meatloaf bakes, prep the ketchup glaze. In a small bowl, add the ketchup, vegan Worcestershire sauce and garlic powder. Mix together until smooth and combined, then set aside.
- Top meatloaf with glaze and bake again. After 30 minutes, remove the vegan meatloaf from the oven, discard the foil, top with the ketchup glaze, then bake uncovered for 25 more minutes.
- Cool, then slice. For best slicing results, we recommend allowing the lentil meatloaf to cool completely before slicing. This will allow it to firm up and crumble less when sliced. However, it is still delicious straight from the oven!
- Serve. Serve with vegan mashed potatoes, vegan potatoes au gratin, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, vegan gravy, and garlic herb dinner rolls.
Traditional meatloaf recipes typically use eggs and breadcrumbs as a binder. Our healthy lentil meatloaf uses flaxseed meal and quick oats instead of these traditional ingredients. Work just as well, yet is vegan-friendly and much more nutritious.
There are 3 things to do to ensure your vegan meatloaf does not fall apart and is easy to slice.
1. Chop the ingredients finely. This allows the ingredients to blend together seamlessly and prevents the meatloaf from being chunky.
2. Pack it into the loaf pan. If you do not press the lentil meatloaf ingredients into the pan and form it into a tight loaf, it will not hold together well.
3. Allow it time to cool. The longer it cools, the less likely it will fall apart when slicing. If an option, make your vegan meatloaf 1 day in advance and slice when cool.
The vegetable mixture was likely too moist. Just like when making our vegan Wellington, it is important to cook the vegetable mixture until the excess moisture from the vegetables has evaporated out, and the vegetables are pretty dry. Doing this will prevent the lentil meatloaf from being mushy.
This vegan meatloaf stores best in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. If freezing, freeze without the ketchup glaze and thaw completely in the refrigerator before reheating.
To reheat, place individual slices of vegan meatloaf in the toaster oven/conventional oven or microwave and heat until warmed through.
More Vegan Lentil Recipes You May Enjoy:
- Instant Pot Lentil Noodle Soup
- Lentil & Walnut Taco Meat
- Easy Sweet Potato Lentil Soup
- One-Pot Lentil and Mushroom Bolognese Sauce
- Vegan Wellington with Lentils and Mushrooms
- Lentil & Vegetable Stuffed Mushrooms
Nutrition facts label provided by Nutri Fox.
Disclaimer: The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional’s advice. This page may contain affiliate links that we earn a commission through, but your price remains the same. Thank you for supporting Sweet Simple Vegan!