No one will miss the meat in this savory, mouthwatering Vegan Lentil Loaf! Makes a wonderful main dish on a holiday, and is easy enough to make any day of the week. Pair with mashed potatoes and steamed green beans for a comforting, classic meal.
I was never crazy about lentil meatloaf because I just couldn’t seem to get it right. Too often my loaf was mushy, sometimes even kind of gummy tasting. I remember one Thanksgiving making a recipe I was so excited about, and it just wasn’t good at all!
Well, no more! I will teach you how to make the best lentil loaf ever. My recipe is meat-eater approved, just like mom used to make but vegan. It’s the perfect vegetarian main dish for Thanksgiving, Christmas or any other holiday.
It holds together well when you slice it and did I mention it tastes incredible? The topping is probably my favorite part.
Ingredients you need (with substitutions)
- Olive oil – Just a tablespoon to sauté the veggies. Use water or vegetable broth for oil free.
- Mushrooms – Even if you dislike mushrooms, I encourage you to try them here. They add bulk and texture but you can’t really taste them.
- Walnuts – If you have an allergy, leave them out. Or use sunflower seeds.
- Lentils – Brown or green. Don’t use red, they are too mushy when cooked. I like to use canned to make the recipe a breeze.
- Ground flaxseeds – They help add structure so the loaf stays together well. May leave out if needed.
- Ketchup – For flavor.
- Vegan Worcestershire Sauce – I can usually find a vegan version at a store near me, such as Annie’s brand.
- Dried thyme
- Breadcrumbs – The key to a non-mushy loaf!
How to make Lentil Loaf
Find the complete recipe with measurements below.
If you are cooking your own lentils from scratch, start them now. Add 1 cup of green/brown lentils to a medium pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Drain well. I prefer using canned for an easier recipe.
In a large pan, cook the onions, mushrooms and carrots for about 5 minutes, until softened. Set aside.
In a food processor, add the walnuts and pulse until a bit crumbly. If you don’t have a food processor, you can chop the nuts small on a cutting board with a large knife, then use a potato masher to lightly mash the lentils once they are done.
If using a food processor, add them to it and pulse just a few times.
Transfer the lentils/walnuts into a large bowl, then add all the other loaf ingredients except the breadcrumbs. Stir well, then add 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs and mix. Mix in the last 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs if the mixture is still quite wet, but not if it’s dry. If it happens to be too crumbly and dry, add a few tablespoons of water. This will largely depend on the moisture level in your lentils.
Push the mixture evenly into the pan, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the foil, top with the ketchup topping, and pop it back in for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool for 15-20 minutes before slicing and serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What kind of lentils should I use? Brown or green. Do not use red lentils, they turn to mush when cooked. But I love them for my Best Vegan Lasagna and Red Lentil Dahl!
- Can I use a different topping if I don’t like ketchup? Yes! Sometimes I leave off the ketchup topping and serve with my Easy Vegan Gravy instead. I usually do this for holiday meals when I make The Best Dang Vegan Mashed Potatoes. Gravy. On. Everything.
- Is there a make ahead option? Yes, you can prepare the loaf up to two days ahead of time. Put it together in the pan, but don’t bake it. Cover and refrigerate. When ready to serve, bake it according to instructions.
- How long do leftovers last? In the refrigerator, leftover healthy lentil loaf will keep for 4-5 days. Store in covered containers. It makes the best vegan meatloaf sandwiches!
- Can I freeze lentil loaf? Yes, it freezes well. Let it cool completely, then wrap well and place in a freezer safe container or ziplock bag and freeze. I prefer freezing it in individual slices for easier warming up.
How can I prevent a mushy lentil loaf?
There are a few tips to prevent a mushy loaf. The problem is too much moisture, most likely from the lentils.
I prefer using canned lentils if I can find them, both because it makes the recipe much easier and because when drained, canned lentils aren’t as mushy. I find them to be more consistent.
If you don’t want to use canned that’s fine, but make sure you don’t overcook the lentils and drain them well, even patting them with paper towels, to remove excess moisture.
If the mixture seems really wet, add more breadcrumbs. You don’t want it to be too dry and crumbly, but it shouldn’t be too wet either.
What to serve with vegan lentil loaf
- Best Dang Vegan Mashed Potatoes
- Vegan Mac and Cheese
- Easy Vegan Gravy
- Vegan Scalloped Potatoes
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Instant Pot Kale
- Vegan Caesar Salad or Festive Kale Salad
- Steamed broccoli, green beans, cauliflower or asparagus
More recipes featuring the mighty lentil!
- Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with Cheesy Mashed Potatoes
- The Best Lentil Soup
- Lemon Lentil Soup
- Lentil Bolognese
Vegan Lentil Loaf
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 8 ounces mushrooms, chopped small
- 1 medium sized carrot, peeled and diced small
- 1 1/2 cups raw walnuts
- 2 cups cooked green/brown lentils (*SEE NOTE)
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2-3/4 cup breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a standard loaf pan with parchment paper, for easy removal.
- Heat a large pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the olive oil, onions, mushrooms and carrots. Cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes until the vegetables soften and the mushrooms release their juices. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a food processor, add the walnuts and pulse a few times. They should be in small pieces, but not completely a powder. Now add the lentils and pulse a few times.
- Dump the walnuts/lentils into a large bowl, and add the cooked vegetables, ground flaxseeds, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt and dried thyme. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Now add 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs and fold in. Add the last 1/4 cup if the mixture still seems wet, but if it’s dry (this will depend on the moisture level of your lentils) don’t add more. If the mixture is crumbly for some reason, add a few tablespoons of water.
- Transfer to the prepared loaf pan, and press the mixture evenly and firmly into the pan. Cover with foil, and cook in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Make the topping: Stir all topping ingredients in a small bowl to combine.
- After 30 minutes, remove the foil, spread on the ketchup topping and cook uncovered for 10 more minutes. Let cool for about 15-20 minutes before slicing and serving. Enjoy!
- For this loaf, I prefer to buy pre-cooked lentils. They tend to be less mushy than when I cook them myself, plus it makes the recipe faster. I find them at Trader Joe’s in the produce section. You can make your own if you want. You will need 1 cup dried lentils and 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes. Drain well, and pat dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture.
- If you don’t have a food processor, you could chop the walnuts with a heavy knife on a cutting board instead, and then use a potato mashed to slightly mash the lentils in the bowl.
- Switch up the topping by making a batch of vegan gravy instead of the ketchup topping.
- Make ahead – Prep the loaf, cover and refrigerate up to two days before. When ready, bake according to instructions.
- Gluten free – Substitute gluten free breadcrumbs or possibly quick oats.
- Storing leftovers – The loaf will keep for 4-5 days covered in the refrigerator. It also freezes well. Cool, wrap well and freeze either a whole loaf or individual slices.
This recipe was first published in 2019 and has been updated with better writing and information. The recipe is unchanged.