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This delicious Vegan Meatloaf is made with hearty lentils, savory spices, and plenty of vegetables. Packed with flavor and satiating texture, it is a satisfying anytime main dish that even meat-eaters will love!

vegan meatloaf sliced on wooden tray


This recipe was written on March 25, 2021. It was updated with additional recipe information on May 31, 2024.

Whether you’re looking for a main course for a special occasion or need a new weeknight dinner staple, this lentil meatloaf recipe is the perfect nourishing and delicious dish! You won’t believe it is a meatless meatloaf – it is made with protein-rich lentils, toasted walnuts, a medley of fresh vegetables, bread crumbs, a blend of spices, and topped with an irresistible tangy balsamic ketchup glaze.

This vegan meatloaf recipe makes a great centerpiece dish for special occasions and is fantastic as leftovers! Repurpose it for sandwiches or salads, turn it into a hash, or simply reheat it for a quick meal. 

For more lentil-inspired main dish recipes, check out my sweet potato red lentil curry, oyster mushroom red lentil pasta alfredo, or vegan lentil soup.  

vegan meatloaf ingredients

Ingredients

Green Lentils: Dry green or brown lentils provide a protein-packed base for the veggie loaf. You can also substitute canned green or brown lentils; just drain and rinse well. 

Ground Flax Meal: Used as a gelling binder when combined with water to replace the need for eggs, creating a firm texture for the best vegan lentil meatloaf. You can also swap chia seed meal for flax. 

Grapeseed Oil: This neutral oil is perfect for sautéing the vegetables to enhance the flavor of the lentil loaf. You can substitute with olive, avocado, or another neutral oil. 

Yellow Onion: Adds a savory depth of flavor. Finely dice it for even cooking and distribution in the vegan loaf. Alternatively, use shallots or white onions. 

Celery: Provides a subtle crunch and mild peppery flavor. Finely dice it for uniformity in the veggie meatloaf. Looking for a different veggie flavor? Substitute green bell peppers or leeks. 

Garlic: Gives the loaf an aromatic depth of flavor. Fresh garlic cloves are best for the most robust taste. If desired, substitute chopped bottled garlic but the flavor won’t be as naturally sweet.

Carrot: Adds sweetness and delicious moisture to the meatloaf. Finely shred them to blend well into the mixture.

Baby Bella Mushrooms: Provide an umami flavor and meaty texture. Alternatively, use white button mushrooms, portobello mushrooms, or your favorite variety. 

Dried Thyme: Gives the lentil meatloaf an earthy, herbaceous note. For an even fresher flavor, you can use double the amount of fresh thyme. 

Fennel Seeds: The subtle licorice flavor enhances the loaf’s overall taste. If you don’t like the taste, you can omit them or replace them with caraway seeds. 

Nutritional Yeast: Provides a cheesy, nutty flavor, essential to the taste of the vegetarian meatloaf. Look for it in the health food section of the grocery store. 

Walnuts: Toasted walnuts add a satisfying crunch and rich, nutty flavor. Alternatively, swap for pecans, almonds, or a mix of desired nuts. 

Breadcrumbs: They act as a binder for the best vegan meatloaf. Depending on your dietary restrictions, you can use regular or gluten-free breadcrumbs. Opt for unflavored. 

Red Chili Flakes: This is an optional ingredient to add a bit of heat, to taste. Alternatively, cayenne pepper can be substituted. 

Balsamic Vinegar: Adds sweetness and acidity to the meatloaf glaze. Alternatively, you can use apple cider vinegar with a touch of maple syrup. 

Ketchup: Acts as the base of the glaze for the lentil loaf recipe, adding a tangy sweetness. Use your favorite brand, organic if possible.

overhead vegan meatloaf

How to Make Vegan Meatloaf

  • Prepare Lentils. Bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the lentils, partially cover the pan with a lid, and cook until tender, for about 30 to 45 minutes. Stir halfway through. Drain the cooked lentils and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Prepare Flax. Mix the flax seed meal and ½ cup water in a small bowl. Set it aside to thicken for at least 3 minutes.
  • Prepare Aromatics. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion softens.
  • Sauté Vegetables. Add the shredded carrot and mushrooms, sautéing for about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms soften and release their liquid.  
  • Add Spices. Stir in the thyme and fennel seeds and continue cooking for 5 minutes, stirring the mixture occasionally.
  • Prepare Meatloaf Mixture. Once the mushrooms are soft, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the contents to a large mixing bowl. If your skillet is large enough, you can mix it right in the pan instead of transferring. Add the nutritional yeast, cooked lentils, flax mixture, minced walnuts, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Stir well to combine all the ingredients. Add more salt and pepper to taste if desired.
  • Transfer To Pan. Scoop the meatloaf mixture into the prepared loaf pan and press it firmly into the pan.
  • Prepare the Glaze. In a bowl, mix the balsamic vinegar and ketchup until combined. Spread it evenly over the top of the vegan lentil loaf.
  • Bake. Cover the loaf pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes or until the top is firm to the touch. Cool the loaf for 10-20 minutes before slicing. Enjoy hot!

Recipe Pro-Tips

  • Properly cook the lentils. Be careful not to overcook them, as they will become mushy. They should hold their shape and be tender. 
  • Soak the flaxseed meal. Allow the flaxseed meal and water mixture to gel together for at least three minutes to thicken properly. This helps bind the meatloaf together for the best texture. 
  • Finely dice the veggies. Ensure that all vegetables are uniformly diced and evenly distributed throughout the loaf. This helps form a uniform texture when baked. 
  • Blend part of the meatloaf mixture. The meatloaf mixture should stick together when combined, but if it seems too crumbly, place about one cup of the mixture into a food processor then stir the mash back into the skillet. Or use an immersion blender for 5-10 seconds or until a small portion is blended to create a thicker consistency.
  • Let it cool. The loaf should cool for 10-20 minutes before slicing to firm up the texture. This will make it easier to slice without falling apart. 
  • Double the recipe. This vegetarian meatloaf recipe is perfect for meal prep! Make two loaves and freeze one to enjoy ready-made meals later.

Serving Suggestions

Vegan meatloaf is the ultimate comfort food for a hearty lunch or dinner served with some of our favorite recipes below: 

vegan lentil meatloaf on serving tray

Storage Directions

  • Refrigeration: Allow the meatloaf to cool completely to room temperature, then wrap the entire loaf or individual slices in plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 7 days. 
  • Freezing: Tightly wrap cooled meatloaf or individual slices in a freezer-safe airtight container or a large freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw frozen meatloaf overnight in the refrigerator. 
  • Reheating: Warm the whole loaf or leftover slices in the oven on a baking sheet covered with foil or parchment at 350ºF for 15-20 minutes, or in the microwave for 1-2 minutes until heated.

More Vegan Entree Recipes

Recipe Card

4.52 from 110 votes

The Best Vegan Lentil Meatloaf

By: Jenné Claiborne
The Best Vegan Lentil Meatloaf is the ultimate comfort food, made with hearty lentils, toasted walnuts, plenty of veggies, and a homemade balsamic ketchup glaze. Great for special occasions or as an anytime main dish!  
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Resting Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup dried green lentils, sorted and rinsed (or 2 1/2 cups cooked)
  • 3 tbsp ground flaxseed meal
  • 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 cup finely diced yellow onion
  • 1 cup finely diced celery
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 10 oz baby bella mushrooms, minced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • Red chili flakes, to taste
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp ketchup

Instructions 

Cook the Lentils

  • Bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the lentils, partially cover the pan with a lid, and cook until tender, 30 to 45 minutes, stirring halfway through. Drain and set aside.

Make the Vegan Lentil Loaf

  • In a small bowl, stir the flax seed meal and ½ cup water together. Set it aside to thicken for at least 3 minutes.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic, and sauté until the onion softens, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the shredded carrot and mushrooms, sautéing until the mushrooms begin to soften and release their liquid, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the thyme and fennel seeds and cook for 5 minutes, stirring the mixture occasionally.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Once the mushrooms are soft, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the contents to a large mixing bowl. Add the nutritional yeast, cooked lentils, flax mixture, minced walnuts, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Stir well to combine all the ingredients. Add more salt and pepper to taste if desired.
  • The mixture should stick together, but if it doesn’t, place about 1 cup into a food processor and pulse until it’s a thick mush. Stir that back into the skillet. You can also add an immersion blender to the mixture and blend for 5-10 seconds or until a small portion is blended.
  • Scoop the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and press firmly into the pan.

Make the Glaze and Bake

  • Mix the balsamic vinegar and ketchup in a bowl until combined. Spread it evenly over the top of the loaf.
  • Cover the loaf pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until the top feels firm to the touch.
  • Cool the loaf for 10-20 minutes before slicing. Enjoy hot!

Notes

Storage Directions
  • Refrigeration: Allow the meatloaf to cool completely to room temperature, then wrap the entire loaf or individual slices in plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 7 days. 
  • Freezing: Tightly wrap cooled meatloaf or individual slices in a freezer-safe airtight container or a large freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw frozen meatloaf overnight in the refrigerator. 
  • Reheating: Warm the whole loaf or leftover slices in the oven on a baking sheet covered with foil or parchment at 350ºF for 15-20 minutes or in the microwave for 1-2 minutes until heated. 
Recipe Pro-Tips
  • Properly cook the lentils. Be careful not to overcook them, as they will become mushy. They should hold their shape and be tender. 
  • Soak the flaxseed meal. Allow the flaxseed meal and water mixture to gel together for at least three minutes to thicken properly. This helps bind the meatloaf together for the best texture. 
  • Finely dice the veggies. Ensure that all vegetables are uniformly diced and evenly distributed throughout the loaf. This helps form a uniform texture when baked. 
  • Blend part of the meatloaf mixture. The meatloaf mixture should stick together when combined, but if it seems too crumbly, place about one cup of the mixture into a food processor then stir the mash back into the skillet. Or use an immersion blender for 5-10 seconds or until a small portion is blended to create a thicker consistency.
  • Let it cool. The loaf should cool for 10-20 minutes before slicing to firm up the texture. This will make it easier to slice without falling apart. 
  •  
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

About Jenne

I’m a Georgia Peach living in Los Angeles (by way of NYC), with an insatiable love of sweet potatoes, travel, animals, and cooking. On Sweet Potato Soul you’ll discover hundreds of delicious and easy-to-make vegan recipes.

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41 Comments

  1. This is the first lentil loaf I have ever made and the flavour is excellent! Because of comments from others about mushiness, I increased the flaxmeal to 1/4 cup and let the mixture stand for at least 10 mins to ensure it was thick before adding to the other ingredients. I also took the foil off after 30 mins and baked it another 15 mins. I let it stand 30 mins before trying to slice it. It held together and was somewhat firm, not mushy. I am glad I took the extra few minutes to toast the walnuts, as I could really taste them.
    Delicious! This recipe is a keeper!

  2. My 10-month old enjoyed this very much, and so did the grownups! I cut the salt by more than half and didn’t miss it. Thanks for the recipe.

  3. I couldn’t use walnuts because I have a sensitivity. I used flax out of laziness. I made my own bread crumbs from toasted whole wheat bread. I don’t know why but it was a pile of mush. I’ll try it again when I have time. I’m a chemist, organic, not analytical, so I am very casual with measurements. maybe my problem.

  4. I made this for Thanksgiving. I made it the night before. When I reheated it the next day it turned to mush. How can I avoid this from happening?

  5. I tripled this recipe because it sounds so delicious!! I’m so glad I did, because now I can enjoy it for days to come!!

  6. Very tasty. Really satisfying. However, get ready for lots of chopping so I believe I’ll make it again for a holiday meal to treat a bunch of non-vegan believers. Next time I’ll also watch the amount of moisture. It seemed a little wet compared to beef meatload when it came out of the oven but it did firm up once it cooled completely.

  7. I made this in a muffin tin so it was portioned out! It fit into 18 full size muffins (3 per serving). Absolutely tasty. Baked it for 25 minutes instead of 30 since it was individual pieces. Thank you for this recipe!

  8. Suggestions for the breadcrumbs..dried in a can like progresso; panko crumbs in a box; seasoned or or plain; toast a piece of bread in a toaster and put in food processor??? Sorry, no experience with bread crumbs so not sure what works in a lentil loaf.

    1. I used panko and enjoyed it a lot. Anything that is dry and crusty should work. It is there to soak up some of the moisture and flavor!

  9. I just made this today and it tastes amazing!!! I couldn’t wait for it to cool so it wasn’t firm, but that’s on me. I sautéed zucchini as the side and seasoned it with garlic powder and thyme.

    I love you videos!! Your recipes sound so good!