The BEST Vegan Meatloaf delivers all the savory flavor and meaty texture as the classic. Perfect for both holiday entertaining and weeknight dinners, this mushroom lentil loaf will impress even the most devout carnivores.
Why You'll Love this Vegan Meatloaf
Creating a vegan meatloaf recipe has been on my blogging bucket list for quite some time. As one can imagine, there are quite a few components to really mastering such a classic meat-centric recipe. In order to achieve similar savory flavor, hearty consistency, and overall hearty appeal as its meaty counterparts, I knew I had my work cut out.
Fortunately, after MANY rounds of testing, the ultimate mushroom lentil loaf was born and it does NOT disappoint. I even tested it on the biggest meat-and-potatoes lover I know (my brother), and he was blown away. Here's everything this meatloaf offers:
- Savory depth of flavor and quintessential notes of umami.
- Hearty, meaty texture.
- Quality plant-based protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats.
Plus, it's make-ahead friendly and perfect for meal prep. All of which begs the question: what's not to love?!
Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions:
- Tempeh: If you're unfamiliar with tempeh, it's a cousin to tofu in the soy family. Tempeh is made of fermented soybeans, and comes packed in a brick-like cake. Its flavor is inherently bitter, however this loaf packs enough flavor to mostly mask it. You can find tempeh in the same section as the tofu, kimchi, and vegan cheeses in most well-stocked grocery stores.
- Lentils: This recipe calls for COOKED brown lentils, which you can either make from scratch or buy in a can. If you purchase a 15-oz. can of lentils, this equals 1.75 cups, which is the amount you need. Just be sure to rinse, drain, and pat them dry to remove excess moisture.
- Walnuts: This heart-healthy nut adds rich flavor and hearty texture to the loaf. If you prefer, you can substitute walnuts for pecans, which is equally delicious in my opinion.
- Mushrooms: You need one 8-oz. container of baby bella (or cremini) mushrooms, which really amp up the umami. The key, however, is to NOT sauté them with salt, which draws out their moisture and makes them mushy. You really want to get a nice golden sear instead, which amplifies their savory flavor.
- Aromatics: As with most classic meatloafs, a mix of onion and garlic create an aromatic foundation. Feel free to use white, yellow, or sweet onion--whichever you have on hand!
- Breadcrumbs: I tested this recipe with both classic and panko breadcrumbs. The panko created a superior texture, in my opinion, however classic breadcrumbs will work in a pinch. If you only have seasoned breadcrumbs on hand, just scale back the Italian seasoning to 2 tsp.
- Condiments: A mix of vegan Worcestershire sauce, ketchup (classic), and tomato paste help create the savory backbone of this vegetarian meatloaf. If you're not concerned with making this recipe 100% vegan, feel free to use classic Worcestershire sauce --> (favorite brand!)
- Herbs/Spices: Just a classic mix of salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and, if you like, fresh thyme. If you prefer some spice, however, feel free to add a pinch of red pepper flakes, too.
Now let's talk topping...
The topping stays pretty classic because you can't beat a tangy mix of ketchup, brown sugar, and red wine vinegar. Plus, the sweetness of this spread compliments the savoriness of the loaf beautifully.
Step 1: Prepare Flax Eggs
Combine flaxseed meal with water in a small bowl. Let sit until the mixture becomes gelatinous.
This is also a good time to heat the oven to 350ºF (176 C) and line a standard loaf pan (8.5 x 4.5 x 2.75 inches) with parchment paper.
Step 2: Cook Mushrooms and Aromatics
In a large pan, heat 1 to 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the mushrooms and onion; cook 7 to 8 minutes, until the mushrooms are golden and onions soft.
Next, stir in the tomato paste and garlic, and cook 4 to 5 more minutes, until the tomato paste turns brick red. (This helps unlock its full flavor potential!) Note: If you're using red pepper flakes, this is also the time to add them to the mix.
Remove the pan from the heat, and let the mixture slightly cool while you move on to the next step.
Step 3: Pulse the Tempeh and Walnuts
Place tempeh and walnuts in a food processor. Pulse the mixture 8 to 10 times, or until finely chopped. Do NOT puree the mixture--you want to maintain some texture!
Step 4: Pulse Mushroom Mixture and Lentils
Next, add the mushroom mixture and cooked lentils to the food processor. Pulse the mixture, stopping every 3 pulses to remove the lid and stir to make sure every component is getting broken down. Continue pulsing, stopping, and stirring until the mixture comes together but is NOT pureed. Again, it's important to maintain some texture to ensure the meatloaf isn't mushy. Ideally, you'll still have some whole lentils and chunks of vegetables at the end.)
Once the ideal consistency is achieved, transfer mixture to a large bowl.
Step 5: Stir in Remaining Ingredients
To the bowl, add breadcrumbs, Worcestershire sauce, flax eggs, ketchup, herbs and spices. Stir ingredients until well-combined, and transfer mushroom lentil loaf to prepared baking pan. Gently press the mixture in the pan to create an even loaf.
Step 6: Prepare Topping and Bake
In a small bowl, combine ketchup, brown sugar, and vinegar; stir well to combine. Spread this mixture over the top of the mushroom lentil loaf, and place in the oven. Bake uncovered for 45 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown on the edges and slightly dry to the touch.
Remove from oven and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes in the pan. Finally, gently remove from the pan, slice, and serve!
What to Serve with Vegan Meatloaf:
- Mashed Potatoes: A classic pairing for meatloaf is mashed potatoes, and I have two recipes that pair up perfectly with this version. For a vegan option, this recipe for Potato-Parsnip mash is a fall favorite. Alternatively, opt for a sweeter side and try these Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Miso Butter. (You can use vegan butter in both recipes, if needed!)
- Vegetables: Another classic side for meatloaf is green beans, and this recipe for Browned Butter Green Beans with Hazelnut Dukkah is a personal favorite. (Bonus: it only calls for 5 ingredients!). Alternatively, you can't go wrong with Brussels sprouts. Here are my top cruciferous contenders:
How to Make-Ahead, Store and Reheat:
- Make-Ahead: You can prep the meatloaf mixture up to 2 days ahead. Keep it refrigerated in an airtight container or large mixing bowl covered with plastic wrap.
- Store: Transfer leftover meatloaf to an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.
- Reheat: Reheat individual slices in the microwave or a toaster oven. I prefer the toaster oven, which helps maintain the loaf's texture better than the microwave. If reheating the entire loaf, either keep it in the loaf pan or transfer to a small baking sheet. Reheat in a 300ºF oven until warm.
Tools to Make Vegan Meatloaf:
- Food Processor: To perfectly pulse the meatloaf mixture, you need a reliable food processor. This one is inexpensive, lightweight, and always gets the job done.
- Loaf Pan: This is my absolute favorite pan for loafs and quick breads. (It also comes in a 9×5-inch!)
- Mixing bowls: I love that this set comes in different sizes for all your mixing needs. They’re also dishwasher- and microwave-safe.
If you love this Mushroom Lentil Loaf, also be sure to check out my vegetarian MEATBALL recipes:
If you give this recipe a try, I'd love for you to come back and give it a rating and review. Also, be sure snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth so I can see your beautiful creations.
The Best Vegan Meatloaf
- Large skillet
- Food processor
- Loaf pan
- 2 Tbsp. flaxseed meal (ground raw flaxseed)
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 8 oz. sliced baby bella (cremini) mushrooms
- ¾ cup chopped onion
- 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (8-oz.) package tempeh
- ½ cup walnut halves
- 1 ¾ cups cooked brown lentils (cooked from dry, or from 1 (15-oz.) can of rinsed/drained lentils)
- 1 cup unseasoned panko breadcrumbs (if making gluten free, use Ian’s gluten-free panko)
- ⅓ cup plus 2 Tbsp. ketchup divided
- 2 Tbsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce (sub regular Worcestershire sauce if not making vegan)
- 1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
- 1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
- ¾ tsp. black pepper
- 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar (sub red wine vinegar)
Optional for serving
- ketchup, BBQ sauce, and/or fresh thyme
- Heat the oven to 350ºF (176 C) and line a standard loaf pan (8.5 x 4.5 x 2.75 inches) with parchment paper. Lightly grease with cooking spray.
- Prepare flax eggs by combining flaxseed meal and 5 Tbsp. water in a small bowl. Let sit while you prepare the rest of recipe.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the mushrooms and onion; cook 7 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden and onions soft. Stir in the tomato paste and garlic; cook 3 to 5 minutes, until the tomato paste turns brick red. (This helps unlock its full flavor potential.)Remove the pan from the heat, and let the mixture slightly cool.
- Meanwhile, place tempeh and walnuts in a food processor. Pulse the mixture 8 to 10 times, or until finely chopped. Do NOT puree.
- Add the mushroom mixture and cooked lentils to the food processor. Pulse the mixture, stopping every 3 pulses to remove the lid and stir to make sure every component is getting broken down. Continue pulsing, stopping, and stirring until the mixture comes together but is NOT pureed. (It's important to maintain some texture to ensure the meatloaf isn't mushy. Ideally, you'll still have some whole lentils and chunks of vegetables at the end. Refer to the photos in the post for reference.)Once ideal consistency is achieved, transfer mixture to a large bowl.
- To the same bowl, add breadcrumbs, 2 Tbsp. of the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and flax eggs. Stir well until all ingredients are combined, and transfer to prepared loaf pan. Gently press the mixture in the pan to create an even loaf.
- In a small bowl, combine remaining ⅓ cup ketchup, brown sugar, and vinegar; stir well to combine. Spread mixture over the meatloaf, and place in the oven. Bake uncovered for 45 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown on the edges and slightly dry to the touch.Remove from oven and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes in the pan. Use the parchment paper to lift the loaf out of the pan and set on a cutting board or serving platter. Slice into 6 pieces. Serve with extra ketchup or BBQ sauce, and fresh thyme, if desired.