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Classic Meat(less) Lentil Loaf

No vegetarian’s recipe box is complete without a good lentil loaf – especially around the holidays. It’s the perfect savory meal with lentils, oats, herbs, and fresh veggies.

The greatest part about this recipe? It puts an end to the “where do you get your protein?” nonsense. The next time someone asks you this question, roll your eyes (as usual) and then send them here. To my count, these 5 servings have a total of 115 grams of protein, or 23 grams per 340 calorie serving. Beef, by comparison, has 15 grams of protein per 340 calories. Yes, people, plants can have more protein than animals.

This lentil loaf has lots of fresh veggies, tons of protein, a delicious combo of herbs and spices, and just the right texture. For a lentil-and-potatoes kind of guy like myself, this meal is as good as it gets.

Lentil Loaf Potatoes

Makes 5-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup mushrooms
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup firm tofu
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked lentils
  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup (recipe below)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon each: dried thyme, basil, fennel

Lentil Loaf Slice

Step One – Prep

Cook enough dry lentils (brown or black) to yield about 1 1/2 cups. You can alternatively use prepared or canned lentils to cut down on prep time.

Preheat the oven to 350ΒΊ F.

Mince the garlic and finely chop the mushrooms, celery, and onion. Add these to a sautΓ© pan with a splash of water and a pinch of salt & pepper. Allow them to soften over medium heat for several minutes.

Step Two – Mix

In a large mixing bowl, crumble about 1 cup of tofu between your hands until it is in small chunks, resembling cottage cheese. Then, stir in the cooked lentils, sautΓ©d veggies, a handful of chopped parsley, and oats.

Next, add the dried herbs. Like with all “meats,” the flavor of this loaf is brought alive by the spices. The combo of thyme, basil, and fennel is the perfect blend of earthy and meaty flavors for our lentil loaf. To get maximum flavor, combine these herbs in a mortar and pestle and gently grind together. Then, stir them into the lentil loaf mixture.

Finally, add a few tablespoons soy sauce and some ketchup to bind this loaf together. Stir until everything is very well combined. At this point, the loaf should hold together fairly well (i.e. if you wanted to form it into meatballs, they would hold their shape). If it’s too crumbly, add a little more ketchup or even a tablespoon of water. You do not want your loaf to be too dry!

Note: store-bought ketchup is not the most processed condiment in the world. Most health-conscious grocers have organic versions that use natural ingredients. But if you would prefer to make your own, it’s surprisingly easy, SkinnyTaste has a great writeup on the process: How to Make Ketchup. I’ve tried it myself and much prefer this “one ingredient approved” version over store-bought varieties.

Step Three – Bake

Add this mixture to non-stick loaf pans (or something similar) and bake for about 50 minutes at 350ΒΊ F. You’ll want to cook until the top starts to develop a browned crust and the insides are fully cooked.

Allow to cool for several minutes before carefully slicing and removing from the pans. Ideally, serve with ketchup, mashed potatoes, and steamed veggies. This loaf keeps very well for several days in the refrigerator and makes excellent meat(less)loaf sandwiches for leftovers.

Lentil Loaf

48 Comments

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    • I have been trying meatless loaf recipes for a while but they all failed:( Either don’t stick together and mushy or too rubbery or no taste at all!! I bet this is IT!!!

    • I did not press the tofu, but did of course drain any excess water.

      I have tried many recipes as well, but I really like this one and I hope you do too. Give it a shot and let me know! πŸ™‚

  1. Sprouting the lentils would make this recipe ideal. I swear by sprouting- more proteins and enzymes, but no phytic acids to befoul the castle. I can’t wait to make this for the holidays!

  2. Hey, I absolutely can’t stand mushrooms, smell or taste. Any suggestions for a substitute? I’d love to make this, as I love everything I’ve made from your site, but can’t hang with the shrooms. πŸ™‚

    • Hey Tara! Hmmm. The “easiest” thing would be to add more oats or tofu, but that wouldn’t be very exciting… You know what I’ve seen others do with lentil loaves? Walnuts. You may try adding 1/4 cup of walnut pieces to your loaf and that could work nicely!

    • How about eggplant as a substitute? You can broil it first so it is already soft like the mushrooms would be? (Salt it & broil it 4 mins & then flip & broil for another 3 mins).

    • That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen! Thanks for sharing your find… I’m trying that asap, just for fun.

      Ah, make enough delicious meatless meals and your family will come around eventually πŸ™‚

      • πŸ™‚ That is my goal. I know it will take a little time, but I am hoping that it won’t take long for them to get used to the idea that my home is now a vegan home 8-|
        No dairy or meat allowed

  3. I made this earlier this week. When I first brought it out of the oven and flipped it onto a plate it looked fine, but then it totally crumbled when I cut it! I was so disappointed… but then the next day after it had set in the fridge overnight when I cut a piece and re-heated it it stayed together perfectly! I’m not sure what I did wrong initially though– although I did add 2 extra tablespoons of ketchup. But man this tastes great.

    • Hey Allison! Sorry it didn’t hold together at first… Lentil loaf stability can be hit and miss sometimes, they need just the right amount of moisture and ingredients. But most importantly… I’m glad it tastes great! πŸ™‚

  4. Made this last night and it was amazing, held together fine for us. I love fennel so nice to have this with it. Made my favourite vegetarian gravy , mash, carrots and green beans. Even my fussy husband scoffed it! Thank you!

  5. This was incredible. I love to experiment, never really measure and rarely follow directions to a tee (smile)
    So seeing I didn’t have any celery, I added green and red peppers instead. I also minced up one small jalapeno pepper just for a kick-back. I substituted cilantro for parsley and eliminated the ketchup all together. I drizzled a little soy sauce on the top of loaf which seeped in while it cooked.

    I baked it with a small amount of olive oil so the bottom came out crisp as well. It held together beautifully.

    I am so pleased. Thank you.

    • THAT’S How you do it, Lisa! I love it when people remix my recipes even more than when they follow the directions. πŸ™‚ Your version sounds awesome, thank you so much for sharing it with us!

  6. I made this last night for a large group of non-vegan friends, and it was popular! I reduced the soy sauce to 2 Tbsp, but otherwise kept it as it. Mine also didn’t stay together well, but if I’d let it cool before slicing, I think it would’ve! Thank you for a great recipe.

  7. I made this over the weekend for me and my very Non-Vegan husband. I had it as a main dish, he had it as a side. We both LOVED it. He said next time, he’d have it as a main dish, as well.

    I did add a glaze to it (Ketchup, yellow mustard, brown sugar, low-sodium Tamari and Sriracha) and it definitely kicked it up a bit. Hubby said though, “It could definitely stand on its own without the glaze!” High praise from a carnivore! πŸ™‚

    Another killer recipe. Thanks Andrew!!

    • I’m so happy to hear that, Michele! We’ll change the carnivores’ minds one recipe at a time. One recipe at a time… πŸ™‚

      (And I love the sound of the gaze — I’ll have to try that!)

  8. This recipe is so delicious. It disappeared so quickly I had to make another one. The texture is spot on and this is the first meatless loaf recipe we found that we like. When I made the second loaf, I added a green pepper and 2 Tablespoons of tomato paste. It added a delicious tomato flavor. Thank you for this recipe, which will be a regular at out dinner table!

  9. Hi Andrew, I was just wondering if I could prepare this and keep it in the fridge overnight to cook the next day. It will be part of my Thanksgiving feast on Thursday and I would prefer to have it freshly baked than reheated. Thanks!

  10. Just had to pull up this recipe to make it yet again, so I thought I should post a quick review. We have made this recipe at least half a dozen times now, and we love it so much!! With premade lentils, it is a snap to put together. I’ve started cooking a whole bag of lentils at one time and freezing the leftovers for a future meal. Works great!

    I also don’t have the right size pan for this. For awhile, I doubled the recipe and baked it in a normal size loaf pan. That worked just fine, but I don’t always want to deal with that many leftovers. So when I don’t want too much, I bake it in a pie plate. It fits very nicely and bakes perfectly. I usually call it lentil pie that way. My kids love anything with the name pie in it, so that works well!

    Finally, I also like to throw in some cooked carrots for a little extra vegetables and a nice added taste.

    • Hey Rebecca! Thanks so much for reporting back and sharing your experiences. It always makes my day to hear that someone has been enjoying one of my recipes πŸ™‚

      I agree about the pan issue – these pictures are with two mini loaf pans. One full-size pan is way too big. But the pie idea is brilliant!

  11. Hey I was wondering is there any substitution to oats I could use and would you recommend any spices to add eg cumin?

  12. Perfect, exactly the recipe I was needing, I’ve seen this in some places but I’ve never done it because I thought it was difficult but now that I’ve seen in your article that it’s simple to do, that’s great thank you.

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