Looking for a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs holiday lentil loaf? I’ve got you covered AND I’ve made this version naturally gluten-free.
Most lentil loaf or other vegan meatloaf recipes rely on breadcrumbs to counteract the natural mushiness of beans. I love beans to the moon and back, but yeah… they’re mushy. However, I have an inexplicable pathological aversion to breadcrumbs too. That’s why, back when I posted my only veggie burger recipe, vegan wild rice burgers, I taught you about a little trick I picked up from one of my favorite food columnists.
Before mixing the ingredients, dry-roast the beans (whatever variety they may be) in the oven until they crack open. This makes the skins a little crispy and chewy, and evaporates some of the moisture on the inside that makes them mushy. It makes a world of difference.
So when I got started on my vegan lentil loaf recipe, my natural inclination was to roast the lentils. I blitzed them up in the food processor, added some seasoning and flax seeds, and waited an hour for it to bake. As soon as I removed the lentil loaf from the loaf pan, gravity transformed it into lentil stew on my plate. A delicious lentil stew, but completely shapeless. In conclusion, taking a veggie burger mixture and putting it in a loaf pan, did not a lentil loaf yield.
I hemmed and hawed a lot over the next couple of weeks about whether to give up and add breadcrumbs but after thinking back on my bang bang cauliflower, which uses pulverized rice crisp cereal as a coating, I realized that the solution was sitting right there in my cupboard, a snack that I eat daily. Rice cakes!
I might not be the first person to make a lentil loaf recipe but I think this is the only one you’ll find that’s made gluten-free by using a simple pantry ingredient you can crumble up and mix in. No need to cook a grain separately or track down gluten-free breadcrumbs; you’re already ready to make this delicious vegetable walnut lentil loaf!
This lentil loaf isn’t like the others. It’s dense, hearty, full of umami flavor from the walnuts, tomato paste, and other seasonings. One or two slices is deeply satisfying and flavorful, just like a… non-vegan loaf… might be. The texture is 0% mushy, it’s rich and tender with just a little bit of crumbliness. Top it off with an apple cider tomato glaze and you’re headed for vegan Thanksgiving nirvana!
My vegan lentil loaf is delicious served with a big dollop of vegan gravy. Pictured above, we also enjoyed it with some garlicky sauteed spinach and black pepper and cumin roasted sweet potatoes. Regardless of how you dress this lentil loaf, enjoy! P.S. – step-by-step photos below the recipe.
Walnut Lentil Loaf
This hearty, rich walnut lentil loaf is sure to please at your holiday table or as a satisfying main for meal prep! Can be made into a chickpea loaf too. Naturally vegan and gluten-free! This recipe requires a few different steps, but you will be rewarded.
- 3 cups cooked lentils (or use chickpeas or a mixture - tested substitution)
- 3 tbsp olive oil (divided)
- 1 yellow or white onion diced
- 2 stalks celery thinly sliced
- 2 carrots peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 1 cup walnuts (120 grams)
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp poultry seasoning (optional, or use a dried herb of your choosing)
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Other lentil loaf ingredients:
- 2 rice cakes (38 grams, can substitute rice crisp cereal)
- 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce (4 tbsp) (see note)
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley (optional)
For the tomato apple cider glaze (or use your favorite meatloaf-style glaze):
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp hot paprika (or use 1/4 tsp of cayenne or red pepper flakes)
- 1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce (or tamari)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread out the lentils in an even layer on a baking sheet (parchment paper optional for easier cleanup). Roast for about 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes, or until the lentils start to dry out and split open. They should feel firm to the touch, but not yet crunchy. After baking, remove from the oven and set aside.
Meanwhile, add 2 tbsp of olive oil to a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic with a little pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and the carrot pieces are starting to soften, about 6-8 minutes. Add the walnuts to the pan and cook for another 2 minutes or until slightly toasted. Finally, stir in the paprika, poultry seasoning, and black pepper, and cook for 30 seconds until aromatic. Remove from the heat.
Add the entire saute mixture to your food processor and pulse a few times to break into smaller pieces. Then add the rice cakes and toasted lentils, pulsing again to break into small crumbs, stirring and scraping down the sides if needed. Add the rest of the blender mixture ingredients and the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil, and pulse until evenly combined. You should be able to pinch the mixture between your fingers and have it stick together, but it shouldn't be completely pureed.
Turn up the oven to 375 degrees and line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Spread the mixture from the food processor into the loaf pan and press it down to form an even layer. Bake for 25 minutes.
While the lentil loaf is baking, whisk together all of the ingredients for your glaze. After taking it out of the oven, spread the glaze in a thick, even layer (you may or may not use all of it) on top of the lentil loaf. Return to the oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the glaze has thickened somewhat.
Let your lentil loaf cool for 15 minutes before removing it from the loaf pan gently using the parchment paper, and then slicing it to serve. Leftovers store well.
SOY SAUCE: It's very important to use low-sodium soy sauce. Regular soy sauce will make this too salty. If you only have regular soy sauce, or need to use tamari due to gluten sensitivity, reduce the quantity and add water to make up the difference in liquid.