Lentil loaf is an excellent recipe for those who want to eat less meat but are not necessarily vegan.
Our recipe combines hearty lentils with vegetables, herbs, spices, cheese, and egg to make a vegetarian alternative to meatloaf that is tasty and satisfying.
We top the lentil loaf with a delicious ketchup and vinegar glaze to add moisture and plenty of flavor that kids and picky adults will love.
Table of Contents
Dietary Note: this recipe is suitable for a vegetarian and gluten-free diet.
Little did we know that this simple vegetarian lentil loaf with a ketchup-based sauce as a topping became our family and friends’ favorite recipe for a meatless centerpiece dish.
You’ll love this recipe because it’s easy to make with simple ingredients and combines the meaty and chewy texture of the loaf with the saucy and tangy topping.
This recipe is lovely for holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. You can prep most of it in advance in a loaf pan and bake it shortly before serving it.
The loaf slices beautifully; it has a rich, earthy flavor and a slightly chewy and almost meaty texture. It’s not that different from your classic meatloaf made with ground beef.
While this lentil loaf recipe is vegetarian – it includes an egg and grated parmesan cheese; it is easy to make vegan by omitting the egg and substituting a non-dairy cheese for the parmesan.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Quantities are in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.
For the lentil loaf
A good flavor base is the most essential step in giving flavor to your lentil loaf.
You’ll need extra virgin olive oil and chopped carrot, onion, celery, and garlic to make it. Cook them gently until they soften to bring out their flavor.
We also like adding some tomato paste to enrich the loaf’s flavor and give it a light red hue, making this recipe look great.
You can make lentil loaf with brown lentils or green lentils. Avoid red lentils as they won’t keep their shape well, and it will be harder to shape them into a loaf.
Also, both canned lentils and homecooked dry lentils are suitable for this recipe.
If you use canned lentils, rinse them with water and drain them well in a sift.
If you use dry lentils, you need to cook them first. To boil dry lentils, rinse them under water first, then simmer them in a pot with plenty of lightly salted boiling water for 30 to 45 minutes or until tender. Once cooked, drain them well in a sift.
Oats are an important ingredient in lentil loaf because they help the lentils stick together and they add substance and chew to the recipe.
You can use quick-cooking oats or rolled oats. Quick-cooking oats are rolled thinner and sliced finer than rolled oats, and we slightly prefer them in this recipe.
Herbs & Spices
We recommend dried oregano, paprika, and fresh parsley.
Substitute dried thyme, basil, Italian herb mix, or rosemary for thyme.
The egg adds substance and helps the loaf stick together.
However, the egg is not essential, and if you are vegan, you can keep it out without adjusting the recipe. There’s no need for ground flaxseeds.
Grated parmesan cheese adds flavor.
Substitute a non-dairy parmesan or any other vegan cheese. You can also substitute two tablespoons of soy sauce, tamari sauce, or vegan Worcestershire sauce for parmesan.
Salt & Pepper
We recommend sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
For the ketchup glazing
This is a simple ketchup-based glaze that you can customize based on your taste and diet preferences. We make it with:
- Ketchup: pick your favorite brand.
- Apple cider vinegar: to add tanginess and a poppy mouthfeel. Sub any other vinegar.
- Brown sugar: you can keep it out if you prefer. It adds flavor.
- Garlic and Onion Powder: for aroma. You can use one or both.
- Salt and black pepper: just a pinch.
How to make lentil loaf
US cups + grams measurements in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.
Preheat the oven to 375°F or 190°C. Line a 9×5 (23 cm x 12 cm) loaf pan with parchment paper, letting some paper hang out so you can pull the loaf out once it’s cooked.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add finely chopped onion, carrot, celery, and pressed garlic, and cook gently for 10 minutes. Stir often.
Add the tomato paste, salt, black pepper, paprika, and dried oregano and keep cooking while stirring for 1 more minute. If the pan gets dry, add a splash of water.
Tip: The veggies should become soft and shiny without browning.
Turn the heat off and add lentils, drained from their liquid, oats, and finely chopped parsley.
Stir until well combined, transfer the lentil-oat mixture into a food processor, and pulse until coarsely blended.
Tip: You can blend it into the skillet with an immersion blender. That’s how we did it in the video, and it worked beautifully.
Transfer the mixture back into the skillet or a large bowl and stir in a beaten egg and the grated parmesan.
Tip: if you are vegan, omit the egg and substitute non-dairy cheese for the parmesan.
Mix until well combined, then transfer the mixture into your prepared loaf pan and compact it with the back of a spoon.
Bake at 375°F or 190°C for 30 minutes.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the ketchup, apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder.
After 30 minutes, take the lentil loaf out of the oven, pour the ketchup glaze on top, and bake for 15 more minutes.
Take the loaf out of the loaf pan by pulling the parchment paper that hangs on the sides.
Arrange the loaf on a cutting board or serving platter, and slice it into 2/4-inch (2 cm) slices.
This lentil loaf is excellent as a vegetarian centerpiece with a side of your favorite vegetables, for example:
- Roasted potatoes or mashed potatoes.
- Sautéed green beans or green bean salad.
- Fennel and orange salad or kale salad.
- Roasted and glazed carrots or roasted carrots and Brussels sprouts.
- Roasted Brussels sprouts or air fryer Brussels Sprouts.
- Creamy Broccoli Salad or Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad.
- Or check out all our side dishes.
Lentil loaf with mushroom gravy
You are not a big fan of ketchup? Then, we have an excellent mushroom gravy recipe that you can serve with the lentil loaf instead of the ketchup glaze.
Make the loaf as instructed (without the ketchup glaze) and cook it in the oven for 40 minutes at 375°F or 190°C.
Take it out of the oven, slice it, and drizzle with our delicious mushroom gravy recipe.
Barbecue-glazed lentil loaf
If you are looking for a bolder glaze for your lentil loaf, our barbecue sauce recipe might be right for you.
It combines a delicious smokey aroma with a mouthwatering sweet, tangy, and savory flavor.
We make it with ketchup, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, sugar, mustard, smoked paprika, garlic, onion powder, and a splash of hot sauce.
Check out our BBQ sauce recipe.
Vegan lentil loaf
To make a vegan meatloaf, substitute non-dairy cheese for parmesan. If you don’t want to use non-dairy cheese, you can substitute two tablespoons of soy sauce or tamari sauce for the parmesan.
When it comes to the egg, you can omit it; the recipe works well without it, and you won’t need an egg replacement.
Storage & Make Ahead
Make ahead: lentil loaf is an excellent recipe to prepare in advance. You can do all the steps up to the baking. Once the lentil mixture is in the loaf pan, store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before baking it as instructed.
Refrigerator: keep leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Freezer: Let the lentil loaf leftovers cool down completely, then transfer them to a freezer-friendly container and freeze them for up to 3 months.
Thaw & Reheat: thaw slowly, over several hours, in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave for 3 to 5 minutes.
More meatless mains
Get more protein-rich vegetarian dinner ideas from this list of mains:
More lentil recipes
Get more wholesome dinner ideas with these weeknight meals:
- Food processor or immersion blender
- Loaf pan 9×5 inches or 23 cm x 12 cm
FOR THE LENTIL LOAF
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 2 medium carrots finely chopped
- 2 ribs celery finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic pressed
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 cans (15-ounces each) lentils brown or green, drained well. Or 2½ cups of cooked lentils.
- 1 cup quick-cooking oats or rolled oats
- 3 tablespoons parsley chopped
- 1 large egg beaten
- ¾ cup parmesan cheese grated
FOR THE KETCHUP GLAZE
- 1½ cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar optional
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder optional
- Preheat the oven to 375°F or 190°C. Line your loaf pan with parchment paper, letting some paper hang out so you can pull the loaf out once it’s cooked.Heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet. Add 1 large onion, 2 medium carrots, 2 ribs celery, 3 cloves garlic (all finely chopped) and cook gently for 10 minutes. Stir often.Add 3 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper and cook one more minute.
- Turn the heat off, add 3 cans (15-ounces each) lentils (drained well), 1 cup quick-cooking oats, and 3 tablespoons parsley.
- Stir to combine, then transfer the mixture into a food processor, and pulse until coarsely blended.Tip: alternatively, blend it into the skillet with an immersion blender.
- Transfer mixture back to the pan and stir in 1 large egg (beaten) and ¾ cup parmesan cheese (grated). Tip: if you are vegan, omit the egg and substitute non-dairy cheese for the parmesan.
- Mix well, then transfer into the loaf pan and flatten with the back of a spoon. Bake at 375°F or 190°C for 30 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, whisk 1½ cup ketchup with 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, and ½ teaspoon onion powder.Then, take the lentil loaf out of the oven, pour the ketchup glaze on top, and bake for 15 more minutes.
- Take the lentil loaf out of the pan by pulling the parchment paper that hangs on the sides.Arrange it on a cutting board or serving platter, and slice it into ¾-inch (2 cm) slices.
If you liked this lentil loaf recipe, you might also enjoy: