Vegan Meatloaf (Thanksgiving Main Dish)

By Jessica Hylton -

This Vegan Meatloaf makes a perfect Thanksgiving (and beyond) main dish/entree! It takes only 15 minutes of prep time and has an incredible texture rated 5 stars by dozens. It is moist, flavorful and bound to be a show-stopper at your next meal! Serve it with a side of vegan mashed potatoes and green bean casserole.

Sliced vegan meatloaf on cooling rack on parchment paper.

If you try this vegan meatloaf, you will not be disappointed. Yeah, I say that with almost everything right? Well, I had this for breakfast, lunch and dinner for like, 8 meals straight.

I can’t believe I just typed that. It’s super versatile so you can make it in a sandwich, mince it up and use it on a mini veggie pizza, or in like a breakfast hash recipe. And of course (and probably the reason you’re reading this) – for your Thanksgiving main dish!!

I knew I wanted the perfect balance of moist vs firm, and after lots of testing, I achieved it perfectly here. I cannot think of a Vegan Thanksgiving that is complete without serving this beauty. That and of course, Vegan Pumpkin Pie or Vegan Pumpkin Sheet Cake.

Notes on the Ingredients

Ingredients for the vegan meatloaf.

Vegan Worcestershire sauce – don’t sweat this ingredient; if you can’t find it, just use soy sauce! But ensure that if you do buy it, that the bottle you get is actually vegan since most aren’t.

Flax egg – this helps a lot with binding. Ensure that your flax seeds are fresh (most of us just have a bag for years in our fridge!) since it’ll affect how gelatinous it gets, and be sure to check out my how to make a flax egg post.

Breadcrumbs – if you’re gluten free, just use gluten free breadcrumbs!

Brown lentils – I don’t recommend substituting this. Red lentils will be too mushy, and green lentils will give you a strange colour. Buying pre-cooked lentils in a can really cuts down on your cooking time.

Liquid Smoke – I use a lot of liquid smoke in this recipe. You can easily swap this for more soy sauce, but it really impacts the flavour tremendously. If you’re sensitive or think it might be overpowering to use 2 tablespoons, use only 2 teaspoons (and just taste before you put it in).

How to Make Vegan Meatloaf (Step by Step Instructions)

Overhead shot of meatloaf sauce in a small bowl.

Mix together the tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and the sea salt in a small bowl and set it aside until you need it.

Red onion garlic and celery in a pan.

In a skillet over medium high heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic, red onion and the celery. Sauté until onions are translucent and celery has softened, about 5 minutes.

Cooked mirepoix and other ingredients in a bowl.

In a large bowl, add all of the ingredients (the cooked garlic, red onion, celery above, as well as the chickpeas, lentils, liquid smoke, vegan Worcestershire (or soy sauce), breadcrumbs, sea salt, ground black pepper, flax eggs, tomato paste, and thyme).

Mixed ingredients for the meatloaf in a bowl.

Mix together slightly with a wooden spoon. I find that this helps to distribute the liquid ingredients equally one the beans and breadcrumbs.

Step by step for making vegan meatloaf recipe.

In a food processor, add all of your ingredients from the bowl. I have a 10-cup food processor, so if yours is smaller, you may want to put it in in increments. Pulse a few times until everything begins to come together.

Do NOT over pulse – it will turn to mush and not firm up in the oven. You want to see chunks of celery, lentils and other ingredients. I like to pulse about 10 times.

Uncooked meatloaf with glaze on top.

Pour/scoop the mixture into your parchment paper-lined loaf pan. Smooth down the top with the spatula. Pour over your glaze from earlier, smoothing it down with a spoon or spatula.

Cooked vegan meatloaf with glaze on top.

Bake for 45 minutes to 60 minutes. My loaf was done at around 55 minutes. It’s ready if a toothpick comes out mostly clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Close up slice of vegan meatloaf.

Remove from loaf pan and slice up and serve. Enjoy!

Expert Tips and FAQ

  • Don’t over blend your meatloaf in the food processor. This will make it way too mushy. You can also watch the video for a better idea of what it should look like.
  • I strongly recommend only using a loaf pan for this. If you try to freeform it, it might fall apart or dry out (No one wants that!!).
  • Be sure to line the pan (don’t skip this). It really helps with holding it together and is much easier to remove from the pan.
  • If you think you’ll be sensitive to the liquid smoke (one or two readers have shared this) start with 2 teaspoons. Give it a taste (everything is cooked so you can try it) then add more if desired! I usually add the full amount. IF you’re lowing the amount, replace the rest with water so the recipe has the right amount of liquid (so add 1 tablespoon of water + 1 teaspoon). 
  • Don’t skip that 10 minute cooling period! You can even cool it completely, just don’t cut as soon as you take it out. As it cools, it firms up even more. For the glaze, if you’d prefer a bbq glaze you can just sub the tomato paste for bbq sauce.
Why is my vegan meatloaf falling apart?

This really shouldn’t happen since I tested the recipe specifically to avoid this. To prevent this from happening, PLEASE do not over pulse your ingredients. I did this the first time and it turned to mush and wouldn’t firm up. Leaving chunks somehow helps it to come together. Also, ensure that your toothpick comes out pretty much clean to confirm everything is cooking together. Be sure to properly press this into the pan too.

Ensure you’re using the right size pan since a too wide meatloaf will not hold up properly. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes to cool at room temperature. If you’ve done all of this and it’s still giving problems, then last resort, if you sit your meatloaf in the fridge for like an hour, it will firm up completely. Then slice it up. I cut my slices about 1-inch thick.

What to serve this vegan meatloaf with

I love serving this with some vegan green bean casserole, some mashed potatoes and some roasted maple carrots. Sweet Potato Casserole also tastes incredible with this!

Fork being sliced through a slice of meatloaf.

NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS

Great news – this meatloaf has tons of great nutritional benefits!

Lentils – The lentils make this recipe filling, fiber-rich, and are loaded with Vitamin K and lean protein.

Chickpeas – Chickpeas easily provide a lot of fiber and protein – one tablespoon has over 2g of protein!!

Fiber – The lentils, chickpeas and all the vegetables provide lots of fiber for you which helps to aid with digestion and keeping you full.

Flaxseeds – Even more great fiber! This also helps to keep your super full.

This recipe is pretty healthy and is loaded with lots of heart-healthy and cholesterol friendly ingredients like coconut oil and apple cider vinegar.

P.S. Here are some of the items I used to make this recipe if you’d like to use them too:

| WHAT YOU’LL NEED // SHOP MY FAVORITE INGREDIENTS & PREP PRODUCTS |

Enjoy friends! If you make this Vegan Meatloaf recipe, please snap a photo and tag #jessicainthekitchen on Instagram! We’d also love if you would leave a comment below, and give the recipe a rating! Thanks so much!

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Vegan Meatloaf (Thanksgiving Main Dish)

This Vegan Meatloaf makes a perfect Thanksgiving (and beyond) main dish/entree! It takes only 15 minutes of prep time and has an incredible texture rated 5 stars by dozens. It is moist, flavorful and bound to be a show-stopper at your next meal! Serve it with a side of vegan mashed potatoes and green bean casserole.
by: Jessica in the Kitchen
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Ingredients
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil or any oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 stalks celery chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 15 oz. can of chickpeas drained and thoroughly rinsed
  • 1 3/4 cup freshly cooked brown lentils or 15 oz. can drained and throughly rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons liquid smoke up to 2 tablespoons* (see notes on liquid amount)
  • 2 teaspoons vegan Worcestershire sauce or more liquid smoke
  • 1 1/4 cups breadcrumbs gluten-free if needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 flax eggs
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme

Tomato Glaze

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or agave or liquid sweetener
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Instructions

Instructions

Tomato Glaze

  • Mix together the tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and the sea salt in a small bowl and set it aside until you need it.

Meatloaf

  • Preheat your oven to 375°F/190°C degrees. Prepare a loaf with by lining with parchment paper so that it's hanging over the sides. This helps to remove the loaf with ease.
  • In a skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic, red onion and the celery. Sauté until onions are translucent, celery has softened and garlic is fragrant, about 5 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, add all of the ingredients (the cooked garlic, red onion, celery above, as well as the chickpeas, lentils, liquid smoke, vegan Worcestershire (or soy sauce), breadcrumbs, sea salt, ground black pepper, flax eggs, tomato paste, and thyme).
  • Mix together slightly with a wooden spoon. I find that this helps to distribute the liquid ingredients equally one the beans and breadcrumbs.
  • In a food processor, add all of your ingredients from the bowl. I have a 10-cup food processor, so if yours is smaller, you may want to put it in in increments. Pulse a few times until everything begins to come together. 
    Do NOT over pulse – it will turn to mush and not firm up in the oven. You want to see chunks of celery, lentils and other ingredients. I like to pulse about 10 times.
  • Pour/scoop the mixture into your parchment paper-lined loaf pan. Smooth down the top with the spatula. Pour over your glaze from earlier, smoothing it down with a spoon or spatula.
  • Bake for 45 minutes to 60 minutes. My loaf was done at around 55 minutes. It’s ready if a toothpick comes out mostly clean.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove from loaf pan and slice up and serve. Enjoy!

Video

NOTES
  • If you think you’ll be sensitive to the liquid smoke (one or two readers have shared this) start with 2 teaspoons. Give it a taste (everything is cooked so you can try it) then add more if desired! I usually add the full amount. IF you’re lowing the amount, replace the rest with water so the recipe has the right amount of liquid (so add 1 tablespoon of water + 1 teaspoon). 
Expert Tips and FAQ
  • Don’t over blend your meatloaf in the food processor. This will make it way too mushy. You can also watch the video for a better idea of what it should look like.
  • I strongly recommend only using a loaf pan for this. If you try to freeform it it might fall apart or dry out (No one wants that!!).
  • Be sure to line the pan (don’t skip this). It really helps with holding it together and is much easier to remove from the pan.
  • Don’t skip that 10 minute cooling period! You can even cool it completely, just don’t cut as soon as you take it out. As it cools, it firms up even more. For the glaze, if you’d prefer a bbq glaze you can just sub the tomato paste for bbq sauce.
  • Make sure the Worcestershire that you pick says “vegan” on it since most aren’t. You can also just use soy sauce if you can’t find it.
Why is my vegan meatloaf falling apart?
This really shouldn’t happen since I tested the recipe specifically to avoid this. To prevent this from happening, PLEASE do not over pulse your ingredients. I did this the first time and it turned to mush and wouldn’t firm up. Leaving chunks somehow helps it to come together. Also, ensure that your toothpick comes out pretty much clean to confirm everything is cooking together. Be sure to properly press this into the pan too.
Ensure you’re using the right size pan since a too wide meatloaf will not hold up properly. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes to cool at room temperature. If you’ve done all of this and it’s still giving problems, then last resort, if you sit your meatloaf in the fridge for like an hour, it will firm up completely. Then slice it up. I cut my slices about 1-inch thick. 
HOW TO STORE
You can store this loaf in an airtight container in the fridge. I just slice it up first, but you can also store it whole. You could also just wrapthe top of the loaf pan if you want to preserve the shape of the loaf. This will last at least a week in your fridge. This loaf with firm up a whole lot in your fridge.
HOW TO FREEZE
Wrap the loaf in foil, then put it in a freezer-friendly zipped bag. This loaf can freeze for at least 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in your fridge, and reheat in your microwave.

Nutrition

Calories: 218kcal | Carbohydrates: 38.4g | Protein: 10.5g | Fat: 3.4g | Sodium: 498mg | Fiber: 8.1g | Sugar: 5.3g
by Jessica

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Recipe Rating




84 comments

  1. Jess says:

    5 stars
    I’ll admit I switched out thyme for rosemary as I like it better, I also worried that it would be a labour intensive dish, which to some extent it is but it was so good and 100% worth it. Served up with some roasted potatoes, vegetables and onion gravy it was delicious!

    • Gavin | Jessica in the Kitchen says:

      Awesome we’re so happy you enjoyed it! Thanks so much for reading!

  2. M says:

    5 stars
    Currently living across the ocean from my family and was craving something that would remind me of home. This recipe was absolutely perfect both for the nostalgia factor and for how easy it was to make!

    I made a few slight changes to the recipe just to accommodate both what I had on-hand and what I could find in my local grocery store, but it still turned out perfectly! Shallots and garlic powder substituted for both the red onions and the fresh garlic, added paprika to both the glaze and to the main loaf mixture itself, and added some additional pepper to the glaze, as well. I also used a hand-masher to combine all the ingredients rather than a food processor, and it came together with no problem whatsoever.

    Cannot recommend this recipe highly enough!

    • Gavin | Jessica in the Kitchen says:

      Greetings from across the ocean! We’re so happy that you enjoyed this recipe! Thank you so much for reading and leaving such a nice comment!

  3. Allison Kline says:

    5 stars
    I just tested the recipe in advance of Thanksgiving… I have some little loaf pans, so I made three little loaves instead of one big one. I managed to save one for my mom and one for my best friend, but the one I kept for myself was gone within about an hour (one tiny slice at a time…). Will definitely be making again. Thanks!!

    • Gavin | Jessica in the Kitchen says:

      We’re so happy that you enjoyed this recipe Allison! Thank you so much for reading and leaving such a nice comment!

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