This vegan lentil loaf is a delicious combination of wholesome ingredients and savory flavors! It is a plant-based twist on a classic dish that we’re sure will win over even the pickiest eaters. It is packed with protein-rich lentils, and nutrient-dense veggies with a delicious hint of sweet smoked paprika.
This vegan lentil loaf recipe is one of our most recommended main course meals for Thanksgiving, besides vegan Wellington or vegan stew and dumplings. So, what do you plan for Thanksgiving dinner? Check out these vegan Thanksgiving recipes for more delicious festive ideas.
❤️ Why you’ll love it
I really love how rich, moist, and juicy this vegan lentil loaf turns out, even without using any meats or grains! Its hearty texture and savory flavors make it a hit with all our family and friends whenever I serve.
This recipe is not just full of flavor but also features a classic texture thanks to the lentils. It is a firm loaf with a tender bite, and the veggies add a pleasant crunch to it. The maple tomato glaze takes it to the next level, adding a sweet, tangy finish that perfectly complements our savory loaf.
People usually hate the mushy texture but dislike things being too dry. So, I added buckwheat to make it juicy and give it a loaf-like texture. And the veggies and seasonings make it rich and flavorful in every bite.
What the best is that this dish is just perfect for the holidays! It is one of my go-to recipes for Thanksgiving. But it’s versatile enough to serve any time of the year, especially when looking for a delicious and satisfying dinner option.
🧾 Key ingredients
Button mushrooms add a meaty texture and umami flavor that’s essential for this vegan loaf. They also help make it more moist, preventing it from drying.
Brown lentils are the star ingredient in this recipe. They are packed with protein and fiber, making this loaf a filling and nutritious meal. Remember not to blend them into a purée to maintain a good texture.
Buckwheat seeds are an essential ingredient for this loaf. They add a nutty flavor and give the loaf the perfect texture. They also help bind the ingredients together, ensuring the loaf holds its shape.
Soy sauce and sweet smoked paprika powder are key for enhancing the flavor. They add a depth of flavor that makes this classic dish truly delicious.
I used maple syrup and sieved tomato puree for the glaze to create a sweet and tangy topping. It perfectly complements our savory loaf flavors. Plus, the glaze can be added before baking for a caramelized finish or after for a more fresh and vibrant flavor.
🛒 You can find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
A food processor is going to help you get the right texture. It will help you blend buckwheat seeds, lentils, and veggie mix to the perfect consistency. This will ensure your loaf does not turn out too mushy or chunky. Plus, it saves you loads of time and effort, making the cooking process super easy from start to finish.
Preparing the ingredients
Start by preparing the veggies. Peel and chop the onion and garlic. Next, wash and chop the celery. Wash, peel, and cut carrots into small quarters. Finally, clean and chop the mushrooms into small pieces.
Now, prepare the buckwheat seeds. Soak them in boiling water for 15 minutes. You’ll know they’re soft enough if you can squash them with your fingers. Drain the soaking water and add fresh water.
Use a hand blender or food processor to roughly blend the buckwheat with the water. Stop when you achieve a paste-like texture. It doesn’t need to be smooth.
Making the vegan lentil loaf
Pre-cook the veggies. Heat a frying pan to medium heat and add olive oil. Cook the chopped onion for 1-2 minutes, then add the chopped garlic and cook for a few more seconds.
Add the sliced carrots to the pan. Stir and cook for 5-6 minutes.
Next, add the chopped celery, then the seasoning: salt, pepper, oregano, and thyme. Stir well.
Finally, add the chopped mushrooms and cook for 5-6 minutes. When they are fork-tender, remove the pan from the heat.
Get your food processor ready. Add the cooked veggies, cooked or canned brown lentils, soy sauce, and smoked paprika powder.
Finally, add buckwheat paste. Pulse a couple of times, but don’t over-blend it.
Preheat the oven to 390 Fahrenheit (ca. 199 °C). Pour the lentil loaf mixture into a 9-inch loaf pan and bake it for 40 minutes.
While the loaf is baking, prepare the maple tomato glaze. Heat a small saucepan on medium heat. Add tomato sauce, pure maple syrup, soy sauce (or tamari for gluten-free), apple cider vinegar, and corn starch. Use a whisk to mix them lump-free. Simmer and bring to a boil to thicken the glaze.
Once the lentil loaf has cooled slightly, cover it with the glaze. Now, you have a firm, rich, flavorful, juicy, and luscious vegan lentil loaf ready to be served. Enjoy!
💡 Expert tip
The most important thing when making your vegan lentil loaf is not to overblend your ingredients. Pulse the mix just a few times in your food processor. If you blend it into a purée-like texture, your lentil loaf will become mushy. Leaving some chunks and bits will give your loaf a better and more classic texture.
Try adding dried cranberries to your vegan lentil loaf mix for a touch of sweetness. The cranberries will add a delicious burst of flavor and a pop of color to your loaf. Just mix them in with your lentil and veggie blend before baking.
If you like spicy food, consider adding some chopped jalapenos. These spicy peppers will give it a spicy kick. Simply dice the jalapenos and add them to your lentil and veggie blend before baking.
Try adding liquid smoke to your lentil loaf mix for a smoky flavor. Just a teaspoon or two will give your loaf a rich, smoky flavor that pairs perfectly with the savory lentils and veggies. Add the liquid smoke to it right before baking.
🥣 Serving ideas
If you’re planning a vegan feast for Thanksgiving or Christmas, this lentil loaf is a perfect choice. Pair it with roasted asparagus and mushrooms, sautéed carrots in maple thyme glaze, roasted cauliflower with tahini, or a green beans casserole.
❄️ Storing tips
Storing and reheating our vegan lentil loaf is a breeze, and it can even enhance the flavors as the ingredients meld together over time. Plus, this dish is just as delicious served cold, making it a versatile option for leftovers.
To store any leftovers of the vegan lentil loaf, allow it to cool completely after baking. Then, transfer it to an airtight container or wrap it tightly in aluminum foil. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days.
When it comes to freezing, this lentil loaf holds up quite well. Once cooled, wrap the loaf securely in aluminum foil and place it in a freezer-safe bag. It can be frozen for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to eat it, allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
To reheat it, you can use either the oven or the microwave. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and bake the loaf for about 15 minutes, or until it’s heated through.
If using the microwave, place a slice on a microwave-safe plate and heat it for about 1-2 minutes, checking after each 30-second interval to ensure even reheating. They are a perfect addition to your sandwich lunch.
Our secret ingredient, buckwheat, adds a unique moistness to the lentil loaf. However, cooked quinoa would likely work well if you want a substitute. Both buckwheat and quinoa are pseudo-cereal grains, or seeds that behave like grains. Do note that oats are not a suitable replacement in this recipe.
Yes, you can use bottled ketchup instead of the maple tomato glaze. However, tomato paste is not a recommended substitute as it has a much thicker consistency and a robust, concentrated taste.
Absolutely! French green lentils can be a good alternative to brown lentils in this recipe. Red lentils, however, are not recommended as they have a different flavor profile and tend to be drier and crumblier.
Feel free to add bell pepper or root vegetables like parsnip, rutabaga, or celeriac to this lentil loaf. Just make sure that the total amount of veggies you use remains the same as specified in the recipe card.
Yes, you can spread the glaze evenly on top of the loaf before baking. This will result in a slightly caramelized top, adding another layer of flavor to your vegan lentil loaf.
This lentil loaf can be perfect for stuffed veggies like bell peppers, zucchini, stuffed butternut squash, or stuffed mushrooms. You can also use a muffin tin to make mini lentil loaves for a fun twist.
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Juicy Vegan Lentil Loaf
Vegan Lentil Loaf
- 2 Carrots (medium)
- 2 Celery stalk
- 2 cup Button mushrooms
- 1 Tbsp Olive oil
- 1 Onion (medium)
- 3-4 cloves Garlic
- 2 ½ cup Brown lentils (canned, drained)
- ½ cup Buckwheat seeds it will be 1 cup after soaking
- ½ cup Water to blend the buckwheat seeds
- 1 Tbsp Soy sauce or tamari for gluten-free
- ½ tsp Oregano
- ½ tsp Thyme (dried)
- 1 tsp Sweet smoked paprika powder
Preparing the veggies
- Peel and chop onion and garlic. Wash and chop celery. Wash, peel, and slice carrots. Rinse and chop mushrooms.
Preparing the buckwheat seeds
- Soak the buckwheat seeds in boiling water for 15 minutes (½ cup dry will be 1 cup soaked at the end). If you can squash them with your fingers, they are soft enough. (You can certainly do overnight soaking in warm water.)
- When the seeds are soft, drain the soaking water and add fresh water. Use a hand blender or food processor to blend buckwheat with the water roughly. It doesn’t need to be smooth. When you have a paste-like texture, stop.
Precooking the veggies
- Heat your frying pan to medium heat and add olive oil. Cook the chopped onion for 1-2 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook for a few seconds.
- Now, add the sliced carrots. Stir and cook for 5-6 minutes.
- Next is to add the chopped celery, then the seasoning: salt, pepper, oregano, and thyme. Stir well.
- Finally, add the chopped mushroom and cook for 5-6 minutes. When they are fork-tender, take the pan off the heat.
Blending all ingredients
- Get your food processor ready now. Add the chopped veggie mix you just cooked to the frying pan. Then add the cooked or canned brown lentils, the soy sauce, and the smoked paprika powder. Finally, add the buckwheat paste.
- Pulse a couple of times. Don’t over-blend it, or you will end up with a puree, and your lentil loaf will be mushy! You want to leave some chunks to bite on.
Bake the lentil loaf
- Preheat the oven to 390 Fahrenheit (ca. 199 °C). Take a 9-inch loaf pan and pour in the lentil loaf mixture. I have a silicone one, but if you don’t, use parchment paper.
- Bake it for 40 minutes. That’s it. You have a firm vegan lentil loaf that is rich and flavorful, juicy and luscious at the same time.
Maple Tomato Glaze in 5 minutes
- Take a small saucepan and heat it on medium heat. Add tomato sauce, pure maple syrup, soy sauce (or tamari for gluten-free), apple cider vinegar, and corn starch. Simmer and bring to a boil to thicken the glaze.
- Cover the lentil loaf when the loaf is a bit chilled and not right out of the oven.
- Pre-cooking veggies is a must – Raw veggies, especially carrots, may remain hard even after baking.
- Don’t blend it into a puree! – We recommend only pulsing the mix a couple of times. If you don’t leave chunks and bits but end up with a puree-like texture, the lentil loaf will be mushy at the end.
- Be mindful of the baking time – Especially if you use a fan oven, as they tend to be hotter despite setting them for the same temperature. The lentil loaf is ready when they have a dark brown crust.
- Bake it with the glaze! – We prefer to apply the glaze after the lentil loaf is ready. However, you can spread the glaze evenly on top and bake it like that. You will end up with a slightly caramelized top. Delicious!
- Canned lentils may contain more moisture than cooked lentils. Make sure you drain them thoroughly. I usually leave them in a fine mesh sieve above the sink until I work on the other ingredients. This way, not a single drop of moisture remains.
- Mushrooms are watery. Even if I buy the same type of mushrooms, sometimes they release more water than expected. Make sure you cook off all moisture during frying.
- You didn’t bake it long enough. I use a silicone pan with a depth of 6-7 cm (approx. 2 inches), and I need to bake it for 40 minutes. If you use a different-sized pan, please be mindful of the baking time.
- Cool it on a wire rack. If you try to serve it and cut it while it is still hot, you will have a mushy, steamy texture. We recommend cooling it on a wire rack. After that, the lentil loaf is firm enough to hold its shape, but the remaining steam can leave quickly.
UPDATED: This recipe has been originally published in October 2019. It has been updated with more tips and tricks, and with a detailed explanation of buckwheat and substitutions in October 2022.