Secret Ingredient Meatless Loaf

Meatless Loaf

For the ultimate Meatless Monday challenge, we decided to take on the iconic American comfort food recipe: meatloaf.

June Cleaver made meatloaf, as did all women who dared to call themselves housewives in the 1950s. Each woman’s meatloaf was a yardstick to measure her skill as a home cook. Meatloaf has been made in various versions for centuries, but it was the Americans during the Great Depression who added bread and eggs to the dish to stretch their pennies and added ketchup as a topping.

Like almost everyone growing up in America in the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s, I ate my weight in meatloaf as a child. To this day, when anyone says “meatloaf,” the smell, taste and texture of this comfort food fills my senses.

So, we said to ourselves, “Could we remake this comfort food classic without meat but with as much flavor and comfort as the original hamburger dish?” Our answer: “Absolutely.”

I made about a dozen versions of this dish and there are two secrets to our final fabulous dish. First, add diced cooked dates. The dates add a rich taste and sticky texture that are necessary to replace hamburger. Second, use the American classic A-1 steak sauce. When I made previous versions of this, everyone wanted A-1 to drizzle on top of their slices. So == light bulb goes on == why not add this raisin-y, flavor-packed sauce right in with the loaf mixture?!

The combination of ingredients and flavors in this final version are astounding. The texture is rich, moist and firm and holds together while cooking and slicing. This is one of my favorite veggie makeover dishes of all time. Truly remarkable. Please try it – with or without your June Cleaver apron on!


Makes 1 loaf to serve 4 to 6 people; Prep Time 60 minutes; Cook time 30 minutes

1 cup dry brown lentils
2 medium carrots, grated
1 cup diced Medjool dates
1 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons A-1 sauce
1/2 cup ground or very finely minced pecans
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook lentils in boiling salted water for 30 minutes, or until soft. Drain well. Place in food processor and pulse until very small bits.

Saute the carrots, dates, onion, celery in the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat for 6 to 8 minutes, until very soft, stirring frequently to remove moisture. Add in garlic, cumin, A-1 sauce and soy sauce and cook another minute.  Add this skillet mixture to food processor and pulse until very well blended.

Remove from food processor and stir in pecans, rice, bread crumbs and eggs.

Place a tin foil sling into a loaf pan and spoon mixture into pan.  Bake for 30 minutes at center of oven.

OPTIONAL GLAZE:  While mixture is baking, simmer for about 2 minutes in a small saucepan 1 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1 tablespoon vinegar, until thickened slightly.

Remove loaf from oven and spread sauce on top. Return to oven and bake another 20 minutes. Slice and serve as you would meatloaf.

Other Veggie Loafs worth checking out:

Red Lentil Un-meatloaf, Book of Yum
Vegetarian Meatloaf, Branny Boils Over
No Meat Loaf, Expatriot’s Kitchen
Vegan Meatloaf, Iowa Girl Cooks
Vegetarian Meatloaf, Cathy’s Kitchen Journey
Pinto and Red Lentil Loaf, Cate’s World Kitchen

— posted by Donna


  1. Adriane says

    I made this for dinner last night, and it was AMAZING. Loved the glaze. Always looking for recipes that incorporate lentils and a whole grain (brown rice, in this case) to make sure I am getting a complete protein since I am a vegetarian avoiding soy. The prep time is a little misleading though. The lentils and brown rice took 50 minutes to soften/cook, during which time I was busy chopping, grating, sauteeing, processing… I think I’ll try using canned lentils next time to save on time/cleaning another pot.

  2. Stephanie says

    I was very excited to find this recipe. It was enjoyed at the dinner table tonight (flavor is wonderful!), but my husband and I agreed that it’s still needing texture. It was just a little too smooth for us. We decided that maybe if the ingredients were ground up less (the processing instructions were a little vague) or maybe if we added some semi-cooked oatmeal. But the “meatloaf” held up really well, and it had excellent flavor. Thank you for the recipe! I know with a few tweaks it will be another favorite at our table. :)

  3. Angel says

    I enjoyed this very much! It was very filling and so I had enough to feed 6 plus leftovers. I made a few changes based on what I had available: I only used two eggs, panko bread crumbs, and I didn’t have A-1, so I used Worcestershire sauce. It turned out beautifully and held together well! I would say that the glaze is a must, it really made it more traditional. Thanks so much for the recipe!

    • says

      THANK YOU, Angel, for taking the time to come back and tell comment on your meatless loaf making! We love having readers enjoy our recipes!

    • says

      Erika – So, so glad you liked this! We didn’t have enough leftover to make sandwiches the next day – next time I’ll double the recipe!

  4. Jo says

    PLEASE….try the recipe before commenting. Commenting without having tried it is meaningless to those of us who are really interested in hearing how the recipe plays out to different palates.
    Thank you.

  5. says

    This sounds awesome! I can’t wait to try it. I usually make my meatloaf with equal parts turkey and tofu, with a topping that has mustard, ketchup, and hoisin sauce, and it’s one of my husband’s favorites. I want to make this one for my vegetarian friends!

  6. says

    Well, well, I have been trying to develop a perfect vegan meatloaf and posting about it at my blog. Meatloaf is so hot right now! I can’t wait to try this recipe of yours :)


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