A stellar lentil loaf, made with ease and humble ingredients and packed with flavor. It is vegan, grain-free, high in protein (8.5 grams) and low in calories (150) per jumbo slice, too!
The first time I made a meatless meatloaf of any kind was in my tiny, windowless, graduate school kitchen.
It was freezing outsde, I was missing home, and I needed dinner, Sadly, long days in the classroom and library, coupled with a tight student budget, meant my refrigerator and pantry pickings were limited to a short list of dried goods, the most basic of condiments, and a limp bouquet of carrots and celery.
But I had a recipe that fit the bill: a Lentil No-Meatloaf, saved months earlier from an internet search for cheap, healthy and meatless meals.
Dried lentils, carrots, celery, oats, and ketchup? Check, times, three! I didn’t have an onion, nor garlic, but I did have powdered forms of each. And while the recipe had 22 steps (22 steps!) I simmered, mixed and mounded my way through all of them.
The results were delectable. It should have lasted for days, but I think I ate a third of the loaf that first night.
The original recipe is long since gone, but today’s recipe is darn close. I’ve whittled the steps (22 was a bit much), but I’ve kept the ingredients humble.
I’ve also made the loaf grain-free and even higher in protein than the original, or other recipes I’ve comeacross (which use wheat and/or oats). Humility aside, this loaf is pretty great.
To make it, you’ll need to simmer cook some lentils to the point where they are falling apart, but not complete mush. You can use any variety of lentils (red, brown, green, split or whole), but it will take a bit longer to cook whole lentils. This time around, I used split red lentils. Here they are, cooked to the “beginning to fall apart” stage I indicate in the recipe.
I do not want the photo above to be misleading in that there should be leftover liquid in the pot when the lentils are finished cooking (I lifted them with a slotted spoon onto the plate). You will want to keep the liquid (do not drain).
While the lentils simmer away, go ahead and get the vegetables cooking. Specifically, chopped onions, carrots, celery and bell pepper (red or orange). I cook them in 1-1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, but you can use the oil you prefer. If you are trying to avoid oil, you can leave it out and steam or microwave the vegetables until soft.
Near the end of cooking, add the seasonings: rosemary, garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper.
Combine the vegetables and ALL of the lentils (plus remaining liquid) in a large bowl, and then transfer about 3/4 of the mixture to a food processor. Pulse until blended but not smooth. This step helps to hold the loaf together. Leaving a fraction of the lentil-vegetable mixture unblended gives the finished loaf a hearty, toothsome texture.
Add the processed lentil mixture back to the bowl with the remaining lentils mixture and stir in the flours (chickpea and coconut) and flaxseed meal. The batter should be somewhat stiff, but still plenty moist. If it is too dry or too wet, add a touch more water or coconut flour as needed.
Taste the mix and add more salt and pepper, or other seasonings, as desired.
Spoon the batter into the pan and smooth the top before slathering with either barbecue sauce or ketchup. The sauce o ketchup will caramelize as the loaf bakes, resulting in a deep, dark glaze.
After about 50 minutes in a 350F oven, you’ll have this gorgeous loaf:
This is so delicious on it’s own, minutes out of the oven, but leftovers (simply rewarmed, or as part of a sandwich) are every bit as good.
You can change out the seasoning, and even some of the vegetables (mushrooms are a fantastic addition) in all kinds of ways, too.
Happy eating, everyone!
- 1 cup dry lentils, (any variety), rinsed
- 3-1/4 cups water
- 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil (or oil of choice)
- 1 medium onion, chopped relatively fine
- 1 large carrot, chopped relatively fine
- 1 large celery stalk, chopped relatively fine
- ½ cup chopped orange or red bell pepper
- 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional, but so good!)
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt (more to taste, as needed)
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper (more to taste, as needed)
- ⅔ cup chickpea flour, sifted as needed
- ⅓ cup coconut flour
- 3 tablespoons flaxseed meal
- 3 tablespoons organic barbecue sauce or ketchup
- In a large saucepan, combine the water and rinsed lentils. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes until very soft and falling apart. Transfer the lentils and remaining liquid (do not drain!) to a large bowl to cool.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Oil or spray a 9x5-inch loaf pan; line with parchment paper, leaving a paper overhang.
- While the lentils cook, heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and bell pepper. Cook and stir for 6 to 7 minutes until softened. Add the rosemary, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Transfer to bowl with the lentils, stirring to combine.
- Transfer about ¾ of the cooled lentil-vegetable mixture to a food processor; pulse until blended but not completely smooth; return to bowl with remaining lentils and vegetables.
- Add the chickpea flour, coconut flour, and flaxseed meal to bowl, stirring until blended, The batter should be fairly stiff, but still quite moist. Taste and adjust salt & pepper as desired. Transfer mixture to the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Spoon and spread the sauce over the top.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes until well-browned and firm at the center.