Yes! One of my fave things to do in the world: take a somewhat “unhealthy” Italian favorite and give it a complete makeover. Last week it was stuffed shells, today it’s meatloaf.
Honestly, I’ve never been a huge fan of meatloaf. It’s probably because I wasn’t really exposed to it as a kid; if my mom was making something with ground meat you better believe it was meatballs. And plus, the name just throws me off a little bit.
And yet, when I made my healthy spin on this classic dish, a vegetarian quinoa meatloaf, I loved it. In fact, I was genuinely surprised how much I enjoyed it. Normally I’m not big into leftovers, especially after I’ve spent a long day testing the recipe, but this was pure gold. I had it for lunch and dinner the next two days.
Now I know some people might be a little put off by the sounds of this recipe. Meatloaf without the meat? Is it going to be any good?
Of course, I would never share anything that wasn’t delicious 😉 BUT this lentil loaf surprisingly has a very meat-like texture. The combination of lentils, mushrooms, walnuts and quinoa make it tender and juice, but it still has structure so it’s not just a slice of soggy mush.
I’ve found that when you’re thinking about recreating a meat-based dish into something that’s vegetarian and vegan friendly, you really want to start with ingredients that have a meat-like quality. Things like mushrooms, lentils and nuts can all do this, especially when you’re going for a ground meat consistency.
As I was thinking about this quinoa meatloaf, my main goal was to get the texture right, but I also wanted to make sure I could jam in as many nutrients as possible. Luckily, when you have a plant-based meal like this, it kind of naturally just happens. This loaf is packed with protein, fiber and healthy fats, doesn’t use any oils or refined sugars AND it’s topped with a dreamy tomato glaze that’s way tastier than the traditional ketchup ones.
When they’re all ground together, along with quinoa and a few other ingredients, the texture really does come out like meat. It’s tender, juicy and flavorful, is still packed with protein and healthy fats, and yet does’t have any animal products. Win-win in my book.
I mean just look…aren’t plants amazing? Vegan meatloaf that looks like real meatloaf. It’s incredible what you can do with them!
For this recipe, we start with a sauteed medley of carrots, mushrooms, shallots and garlic which helps to elevate the flavor of the entire loaf. If we were to just add the veggies in raw, we would miss out on the smokiness they get from being cooked together on high heat.
After the veggies, comes the lentils which bring a nice earthy, especially when paired with the buttery walnuts. The walnuts, quinoa and oats also help give the loaf a little crunch. Remember…we’re avoiding sogginess at all costs here, so the crunch was more than welcome.
Then I have the classic addition of tomato and Italian spices, as well as a little nutritional yeast which gives just a hint of cheesiness (with the actual cheese of course).
So whether you’re looking for a meatless meal or just want to change up your normal routine, this protein-packed quinoa meatloaf is definitely a recipe you need to add to your list. It’s super easy to make, freezes well and makes for awesome lunch leftovers.
And also, since we’re celebrating National Nutrition Month, this recipe includes FIVE of my 10 best ingredients list:
- nutritional yeast
- flaxseed meal
Pretty great, don’t ya think!?
Have you experimented with turning any meat-based meals meatless? I’d love to hear what your favorite tips and tricks are in the comments below! And if you end up making this recipe, I’d love for you to snap a pic and tag @simplyquinoa on Instagram OR send me a snap (@alyssarimmer)! LOVE seeing your creations 🙂
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 1 cup chopped mushrooms
- ¼ cup diced shallot
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1½ cups cooked lentils, separated (from about ½ cup dry)
- ½ cup walnuts
- ¾ cup cooked quinoa
- ½ cup oats
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons gluten-free tamari (low-sodium preferred)
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
- 1 teaspoon miso paste
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (oregano, parsley, basil, thyme)
- Salt + pepper to taste
- for the glaze:
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon ground mustard
- ½ teaspoon gluten-free tamari
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a 9x5 loaf pan with parchment and set aside.
- In a large skillet, sauté the carrots, mushrooms, shallot and garlic until carrots are tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to the bowl of a food processor.
- To the processor add remaining ingredients, reserving ½ cup lentils, and process until a dough starts to form. Pulse in remaining lentils.
- Transfer dough to the prepared loaf pan, pressing it down with a wooden spoon or spatula. Smooth the top and prepare the glaze.
- Whisk all glaze ingredients together then pour over the loaf. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove and bake uncovered for another 5.
- Remove loaf from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Remaining slices can be frozen or kept in the fridge for 2 - 3 days.
New to cooking quinoa? Grab your FREE Quinoa Starter Guide!
Become part of the Simply Quinoa community and receive weekly emails with exclusive content that I only share in email, as well as my in-depth guide to starting your quinoa journey.
Want more quinoa dinner recipes?
Follow my board on Pinterest!