Vegan Italian Meatloaf

Vegan Italian Meatloaf with Mozzarella Cheese

I’m running to catch the train this morning… again. I’m not usually prompt, my friends can surely attest to that. Growing up, I lived a quarter of a mile from my high school and yet I was late every single morning. I remember my locker being right outside the door to my first period class, frantically turning the lock to get my books before the second bell. My teacher would do this thing where she’d lock the door and make all the latecomers stand in the hallway until after she took attendance. Sorry teach, that never taught me anything. I’m still running late.


Vegan Italian Meatloaf made with Mushrooms and Lentils

I jumped on the 7:54am train today. The train operator saw me running and kindly opened the doors for me, a rarity. I’ll probably get into work right on time, around 8:30am… but also depending on if I grab a coffee or not… which I probably will. There was a running joke we had in college about someone who shows up late with an iced coffee in hand – it doesn’t look good but I don’t worry too much about it.

Vegan Italian Meatloaf with Sauce and Mozzarella Cheese

I’ve been like this forever. I’ll look at the clock and say something like, “Great! I have fifteen minutes before I need to leave, plenty of time!” and next thing you know, like I’m in some kind of time vortex, I’m leaving five minutes after I should. It’s inevitable.

Vegan Italian Meatloaf

It could be hereditary, this tendency for lateness. In high school, I remember standing outside after volleyball practice waiting for my mom to pick me up. (My mom wouldn’t let me walk the quarter mile home once the sun went down, overprotective much?) People knew how close I lived and would offer rides and I would say, “Oh it’s okay, my mom’s on her way.”

Vegan Italian Meatloaf with Sauce and Stretchy Vegan Mozzarella

When she finally arrived, I would play this game where I’d guess what she was making for dinner based on the way the car smelled. Most days I was right. It’s like I could almost taste the peppers and onions or the spaghetti sauce. One of my favorites was a simple, traditional Italian meatloaf. Basically a huge meatball with cheese stuffed in the middle. Served up with roasted potatoes or sometimes with a side of rice, that meatloaf was the perfect homecooked meal before heading off to “do my homework.”  I put that in quotes because most days I went straight on the computer and logged onto AIM  (screenname Machopink14 – why? randomly thought it was funny, no explanation behind that, I was just a real jokester ha!)

Vegan Italian Meatloaf made with Lentils and Mushrooms

Which leads me to this recipe. A homecooked vegan Italian meatloaf that brings me back to the good parts of my high school days. An Italian meatloaf cooked with mushy love and a cheesy center – then smothered in red sauce, of course. I really wanted to get this recipe right. To be honest, nothing can replicate fatty ground beef but that’s not what I was looking to do. I wanted to create something healthier but still hearty and flavorful.

Vegan Italian Meatloaf made with Lentils Mushrooms and stuffed with Vegan Mozzarella

After much thought, I made this Vegan Italian Meatloaf with brown lentils for the bulk and mushrooms for the savoriness. Then I smushed some melty, stretchy vegan mozzarella cheese in the center before popping in the oven to get extra crispy around the edges. The result – an Italian meatloaf that smelled just like I remembered.

4.67 from 9 votes
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Vegan Italian Meatloaf

Traditional vegan Italian meatloaf made with mushrooms and lentils. Stuffed with melty, stretchy vegan mozzarella and smothered in tomato sauce.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4 servings
  • 3/4 cup dry green lentils (to make 1.5 cups cooked lentils)
  • 1 1/4 cup vegetable broth
Flax Egg
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 2.5 tbsp filtered water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped cremini mushrooms (also called baby bella)
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper finely diced
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil chopped
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs (vegan)
  • 3/4 cup tomato sauce (plus some extra for the outside of the loaf)
  • 1/4 cup vegan mozzarella cheese (or more because why not?)
  1. Rinse 3/4 cup dry green/brown lentils and place into a medium-sized pot with vegetable broth.

  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer until double in size or the broth is mostly gone - about 20-25 minutes. Make sure to follow instructions on the package, as each brand may differ a little.  You want them cooked but still on the firmer side.  Drain remaining vegetable broth and let cool.

Flax Egg
  1. Combine 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 2.5 tablespoons water. Let sit to thicken for at least 10 minutes.

Sauté Vegetables
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet on medium-heat. Add chopped onion, mushrooms, basil; minced garlic; diced pepper and salt + pepper. Sauté until soft. Let cool.

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.

  2. In a large bowl, measure out 1.5 cups of the cooked lentils. Add sautéed vegetables, flax egg, Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, and tomato sauce. Using a large spoon, mix until combined.

  3. Add 3/4 of the mixture into a food processor and process until all ingredients are combined.  Add that back to the bowl with the unprocessed mixture and combine a last time.

  4. Pour mixture onto a well-greased baking sheet and use a spatula to shape into a loaf. Separate a well in the middle to add vegan mozzarella. Then, smooth the loaf mixture over the mozzarella so that it's not peeking through in any areas.

  5. Cover the top of the loaf with extra tomato sauce. Bake at 375F for 45 minutes.

  6. IMPORTANT:  Let sit for 10 minutes to cool slightly before slicing. This will allow the loaf to firm up a little bit so it's easier to cut.

Recipe Notes
We baked our meatloaf uncovered for 45 minutes but feel free to experiment and bake longer if you'd like the outside edges to be a little more crispy. You can use your favorite tomato sauce for this recipe. Here's a tomato sauce recipe that we love.

You can use any vegan mozzarella cheese you like but here's an easy one that we love!

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  • Kip

    hahaha! You sound like me. I’ve been accused of doing it on purpose sometimes, but it’s just programmed into me to always just miss the train, the start of something, be five minutes late. And I don’t really care anymore because it’s not as if I’ll ever have my crap together. Anyway, I found you during an Instagram wormhole today and liked the site but forgot to take note of it (of course) but then randomly it popped up in my Pinterest feed too. So hopefully I’ll remember it now! Gorgeous pictures and nice looking recipes!

    April 18, 2017 at 3:30 pm Reply
    • pasta-based

      Hahaha yes!! No matter what I do, late to everything – whatever!! YAY for finding the site again and thank you for the kind words. Hope you have a chance to try one of the recipes sometime 🙂

      April 20, 2017 at 7:02 pm Reply
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  • Laura

    Oh my god! We had the same childhood. My dad took me to school late and my mom picked me up late. I’m still always running late. 🙂 sounds delicious I can’t wait to try it.

    May 10, 2017 at 5:59 am Reply
  • Charles

    Sorry, am I missing something. How can you measure out 1.5 of the cooked lentils if you’ve only cooked 3/4 of a cup? This looks great and I want to try it! Thanks

    May 12, 2017 at 2:14 am Reply
    • pasta-based

      Hi Charles!

      Yes, they do expand quite a bit. Usually at least double in size, so 3/4 cup dry should get you at least 1.5 cups cooked. Enjoy!

      May 12, 2017 at 9:19 am Reply
  • Beth

    Hi, not quite sure what I did wrong because I followed the recipe exactly, but my loaf never firmed up. It stayed quite mushy. I even left it in for another 15 minutes but it didn’t help. It tasted very good, so we ate it, but would have been nice had it been less mush. 🙁

    May 13, 2017 at 4:32 pm Reply
    • pasta-based

      Hi Beth!

      I’m not sure why that would happen. Did you use red lentils or gluten-free breadcrumbs? We’ve made this many times following this exact recipe and it’s always firm enough to cut once it cools for 10 minutes! The only other thing I can think of is the lentils were cooked too long possibly.

      Thank you for trying and I hope you will give it another shot! 🙂

      May 13, 2017 at 11:27 pm Reply
      • Beth

        Hi! I used green lentils and regular bread crumbs, but I do think the lentils may have cooked too long because some were slightly mushy.
        It firmed up rather nicely when it was cold after being in the fridge overnight and it was delicious sliced cold on sandwiches!! I’ll give it another go because the flavor is incredible! My non vegan hubby who doesn’t really care for lentils even liked it!

        May 14, 2017 at 9:34 pm Reply
        • pasta-based

          Hi again! That’s great to hear! A shorter cook time on the lentils should greatly help the form.

          So glad you’re going to make it again – happy cooking! 🙂

          May 15, 2017 at 10:18 pm Reply
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    What brand of cheese!?!?

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  • Megan

    Fantastic! Was really craving some comfort food and this completely hit the spot! Thanks so much for the recipe!

    May 23, 2017 at 9:16 am Reply
    • pasta-based

      Hi Megan,

      You are very welcome! So glad you enjoyed it and we hope to see you back 🙂

      May 23, 2017 at 9:21 am Reply
  • Susan

    Hi, great website! I found you from Everything vegan FB group. Can’t wait to try some of your recipes!

    May 23, 2017 at 1:37 pm Reply
    • pasta-based

      Hi Susan,

      Thank you! We hope that you love everything you try and come back for more 🙂

      May 23, 2017 at 1:52 pm Reply
  • Robbi

    What kind of tomato sauce? Just a can of regular tomato sauce…. nothing fancy?

    May 25, 2017 at 10:40 am Reply
    • pasta-based

      Hi Robbi,

      Correct – any tomato sauce you prefer will work perfectly. We have an easy recipe for marinara sauce on here as well you can check out if you’re interested.

      Thanks for checking us out!

      May 25, 2017 at 10:47 am Reply
  • Sylv

    Could you sub TVP instead of bread crumbs to increase the protein? As a timesaver, I use a loaf pan and cut in one inch slices for entrees or sandwiches aI defrost them I also can cut into square meatballs to heat in marinara sauce an

    May 28, 2017 at 2:01 am Reply
    • Sylv

      Also use Barilla Plus pasta to increase protein !

      May 28, 2017 at 2:05 am Reply
    • pasta-based

      Hi Sylv!

      I’m really not sure about the TVP, as we have not experimented with it quite yet. The loaf pan is a great idea and sandwiches or meatballs are also not discouraged 😉 Let us know if you try the TVP method, as we’d love to hear how it turns out!

      May 28, 2017 at 9:12 pm Reply
    • Marianne

      Oh,that sounds good! Will try making meatballs with this recipe! Thanks for the suggestion!

      May 31, 2017 at 6:53 pm Reply
  • Marianne

    Wow..,this was SO tasty!! I didn’t use “cheese” and I put it in a 9″ X 5″ loaf pan (well greased) because it didn’t look like it would hold together for a “freeform” loaf. It tastes like my mother’s meatloaf (without the meat)…the texture is awesome,the flavor is so yummy…I’m going to make this for my next Grange meeting and see if the ladies can tell that it’s vegan!! Shhh! Don’t give it away! ?

    May 31, 2017 at 6:51 pm Reply
    • pasta-based

      Hi Marianne,

      You are too funny! Glad it worked out in the loaf pan for you and that you loved it! I hope you fool them and they are impressed with your cooking 😀

      Thank you for trying it!

      June 1, 2017 at 4:21 pm Reply
  • Tara

    Hi, I’m wondering if you can substitute the flax seed with something else or where can I buy ground flaxseed from easily? Thanks, looking forward to cooking this with my mum!

    June 29, 2017 at 7:16 pm Reply
    • pasta-based

      Hi Tara,

      Chia seeds have a similar effect and can be used as an egg substitute, and you don’t have to grind them! We’ve been able to find ground flax seeds at most stores around us like Whole Foods or Natural Grocers. You can also order flax online 🙂

      July 3, 2017 at 2:37 pm Reply
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  • Maria

    This came out just perfect! This is now on my favorite comfort food list! Thank you 🙂

    July 23, 2017 at 7:05 am Reply
    • pasta-based

      Thanks, Maria! So glad you loved it.

      July 24, 2017 at 6:53 pm Reply
  • Marsha Farmer

    This is a tasty vegan recipe.

    July 31, 2017 at 10:17 am Reply
  • Amy Mcgraw

    has anyone used panko in this recipe i can’t seem to find any vegan breadcrumbs

    August 15, 2017 at 5:16 am Reply
    • pasta-based

      I haven’t tried it but panko would probably work fine. Although, I would add a few more Italian seasonings to it such as garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano and dried basil.

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