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.

 
4.16 from 19 votes
Vegan Italian Meatloaf
Prep Time
25 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Cooling Time
10 mins
Total Time
1 hr 20 mins
 

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
Calories per Serving: 302 kcal
Ingredients
Lentils
  • 3/4 cup dry green lentils (to make 1.5 cups cooked lentils)
  • 1 1/4 cup vegetable broth
Flax Egg
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 2.5 tablespoon filtered water
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon 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 tablespoon fresh basil chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 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?)
Instructions
First, make the lentils:
  1. Rinse 3/4 cup (135 g) 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.

Meanwhile, start mixing the 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 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.

Prepare Meatloaf:
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C.

  2. In a large bowl, measure out 1.5 cups (288 g) of 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 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

Nutrition Facts
Vegan Italian Meatloaf
Amount Per Serving (2 slices)
Calories 302 Calories from Fat 63
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7g 11%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Sodium 982mg 41%
Potassium 650mg 19%
Total Carbohydrates 45g 15%
Dietary Fiber 13g 52%
Sugars 5g
Protein 14g 28%
Vitamin A 20.4%
Vitamin C 36.2%
Calcium 8.1%
Iron 25.3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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43 Comments

  1. Reply

    Kip

    April 18, 2017

    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!

    • Reply

      pasta-based

      April 20, 2017

      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 🙂

  2. Reply

    Laura

    May 10, 2017

    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.

  3. Reply

    Charles

    May 12, 2017

    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

    • Reply

      pasta-based

      May 12, 2017

      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!

  4. Reply

    Beth

    May 13, 2017

    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. 🙁

    • Reply

      pasta-based

      May 13, 2017

      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! 🙂

      • Reply

        Beth

        May 14, 2017

        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!

        • Reply

          pasta-based

          May 15, 2017

          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! 🙂

  5. Reply

    Lisa Williams

    May 18, 2017

    What brand of cheese!?!?

  6. Reply

    Megan

    May 23, 2017

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

    • Reply

      pasta-based

      May 23, 2017

      Hi Megan,

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

  7. Reply

    Susan

    May 23, 2017

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

    • Reply

      pasta-based

      May 23, 2017

      Hi Susan,

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

  8. Reply

    Robbi

    May 25, 2017

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

    • Reply

      pasta-based

      May 25, 2017

      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.

      http://www.pastabased.com/easy-vegan-tomato-sauce/

      Thanks for checking us out!

  9. Reply

    Sylv

    May 28, 2017

    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

    • Reply

      Sylv

      May 28, 2017

      Also use Barilla Plus pasta to increase protein !

    • Reply

      pasta-based

      May 28, 2017

      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!

    • Reply

      Marianne

      May 31, 2017

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

  10. Reply

    Marianne

    May 31, 2017

    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! ?

    • Reply

      pasta-based

      June 1, 2017

      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!

  11. Reply

    Tara

    June 29, 2017

    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!

    • Reply

      pasta-based

      July 3, 2017

      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 🙂

  12. Reply

    Maria

    July 23, 2017

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

    • Reply

      pasta-based

      July 24, 2017

      Thanks, Maria! So glad you loved it.

  13. Reply

    Marsha Farmer

    July 31, 2017

    This is a tasty vegan recipe.

  14. Reply

    Amy Mcgraw

    August 15, 2017

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

    • Reply

      pasta-based

      August 15, 2017

      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.

  15. Reply

    Sandra

    November 20, 2017

    Do you think this would taste good with chickpeas instead of lentils? I don’t love lentils

    • Reply

      pasta-based

      November 20, 2017

      Hi Sandra! I haven’t tried that before, the lentils give it that good mushy texture but smashed up chickpeas might work out just fine. You can always add a little more tomato sauce if it’s not holding together well enough.

  16. Reply

    Emily

    November 22, 2017

    Would this be okay to make the night before and store it in the fridge? I can’t wait to try it, looks amazing!

    • Reply

      pasta-based

      November 25, 2017

      Hi Emily,

      Definitely – let us know if you like it!

  17. Reply

    Brittany Roche

    January 24, 2018

    We LOVED this recipe and will definitely be making it again! It really firms up if you let it cool long enough (which was tough for us because it looks and smells SO GOOD). The flavor is incredible. We used the cheese recipe linked which was awesome too; we made it first and placed it in the fridge to cool completely which made it easier to stuff the loaf. HEAVEN!

    • Reply

      pasta-based

      January 30, 2018

      Thank you, Brittany! So glad you guys liked it!

  18. Reply

    Sarah

    March 14, 2018

    Hello! I made this on Sunday to take in my lunches this week… It smelled so good that my dad wanted to have some with our dinner. We loved it! My mom made a sandwich with it on Tuesday and she loved it, too. I used panko style Italian bread crumbs and some broken up vegan provolone slices. I took the last piece in my lunch today with some cous cous and kale I made with the left over veggies… I can’t wait to make another loaf and cruise through more of your recipes! Thank you!

    • Reply

      pasta-based

      March 15, 2018

      Happy to hear you liked the meatloaf, Sarah! It’s one of my favorite recipes on the blog. You might like our lentil meatballs or cauliflower walnut bolognese sauce, too. Cheers!

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