This chickpea loaf is savory, hearty, filling, and comforting. It has a nice crust and soft interior that just melts in your mouth. The recipe is vegan (dairy-free, egg-free), grain-free (gluten-free), soy-free, and refined sugar-free.
Bean and nut loaves have taken centerstage as the plant-based entrée during the holidays.
It makes sense because the holiday season is about making things from scratch – rolling out doughs, decorating cookies, mulling cinnamon-spiced apple cider, slow-cooking… In our fast-paced world, everyone’s, understandably, looking for easy recipes that can be thrown together in minutes. But the holidays are different. They are about slowing down, spending time with family, and passing along food traditions.
A chickpea loaf is a process. It’s by no means difficult, but it does take some time to prepare. There’s chopping, stirring, sautéing, simmering, processing, baking… and if you decide to use dried chickpeas, then the process starts the day before. The result will be so worth it though!
To make this recipe, you’ll need a food processor. I use the Vitamix. The new Vitamix food processor is a game-changer. Using the standard blender base as the motor, all you have to do is swap the top blender container for a food processor attachment! If you’ve been thinking about buying a Vitamix blender, the holidays are a great time to take the leap:
Tips for Making Chickpea Loaf
The list of ingredients for this chickpea loaf isn’t short, but you likely have all of them on hand already:
- Chickpeas: this loaf is based on chickpeas. I prefer using dried chickpeas and cooking them from scratch, but buying canned chickpeas can really cut down on your cooking time.
- Walnuts: when you think of walnuts, you probably imagine a complex taste that’s mildly earthy and fruity. Walnuts work so well in this recipe because they bring out those wonderful fall and winter flavors. They also provide a textural variety in the chickpea loaf. Sunflower seeds are a great alternative for a nut-free chickpea loaf.
- Vegetables: I typically use the classic mirepoix of sautéed onions, carrots, and celery. Sometimes I swap the onions for leeks, add garlic, or throw in a bell pepper. You could also add mushrooms or even parsnips. The vegetables help the chickpea loaf retain moisture while contributing a lot of flavor.
- Chickpea flour: there’s no doubt that chickpea flour compliments the flavor profile of chickpeas very well. Chickpea flour also acts as an excellent binder. It helps absorb any excess moisture from the cooked chickpeas and vegetables and makes this loaf easy to slice. If you can’t find chickpea flour in the store, you can easily make your own. Simply grab some dried chickpeas and a Vitamix blender (or a spice grinder), and grind as much as you need.
- Flaxseed meal: another binder in this recipe is flaxseed meal. I typically use just flaxseed meal, but if you find the chickpea mixture rather dry, you can add a little bit of water to create a flax “egg”.
- Herbs: thyme, rosemary, and sage are classic herbs associated with holiday dishes. Herbs de Provence would be a good substitute.
- Tamari: you can use tamari or salt (or both). I prefer tamari in this recipe because it’s packed with rich umami flavor. A soy sauce would be a good alternative.
How to Make Chickpea Loaf
Though this isn’t a quick recipe, it’s actually very easy to prepare. Here’s a breakdown of the process:
- Soak the chickpeas. If you’re using dried chickpeas, soak them in cold water for 8-12 hours. To quick-soak, pour boiling hot water over the chickpeas and soak for ~ 1 hours. The chickpeas will triple in size.
- Cook the chickpeas. Drain the soaking water and rinse the chickpeas under cold running water. Add the chickpeas into a medium saucepan, cover them with water by several inches, and bring them to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the chickpeas are fully tender, 45-90 minutes (depending on the size/freshness of your chickpeas). Top with water as necessary to keep the chickpeas submerged at all times. Sample a chickpea at the 40-minute mark to see how tender the chickpeas are. You’re looking for a tender chickpea with a tiny bit of bite. Once cooked, drain the chickpeas.
- Sauté the vegetables. Before even sautéing the vegetables, make sure they are finely chopped. Too large of pieces can make the loaf fall apart. Then heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and sauté until the vegetables are slightly softened, 7-10 minutes. The aromas you get from raw vegetables are quite different from those you get from cooked vegetables. So, don’t skip the sautéing.
- Process all the ingredients. Add the walnuts into a food processor fitted with an S blade and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until just combined. The degree to which you process the ingredients is really important. If the chickpeas aren’t mashed enough, the chickpea loaf will fall apart. If they are mashed too much, the chickpea loaf will be too mushy, having a paste-like texture. Aim for having about three quarters of the chickpeas partially mashed.
- Season. Right before transferring the chickpea mixture into a loaf pan, taste it and season it accordingly. One of the most common problems of a vegan loaf is not using enough salt.
- Bake. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Transfer the chickpea mixture into a parchment paper-lined loaf pan and press it into an even layer. Brush the top with a little bit of oil to help the loaf retain moisture. Bake the chickpea loaf, uncovered, until golden brown on the edges and slightly dry to the touch, 35-45 minutes.
- Cool. Remove chickpea loaf from the oven and let it cool slightly, 10-15 minutes. Then gently remove from the pan. The more the loaf cools down, the firmer it gets. So, if you like a nice, firm chickpea loaf, consider making it in advance so it has time to sit.
How to Serve Chickpea Loaf
This vegan meatloaf pairs great with a variety of vegetable side dishes like mashed potatoes (this recipe is in my cookbook), steamed green beans, or roasted Brussels sprouts. All together it makes for a complete holiday meal.
To provide a nice contrast to the savory loaf, you can also whip up a simple sweet and sour glaze.
How to Store & Reheat Chickpea Loaf
- Refrigerating: allow the chickpea loaf to cool completely. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
- Freezing: allow the chickpea loaf to cool completely and slice into individual pieces. Transfer to an airtight, freezer-safe container, separating each slice with a piece of parchment paper (so the loaf slices don’t stick to each other as they freeze), and freeze for up to 3 months.
- Reheating: slice the loaf first (if it’s not sliced already). Then lay the individual slices on a bare baking sheet and reheat in a 350°F/177°C oven until warmed through (the time will vary depending on whether reheating from refrigerated or frozen).
More Vegan Meatloaf Recipes
If you’d like to make a holiday loaf with different legumes, I have two other recipes on the blog:
- Lentil loaf: this loaf is my go-to entrée for the holidays. It has a robust flavor and a hearty texture. It doesn’t fall apart, isn’t too mushy or too dry, and doesn’t lack textural variety.
- Bean loaf: this bean loaf is quite different from both the chickpea loaf and the lentil loaf – it calls for fresh fines herbs (rather than dried herbs) and uses oats (rather than chickpea flour or chickpea crumbs) as the main binder. It looks just as stunning at the center of a holiday table though.
If you try any of these recipes, please, leave a comment and rate the recipe below. It always means a lot when you do.
- 1 1/3 cups chickpeas , soaked*
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 yellow onion , chopped
- 3 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 carrot , chopped
- 3 stalks celery , chopped
- 1 cup walnuts
- 3 Tbsp. flaxseed meal
- 3/4 cup chickpea flour
- 2 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 tsp. dried rosemary
- 1/2 tsp. dried sage
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp. salt (or more to taste)
- Cook the chickpeas. Add the soaked chickpeas into a medium pot, cover with water by several inches, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, season with salt, and simmer, uncovered, until the chickpeas are fully tender, 45-90 minutes (depending on the size/freshness of your chickpeas). Top with water as necessary to keep the chickpeas submerged at all times. Sample a chickpeas at the 40-minute mark to see how tender the chickpeas are. You’re looking for a tender chickpea with a tiny bit of bite. Once cooked, drain the chickpeas.
- Sauté the vegetables. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add the carrot, celery, and soy sauce, and sauté until the vegetables begin to soften, 3-5 minutes.
- Preheat the oven. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven. Heat the oven to 375°F/190°C.
- Process all the chickpea loaf ingredients. Add the walnuts into the food processor fitted with an S blade and process until coarsely ground. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse to combine, pausing to scrape down the sides as necessary. Be careful not to purée.
- Season. Taste and adjust the flavor as needed, adding more salt for saltiness, thyme for an earthy flavor with lemony-minty undertones, rosemary for a woodsy flavor with aromas of lemon and pine, and sage for a minty flavor with lemony undertones.
- Bake. Transfer the chickpea mixture into a parchment-lined loaf pan, spread, and press into an even layer. Brush the top with a little bit of oil to help the loaf retain moisture. Bake the chickpea loaf, uncovered, until golden brown on the edges and slightly dry to the touch, 40-45 minutes.
- Cool. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly, 10-15 minutes. Then gently remove from the pan.
- Serve. Carefully cut the loaf into 12 even slices. Serve with a side of mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables.
- Store. Leftover chickpea loaf keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. For longer term storage, freeze sliced chickpea loaf in an air-tight container, separating each slice with a piece of parchment paper, for up to 3 months.
- Reheat. Slice the loaf first (if it’s not sliced already). Then lay the individual slices on a bare baking sheet and reheat in a 350°F/175°C oven until warmed through (the time will vary depending on whether reheating from refrigerated or frozen).
This post was created in partnership with Vitamix (a brand I’ve loved and used for years) and contains affiliate links. All thoughts and opinions are my own.