Coming up with a vegan meatloaf is a daunting task. Not only does it have to taste incredible, but it has to look stunning at the center of a holiday table as well. This bean loaf fulfills all that – it has a rich, deep flavor, a hearty texture, and looks absolutely gorgeous. The recipe is vegan (dairy-free, egg-free), gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free.
This bean loaf goes against several rules I have for a vegan meatloaf – it contains oats (which typically contribute to a mushy texture), it doesn’t have any mushrooms (which are a wonderful umami ingredient) and relies on fines herbs rather than the classic robust flavors of thyme, rosemary, and sage.
The bean loaf still turns out amazing though and here is why:
- Oats are a common filler in a lentil loaf. They give it a moist, tender texture without imparting any flavor. The problem is that oats also turn mushy when combined with wet ingredients (think oatmeal). The trick is to add ingredients that bring the texture back, such as seeds or crunchy vegetables.
- Why no mushrooms? Honestly, one of the main reasons is that I use mushrooms in a lot of similar recipes – a lentil loaf, veggie burgers, vegan meatballs … I wanted this recipe to be different and really accentuate the flavor of fines herbs.
- Fines herbs? If you’re hearing this term for the first time, fines herbs form a mainstay of French cuisine. These herbs comprise parsley, chives, tarragon, and chervil. But honestly, you can use whatever herb mix you like.
Tips for Making Vegan Meatloaf (Bean Loaf)
- Black beans: it wouldn’t be a bean loaf without beans. I opted for black beans, which are mild, soft, and creamy. They work in so many dishes because they don’t have an overwhelming flavor but rather take on flavor from the ingredients they are cooked with. A good alternative would be pinto beans.
- Sunflower seeds: nuts and seeds are a great way to bring texture to the bean loaf. I used sunflower seeds for a nut-free bean loaf, but walnuts or pecans are my favorite in vegan loaves, whether it’s a bean loaf, lentil loaf, chickpea loaf…
- Oats: rolled oats help set the vegan meatloaf as it bakes, contributing to a tender, less crumbly texture. Rolled oats are ideal, but instant (quick) oats work in a pinch.
- Flaxseed meal: the main binder in this loaf is flaxseed meal. It helps absorb any excess moisture from the cooked beans and vegetables and makes this loaf easy to slice.
- Vegetables: aromatics and other vegetables are perhaps the most important flavor component in this recipe. Without them, the vegan loaf would just taste like beans. My favorite are onions and garlic, celery, carrots, and/or red bell pepper.
- Herbs: one of my favorite herbs to use in any vegetarian meatloaf (bean loaf, lentil loaf, etc.) is thyme. It adds such a wonderful earthy flavor with lemony undertones. In addition to thyme, I also decided to use more delicate fines herbs – chives, parsley, and tarragon. You can use fresh or dried herbs. (Typically, 1 Tbsp. of fresh herbs equals 1 tsp. of dried herbs).
- Tamari: umami flavor is the one we’re always chasing in our cooking. Some of the umami-rich ingredients include mushrooms, miso paste, dashi, tamari and coconut aminos. Since this recipe contains no mushrooms, I used tamari.
- Salt: while tamari imparts a deep umami and salty flavor, it also adds moisture. So, it’s best to use a combination of tamari and salt.
How to Make Vegan Meatloaf
- Cook the beans. If you’re using dried beans, cook them to the point that they’re just done – still firm and not falling apart. This way, the beans add a creamy texture without turning mushy.
- Sauté the vegetables. Before even sautéing the vegetables, make sure they are finely chopped. Too large of pieces can make the loaf fall apart. The next important things are sautéing the vegetables – so they have a change to soften and condense their flavor – and adding tamari – to impart umami flavor.
- Process all the ingredients. Add ½ cup of the rolled oats into a food processor fitted with an S blade and process into flour. Add the sunflower seeds and pulse until the sunflower seeds are coarsely ground. Finally, add the rest of the ingredients and process until just combined. The degree to which you process the ingredients is really important. If the beans aren’t mashed enough, the bean loaf will fall apart. If they are mashed too much, the bean loaf will be too mushy, having a paste-like texture. Aim for having about three quarters of the beans partially mashed.
- Season. Right before transferring the bean 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 bean loaf 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 bean loaf, uncovered, until golden brown on the edges and slightly dry to the touch, 35-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly, 10-15 minutes. Then gently remove from the pan. The more the loaf cools down, the firmer it will get.
How to Serve Vegan Meatloaf
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 Bean Loaf
- Refrigerating: allow the vegan meatloaf to cool completely. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
- Freezing: allow the vegan meatloaf 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/175°C oven until warmed through (the time will vary depending on whether reheating from refrigerated or frozen).
More Vegan Meatloaf Recipes
This loaf is made with black beans. However, you can make vegan meatloaf with pretty much any legumes you like:
- 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.
- Chickpea loaf: while I don’t have a recipe for chickpea loaf on my blog (yet!), it is another popular variation.
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 black beans , soaked*
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 yellow onion , chopped
- 3 cloves garlic , minced
- 3 stalks celery , chopped
- 1 red bell pepper , chopped
- 1 cup sunflower seeds
- 1 cup rolled oats , divided
- 3 Tbsp. flaxseed meal
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves , chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh chives , chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves , chopped
- 2 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 Tbsp. tamari
- salt , to taste
- Cook the beans. Add the soaked beans 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 beans are fully tender, 45-90 minutes (depending on the size/freshness of your beans). Top with water as necessary to keep the beans submerged at all times. Sample a bean at the 40-minute mark to see how tender the beans are. You’re looking for a tender bean with a tiny bit of bite. Once cooked, drain the beans.
- 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 celery, bell pepper 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 bean loaf ingredients. Add ½ cup rolled oats into the food processor fitted with an S blade and process until finely ground. Add the sunflower seeds and pulse until the seeds are coarsely ground. Add the rest of the ingredients (including the remaining rolled oats) 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.
- Bake. Transfer the bean 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 lentil loaf, uncovered, until golden brown on the edges and slightly dry to the touch, 35-45 minutes. 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 bean loaf keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. For longer term storage, freeze sliced bean loaf in an air-tight container, separating each slice with a piece of parchment paper, and freeze 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).