Best Vegan Meatloaf

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When we are going to a family gathering and need to take a dish or two, this homestyle Vegan Meatloaf is always my first go-to. During the holidays, you can bet it will be on the menu.

vegan meatloaf and dairy-free mashed potatoes and brown gravy on a plate with casserole dish in background.

There’s just nothing more comforting than delicious savory vegan meatloaf served with creamy mashed potatoes and either Brown Vegan Gravy or Golden Vegan Gravy. At my house, it doesn’t have to be a holiday or a special occasion.

This meatless loaf recipe was shared on T. Colin Campbell’s Center for Nutrition Studies website as well.

Variations of vegan meatloaf

There are many different versions and variations of vegan meatloaf. One of the most popular is probably a lentil loaf, which I like. However, lentil loaves never achieve the texture that reminds me of the meatloaf my mom used to make when I was a kid.

That’s why I absolutely LOVE this homemade vegan meatloaf that reminds me of my childhood, especially when it’s paired with mashed potatoes and gravy. A couple of the secret ingredients are bulgur and crushed walnuts.

vegan meatloaf stacked on crumpled up brown paper bag on wooden background

Ingredients list

  • Grain- I use bulgur wheat as a binder and meat replacer. Other options include brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat groats.
  • Bread crumbs- Crumbled bread works best.
  • Oats- These work as a binder.
  • Tomatoes- Fire-roasted tomatoes add a ton of flavor.
  • Veggies- Onion, garlic, celery, carrots, and bell pepper.
  • Walnuts- These are optional but add a great texture.
  • Spices- Soy sauce, Dijon thyme, sage, salt, pepper

The recipe card at the bottom of the page has the full list of ingredients with measurements and instructions.

How to make vegan meatloaf

This vegan loaf is very easy to make and can be ready to put in the oven in only about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking dish with parchment paper or a deeper loaf pan. I like to use something like this 12 x 8 glass baking pan.

Cook bulgur according to package directions. It cooks on the stove or in a rice cooker in about 15 minutes. I really like to batch-cook bulgur in my rice cooker and freeze it for use in other recipes like this, spaghetti, vegetable lasagna, and vegan nachos.

cooked bulgur in pan on wooden table

Though it calls for bulgur, a number of people have told me that they’ve subbed with buckwheat groats, quinoa, brown rice, and barley and it still comes out good.

Dice the veggies–onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper, carrots, and walnuts. One tip here is that a blender or food processor makes it easy to make bread crumbs. It’s also great for chopping walnuts.

diced vegetables on cutting board

I am often asked which knives I use personally, and I have to say that it is Victorinox. They are the same company that makes Swiss Army Knives and the quality is excellent.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl (including the fully cooked bulgur). Mix with a spoon, or do as I do, and use your hands to mix thoroughly.

oats, breadcrumbs, bulgur, and veggies in stainless bowl

Press into the prepared baking dish. Poke holes all over the top with a finger then spread a thin layer of ketchup over the top with a spatula.

If you would like to make your own ketchup for this recipe, check out my 10-Minute Vegan Ketchup recipe.

I suggest using a baking pan rather than a loaf pan that is deeper so this will firm up nicely for you.

vegan meatloaf in pan on white background

Bake for 60 minutes. I broil mine for the last 5 minutes, just to get that browned top.

InstantPot Cooking Instructions

Add 1-1/2 cups of water. Cook in a springform pan and place it on a trivet. Set to Manual High for 25 minutes. Instructions from follower Pamela Hawkins who used a 6-quart IP.

Tips and substitutions

  • A blender or food processor makes it easy to make bread crumbs. It’s also great for chopping walnuts.
  • I save old loaf bread ends and freeze them for making breadcrumbs for this vegan meatloaf.
  • The bulgur can be soaked in warm water for 30+ minutes and not cooked if you prefer.
  • Though it calls for bulgur, a number of people have told me that they’ve subbed with buckwheat groats, quinoa, brown rice, and barley and it still comes out good.
  • For mixing these ingredients, I love using my hands and kneading. That’s how I used to make the traditional meatloaf and how I still like to do it.
  • I suggest using a baking pan rather than a loaf pan that is deeper so this will firm up nicely for you. I like to use something like this 12 x 8 glass baking pan.
  • I highly recommend making the recipe exactly as listed the first time. If you prefer to tweak it later, do that on the next batch.

Serving suggestions

This vegan meatloaf recipe also pairs well with a number of side dishes like these.

brown gravy being poured over mashed potatoes close up

Originally published October 2014

This recipe is absolutely delicious! It is adapted from Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes.

This same basic recipe is what is used to make my Vegan Meatballs recipe that is fabulous served with homemade oil-free marinara and pasta. Another variation of the meatballs is to coat them with BBQ sauce and serve as an appetizer.

Your questions answered:

  • Q: Can tomato paste be used in place of ketchup? It sure can! However, it won’t be as flavorful as ketchup, especially for the topping, in my opinion.
  • Q: Can I use gluten-free bread crumbs? Absolutely! Gluten-free bread crumbs will work just fine.
  • Q: Can I prep this in a loaf pan and then cook it the next day? Yes, prepping ahead is actually a great idea.
  • Q: Is vegan meatloaf freezable? Yes, freezing this meatless loaf is a great idea. I like to make a double batch so we can eat one immediately and freeze one for later.
vegan meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy on silver plate

We love this vegan meatloaf because it’s…

  • Firm & not mushy
  • Makes a great main dish
  • Savory
  • Bursting with flavor
  • Hearty
  • Affordable
  • Delicious

More vegan main dishes

For those of you new to the whole food plant-based lifestyle, we’ve created a FREE 7-Day Plant-Based Menu Planner to help you get started!

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vegan meatloaf on silver plate with mashed potatoes and gravy
4.38 from 129 votes

Vegan Meat Loaf

When we are going to a family gathering and need to take a dish or two, this Vegan Meat Loaf is always my first go-to. On Thanksgiving and Christmas, you can bet it will be on the menu.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups cooked Bulgur
  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat bread crumbs about 2-3 slices of bread
  • 1-1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup fire-roasted tomatoes with juice (fire-roasted diced tomatoes add a lot of flavor)
  • 1/2 cup small onion diced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 celery sticks diced
  • 3/4 cup carrots diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper diced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • sea salt to your taste
  • 1/2 cup ketchup plus enough to top the loaf with before baking

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking dish with parchment paper. I like to use something like this 12 x 8 glass baking pan.
  • Cook bulgur according to package directions. Cooks on the stove or in a rice cooker in about 15-minutes.
  • Dice the veggies--onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper, carrots, and walnuts.
  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl (including the fully-cooked bulgur). Mix with a spoon, or do like I do and use your hands to mix thoroughly.
  • Press into prepared dish. Poke holes all over the top with a finger, then spread a thin layer of ketchup over the top with a spatula.
  • Bake for 60 minutes. I broil mine for the last 5 minutes, just to get that browned top.
  • Helpful Hint– a blender or food processor makes it easy to make bread crumbs. Also great chopping walnuts.

Video

Notes

Tips & Substitutions
  1. A blender or food processor makes it easy to make bread crumbs. It's also great for chopping the walnuts.
  2. I save old loaf bread ends and freeze them for making this vegan meatloaf.
  3. The bulgur can be soaked in warm water for 30+ minutes and not cooked if you prefer.
  4. Though it calls for bulgur, a number of people have told me that they've subbed with buckwheat groats, quinoa, brown rice, and barley and it still comes out good.
  5. For mixing these ingredients, I love using my hands and kneading. That's how I used to make the traditional meatloaf and how I still like to do it.
  6. I suggest using a baking pan rather than a loaf pan that is deeper so this will firm up nicely for you. I like to use something like this 12 x 8 glass baking pan
  7. I highly recommend making the recipe exactly as listed the first time. If you prefer to tweak it later, do that on the next batch.

Nutrition

Calories: 226kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 5g | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 11g

Disclaimer

To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.

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About Terri Edwards

Hi guys! I am the content creator behind EatPlant-Based and a licensed Food for Life instructor with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. I am passionate about sharing healthy recipes and tips to empower others to get healthy.  I’m so glad you’re here! Read More…

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146 Comments

  1. I fixing this meatloaf for our upcoming Food As Medicine – McDowell. We’ve finally started our potlucks again and your site is my go to for recipes!

  2. This is my fave neatloaf recipe ever! I’ve made it numerous times in the past. Here’s my issue. I am away visiting friends across the country and cannot find bulgur anywhere here. I will be making this tonight for dinner for them and the closest thing I could find to bulgur is couscous so bought that (my friend hates quinoa). Do you think this is a good enough substitute?

    1. Hi Deb- I’m so glad to hear that you love this no-meat loaf recipe! I think couscous would be worth a try. The only thing is that it’s pasta instead of grain, but that might not even matter. Another great option to try if you have it on hand is brown rice. Either way, I think it will still turn out just fine. Good luck and enjoy the time with your friends!

  3. We just had this for dinner and it is a hit! I will be making this over and over. The only tweak I might make is to try to make a firmer loaf…it was a little crumbly. I wouldn’t change anything else as the flavors were so good and the ketchup on top brings me back to Mom’s meatloaf I grew up with, really tasty! Thank you so much for this recipe!

  4. Love this recipe!
    I changed bulgur to quinoa, added a couple tablespoons of nutritional yeast, 3/4 cup chopped mushrooms, chopped 3 big leaves of kale. Made bread crumbs from Dave’s organic bread. Worked it real good with my hands.
    Definitely will make again. Froze a couple slices to see how it does. Thinking might make meatballs and freeze individually on baking sheet then bagged.
    Love this website! Thanks!

  5. Hi there so excited going to make this today! Wondering if I can sub in gluten free oats and 1 cup brown rice or 2 cups of brown rice and no oats what would work best? I cannot have bulgar

    1. Hi Melody- I would think that substituting the brown rice for the bulgur in the same measurement (2 cups cooked) would work just fine. The texture will be different of course, the be flavor should still be great. Good luck!

  6. We love this recipe as no-meat balls but I’m wondering if it can be made with the same cooking time in loaf pans instead of a 9×13 pan? Also, would one recipe fit into a loaf pan or should 2 pans be used?

    1. Hi Deborah- I’m so glad you love the recipe made into vegan meatballs! I am confident you could use two loaf pans to make it, but you’ll likely need to increase the cooking time by about 5-10 minutes. It won’t be as firm since the loaf pans are deeper than a baking dish, but it should still taste delicious.

  7. I don’t understand where the cholesterol could come from? There is nothing animal or dairy here.

    1. Hi Patty- You are correct, there is no cholesterol at all in this recipe. The numbers in the nutritional information card are pretty close together and sometimes look like they are part of the category beside them.

  8. This looks like just the recipe I’ve been looking for! I’ve done one lentil oaf and couldn’t get the texture quite right, so I’m glad you mentioned that difference. (I gave up on loaf-making.) I’m ordering the Bob’s Red Mill Bulgur today. One question: For the breadcrumbs, the only bread I’ve been using for a while now is Ezekiel, and I’m never sure that it’s the best for breadcrumbs because with all the seeds and no flour, it might not absorb/bind? So I’m hoping you might have a thought about Ezekiel bread for crumbs. I don’t mind buying another type of bread in this case. Thanks a lot. And I’ll definitely come back and comment on the loaf when it’s done. 🙂

    1. Hi Sunny- I’ve actually used Ezekiel bread for the breadcrumbs many times, and it works great. I do hope you’ll love this recipe and can’t wait to hear what you think!

  9. Having tried half a dozen loaf recipes, I was a bit skeptical that I could find one that satisfied — but this was easily the best version! Despite my leaving the oats out (I don’t care for them in a loaf) it still held together well and had great flavor. Definitely the go-to loaf now! Thanks, Terri.

  10. Hi Terri! I can’t wait to make this over the weekend. I am wondering if the bread crumbs are fresh or dried. Thanks!

  11. LOVE this recipe! I’m making it for a second time with some of my own ingredient tweeks and I pulsed everything in my Nutribullet blender to change the texture a bit. Thanks for a wonderful recipe!

  12. Seems pretty carby compared to other veggie loaf recipes. Why not use some soaked ground nuts and garbanzo flour in place of the bread?

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