A Better, Simpler Lentil Loaf
The first time I made a meatless meatloaf of any kind was in my tiny, windowless, graduate school kitchen.
It was freezing outside, I was missing home, and I needed dinner, Sadly, long days in the classroom and library, coupled with a tight student budget, meant my refrigerator and pantry pickings were limited to a short list of dried goods, the most basic of condiments, and a limp bouquet of carrots and celery.
But I had a recipe that fit the bill: a Lentil No-Meatloaf, saved months earlier from an internet search for cheap, healthy and meatless meals.
Dried lentils, carrots, celery, oats, and ketchup? Check, times, three! I didn’t have an onion, nor garlic, but I did have powdered forms of each. The recipe had 22 steps (22 steps!), but I whittled them to far fewer as I cooked.
The results were delectable. It should have lasted for days, but I think I ate a third of the loaf that first night.
A Lentil Loaf with More Protein and No Grains
The original recipe I comprised is long since gone, but today’s recipe is darn close. I’ve whittled the steps (22 was a bit much), but I’ve kept the ingredients humble.
I’ve also made the loaf grain-free and even higher in protein than the original, or other recipes I’ve come across (which use wheat and/or oats). Humility aside, this loaf is pretty darn great.
How to Make a Grain-Free Lentil Loaf
Sep 1: Cook the lentils
To make this modest loaf, you’ll need to cook some lentils to the point where they are falling apart, but not complete mush.
You can use any variety of lentils (red, brown, green, split or whole), but it will take a bit longer to cook whole lentils (vs. split). This time around, I used split red lentils. Here they are, cooked to the “beginning to fall apart” stage I indicate in the recipe.
I do not want the photo above to be misleading in that there should be leftover liquid in the pot when the lentils are finished cooking (I lifted them with a slotted spoon onto the plate). You will want to keep the liquid (do not drain).
Step 2: Cook the vegetables
While the lentils simmer away, go ahead and get the vegetables cooking.
Specifically, sauté chopped onions, carrots, celery and bell pepper (red or orange) in 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil (or use the oil you prefer). If you do not eat oil, leave it out and steam or microwave the vegetables until soft.
Near the end of cooking, add the seasonings: rosemary, garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper.
Step 3: Chop some of the ingredients in a food processor
More finely chopping a majority of the lentil-vegetable mixture helps to hold the loaf together. Leaving a fraction of the lentil-vegetable mixture unblended gives the finished loaf a hearty, toothsome texture.
Add the processed lentil mixture back to the bowl with the remaining lentils mixture and stir in the flours (chickpea and coconut) and flaxseed meal. The batter should be somewhat stiff, but still plenty moist. If it is too dry or too wet, add a touch more water or coconut flour as needed.
Taste the mix and add more salt and pepper, or other seasonings, as desired.
Step 4: Shape & bake the loaf
Spoon the batter into the pan and smooth the top before slathering with either barbecue sauce or ketchup. The sauce o ketchup will caramelize as the loaf bakes, resulting in a deep, dark glaze.
After about 50 minutes in a 350F oven, you’ll have this gorgeous loaf:
This is so delicious on it’s own, minutes out of the oven, but leftovers (simply rewarmed, or as part of a sandwich) are every bit as good.
You can change out the seasoning, and even some of the vegetables (mushrooms are a fantastic addition) in all kinds of ways, too.
Happy eating, everyone!