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Vegan Ground Beef {Grain-Free, Soy-Free, High-Protein}

Easy, DIY, vegan ground beef!  It is easy to prepare, high in protein (12.4 g per 1/4 pound!), and free of grains, gluten, soy and nuts. One batch makes about 3 pounds. 

Easy DIY vegan ground beef that is grain-free

This post began life as a simple idea for a great summer burger recipe. But as I tested and tasted, I soon realized that what I was making had potential for more. So much more!

Specifically, a versatile, vegan substitute for ground beef.

How Can I Use this Plant-Based Ground Beef Recipe?

My DIY vegan ground beef can be used in just about all of your favorite dishes that call for ground beef.

(1) Brown It

Brown it in a skillet for use in casseroles, tacos, or spaghetti sauce.

Vegan ground beef browned in skillet

(2) Make meatballs

Shape and bake it into meatballs.

DIY vegan ground beef made into meatballs

(3) Make a meatloaf

Channel the 1950s and make a loaf. Don’t forget the mashed potatoes on the side!

DIY vegan ground beef made into meatloaf

(4) Go big with burgers

And, of course, you can make some burgers!

DIY vegan ground beef made into a burger

The seasonings the vegan ground beef are largely up to you: herbs, spices, hot sauce, add whatever suits your fancy.

Nutritional Highlights of the Vegan Ground Beef

In addition to being frugal and simple to make, this simple mix boasts all of the following attributes:

  • Vegan
  • Soy-Free
  • Grain-free
  • Nut-free
  • Gluten-free
  • High in protein (12.4 g per 1/4 pound)
  • Very high in fiber (12.7 g per 1/4 pound)

The Ingredients for DIY Vegan Ground Beef

The ingredients are familiar and frugal: uncooked lentils, canned beets, onion, flaxseed meal, coconut flour, mushrooms, and seasonings (garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper}.

I add nutritional yeast, too. It adds tremendous umami flavor, as well as protein and B vitamins. If you cannot eat yeast, not to worry; leave it out (see the recipe notes for adjustments).

Ingredients for easy DIY vegan ground beef

How to Make Vegan Ground Beef

Making this vegan ground beef is a straightforward affair. First, cook the lentils in a saucepan with enough water to cover the lentils by at least 1 inch (2.5 cm). Bring to a boil over high heat and  then simmer for 10 minutes.

Prepare the Lentils

The lentils should be plumped and mostly, but not entirely, soft. They will still have some bite. Rinse and drain the lentils.

Lentils for easy DIY vegan ground beef that is grain-free

Place the lentils in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped with only a few irregular pieces. Scrape the lentils into a large bowl (no need to clean the food processor).

Pureed lentils for easy DIY vegan ground beef that is grain-free

Prepare the Vegetables

Place the mushrooms and onion in the food processor bowl. Before adding the beets, first press them between layers of paper towels to remove as much excess moisture as you can (it will look like you’ve cleaned up a crime scene).

Add the blotted beets to the processor and pulse all of the vegetables until you have a very finely chopped, uniform mixture, but not a puree. Stop to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl several times. Add to the bowl of lentils, along with the remaining ingredients.

Bowl of ingredients for easy DIY vegan ground beef that is grain-free

Taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings to suit your tastes.

I chose a combination of flavors and spices (nutritional yeast, garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper) that boost the umami flavor profile of the “meat” while still keeping the overall flavor fairly neutral. Take the flavors in whichever flavor direction you like, depending on your tastes/needs, as well as the recipe you are planning for its use.

The moisture in vegetables can vary, so adjust the flax and coconut flour as needed, too. The meat should be moist, but not wet, and should hold together easily when gathered together into a small ball or patty.

This is the end result, in “raw” form:

Bowl of mixed, uncooked DIY vegan ground beef

Keep it Fat-Free or Add Some Fat

But wait, there is no fat in the recipe!

It’s true, and it is not an accident. You can keep the meat oil-free, or add the amount of fat you would like for any given recipe. For example, I like to brown the meat (1 pound/454 g) in 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil, or add the same amount for burgers, meatballs or meatloaf. It’s entirely up to you!

Use the vegan beef right away, refrigerate for several days, or freeze for future use!. I like to separate the mixture into 1 pound or half pound packages.

Wrapped package of easy DIY vegan ground beef that is grain-free

Oh, one more note: The meat will darken slightly (it will look even more meat-y) after a few days of refrigeration, or after freezing and thawing. Here is the same mixture after 1 day:

Easy DIY vegan ground beef that is grain-free

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

Easy DIY vegan ground beef that is grain-free

More Easy, Plant-Based Meat Recipes to Try:

Vegan Ground Beef {Grain-Free, High-Protein, Soy-Free}

Vegan Ground Beef {Grain-Free, High-Protein, Soy-Free}

Yield: 3 lbs (1.36 kg)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Vegan "ground beef!" Use it to make burgers, meatballs, and meatloaf, or brown it to use in any recipe that calls for ground beef. It is easy to prepare, high in protein, and free of grains, gluten, soy and nuts. One batch makes about 3 pounds.


  • 2 cups (400 g) brown lentils, rinsed
  • water
  • 1 (15 oz/425) can whole or sliced beets, drained (see note for using fresh)
  • 6 oz (170 g) white mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 small (about 5 oz/142 g) or 1/2 of a medium-large onion, trimmed, cut into large chunks
  • 1/2 cup (40 g) nutritional yeast
  • 1/3 cup (37 g) coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup (26 g) flaxseed meal
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt (more or less to taste)
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper (more or less to taste)


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils and enough water to cover by at least 1 inch (2.5 cm). Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes (the lentils will be slightly undercooked). Drain and rinse under cool water.
  2. Place lentils in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped with only a few irregular pieces. Scrape the lentils into a large bowl (no need to clean the food processor).
  3. Place the mushrooms and onions in food processor bowl. Firmly press beets between layers of paper towel to remove excess liquid; add to food processor. Process until very finely chopped, but not a puree. Add to lentils in bowl.
  4. Add remaining ingredient to bowl. Stir everything together until blended. Taste; adjust the seasonings to suit your tastes. Use immediately or see storage options for future use!


Storage: Divide the vegan beef into smaller portions (e.g., half pound or pound). Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 days or the freezer for up to 6 months. Once thawed, you may need to add a few more teaspoons of coconut flour.

Lentils: I used common brown lentils, but you can use any variety of lentils in this recipe. If using split lentils (e.g., red), you may only need to reduce the cooking time by 1-2 minutes.

Fresh Beets Option: If using homemade cooked beets instead of canned, you will need to use the equivalent of the DRAINED canned beets. This is approximate 7.5 ounces (213 grams).

Leaving out the Nutritional Yeast: If you cannot eat yeast, leave It out. Add more coconut flour and/or flaxseed meal (2 to 3 tablespoons) to make up for its absence.

For Browning: Cook 1/2 or 1 pound in a large nonstick skillet (optional: add oil to skillet) over medium/medium-high heat for 5 to 6 minutes until browned.

For Meatballs: Shape 1 pound of meat into 1-1/4 inch (3 cm) balls (about 20 total). Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake in preheated 375F(190C) oven for 25 to 30 minutes until browned.

For Burgers: If desired, add fat (e.g., oil of choice) to meat (no more than 2 tablespoons max per pound; add a small amount more coconut flour, as needed). Shape 1 pound of meat into 4 patties. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake in preheated 375F(190C) oven for 18 to 23 minutes until browned. The tops will look plain, but the bottom side will look browned and grilled when flipped!

For Meatloaf: Shape 2 pounds of meat into a loaf. Place in a parchment paper lined 9x5-inch (22.5 x 12.5 cm) loaf pan. Bake in preheated 375F(190C) oven for 50 to 55 minutes until browned (If desired, brush top of loaf with barbecue sauce or ketchup during last 15 minutes of baking.

Nutrition Information
Serving Size 1/4 lb (114 g)
Amount Per Serving Calories 180Total Fat 1.8gSaturated Fat 0.2gCholesterol 0mgSodium 335.1mgCarbohydrates 28.8gFiber 12.7gSugar 3.2gProtein 12.8g

Did you make this recipe?

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Monday 27th of February 2023

What can I add to replace lentils? I don't want add beans , I was thinking quinoa or some other grain.


Tuesday 28th of February 2023

Hi Krystal, You are welcome to experiment with grains in place of beans. but I am not sure how or whether that will work with this particular recipe (since beans and grains are quite different). If you do try grains, I think you could make it work by processing the cooked grains (about 1.5 cups cooked grains) in a food process. Do not break them down entirely, but to the point where they are somewhat broken down and sticking together. I have done that with brown rice.


Saturday 25th of February 2023

The ultimate vegan meat, in my opinion! I've tried many other recipes but this is by far the best. Already made three batches of this into meatballs. I was so happy to learn that they taste just as good defrosted as they do freshly baked! They make a nutritious low-cal snack throughout the day. Thank you for sharing the recipe!


Sunday 26th of February 2023

Wowza, Iggy!!!! Thank you so much for that, I am thrilled that you think the recipe is that good ???? ???? ???? I love snacking on some meatess meatballs, too (savory snacking, yay!)


Tuesday 17th of January 2023

Hi! Super excited to try this recipe for some burritos I'm making, but having trouble with "browning" the meat. I don't use pans with nonstick coating but I do use a very well seasoned cast iron skillet with a smidge of oil. The mixture seems to just soak up the oil and then stick to the pan and burn. I cannot get it to form nice little crumbles for my burritos. It is very pasty from soaking up the oil. Also tried the loaf and it wouldn't slice. It just kind of smashed when I tried to cut it and is quite mealy. It's more like a refried bean pattie but with more chunks. Any suggestions? The little bit of browned meat I could scrape off the bottom tasted VERY good but my texture is all wrong. Thanks!


Wednesday 25th of January 2023

Hi Genna! I am going to guess that the texture issue is all about the lentils. (1) They should definitely be al dente after the brief cooking time--be sure to immediately drain and rinse them under cold water after the 10 minutes to stop the cooking; (2) It is really important that that lentils are not over processed in the food processor. You want to break them down into pieces, but also stop far short of creating a puree. That will create the crumbly texture and prevent the meat from being like a bean paste.


Monday 9th of January 2023

Looks delicious! I'm looking forward to trying this but I have one question. What could I substitute for lentils? I'm eating according to my blood type (b) and I'm not supposed to have them,boooo! I'm just wondering if you might know of a substitute. I can use millet and spelt, I was thinking of trying them and I might, just wondering if you might have any suggestions. Thanks so much for sharing your recipes, I'm happy I came across your site! ?


Sunday 15th of January 2023

Hi Jeannete,

Sure, cooked grains might work as a sub--I think millet ior spelt sound like excellent options. You may have to freestyle with the proportions , but I think you can make that work!


Sunday 13th of November 2022

Could I use marmite instead of nutritional yeast?


Tuesday 15th of November 2022

Hi AU, I have never had marmite, but I know what it is, so YES, that would be a good subbing option (definitely use significantly less than the amount of nutritional yeast, since Marmit is concentrated). Perhaps a tablespoon? That should lend a good amount of savory, umami flavor!

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