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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.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (400 g) uncooked brown lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 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)

Instructions

  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!

Notes

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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ummj9y

Wednesday 7th of February 2024

can you use other flours or cornstarch in place of the coconut flour?

Camilla

Thursday 8th of February 2024

Hi ummj9y, Cornstarch or other starches will not work in place of the coconut flour, but you could use almond flour/meal, or finely ground seeds or other nuts. You will need at least twice the amount of nut/seed flour compared to the coconut flour. Cheers.

Naomi

Friday 26th of January 2024

This is a really tasty recipe and easy to make. I've made it - and have frozen it - many times. I recently substituted this 'meat' in a regular 'meatloaf' recipe and it was delicious. It was soft on day one but firmed up on day 2 (so, yay, it's a make ahead dish). I would like to achieve a more meaty texture so I'm wondering if you think using 1/2 amount cooked and half uncooked would work.

Camilla

Monday 5th of February 2024

Hi Naomi! I am so glad that you like the recipe. I am not sure how that would work (1/2 cooked 1/2 uncooked). Perhaps try it with a mini portion first (like a muffin size) to see if it works before trying it with a full batch.

Jane

Monday 27th of November 2023

What role do beets play in the recipe, other than color?

Camilla

Monday 27th of November 2023

Hi Jane,

They add flavor, moisture, texture, fiber and volume to the recipe.

Gigi Stump

Monday 23rd of October 2023

Can you use a different gluten free flour? If not, can you taste the coconut?

Camilla

Wednesday 25th of October 2023

Hi Gigi! I do not taste any coconut, but yes, you can try other flours. I suggest a ground nut or seed flour or meal (like coconut flour, these can be eaten without cooking. Most importantly, they will not make the texture gummy). Ready made flours or meals, or s8mply grind your own in a blender or food processor. Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts…not chia seeds or flax seeds, though (since they form gels when combined with liquid).

Joseph Bosworth

Tuesday 29th of August 2023

How to make an adjustment on this , but brake a quarter of the lentils and purée them more with flax eggs to get this to bind better

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