Easy vegan red lentil salmon! It is quick and inexpensive to make, plus it is soy-free, oil-free, a good source of protein, & most of all, incredibly delicious!
Is There an Easy Way to Make Vegan Soy-Free Salmon?
Yes! You can make plant-based salmon from red lentils. I promise that no magic is involved, nor much effort.
This is a go-to kind of recipe: one you can make with a few common ingredients and a quick and easy method. In other words, my signature style of recipe 😊.
My Mind-Blowing Red Lentil Tofu recipe was the source of inspiration for this plant-based fish. With a few tweaks, it can be transformed into plant-based seafood.
I know you will love this recipe. Once broiled, the salmon “fillets” have crisp golden brown edges that give way to creamy, light centers. Hello, dinner.
This plant-based version of salmon is all of the following:
- Vegan (no eggs, no dairy)
- A good source of protein (6 grams per serving)
- High in fiber (8 grams per serving)
- Low calorie (101 calories per serving)
- Easy to make
- Made with six readily available ingredients
- Made with 1 ingredient (plus water & optional salt)
Ingredients for Vegan Red Lentil Salmon
The exact amounts of each ingredient are indicated in the recipe card at the end of the post.
You will need the following ingredients to make the vegan salmon:
- Dried red lentils
- Carrots (raw)
- Vinegar (apple cider vinegar, or another light colored vinegar)
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
Tap water is also required. I use filtered tap water, but you can use the still water of your choice.
I usually make salt optional in my recipes. In this case, however, the salt, along with the vinegar, is key for creating a brine-y taste. If you need to leave out the salt for dietary or health reasons, though, do not worry: it is not necessary for the salmon mixture to set/firm up.
Why Carrots in the Recipe?
I added carrot for two reasons: they add (1) it adds a very faint sweetness (mimicking salmon flavor), and (2) umami (the fifth taste). The fact that the carrots up the pink-orange color of the salmon is a happy bonus. That they are cheap, familiar and convenient is by design.
Step by Step Instructions
Time to make some plant-based salmon!
Step One: Rinse the Lentils
Place the lentils in a colander or mesh sieve and rinse under cold water. This removes any dust or debris from the dried lentils.
Step Two: Quick-Soak the Lentils & Carrots
Combine the lentils, carrots and boiling water in the container of blender (regular or high-speed). Let stand for 20 minutes until the lentils are plump and the water has cooled (do not drain).
Step Three: Add Flavorings to the Blender
Add the vinegar, onion powder, garlic powder and salt to the blender.
Step Four: Blend
Blend the lentil-carrot water mixture on high speed until completely smooth, stopping several times to scrape down the sides of the blender container.
Step Five: Cook the Lentil-Carrot Mixture
Pour the lentil-carrot mixture into a medium-size, heavy-bottomed saucepan.
Whisk over medium-high heat for 6 to 8 minutes until very thick and glossy. The mixture will cling to the whisk when the latter is lifted from the pan.
Step Six: Pour Lentil Batter into Pan
Scrape the batter into a 9×5-inch (22.5×12.5 cm) glass or ceramic loaf pan, smoothing the top.
The pan does not need to be oiled or sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. The salmon loaf will release (with ease) from the pan once it is set.
Do not worry if you do not have a 9×5-inch loaf pan. This size is convenient for cutting into “fillet” sizes, but you can use any nonreactive pan of similar shape and size, or divide the mixture between two or more smaller containers.
Step Seven: Chill the Vegan Salmon
Refrigerate the salmon loaf, uncovered, for at least 2 hours until firm. You can leave the salmon loaf in the refrigerator for up to 3 days until ready to use.
Cook the Red Lentil Salmon
Step One: Unmold and Cut the Salmon
When you are ready to cook the salmon, run a dull knife around the edge of the baking dish before inverting the vegan salmon onto a cutting board. The upended side of the salmon loaf will be shiny and smooth.
Cut the loaf crosswise into six fillet-size pieces. You can cut the loaf into more, or fewer, fillets, as you prefer.
Step Two: Preheat Broiler & Prepare Baking Sheet
Position the oven rack to the second closest (not the closest) position near the broiler heat source. Preheat the broiler to HIGH.
Step Three: Cut the Top of the Vegan Salmon Fillets
Place chopsticks along each side of one salmon fillet. Use a sharp knife to make crosswise cuts into the fillet (about 1/4 inch/ .5cm apart). The chopsticks allow you to make deep cuts without cutting all the way through the fillet. It is really easy!
Repeat with the remaining fillets. Place the fillets on the prepared baking sheet.
Step Four: Brush on Glazes
Now for the fun part: adding your favorite flavors! Just like salmon fillets, you can add almost any flavors you like!
Two of my favorite methods: (1) Brush fillets with olive oil and sprinkle with herbs and freshly cracked black pepper, or (2) Brush fillets with my favorite 2-ingredient glaze (equal parts mustard and coconut sugar, or dark brown sugar).
Step Five: Broil
Place the baking sheet on the second closest (to the broiler heat element) rack. Broil the red lentil salmon for six to eight minutes until browned and the cuts on the top of the salmon have begun to separate. Watch closely during the final one to two minutes.
Your plant-based salmon is ready to eat!
Here it is prepared with a very light brushing of olive oil and sprinkle of herbs:
This is the salmon that was spread with my 2-ingredient glaze:
Eat the salmon while it is warm! And don’t forget to let me know what you think if you give the recipe a try.
FAQ & Tips
Is Broiling the Only Way to Cook the Salmon?
Broiling is the best way to cook the salmon. Baking dries out the salmon and it is not suitable for grilling (without some experimenting).
If you want to try frying the salmon , I suggest (1) lightly dusting the fillets in starch (e.g., tapioca, cornstarch)–no glaze. Use a nonstick skillet and a shimmer of oil. Once cooked, sauces or glazes can be added, as desired.
Red Lentils Buying Tips
If you live in another country, or purchased your red lentils at an International or Indian market, you might have whole or split red lentils. Both varieties work. The recipe does not need to be adjusted, but for accuracy, weigh the lentils (141 grams, whether split or whole).
Can I Freeze the Vegan Red Lentil Salmon?
Technically, yes. However, I recommend making it fresh on the day, or a few days before, you intend to cook it for optimal texture.
If you do decide to freeze the vegan salmon, cut it into fillets and place in an airtight container. Defrost in the refrigerator. Once defrosted, gently pat dry with paper towels to remove excess water.
Can I Use Other Varieties of Lentils?
No, this particular recipe needs to be made with red lentils.
If are looking to use other varieties of lentils in method similar to this one, you need to check out my recipe for Mind-Blowing Red Lentil Tofu. It can be made with any variety of lentils (scroll to the FAQ section of the post to see my notes about using other lentil options).
How Far in Advance Can the Vegan Red Lentil Salmon Be Made?
You can make the salmon up to 3 days ahead. Leave it in the original dish, or unmold it, cut into pieces, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Note that the tofu will become firmer with each passing day due to the release of liquid.
Can I Add More Seafood Flavor to the Plant-Based Salmon?
Add Seaweed: You can add some dried Japanese seaweed (such as kombu flakes, or a sheet or two of nori). Add them along with the carrots, lentils and boiling water. The seaweed will add some dark flecks to the salmon, but the flavor is worth it.
Alternatively, make a glaze that incorporates the seaweed. Steep the seaweed in boiling water (or another liquid) and drain. Use alone or in combination with other ingredients to brush onto the salmon. You can also serve the salmon with some toasted nori strips ( a plant-based version of crisp salmon skin).
Add Old Bay Seasoning: Consider incorporating Old Bay Seasoning into the salmon (e.g., add directly to the salmon mix, or sprinkle on before cooking). Old Bay Seasoning does not have a seafood flavor, per se, but it is an iconic flavor associated with seafood. It contributes a lot with a few shakes!