Meatloaf is an American classic. Since the late 1800s, people across the US have indulged in the dish, which is usually made with ground meat, eggs, breadcrumbs, and a simple tomato topping. It climbed in popularity during the Great Depression (largely because it was cheap and versatile), peaked during the 1950s, and since then, it has remained a comforting staple on dinner tables across the country. 

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But while the meatloaves of the 20th century were usually made with beef, nowadays, plant-based ingredients are more popular than ever and many people are choosing to enjoy this classic, quintessentially American dish the vegan way.

What is meatloaf (and can it be vegan?)

Meatloaf is usually made by combining ground meat (typically beef) with ingredients like eggs, onions, and herbs and spices. The mixture is then shaped into a loaf shape (of course) and then baked or smoked before it is usually served with vegetables and gravy. 

While beef is the most common choice for meatloaf, other meats, like pork or lamb, are often used, too. But you don’t have to use any animal meat at all to make a delicious, satisfying, and ultra-comforting meatloaf. Lentils, beans, tofu, or plant-based meat can all be used to make a hearty, protein-packed meatloaf.

RELATED: 7 Meaty Meatless Meatballs for Your Pasta, Subs, and Appetizers

Is vegan meatloaf healthy?

Beef is packed with protein, sure, but eating a lot of red meat is also associated with a higher risk of disease. According to one study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, eating red meat regularly could increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 62 percent. It’s also linked with a higher risk of endometriosis and heart disease

Vegan meatloaf ingredients, on the other hand, like lentils, nuts, beans, and vegetables, are associated with a reduced risk of disease. All of these ingredients are plant-based whole foods, which, research suggests, are some of the healthiest and most sustainable foods to eat. You can find out more about the benefits of a plant-based whole-food diet here

This means that when it comes to meatloaf, plant-based ingredients are the clear winner when it comes to health. But don’t worry, they’re also pretty tasty, too.

How to make vegan meatloaf: 5 recipes to try

Vegan meatloaf is not just healthy, it’s also comforting, hearty, and packed with flavor. Honestly, you won’t miss the traditional version once you’ve tried one of the delicious recipes below. They’re perfect for a midweek meal, the holiday table, or a cozy winter Sunday.

VegNews.VeganMeatloafDreena Burton

1Savory Vegan Lentil and Sweet Potato Meatloaf

This recipe combines cooked lentils, sweet potatoes, and seasonings, such as balsamic vinegar and tamari sauce, to create a delicious blend of savory and sweet flavors. Serve with a ketchup or barbecue sauce topping, and alongside fluffy mashed potatoes and garlicky green meals, for a complete and ultra-satisfying meal.
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VegNews.veganmeatloaf.minimalistbakerMinimalist Baker

2 Vegan Lentil Nut “Meatloaf”

This easy, tasty vegan meatloaf requires just 10 simple ingredients, including nutritious sweet potatoes, mushrooms, lentils, nuts, and thyme. Topped with a ketchup glaze, it’s hearty, satisfying, and comforting—especially when it’s served with a side of your favorite mashed potatoes, plenty of rich gravy, and lots of greens.
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VegNews.veganimpossiblemeatloaf.karissasvegankitchenKarissa’s Vegan Kitchen

3 Impossible Burger Meatloaf

If you want something a little meatier and less whole-food-y, this low-effort vegan meatloaf recipe features the Impossible Burger, as well as breadcrumbs, ketchup, and vegan Worcestershire sauce (yep, it’s a thing! Find out more here!). If you prefer, you could also use ground beef from Beyond Meat instead (or another one of your favorite plant-based meat alternatives!).
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VegNews.veganmeatloaf.connoisseurusvegConnoisseurus Veg

4 Classic Chickpea Vegan Meatloaf

Topped with a smoky tomato maple glaze, this hearty chickpea meatloaf is the epitome of vegan comfort food. It’s meaty, packed with flavor, and it’s nutritious, too. While mashed potatoes are a traditional side option, this dish would also taste delicious with sweet potatoes, a generous helping of rice, or, if you’re serving it as a holiday meal, plenty of cranberry sauce.
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VegNews.veganmeatloaf.gazoakleyGaz Oakley 

5 BBQ Vegan Meatloaf

This unique, tasty recipe combines portabello mushrooms, steamed sweet potatoes, and a medley of herbs and spices to create a hearty vegan meatloaf that’s bursting with flavor. The best part is arguably the caramelized barbecue glaze (which tastes extra delicious when topped with cherry tomatoes and sautéed sage).
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