I’m far from home as I write this post—an adventure I’ll share more about soon! Being in a very new place makes writing about a cozy holiday recipe all the sweeter and more meaningful. This red lentil chickpea loaf with simple vegan mushroom gravy is my Thanksgiving dish for 2019. But it’s simple and memorable enough to become a go-to comfort food meal, for any time of the year.
My lentil and sweet potato loaf has now been a favorite for many holiday seasons. I often make it on Christmas and share it with friends. Meatloaf is a traditional comfort food that I remember fondly from childhood (my mom’s was really good), so it’s been lovely to have a plant-based version that I trust.
And now I have two. Since I use chickpeas regularly in burgers, I figured they’d work nicely in a loaf, too. I used a potato masher to mash them up, much as I do when I’m making chickpea salad for sandwiches and wraps.
To the mashed chickpeas, I added a mixture of cooked onion, celery, and red lentils. The red lentils get mushy as they cook, which makes the loaf tender and easy to mix. Breadcrumbs and ground walnuts help to bind it all together (and the walnuts are toasted, so they add some nutty flavor, too).
You can use any bread crumb that works for you: regular, whole wheat, panko, or gluten-free. If you have a lot of bread at home, which I always do, you can also make your own! Simply toast some bread cubes in the oven at 350F for 10 minutes on a baking sheet. Next, transfer them to a food processor and blitz till they’re crumb-sized. I did this at the same time that I was toasting my walnuts for the recipe.
I like meatloaf even better with gravy, and I love mushroom gravy. This version is probably the easiest that I’ve made, and I doubled it so that I could have extra leftover. Not at all sorry to know that it’s in my fridge, waiting for me when I get home.
Along with some frozen, leftover slices of this new favorite, and very nutrient-dense, loaf.
Red Lentil Chickpea Loaf
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas (2 cans, drained and rinsed)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 white or yellow onion, chopped
- 3 sticks celery, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 cup dry red lentils
- 1 1/2 cups water or low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/2-1 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste and based on the saltiness of your bread crumbs and chickpeas)
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup ketchup (for topping)
Simple Vegan Mushroom Gravy
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 8 ounces sliced mushrooms (baby bella, button, or portobello)
- 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose or superfine brown rice flour
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2-3 teaspoons tamari (adjust to taste)
- Preheat your oven to 350F and lightly spray a standard sized loaf pan with oil. Place the walnuts on a lined baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes. Remove the walnuts from the oven and chop them finely.
- Place the chickpeas in a large mixing bowl. Use a potato masher or a big fork to mash them up. They should all be broken down, but it's fine to see some flattened whole chickpeas and halves: texture is good!
- Heat the 2 teaspoons olive oil in a deep skillet or medium sized pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and carrot. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until all of the vegetables are tender and the onion is clear. Add the red lentils, water or broth, thyme, and rosemary. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Then lower the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the lentils are completely tender. Give the mixture a good stir to break them down and make them mushy.
- Add the lentil mixture to the chickpeas, along with the finely chopped walnuts and breadcrumbs. Mix everything well, then season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pack the mixture into your prepared loaf pan, then smooth over the top with a spatula. Brush the 1/4 cup ketchup over the top.
- Cover the pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the top is browning.
- While the loaf bakes, prepare the gravy. Heat the remaining teaspoon oil in a saucepan over medium low heat. Add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft and shrunken down and have released all of their juices. Add the broth and tamari to the pot and stir.
- Place the flour and nutritional yeast in a small, heatproof bowl. Use a ladle to remove 3/4 cup broth from the pot (avoid getting any mushrooms in there) and add the hot liquid to the bowl with the flour and nutritional yeast. Whisk it all together to create a smooth slurry, then return all of it to the pot. Continue to heat and stir the gravy until it's thickened up, about 2 minutes. Serve over your loaf and enjoy!
It is so special and rewarding to create vegan holiday recipes: I love making them nostalgic and full of comfort food appeal, while also packed with good things. And there are a lot of very good things here: beans, grains, veggies, nuts. The simple, sustaining foods that keep me going all year round, but especially during this busy season!
If you try this recipe for yourself or loved ones next week, I hope you’ll like it as much as I did. You’ll let me know. I’ll be checking in plenty before Thanksgiving, but it never hurts to send out early wishes to everyone for a week that gives us all something to be grateful for. Maybe many things.