Mystery meat, no more. A descendant of Medieval meat patties from around 400 CE, the concept of meatloaf truly rose to mainstream popularity in the late 1800s, to remain an indispensable American entree for generations to come. As a thrifty way to stretch a humble protein and feed a family, it’s an accessible, affordable way for everyone to eat well. Of course, the original couldn’t be farther from a healthy choice. Build upon a foundation of cheap ground beef, bound together with beaten egg, and baked into a leaden brick, I stayed far away from meatloaf as a kid. In fact, I never even ate it until going vegan. Ever since then, I’ve been on a quest to make it better, rich enough to win over omnivores and picky eaters alike.
Even if you didn’t grow up loving meatloaf, my umami-bomb vegan version will become a fast favorite. To create a meatless replica, it takes a delicate balance of carefully layered flavors and textures. Made with a combination of authentically meaty alternative grounds and humble chickpeas, the formula allows the incredibly beefy flavor and texture to shine through, while making up the bulk with cheaper beans. Enhanced by deeply savory Sugimoto shiitake mushrooms, no one will miss the animal products, if anyone notices they’re absent at all.
Achieving the ideal texture is all about technique. Start by using a loaf pan to get a consistent rectangular shape and press the crumbles together gently, without smashing them down into a solid meat brick. Then, after pre-baking to set up, the whole thing is removed and transferred to a sheet pan, allowing the sides to brown and the whole thing to breathe. Otherwise, it simply steams, rather than roasts, creating an unpleasant mushy consistency all the way through. If you’ve ever suffered through a pasty lump of mystery meat, you know how badly it can all go wrong- But the solution is just that simple.
Beyond the obvious flavors that will hook you after the first bite, there are plenty of reasons to add this recipe into regular meal rotation. It’s great right away, hot out of the oven, but the leftovers are quite possibly even better. That’s because the umami quotient of Sugimoto shiitake multiplies over time. Make the most of this secret ingredient by preparing the loaf well in advance. Cover and refrigerate for a week or freeze the slices for up to 6 months. While you’re at it, you might as well double the quantities to stock up on meals for later.
When it comes to pairing side dishes to round out the dinner plate, you really can’t go wrong. Such an accommodating flavor profile plays nicely with just about any vegetable or starch, but here are some fool-proof ideas for rounding out your plate:
- Mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, baked potatoes, potato wedges; pretty much any kind of potato
- Buttered noodles, plain pasta, or couscous
- Corn on the cob or creamed corn
- Steamed green beans, asparagus, broccoli, or peas
- Leafy side salad
Love every loaf by tweaking the final finish so you’ll never get bored. Straight ketchup is the standard glaze, but I like a less sweet, punchier version made from tomato sauce, mustard, and date syrup. That’s not to say there are no other options. BBQ sauce is an especially great ready-made topper, adding a spicy, smoky flavor. If you really like it hot, try Buffalo sauce instead. Finally, to accentuate the shiitake, lean into that Asian inspiration with teriyaki, hoisin, or plum sauce.
Also consider making mini meatloaves in muffin cups for consistent single servings and crispier edges all around. In case you want to make a half batch, this is the solution to a flat, skimpy loaf that barely fills a traditional rectangular pan. Plus, if you’re catering to diverse tastes, you can glaze each one differently to appease all preferences.
It turns out you don’t even need to like meat to love meatloaf. Anything beef can do, plants can do better- Especially with Sugimoto shiitake mushrooms in the mix.
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Divided
- 1 (12-Ounce) Package Impossible Meat, Beyond Beef, or Other Meatless Grounds
- 1/2 Large White Onion, Diced
- 1 Small Carrot, Diced
- 6 Ounces Cremini or Button Mushrooms, Sliced
- 1 Ounce Dried Shiitake Mushrooms, Soaked Overnight, Drained, and Roughly Chopped
- 3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons Smoked Paprika
- 3/4 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
- 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 1 (14-Ounce) Can Chickpeas, Drained
- 3/4 Cup Panko Breadcrumbs or Quick-Cooking Oats*
- 2 Tablespoon Vegan Worcestershire Sauce or Soy Sauce
- 1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley, Minced
- 1 (8-Ounce) Can Tomato Sauce
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
- 1 tablespoon Date Molasses or Dark Brown Sugar
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a 9 x 5-inchloaf pan with foil, leaving a good amount of overhang to use as a sling for easier removal later. Lightly grease and set aside.
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat and add the meatless grounds and sauté for about 8 – 10 minutes, breaking it up with your spatula, until browned all over. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet and return it to the heat. Add the onion, carrot, mushrooms, shiitake, and garlic. Cook for 5 – 8 minutes, until aromatic and softened. Stir in the tomato paste,paprika, salt, thyme, and pepper. Continue to sauté, stirring frequently, for another5 – 6 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned.
- Transfer the sauteed vegetables to your food processor fitted with the “S” blade, along with the chickpeas. Pulse until very coarsely ground; you don’t want to see any whole beans remaining, but you’re not trying to make hummus here.
- Add the ground vegetables and beans to the browned meatless grounds, along with the breadcrumbs or oats, Worcestershire sauce, and fresh parsley. Stir to combine.
- Spread the mixture into your prepared pan, pressing it down gently to fill the space evenly. Bake 30 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the tomato sauce, mustard, and date molasses for the glaze until smooth. Let the loaf stand for about 5 minutes and carefully remove the half-baked loaf by using the foil as a sling. Place it on a sheet pan and gently peel the foil away from the sides.
- Pour the glaze all over, smoothing it down the sides. Return the loaf to the oven and bake for another 15 – 20 minutes, until the glaze has darkened and no longer looks as shiny.
- For the cleanest slices, let the loaf rest for 15 minutes, and use a very sharp serrated knife to cut. Enjoy hot!
*To make this recipe suitable for those with celiac disease, use quick-cooking oats that are certified gluten-free or gluten-free panko.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 245Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 22mgSodium: 573mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 5gSugar: 6gProtein: 12g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.