I am SO excited about this recipe! I have worked on it so much...trial after trial, to get it to my liking. Nailing the flavor was fairly easy, but texture wise, it took a few trials. I have tried several lentil loaf recipes online, even the ones that claimed to be the best. The problem I found with a few of them that I tried, was that they were on the bland side, but the main issue was texture.
If you have never heard of a lentil loaf, basically it is a vegetarian version of meatloaf and they are wildly popular in the vegan/vegetarian blogging world.
Every single one I have seen uses oats and they all were just so mushy and well, too oaty. I love oats, but in the lentil loaf, it just was not working for me personally with the ones that I tried. Or, they don't hold together and crumble into a mess. I want a combo of tender, but sturdy. I'm super duper finicky when it comes to textures, so I decided I needed to create one from scratch the way I would like it. I tried them with oats, with nuts, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, you name it. The texture was just not holding together and was too mushy everytime.
So, it hit me....cornbread is very sturdy and chewy and hearty. Duh, I'll add cornmeal instead of oats or flour, which every other lentil loaf recipe has called for. Many people can't have oats or avoid them, so, my loaf to the rescue. Seriously, have you ever seen a loaf recipe without oats? I haven't. The day before, my mom and I had been talking about her making my Magic Skillet Cornbread to bring to our Christmas gathering and a lightbulb went off to try adding coarse cornmeal!
OMG. It worked brilliantly. The cornmeal not only made the lentil loaf hold it's shape so much better, it gave it substantial heartiness and believe it or not, a meaty texture. It gets well cooked within all the moist lentil-goodness, but gives it much more chew instead of oaty mushiness, haha!
This Oat-free Spicy BBQ Lentil Loaf is vegan, gluten-free, oil-free, nut-free, tender, great texture and super easy to make!
I decided on barbecue sauce as being a star flavor. My 2 favorite flavors to use in my cooking are Mexican and barbecue. I absolutely LOVE barbecue sauce. So, I decided what better way to make a lentil loaf, than to have the flavor profile be centered around that?
Guess what, it is so dang delicious, I nearly ate the whole loaf myself! The flavor of barbecue sauce in the loaf, on top of the loaf and then as a dipping sauce, was a true barbecue loaf slice of heaven!
Because of cornmeal being the magical ingredient here, a sub will just not work, so just make it as is and I think you will love it as much as we did! My 3 year old even gobbled it up! Adding actual corn really further enhances the barbecue flavor as well. I imagine some red bell peppers would be super delicious as well.
It is seriously probably the easiest loaf ever too...no crazy amount of steps. Just cook your lentils, mix your batter, spread in loaf pan, top with sauce and bake!
So, to recap on this lentil loaf: Not mushy, sturdy, hearty, flavorful, addicting and perfectly spicy.
SO many of you expressed on Instagram that you would be making this for Christmas, so I can't wait to hear what you think of it! Please let me know below and after you make them, leave feedback in the comments below. You can also tag me on Instagram @thevegan8 and don’t forget to use my hashtag #thevegan8, or otherwise I may miss it!
- 1 cup dry green lentils (193 g, do not use red lentils, too mushy)
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ heaping cup finely chopped white onion (80 g)
- 1 packed tablespoon minced fresh garlic (4 cloves, depending on size)
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ cup water (for cooking the veggies in)
- 1 cup your favorite storebought barbecue sauce, separated plus extra for serving OR I highly recommend my homemade version below
- ½ cup medium grind coarse cornmeal, not corn flour or finely ground cornmeal (I used Bob's Red Mill, do not use corn flour or a finely ground cornmeal, this will result in a dry loaf)
- 3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
- ¼-1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili spice (gives a hefty kick of heat, so ONLY use ¼ tsp if sensitive)
- ½ cup corn (can or frozen, just drain any excess water, I used frozen)
- ½ cup tomato paste, not sauce
- ½ cup water
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon garlic powder (for a less intense garlic flavor, use only ½ tablespoon)
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon chili powder (use LESS if you are sensitive to spicy)
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon yellow wet mustard
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons dark balsamic vinegar (Use a strong quality like Alessi, as this will affect the taste)
- 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons unsulphured regular molasses
- Please note that I used my homemade barbecue sauce recipe for this loaf. It's the only flavor that I can vouch for. Just as the title of the recipe suggests, it is spicy and has a nice kick of heat, so expect that. If you are sensitive to heat, then decrease the amount of chili powder. I would suggest making it the day before to save time, so the lentil loaf comes together even quicker. You can certainly use a storebought version to keep it strictly at 8 ingredients, but if you use a storebought version, just make sure it is a barbecue sauce that you really love! But, it is best to use the homemade version, as mine has no fillers and contains water and I'm not sure what effect a commercial version would do to the texture, since there is a large amount used.
- This recipe takes a bit of time to prep and make. You are cooking lentils and you are cooking the loaf and there is prep time and waiting time in there as well, so give yourself 2 to 2½ hours. Otherwise, I would suggest to save time, cook the lentils the day before you want to eat the loaf and mash them the next day as noted below.
- If you are making my homemade barbecue sauce, just simply add all of the ingredients to a small bowl and whisk really well until emulsified and thickened. Set aside or store in the fridge the night before making the loaf.
- For the lentils, rinse them off and add them with 2 cups water and ½ tsp salt to a pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover, turn to simmer and cook for 35-40 minutes. The water should be all evaporated basically. Turn off the heat and return the lid and let it sit for just 10 minutes.
- While the lentils are cooking, cook the onions and garlic. Add the onion, garlic, ¼ cup water and ¼ teaspoon salt to a small frying pan. Bring to a boil and once boiling, immediately turn to simmer for about 5 minutes or until the water has completely evaporated. You don't want any remaining water so the loaf doesn't turn mushy. Turn off the heat.
- After the lentils have finished and sat for 10 minutes, puree about ½ of the mixture with a hand immersion blender. You do not want to puree all of it, or it will make the loaf mushy, got it? Just eyeball about half of it, leaving the other half full lentils. Add them to a large bowl.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 9x5 metal loaf pan with parchment paper hanging slightly over the sides for easy removal later. Make sure to spray the sides that the paper doesn't touch, so it doesn't stick.
- Add the cooked onion/garlic mixture to the lentils. Add only ¾ cup of the barbecue sauce to the lentil mixture. Add the chipotle spice and another good pinch of salt and stir together well. Add the cornmeal and flaxseed and stir around for a good minute or so until it becomes really thick and sticky. Lastly, gently stir in the corn. Note: If you taste the batter, it doesn't taste overly spicy uncooked, but it will become a lot spicier as the chipotle spice bakes, so keep that in mind.
- Pour the batter in the loaf pan and spread out evenly. Let it sit for about 20 minutes before baking, so the cornmeal soaks up some liquid. Spread ¼ cup of the barbecue sauce all over the top evenly. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until firm and a toothpick basically comes out clean. I baked mine for a full 60 minutes to ensure it was done. The ends got slightly charred just where the barbecue sauce was, but the inside was perfect. You can always trim a little of the sauce off it if gets a little done, but you definitely want to make sure the loaf is cooked through, so it's firm and not mushy. If yours turns out mushy, then you didn't let it cook long enough, because the result should be firm and have a nice bite to it.
- It is crucial to let the loaf sit for at least 20 minutes to firm up. It will firm up a lot while cooling. If you try to cut it hot, it will fall apart. I let mine sit 30 minutes and it was still warm. Gently lift up the loaf with the parchment paper and very carefully transport it to a serving platter using spatulas. Carefully slice it. Spread extra barbecue sauce on top while still warm right before serving. Add chopped fresh parsley on top for garnish and presentation, if desired.
*Nutrition per slice: 129.9 calories, 1.7 g fat, 5.7 g protein, 29.3 carbs, 7.3 g sugars
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