Red Lentil Loaf with Smoky Tomato Sauce Recipe

Infinitely healthier than meat-based meatloaf and just as delicious, this savory vegan meatloaf recipe makes a welcome meal on a chilly night. Try it in next-day sandwiches, too. The smoky-sweet sauce, made with taco seasoning, smoked paprika, mustard, and Date Paste, comes together in just 10 minutes.

By Darshana Thacker Wendel,


  • 2 medium onions, chopped (2 cups)
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 2 fresh poblano chile peppers, seeded and chopped (1 cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons chopped fresh Mexican oregano
  • 2 cups cooked short grain brown rice
  • ¼ cup cornmeal
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 14.5-oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
  • ¼ cup Date Paste
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon taco seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon yellow mustard


  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a 9×5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper.
  • In a skillet combine onions, lentils, poblanos, garlic, and oregano. Stir in 1½ cups water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 20 minutes or until lentils are tender and water is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Stir in rice, cornmeal, cilantro, lime juice, and salt. Lightly pat mixture into the prepared loaf pan; flatten top.
  • For sauce, in a blender combine tomatoes, date paste, paprika, taco seasoning, mustard, and ½ cup water. Cover and blend until smooth. Transfer to a saucepan. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes or until slightly thick.
  • Spoon ¾ cup of the sauce over loaf. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until sauce looks dark and dry. Cool on a wire rack 15 minutes. Slice loaf and serve with the remaining sauce.

Comments (24)

(4 from 12 votes)

Recipe Rating

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There are so many ways to do short cuts for this recipe. I forgot to heat up the tomato sauce but it is still great. I didn't make date paste, I just dropped several dates in boiling water to make them tender and then put them in the sauce when I blended it. Mine didn't stick together very well, but I think if I would toss the mixture in a blender to make the particles smaller it would have held together better. I only used one Poblano pepper, thinking it would be hot but I guess the baking cooked the heat right out of it. Oh and I also baked it longer than it says to try and dry it out more to help hold it together. All in all, it is a good recipe foundations from which to build and get creative.


I substituted brown sugar and molasses for the date paste but still adore the flavor combinations happening in this loaf!!


Just made this for the first time. My family loved it, wanted seconds. It went well with mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts. It takes a long time to prepare, so it will be a special dinner meal for birthdays and holidays. As with others, mine was too moist, not a loaf. The flavors are good so I'll spend time experimenting, maybe using more cornmeal will thicken it up. Amazon carries dried Mexican oregano. Thanks FOK!

Lucy C

So delicious! I love this, i'm going to make it for christmas day. Flavours were perfect. Thank you FOK for so many great recipes - I'm not a natural cook so I rely on recipes like this


No taste, crumbly, sad. Too long to prepare such a bad dish.


I’m a cook at heart. I Had jasmine brown rice ….not short grain…at least I don’t think it is…anyway I ended up putting. my rice through a totally helped the loaf texture. Recipe had ingredients that weren’t clear. E.g., mustard dry or from fridge? Did anyone find Mexican oregano? The research I did lead me to a self made hack of grinding (via ninja chopper) a blend of regular oregano with fennel. Other than that, I did my best and it is really great base/basics loaf recipe. !


It took me two plus hours to prepare this dish exactly as called for in the recipe. The sauce was tasty as was the date paste. The rest was a big mess which was more like a loose casserole and tasted like school cafeteria food. Also, it was too much for a 9 x 5 loaf pan so I used a 4.5 x 11.5 loaf pan and this filled almost to the top. When you recommend a loaf pan the depth should also be specified. For all of that effort I was greatly disappointed. This is not worth making.


This was so tasty! I had to add more liquid as my water had evaporated too quickly (probably had the heat too high). But it was so delicious and filling. I loved the tomato sauce, but honestly could swap for a different sauce if needed to speed things along in the future. (My partly wfpb husband still put ketchup on it like it was traditional meatloaf and enjoyed it).


It took 2 hours to prepare this —from chopping veggies, cooking rice, boiling lentils, blending sauce, cooking sauce and baking the loaf. The end result was a crumbly rice dish with little flavor.

Teri W.

I’m sensitive to corn. What can I use instead of cornmeal?


Oatmeal works well in recipes like this!

Risa G

What is the taco seasoning? Just spices or other additives?


It´s a spice mix that can be found in grocery stores. Some brands have only spices, while others may have more additives, preservatives, etc. You can make your own searching for recipes in the internet.


Will the cooked lentil loaf freeze well?

Gregg W

I just made this tonight. I don’t like spicy food as much as others so I made a couple changes. Instead of the poblanos I used red bell pepper. Instead of the recipe sauce I used a basic tomato sauce. It came out really tasty. I had it on a bed of steamed kale and went back for seconds. This was really good!

Lynn Langlois

Just to confirm, I guess the recipe calls for 1/4 cup cooked cornmeal (not dry)?

Carolyn Cruz

Cornmeal is dry, rice is cooked.


Really nice, first recipe I've made from here. You definitely need to wait the 15 minutes when you get it out the oven!


This tasted great, but it completely fell apart and did not hold together. What should I do to prevent that next time?


I hear and do understand…absolutely... it can be tricky. Not sure where you are in you culinary journey and share this in hope it offers a perspective or two. It seems to be an art not a science. A few things I took into account… 1. Only add rice, 1/2 cup at a time…and eye up the moistness of the mixture as your adding the rice. You still want enough of the moistness that it’s similar to raw meat-based meatloaf mixture. This may or may not mean you add that last quarter cup of rice or (and if your like me and made a little extra) need to add a quarter cup more of rice. This doesn’t mean you can’t also add more cornmeal in a pinch….but if too wet, I’d ratio out both and add to bring mixture to desired moistness/texture. 2. You’ll need to adjust oven baking time based on the moistness and size and thickness of your loaf. Think about it this way…. baking basically equates to both heating and drying (I.e. removing moisture) out your food at a specific temp for a specified duration…the longer it goes the dryer it gets. Too dry means you may have cooked too long (and may have had too dry a mix). Too wet means you may have cooked not long enough (and may have had too wet a mix). Again, I made my rice earlier in the day (left covered to cool on cold stove)and bc it was a longer grain, I put my rice through a ricer before adding…and I do it again, even with the short grain rice. It made a huge difference and made the texture more “hamburger meat-like”. I also measured off the riced rice, but still let the moistness of the mixture determine amount added. Anyway, tbh Honestly..this rice the rice step was a game changer for my recipe. 3. and depending on the moistness, baking time varies on something like this.…so it might take a few extra toothpick checks and linger time in oven than stated and you may have to repeat less than perfect outcomes as you develop you cooks sense about it… and :).


Clarification… You still want enough of the moistness that it’s similar to raw meat-based meatloaf mixture. Think be able to form meatball with the lightly cooled mixture… that when a meatball is formed it is soft enough that the bottom mildly flattens when you (gently) place it down, but holds most of the ball shape. If it flattens naturally to a deflated ball…too moist. If it doesn’t have the slightest deflation, or any pliability and no noticeably flat bottom….too dry!


Tasty and easy to make. Didn't have a blender but mashing up the dates and mixing with the other ingredients, then boiling until thick did the trick. Only thing I would like is nutrient and calorie information.


Loved this! I added a can of chickpeas (chopped in the blender), red pepper flakes instead of the poblanos (which was what ai had on hand), fresh chives and scallions from my garden, and due to limited time, I topped off the loaf with a good dollop of jarred organic salsa.

Darlene Darlene

5 star

About the Author

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About the Author

Darshana Thacker Wendel

Darshana Thacker Wendel is a whole-food, plant-based chef and former culinary projects manager for Forks Over Knives. A graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute, she is the author of Forks Over Knives: Flavor! She created the recipes for Forks Over Knives Family and was a lead recipe contributor to the New York Times bestseller The Forks Over Knives Plan. Her recipes have been published in The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook, Forks Over Knives—The Cookbook, Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health, and LA Yoga magazine online. Visit and follow her on Instagram for more.
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