The holidays are approaching fast and if you’re like us, you’ve likely already started planning your holiday spread, right down to the finest detail. If you haven’t, it might be time to start thinking about what’s going to be on the Thanksgiving menu.
While in recent years, we’ve noticed an influx of things that make holiday planning much easier, such as premade holiday meals popping up in grocery stores and caterers who offer vegan options, there’s nothing quite like homemade fare. When we think of what we want at the center of our holiday table, one of the first things to come to mind is a plant-based meatloaf or nut roast.
If this is your first time planning or making a holiday dinner, you might feel a little overwhelmed. But that’s where we come in. With over 10 recipes per day being posted on the Food Monster App, we here at One Green Planet know a thing or two about the tips and tricks behind making delicious recipes and are ready to share the wealth. Here are our top suggestions for how to make the perfect plant-based meatloaf for your next holiday get-together:
The Main Ingredients
No matter what kind of plant-based meatloaf you’re going to make, there is a general “formula” to make sure that the recipe works out. First, there is your main ingredient. These are the ingredients that, typically, will make up the “base” of your loaf unless you are making something made primarily from vegetables and nuts. Let’s get into the various ingredients.
Vegetables like celery, carrots, potatoes, winter squash, sweet potato, and mushrooms are all good choices for plant-based meatloaves.
Choose “meaty” nuts, like walnuts and pecans. Other nuts may be used but to a lesser extent, such as Brazil nuts in this Hungarian Nut Loaf, or cashews like in this Lentil Cashew Loaf. Crumbled walnuts and pecans are especially useful for adding a crumbly, meat-like texture.
Keeping It Together
As with plant-based burgers and meatballs, your veggie loaf will need to be held together by some sort of binder. This ensures that your loaf will slice nicely rather than fall apart or crumble. Your binder can be flax or chia eggs (1 tablespoon ground seeds combined with 3 tablespoons water), oats, commercial egg replacers, bread crumbs, or crumbled bread.
For practical examples, this Lentil Loaf uses rolled oats as a binder and no seeds. This Black Bean Walnut Loaf uses chia seeds and brown rice. This Nut Loaf With Cranberry Orange Compote uses breadcrumbs. As you can see, there are a lot of different combinations you can use to successfully ensure that your plant-based meatloaf holds together. What you use depends on your preference for egg replacers, as well as the “stickiness” of the ingredients you choose. Brown rice and quinoa are both good examples of “sticky” ingredients that will help your loaf hold together. However, they’re not always necessary. For example, this Hazelnut and Orange Nut Roast uses a lot of “dry” ingredients, like dried cranberries and chopped hazelnuts as well as ingredients that don’t stick together, like lentils, vegetables, and mushrooms, so it calls for four flax eggs.
Except for mushrooms, most vegetables won’t add that savory, umami flavor that makes meat taste “meaty.” There are a couple of ways to achieve your desired flavor, however. Check ’em out:
Aromatics are ingredients cooked in oil or vegan butter at the start of the dish. Cooking them in fat helps to release their aroma and deepens the flavor of the dish. Aromatics can include ingredients such as onion, garlic, and ginger, and can also include shallots and leeks. It can also be made from vegetables. In French cuisine, many sauces start with a mirepoix, or a combination of diced carrot, celery, and onion. Mirepoix is often paired with meaty dishes, so starting your loaf by cooking mirepoix will not only make it more flavorful, but it can also make it taste closer, but not exactly, like the real thing. This Lentil Loaf With Celery Root Mash starts with a mirepoix and fresh thyme.
Herbs and Spices
Stick with herbs and spices that pair well with meaty flavors and herbs and spices that we typically associate with the holidays. Rosemary, sage, and thyme are all good choices. This Lentil Cashew Loaf, for example, uses all three. Feel free to add a dash of garlic and onion powder, even if you’re already using it, and don’t forget to add salt!
Other Flavor-Enhancing Ingredients
With aromatics and spices out of the way, there are a few more ways that you can build savory flavor. Tomatoes have a natural umami quality, so try adding a tablespoon or two of tomato paste or sun-dried tomatoes. Nutritional yeast, which helps vegan cheese and cheese sauces taste “cheesy” also helps make veggie loaves taste more savory. Other interesting options you might want to try out are marmite (check the international aisle of the grocery store) or vegan Worcestershire sauce.
Make it Festive
One last tip for making the perfect plant-based holiday “meatloaf” is to jazz it up with dried fruit or other sweet flavors. For example, this Cranberry Lentil Loaf is topped with a maple-balsamic glaze. This Holiday Vegetable Loaf includes cranberries and a spiced cranberry sauce glaze. This Hazelnut and Orange Nut Roast pairs dried cranberries with orange zest and a cranberry sauce topping. You could also try adding diced, dried pineapple or apricots to your roast as well.
For more ideas, check out our vegan “meatloaf” recipes page and 10 Satisfying Veggie Meatloaf Recipes You Need To Make This Thanksgiving!
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