This super-savory, incredibly delicious veggie meatloaf (nut loaf) makes a crowd-pleasing vegetarian holiday centerpiece and an equally great make-ahead weeknight dinner with lots of leftovers.
Why we love this recipe, and why it works
Unless you're a real live hippie from the 1960s or you're British (in which case you might call this a nut roast), you may not be familiar with nut loaf. Don't let that scare you away. You guys, this is really good food. And it's a great vegetarian main dish option for the holidays. It's always a big hit at our Christmases, even among carnivores — and even when I make a stuffed pork loin, too.
Veggie meatloaf is:
- Savory, satisfying, and dare I say meaty
- Both comforting and elevated
- Packed with protein and fiber
- A really good fit with a wide variety of holiday flavors
I first published this recipe here back in 2015. I've since updated the post for clarity, but the recipe remains the same. If you're a fan of old-school food blog narrative, you can scroll below the recipe card to read some of the original post.
What you'll need
Here's a glance at the ingredients you'll need to make this recipe. It looks like a lot, but it's nothing fancy.
- I've pictured a slightly fancy blend here since it's what I had on hand, but you'll need two cups of any variety of cooked brown rice.
- Cremini mushrooms provide tons of meaty flavor without too much moisture. I've pictured them here already pulsed to a mince in the food processor.
- A combination of walnuts and cashews bakes into the mix in an almost magical way. Since you'll be grinding them up anyway, feel free to buy pieces rather than whole nuts if they're less expensive.
- Smoked gouda, fontina, cottage cheese, and parmesan add multiple layers of umami. They blend with the rest of the flavors to create a savory whole, without asserting themselves directly.
- Use any dry red wine that you like to drink, and serve the rest of the bottle with dinner.
- I love the exact combination of dried herbs that we use here (thyme, oregano, basil, tarragon, and sage). If you're looking for a shortcut or don't have all these ingredients in your pantry, you would also get a great result by substituting 2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence.
How to make it
Here's an overview of the steps you'll take to make a phenomenal veggie meatloaf. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.
- Prep all the ingredients. If you have a food processor, use it to mince the mushrooms and nuts and shred the cheeses in no time. If you don't have one, you can chop the mushrooms by hand, shred the cheeses on a box grater, and place the nuts into a gallon-size zip-top bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Then you'll gradually cook the onion, mushrooms, garlic, and herbs in the olive oil.
- Stir together the cooked rice and nuts in a large mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl, beat together the eggs and cottage cheese, then stir them into the nut mixture.
- Add the cooked mushroom mixture, the cheeses, parsley, and seasonings to the bowl and mix to combine well.
- Bake in a large, parchment-lined loaf pan at 350°F for an hour. Let it cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan, slicing, and serving.
Expert tips and FAQs
Yes! You've got a couple of options.
First, you can prep the whole nut loaf in advance and place into the pan, then cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. This is my favorite option for holidays. Bake straight from the fridge.
Or you can bake the veggie meatloaf up to a week in advance. Pull it out of the fridge an hour ahead of time to let it come to room temperature and then and reheat in the oven, covered with foil, just before serving. If you've got other dishes in the oven, you can tuck this in too at any temperature between 300° and 400°F.
Veggie meatloaf leftovers keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week. They're great served hot or cold. Try them in a hot or cold sandwich on good toast with shredded lettuce, pickles, ketchup, and mayo.
What to serve with veggie meatloaf
Nut loaf pairs well with a wide variety of flavors, but it begs for the classics. I love to serve it with vegetarian gravy and:
A classic vegetable side dish
A little something sweet
More favorite holiday vegetarian main dishes
- Spinach and portobello lasagna
- Chanterelle and Gruyere bread pudding
- Stuffed shells
- Jamie Oliver's vegan shepherd's pie
- Acorn squash bechamel lasagna
- 1 yellow onion, diced small
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt, divided
- 1 pound (454 grams) cremini mushrooms, minced (see note)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- ¼ cup (60 ml) dry red wine
- 2 cups cooked brown rice
- 2 cups (240 grams) walnuts, minced
- 1 cup (120 grams) cashews, minced
- 5 large free-range eggs
- 1 cup (235 grams) cottage cheese
- 6 ounces (170 grams) smoked gouda, shredded
- 4 ounces (113 grams) fontina, shredded
- 2 ounces (57 grams) parmesan, grated (generous ½ cup)
- ¼ cup minced flat-leaf parsley
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350°F with a rack in the center.
- Spray a large (1 ½ pound, 10" x 5" x 3") loaf pan with cooking spray and line with parchment that overhangs slightly on two sides.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the onion and a sprinkle of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the minced mushrooms and another sprinkle of the salt, raise heat to high, and cook until they have released their juices and reabsorbed them, about 7 minutes.
- Add garlic, thyme, oregano, basil, tarragon, and sage and cook 2 minutes more.
- Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up any browned bits, and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute.
- In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and cottage cheese.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss together the brown rice, walnuts and cashews.
- Stir in the egg mixture, then add the mushroom mixture, cheeses, parsley, remaining salt, and pepper. Mix well.
- Spoon mixture into prepared loaf pan and smooth top. If desired, decorate with a few mushroom slices or walnut halves. Place loaf pan on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Bake until firm, about 60 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a platter to serve.
- If you have a food processor, make quick work of the ingredient prep. Use the blade to chop the mushrooms, the walnuts, and the cashews, and to grate the parmesan. Use the shredding disk to shred the gouda and the fontina. If you don't have a food processor, no problem. Mince the mushrooms as finely as you can with a chef's knife. Grate the parmesan and shred the fontina and gouda on a box grater. Place the nuts into a gallon-size zip-top bag and crush them into very small pieces with a rolling pin.
- To make ahead: You can prep the whole thing in advance and place into the pan, then cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. This is my favorite option for holidays. Bake straight from the fridge. Or you can bake the veggie meatloaf up to a week in advance. Pull it out of the fridge an hour ahead of time to let it come to room temperature and then and reheat in the oven, covered with foil, just before serving. If you've got other dishes in the oven, you can tuck this in too at any temperature between 300° and 400°F.
- Leftovers keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week and are delicious warm or cold. Try them in sandwich on good toast with mayo, ketchup, shredded crunchy lettuce, and pickles.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 157Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 96mgSodium: 429mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 8g
Here's some text from the original 2015 post
Yesterday evening at 5:23 we were slipping pungent, silky pieces of Taleggio onto a few crackers for a snack and settling in to start our homework. Then, in a surge, the lights went out, and everything that beeps was beeping. We heard a noise so loud that I'm convinced I saw it. And the telephone pole with the transformer across the street had burst into flame.
In the time it took me to eye the wires connecting the pole to our daughters' bedroom and think, "Huh...that's prolly not great," the town managed to deploy four emergency vehicles. They arrived almost before it happened. I have a bit of a complicated relationship with our little town, but one thing I know for sure is that we are incredibly lucky to have our stellar emergency response teams.
While we slept under extra layers in a dark and chilly house, a throng of police, firefighters and folks from the power company worked through the night in driving rain to put up a brand new telephone pole. I have no idea what they did — which may be obvious from the way I'm calling the thing a damn telephone pole — but it brought our utilities back before we finished breakfast.
And with 30 minutes to spare before the kids started walking to school, they cleared away all the chaos and left us once again in Pleasantville, fumbling with our awkward, bulky gratitude.
Let me just diffuse the tension by putting it out there: Thank you to all of you good-crazy people the world over who move in the direction of danger as the rest of us advise our kids to hang out in the back half of the house. We notice you. You never cease to amaze us, and you never will.
Reasons to make nut loaf
We all do what we can. And while you make the world safer, sometimes I make nut loaf while contemplating whether I somehow caused this fire by doing one too many loads of laundry. I think we can all agree that neither nut loaf nor misplaced self-doubt is as important as public safety. And yet at least one of those things is kinda major. (Psst...it's the nut loaf.) Have you tried it? You should.
Serve this umami-rich loaf of love with simple mashed potatoes, The Best Vegetarian Gravy, and an old-school vegetable like a tangle of springy green beans. Maybe watch an episode of Mad Men afterwards, or go thank a public servant. Like a jumble of mushrooms and nuts, herbs and cheeses, it'll all come together beautifully in the end.