Canned Chickpeas Are The Secret To Hearty Vegan Meatloaf

Vegan meatloaf may sound like an oxymoron, but there's certainly a place for this plant-based dish at the dinner table. No matter the materials, meatloaf is a triumph of ingenuity, using up the odds and ends of one's pantry. A vegan meatloaf works the same way, using up some evergreen items to make a fast and nutritious meal. But there's one key ingredient that every vegan meatloaf needs to be the best it can be: canned chickpeas

Why this starchy legume? Chickpeas offer a double-whammy of usefulness with their protein-packed and creamy beans and the magic sauce it comes with, aquafaba. For vegan bakers, aquafaba is often used to make a meringue-like whip. Here, the aquafaba can fill the role that an egg would normally play in making meatloaf, binding together the numerous aspects of the filling. When paired with other delicious ingredients like mushrooms, nuts, oats, or breadcrumbs and seasoned with soy sauce or other umami-rich condiments, this creamy blend becomes a faux meatloaf worth the fanfare. And it all begins and ends with a can of chickpeas. 

Giving meatloaf a vegan makeover

To kick off your vegan meatloaf, start with either two (14-ounce) cans of chickpeas or with about 3 to 4 cups of cooked chickpeas. You'll want to reserve either 1/2 cup of the canned liquid or 1/2 cup of the leftover cooking liquid. You'll roughly pureé your chickpeas with the other hearty mix-ins (listed below) and use the liquid to bind together all other ingredients. 

Beyond the chickpeas, you can consider adding in ingredients like flax seeds, nuts (walnuts and almonds work particularly well), or oats to beef up the mix's texture and protein levels. Meanwhile, aromatic ingredients like nutritional yeast, soy sauce, vegan Worcestershire sauce, and spices like smoked paprika and garlic powder will help pump up the savory flavors. Vegetables that you would normally add to a traditional meatloaf will work for it's vegan counterpoint. Consider adding some shredded carrot, chopped celery, diced onion, and plenty of minced mushrooms to your vegan mix as well. For an extra punch of umami, you can glaze your meatloaf with a classic blend of ketchup and brown sugar or a glug or two of BBQ sauce. The result will be plant-based meatloaf packing as much protein and flavor as the original.