This vegan pâté recipe gets body from lentils and toasted walnuts and big flavor from a few unusual suspects: miso, mirin, and umeboshi.
Vegan Pâté that Tastes Like the Real Deal
Growing up, my dad would often set out a container of Trader Joe's pâté with cheese and crackers for a snack (he's a classy guy!) Years later I discovered this plant-based walnut lentil pâté recipe that tastes exactly the way I remember the traditional stuff, only with none of the same ingredients. Read on!
The first job I had in San Francisco was at a gluten- and dairy-free wholesale bakery called Crave. The company consisted of myself, another baker, and the owner. We baked out of a communal kitchen in the 'Dogpatch' district of San Francisco, which housed a couple of other caterers and a (now well-known) San Francisco charcuterie maker.
Our table sat next to 'the pig guy,' as I called him in my head, and while Amber and I were cutting up hundreds of pretty little organic brownies on our steel table, the pig guy would be hacking up a whole pig four feet away on the next table over. Being incredibly squeamish, I found this horrifying, and oftenhad to stare at the grisly deed for hours until I'd pluck up the courage to ask Amber to switch sides with me.
Sometimes I would open the compost bin to dump in our eggshells and used parchment paper, and the vacant eyes of a pig's head would stare back at me (when the pig guy wasn't using it to make headcheese, that is). One day, the pig guy brought a vat of burgundy liquid into the walk-in. Innocently thinking it was some kind of red wine reduction, I asked after the contents. 'You don't want to know,' he said darkly. And I'll never forget themorning when the bell rang before the pig guy had arrived for his daily butchering and grinding. A man stood outside with a pig in a large plastic bag, which Amber and I had to drag into the kitchen ourselves.
Now I wish I hadn't been so squeamish, because I would have liked to taste his now renowned sausages. But the sight put me off meat (particularly pork) for a good while.
When I moved in with my vegetarian partner Jay, I used it as an excuse to invest in many plant-based cookbooks. Everything by Deborah Madison found its way onto my shelf, in addition to Chez Panisse Vegetables, The Moosewood Cookbook and Enchanted Broccoli Forest, and Everyday Greens, to name just a few. When I learned that Real Food Daily, a vegan restaurant in my old haunts of Santa Monica, had come out with a collection of tantalizing recipes and photography, I snapped it up.
Vegan Walnut Lentil Pâté
It had been many years since I had eaten real pâté when I pureed up this walnut lentil pâté for the first time. When I tasted it, a million memories rushed back of eating the Trader Joe's pâté my dad used to buy, with cornichons (tiny, tangy pickles) and stone-ground, whole-wheat crackers. It tasted exactly the way I remembered the meaty stuff: sweet, meaty and rich, with the texture of velvet on the tongue.
While sherry and liver gave the pâté with which I was familiar its characteristically complex taste, a stealthy trio of Japanese ingredients flavor this vegan spread. First, caramelized onions and garlic are deglazed with Mirin, a sweet cooking wine. Bay leaf-scented lentils and toasted walnuts are then blended with umeboshi, a pink puree made from pickled sour plums, and miso, fermented soybean paste. A handful of fresh herbs adds further depth and flecks of color. The recipe does require several steps - sauteing onions, toasting the nuts, cooking the lentils - but in the end, this vegan pâté recipe comes together in minutes with the help of a food processor.
Top: umeboshi (pickled plum) paste Bottom: yellow miso
I've made this vegan pâté many times, for many events, varying the herbs, adding a bit of olive oil for moisture, but keeping the rest exactly the same. Every skeptical mouth that tastes this unassuming spread smiles in rapturous surprise; most go on to ask for the recipe.
And I'm always happy to tell them that no pigs were harmed in the making of this plant-based walnut lentil pâté.
For more small bites:
- Herby Cheese Straws (a.k.a Crack Sticks)
- Sourdough Crackers
- Smoky Baba Ganoush
- Gluten-Free Garlic Bread Bruschetta
*Bojon appétit! For more Bojon Gourmet in your life, follow along on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, purchase my gluten-free cookbook Alternative Baker, or subscribe to receive new posts via email. And if you make this lentil walnut pate recipe, I’d love to know. Leave a comment and rating below, and tag your Instagram snaps @The_Bojon_Gourmet and #bojongourmet.*
Lentil Walnut PâtéPrint Recipe Pin Recipe
- 3/4 cup dried green lentils (lentils de puy)
- 3 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (divided use)
- 1 small, yellow onion, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 1 1/4 cups walnuts, lightly toasted (for 6 - 12 minutes at 350º) and cooled
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, basil or parsley, plus extra for garnish, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, oregano or marjoram, chopped
- 3 tablespoons white or yellow miso paste
- 1 1/2 tablespoons umeboshi paste
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- extra olive oil, for drizzling
- In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils, water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until the lentils are very tender (but not falling apart), 20 - 30 minutes. Drain, discard the bay leaf, and cool completely (you can speed this up by spreading the lentils out on a plate and sticking them in the fridge).
- Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring frequently and reducing the heat if necessary, until the onions are golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in the mirin and remove from the heat. Cool completely (to speed up the process, see lentils, above).
- Place the toasted and cooled walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and puree until it looks like nut butter, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the cooled lentils and the onion mixture and puree smooth. Add in the herbs, miso, umeboshi, pepper, and remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and blend until smooth.
- Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Drizzle with olive oil and chopped fresh herbs, and serve with crackers or sliced baguette and cornichons or olives.
Love your story telling!
Everything you post looks SO fabulous! I have been checking out different animal-free pate recipes lately and I LOVE the sound of yours. I'm definitely bookmarking this!
Thank you for the kind words! Let me know if you give it a try.
This is the BEST pate EVER. I honestly don't think I've had a meat pate that can compare. Its simple, unassuming color and texture did not prepare me for the astounding complexity and richness that this spread manages to balance (perfectly).
Maybe this is due to my (borderline unhealthy) attraction to all things miso/mirin/umeboshi/Japanese, or just Alanna's remarkable ability to make just about any food feel rich and delectable and special. Still, I think this recipe is a winner and I can't wait to get home and give it a try myself!
Hi, thanks for this recipe. It looks and sounds amazing. I'm having a hard time finding umeboshi paste in my area - can you suggest anything that I can substitute it with?
Umeboshi is very tart and salty, so I'd recommend making the pâté with everything but the umeboshi, then adding either more miso and mirin, or adding salt and lemon juice until the pate tastes good to you (or a bit of all four). Let us know how it goes!
Stacey Boyer says
Every time I made this, I’ve meant to gush about how incredible it is. So, so good. The other thing I forget every time is, how dark walnuts get at 350 for ten minutes. Did you start yours from the freezer, or are they just supposed to be deep brown?
Oven is calibrated.
THIS STUFF IS SOOOOO DELICIOUS. No reason to sub ingredients- Amazon. ;)
I'm so glad you like this pate! It's a regular in my kitchen too.
Thanks for the note about the walnuts! I do start mine from the freezer, so I'll update the recipe with a lower range. They should just be golden and toasty-smelling, not too dark. :)
I found the Umeboshi at both Whole Foods and my local Health Food Store - I actually had no luck at the Asian grocer (partly because I couldn't discern the labels exactly). I'm making this for NYE after having it bookmarked/having the ingredients for months!
Awesome! Hope you're enjoying it. We've been living on it lately. Cheers!
We had a similar pate at Angelica's Kitchen in NYC, one of our favorite vegan restaurants. I'd been looking for a similar recipe and yours is simply the best. Thanks for providing this new addition to our rotating list of favorites!
So glad to hear it; thanks for the feedback!
I just made this and it was SO good. I thought I had some umeboshi paste but I didn't, so it got left out, and it still tasted amazing without it. I'm definitely going to make this for any parties in the future. :)
Good to know that a lack of umeboshi isn't a deal-breaker! So glad you like the pate. :)
This looks like a keeper! I use a good lentil spread from Gourmet mag with a head of roasted garlic. I am a Tenzo at a Buddhist zendo where there is lots of mirin, miso & Asian ingredients lying around. Lentils & walnuts are an especially good combo. We use a lot of French lentils now cuz they cook quicker. Always good to keep no ego in the food , but for feasts & ordinations a treat is good. Can't wait to try it. Will even turn the priests on to les cornichonsMerci!
This is the coolest comment I've gotten on my site - thank you! I do hope the priests approve. : ) And the roasted garlic variation sounds delicious - I'll have to try that one sometime.
We just had the most amazing Vietnamese sandwiches at a shop in Guerneville. One of the ingredients was lentil walnut pate, so I googled it this morning. There it was, and I think this recipe looks perfect. I'm not in any hurry to get home from this lovely trip to wine country, but at least I have this to look forward to. Thanks!
That sounds amazing - what's the name of the shop? Enjoy the rest of your trip, and the pate!
This is the best pate I've ever had! It's fast becoming a favorite on the holiday party circuit. Thank you!
That's fantastic - I'm so happy to hear it!
Deb Schiff says
The recipe is quite like the one from the Angelica Kitchen cookbook -- a favorite of guests.
Interesting - I'll have to check that book out.
This looks wonderful! I only have ground walnuts at the moment, roughly how many grams of walnuts would you say you used? Were they whole walnuts or walnut pieces?
Hi Charlotte, I appear to have used mostly whole walnuts that were a bit broken up, as per the photo above. Google says that 1 cup of whole walnuts equals roughly 4 ounces. I used 1 1/4 cups, so roughly 5-6 ounces, or 140-170 grams total. I don't think that a little more or less will make a big difference, so proceed fearlessly! Let us know how it comes out. Happy cooking!
Thank you! Can't wait to try it :-)
You're welcome! :)
Another winner! Fascinating fusion of Asian ingredients with decidedly European ingredients. Generic grocery store lentils from my pantry, and I happened to have whole pickled umeboshi with shiso so used that since it gets pureed anyway.
Sliced up some bread but I think crudites would let the flavor shine through more. Unfortunately, my carrots are earmarked for your Curried Carrot Soup with Ginger and Coconut Milk.
Hi Katherine, umeboshi with shiso sounds delicious! I'm so glad you like the pate - it's one of my all-time favorite recipes, too. I bet crudites would be a great vehicle for it. I hope you enjoy the carrot soup, as well!
You know what I was missing? The olive oil. Added that for serving (as you have in the recipe - DUH) and now I think it works great with bread, too.
Have you ever grilled the bread with olive oil?
That would be delicious! :)
I've made this according to the recipe many times, and it is SO delicious!
However, I wanted to make it while visiting my father in rural Spain, where you can't get ingredients like miso, mirin or umeboshi, so I made some changes, and while it wasn't quite as good as the original, it was still pretty damn amazing :-) So, for those of you having trouble finding some of the ingredients: I replaced both the mirin and the umeboshi by soaking raisins in sherry with a lot of salt and a dash of syrup for a couple of hours, and then putting it through the food processor. I replaced the miso with a much smaller amount (probably about a tablespoon) of soy sauce, because I thought the soy flavour might become a bit overwhelming if I used more.
Hi Charlotte - those are brilliant adaptations, and I'm so glad they worked out! Thank you so much for sharing!
Boudica Andred says
I just would like to say that I followed a link from another site here (where they also had a veg. pate) and not only does your recipe look light years better, your writing is a real treat in itself. Looking forward to giving this a try.
Aw, thank you, Boudica! I hope you like the pate - I think it's pretty awesome. I still make it all the time. :)
I found your recipe about 2 years ago, and every time I've made it people have marvelled at it and wanted the recipe - I'm so glad to have found it, and I'm going to make it again for a New Year's Day gathering. I even impressed a woman where I work who's a former caterer - at parties everyone rushes to get her contribution first!
My mother is Japanese so I'm familiar with miso and umeboshi, but would never have known that they could contribute that essential "meaty" flavor to this pate. It's also a great one because it's not just vegetarian but vegan. You have a lot of other recipes that look wonderful too......
Thanks, Kay! I'm so glad you all are liking this pate - the recipe is indeed a gem. :)
I'm going to be trying this recipe out for a birthday party this week, but was wondering since umeboshi paste is quite expensive, whether capers might be a good substitute? And if so, how much you might put in? I did get the umeboshi paste for this party though, which I found at Whole Foods.
There were quite a few different misos out there.. what brand did you get? I got the Miso Master Organic Chickpea which looked yellow, compared to the other misos. I hope that's the right one to use.. Thanks for the recipe!
I forgot to ask and I'm hoping you see this soon, as I am making this for tomorrow, starting it tonight.. if I double the recipe, do I just double all the ingredients including the black pepper? Can I mix cilantro and parsley, or is it better to stick to one kind of herb? Thanks again!
Hi Joanne! I think it's fine to double all the ingredients, though you may need to adjust them to your taste a bit. If you're concerned about it being too peppery, feel free to use less and add it in to taste if you like. As for the umeboshi, capers would seem like a good substitute – maybe start with a couple of teaspoons and adjust from there? If you try it, please report back! The miso you got seems a-ok; there are some darker, aged misos that might change the color and taste, so anything light in color and with a mild flavor should be perfect. Let me know how you like it!
Thanks for your quick reply! I've made the walnut butter in my 4 cup mini-prep food processor, but it's not large enough to blend all the other ingredients. I have an immersion blender and a Vitamix.. Can I use either of them to finish the job or would you recommend one over the other?
I guess I could also do very small batches in my mini processor, then mix them all together by hand. Any suggestions? Thanks, I'll report back.
Forgot to mention.. I may not finish the recipe tonight, but will tackle it tomorrow morning. I've finished the walnut butter and lentils.. Do I need to refrigerate the walnut butter as well as the lentils if I finish tomorrow? Thanks again!
Hi Joanne! Sorry for the delayed reply - did it turn out alright?
Hi Alanna! Oops I meant to come back and give you feedback earlier.. It was a great success!! Everyone loved it and was raving about it. I doubled the recipe so I could keep some for myself, and I'm loving it too, and have been noshing on it today. I really like that it's full of protein, probiotics and all the good stuff.. makes for easy healthy snacking. Thanks again for a fantastic recipe!
I'm so glad it was a success! It's an all-time favorite around here, too. :)
Hi! I've come into a bounty of walnuts and thought of this delicious recipe. I might be making a big batch, but was wondering if this will freeze well and how long do you think it will be good for?
That's a good question. I've never tried freezing it, but I think that would work fine. The texture would be the only thing that might change, but since there's no dairy in it, I don't think it should. It would keep frozen for several months at least, and in the fridge for a week or so. Please let me know if you try it!
I was intrigued by this recipe but I have some peculiar dietary requirements to follow. I can't eat food from the allium family (onion, garlic, shallots, etc) due to stomach issues. Do you think I could cut them out of this recipe and still have a tasty dish?
I know, it's sad. I come from a family of Lugurian innkeepers whose main dish is pesto.
Hi Didi! Aw that's tough, and I totally get it. I've been doing a freaky elimination diet this year myself. I bet you'd still get a lot of good umami flavors without the garlic and onion here. I wonder if using other sauteed veggies would be nice - maybe finely diced fennel bulb and/or carrots - to add that roasty vegetable flavor? Please let me know if you give it a try!
OMG! I LOVE this recipe!!!! It might be the best thing I've ever tasted!! My God parents are foodies and I am as well, but I'm vegan and gluten free (celiac!) and for thanksgiving I think my Godmother was panicking on what to let me eat! haha! She found your recipe, we made it together, so easy... and it was the most popular thing we had!! I am hooked on your site! I love cookbooks and instagram, and I can't wait to follow you, cook more, and get your book!!! THANK YOU!!
Awwwww this is the sweetest note!! Thank you for trying this recipe - I love it so much too! Wow vegan and celiac sounds incredibly challenging. I'm so glad you can eat this! Many of my recent recipes are vegan as I had to cut out dairy and eggs for an elimination diet this year. There are a few vegan recipes in Alternative Baker but not a ton. That said, it's pretty straightforward to sub out the dairy in most recipes. Eggs are a little tricker but I'm happy to help make suggestions if you need!
An absolute hit with guests. A friend brought it to a dinner get-together and it was the star of the appetizer show. Everyone, including me, asked for the recipe. I myself am about to make it for guests for the second time. Definitely a crowd-pleaser.
I'm so glad you all are enjoying this recipe! It's a constant favorite around here as well. Bojon appétit! ;)
What an amazing treat ! I made it in the afternoon & just finished having it for dinner on Wasa crispy bread. Just 2 Tartines with cornichons+ Gherkins & a bowl of Tomato soup. I can’t explain the feeling ... it was almost surreal. I was expecting it to mimic Pâté ... but it went beyond that. It was something even better. It’s beyond Pâté. Even if I were craving the animal based version, this would make me forget about my craving because of how good it tastes. What’s interesting is I confused the Lentil to Walnut ratio. I used canned Biona lentils and instead of 1.5 cups , I used about 2.5 cups. And when I tasted the mixture this afternoon, It definitely was very Lentil-y. But the flavor changed after 6 hours in the fridge into this amazing thing. It wasn’t Lentil-y. So, now I’m so eager to repeat the recipe with the correct ratio. I don’t even want to tweak your original formula. I am so intrigued. I really want to taste what you’ve envisioned.
Just so you know, I’m on a portion control diet. I’ve been on this diet for almost 4 months already and I’m halfway to my target. What helps make the diet enjoyable are two main things : 1- Eating everything I love & 2- cooking it myself so I control the ingredients and fat content. Also the time I spend cooking & recreating other people’s recipes, is great to keep me busy and not even think about deviating from the diet. Besides, I try to make every meal exciting. There’s always a highlight in every meal which I look forward to. It can be something so simple, like homemade peanut butter. Or, a delicacy like this Pâté. So I thank you for this recipe & for making it a part of my healthy journey.
How I found your recipe was by searching for Umeboshi as ingredient. Back during the pandemic, I hoarded many jars. And I wanted to find something other than sushi. Yours was the most interesting thing I found. The other recipes were of very simple stuff like avocado toast 🤣 nothing so sophisticated.
Ps: I used a Tbsp of Truffle Infused EVOO in the final stage.
Alanna Taylor-Tobin says
This sweet comment positively makes my day! I love this recipe so much, too, and I know what you mean – the flavor is uncannily like classic pate but somehow it's even more velvety and umami. I need to make it again asap! Sounds absolutely perfect on Wasa crackers with cornichons and tomato soup.
I reread the recipe and I don't seem to have given a quantity for the lentils after they're cooked (just to start with 3/4 cup dry). It's possible that the amount of cooked lentils would actually be closer to 2 1/2 cups (Google says they "double or triple in size" when cooked) so perhaps it wasn't a mistake after all!
I used to buy a similar lentil-walnut pâté made with umeboshi and miso at the Park Slope Coop in Brooklyn. This time, not even my Asian grocery carried the umeboshi paste. I ended up subbing pickled ginger–figuring it would add some of the fermented goodness and a welcome kick–and added a splash of the ginger brine and some plum wine to the mirin when I deglazed. (I've also subbed umeboshi vinegar in the past). It was fabulous. But I finally gave in and ordered umeboshi paste from Amazon (sorry local grocers!). This really is the secret ingredient! Something about the tart, fermented fruitiness really does add a certain haunting meatiness to the recipe. The pickled ginger version was great, but the umeboshi version is divine. Exactly as I remembered!
Alanna Taylor-Tobin says
I'm so glad you enjoyed this recipe! That's very cool that the Park Slope coop used to carry something similar. I wonder if they were inspired by the same recipe from the Real Food Daily cookbook! I'm glad you were able to find some umeboshi paste and that it added that umami flavor. I agree, it's so special here! So smart to try pickled ginger, one of my favorite things. I bet that tasted delicious in its own rite.
Thanks a bunch for trying the recipe out and for the sweet note!