How to Make Kidney Bean Loaf

Posted by The Home School in the Woods Team on

You may have heard of the term “Meatless Mondays.” Well, believe it or not, it’s not a new thing, and certainly didn’t begin as a hashtag for vegans!

It actually came from WWI and WWII as a solution to the severe food shortages and rations on meat, but we’ll talk about that more in a little bit.

In a time where people needed to be creative with their meals, they often replaced meat with beans. This is how the famous vegetarian meatloaf came into existence. This comforting bean loaf eaten during the war was considered a frugal, nutritious meal loved by all.

We’ll share with you the backstory behind Meatless Monday and provide you with our Kidney Bean Loaf Recipe, found in our World War II Time Traveler

What Was Meatless Monday?

World War I was dragging on longer than most had expected. With soldiers stuck in the trenches for months on end, they at least needed food – especially meat and bread – to continue to fight. 

President Woodrow Wilson decided to work with the U.S. Food Administration to help find ways to encourage Americans to do their part by conserving food as much as possible. By doing this, more food could be sent to the soldiers on the battlefield – a necessity for soldiers to stay strong and healthy. The slogan for the campaign became “Food Will Win the War.”

The campaign received an overwhelming response, with approximately 11 million families signing the pledge to faithfully observe “Meatless Tuesday” (it would later be recognized as Meatless Monday). The campaign called for every Tuesday to be meatless and at least one meatless meal per day – making a total of nine meatless meals.

Although many households were ready to do their part, it still was a challenge for homemakers to provide nutritious meals while reducing essential staple foods like meat. One of the many ways they achieved this was by using a variety of beans, vegetables, and whatever ingredients were leftover from the week before. 

This campaign was successful since it is estimated that Americans reduced their meat consumption by 15 percent. Even after the war was over, people continued to partake in Meatless Tuesday, and eventually Wheatless Wednesday. They also began to seriously consider the amount of meat (and food in general) their families consumed.

By the time WWII rolled around, Presidents Roosevelt and Truman encouraged Americans to continue the trend in an effort to keep U.S. soldiers well fed. 

Creation of the Kidney Bean Loaf

Although we don’t know exactly who developed this recipe, we know that it was most likely first made by housewives who tried to recreate a meatless meatloaf for their families. 

By using leftover veggies, stale bread, and beans, they were able to create a hearty, protein-filled meal for everyone that was not only meatless but economical too, and it became even more necessary once the Great Depression struck. 

This vegetarian loaf became a staple in many households and was proudly eaten as a way to support the husbands, fathers, and sons at war.

Kidney Bean Loaf Recipe

Packed full of protein and important vitamins and minerals, this vegetarian meatloaf recipe can become a staple in your household too. Not only will it save you some money in the long run, but it’s a fun segue to talk about this event in history with your family.

If you’re learning about WWI or WWII with your kids, we encourage you to make this recipe with them to help engrain in their brains the important topic of food rations during world crises – especially war. 

This recipe is perfect for lunch or dinner. You can also easily make it gluten-free by replacing the breadcrumbs with store-bought gluten-free ones. For some extra flavor, you can top the loaf with a tomato sauce, hot sauce, ketchup, pickles, or onion. 

To learn more about the benefits of adding recipes to your homeschooling lessons, check out our blog post, Adding Interest to History with Recipes.


  • 2 c. dried kidney beans 
  • 2 c. water
  • 4 c. stale breadcrumbs
  • 2 c. grated cheese
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1/2 c. shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper


  1. Soak beans overnight in 2 cups of water
  2. The next day, bring to a boil in the same water it sat in, then simmer until the beans are tender
  3. Mash the beans
  4. Mix in all other ingredients
  5. Pour into a loaf pan and place in a cold oven
  6. Turn the oven on to 325° and bake for 1-1/2 hours
  7. Baste occasionally with 1 Tbs. melted butter and 1/4 cup of water
  8. Top with your sauce and/or condiment of choice, slice, and serve

More WWI and WWII Resources

If you’re looking for a hands-on way to teach your kids about America’s great world wars, check out our Commemorative 100th Anniversary World War Bundle and World War II Time Travelers.

Our Time Travelers give kids a chance to step back in time and get a better idea of the period by recreating it for themselves through projects, recipes, dress-up, games, and more. 

For additional info on our Time Travelers, be sure to read our blog posts, “What is a Time Traveler?” and “Using Time Travelers to Teach American History.”

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