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chickpea ball subs

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Chickpea Ball Subs

I love a good meatball sub.

There was a time in high school that my friends and I were all obsessed with Subway. I know—what a weird thing to be obsessed with. We were also way into Dairy Queen. Chicken strip baskets, for the win! But in our defense, we lived in the smallest town ever. Which meant none of these types of eateries were readily available. Subway and Dairy Queen were totally big city, fancypants food to us. Literally, the only restaurant in my hometown is Hannah’s Country Kitchen (who sponsored my tee-ball team in Kindergarten). They also sell deep-fried chicken strips and potato wedges at the Mom & Pop grocery store down by the caution light. That’s it. You can see how a trip to Subway suddenly seemed so gourmet. Whenever we went to “the big city” to go shopping, we’d always hit up Subway for lunch. It was a big deal. Definitely a special occasion meal.

I remember always wanting to get a meatball sub. Always. But then I’d see my friends order their turkey on wheat or veggie delite subs and think, “Oh. Meatball subs aren’t cool.”

Peer pressure is such a weird thing. Especially when it comes to food and eating. I’m not sure what made a dry, lackluster turkey on wheat sub more cool than a delicious, cheesy, gooey meatball sub, but in my 15-year-old brain, meatball=social suicide.

Needless to say, I never got the meatball sub.

Thankfully, with the wisdom of 29 years and 98 days under my belt, I can safely say I’ve stopped giving two monkey butts about what people think about my food choices. If it is wrong to want to eat a sandwich as delicious as a meatball sub, I don’t want to be right.

That being said, I am always looking for ways to healthify my not-so-healthy food favorites. So for my version of a meatball sub, I subbed in flavorful, high-protein, high-fiber chickpea balls. There is nothing wrong with high quality, responsibly-raised beef in my book, but by replacing the beef in your typical meatballs with chickpeas, I can save on calories, fat, cholesterol and up the vitamin and mineral antes. Win!

The combo of chickpeas, herbs and cheese bake up crunchy on the outside and soft and meaty on the inside. When mixed with sautéed green peppers and onions and slathered in your favorite marinara sauce, they make a perfect filling for a vegetarian “meat” ball sub. Yum! Enjoy!


chickpea ball subs

  • Author: Cassie Johnston
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


A vegetarian “meat” ball sub? You bet! Chickpea ball subs have a similar texture and taste to the meaty variety.



For the Chickpea Balls

  • Cooking Spray
  • 115 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

For the Sandwiches

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium green pepper, sliced thinly
  • 1 small onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 4 whole wheat hoagie buns
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a small baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In the basin of a food processor, combine all chickpea ball ingredients. Pulse until chickpeas are mashed and mixture can be formed into balls.
  3. Divide mixture into 12 evenly-formed balls. Place on prepared baking sheet. Spray tops of balls with cooking spray. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the balls have a crunchy and browned shell.
  4. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in green pepper and onion slices and cook until soft and tender—about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add marinara sauce. Cook until sauce is just warmed through—about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. When chickpea balls are cooked, remove from oven and preheat broiler. Gently stir the chickpea balls into the prepared sauce.
  6. Place the bottom half of the four hoagie buns on a baking sheet. Spoon three chickpea balls onto each bun half. Divide the peppers, onions and remaining sauce evenly among the buns.
  7. Sprinkle each sandwich half with mozzarella cheese. Broil for 3-5 minutes or until cheese is melted, browned and bubbly. Top subs with other half of hoagie bun.

Cassie Johnston

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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13 thoughts on “chickpea ball subs

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  • Stina SAYS

    I’m totally subjecting the boyfriend to these next week. They look delicious!

  • Jessie SAYS

    These look delicious! I’m definitely going to try them next week.

  • Moober SAYS

    I was in a small town too, but there was a semi-big one nearby. We still never hit any regular, sit-down restaurants very often, unless it was Steak n Shake late at night (cookies & cream shake and cheese fries!). DQ was our restaurant of choice with the chicken strips, Texas toast, and gravy. NOM.

  • Laura SAYS

    This is such a good idea!! You are a genius. I can’t wait to make these!

  • When I was in high school, our town had an A&W and a Kentucky Fried Chicken (way back before it was branded KFC). Oh, and a chinese restaurant and Pizza Delight, but they were too far from the mall. We would go to the mall, shop with our hard earned baby sitting money, and then hang out in the A&W – root beer and onion rings!

    We did finally get a McDonalds when I was 18 or so. Dairy Queen and Subway followed eventually. It’s still a small town – a few more pizza joints now, but still not a lot of options for dining out.

  • Katherine SAYS

    You have made my day. Not gonna lie, there are some things you miss as a vegetarian, and a meatball sub is one of them. Making this, post-haste.

  • Katie Garay SAYS

    Ahh YUM! These look so good. Definitely need to make me some of these.

  • Super excited about this bisnas. I made some lentil burger the other day and the kids and I were nuts over them but the hubs didn’t like them at all (weirdo). I think I’ll try this in burger form and see if he likes them better. Love me some chickpeas!


  • Lynn SAYS

    I made these about a month ago and they were very good. I only made two changes; first was substituting the egg for flax seed since I’m egg intolerant. Second, I used fresh basil. I’m actually making these again tonight to go along with some pasta. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Love Meatball subs! I am totally trying these for our next meatless meal! Can’t wait! Tweeted, pinned and shared on my facebook page :)

  • I have a can of chickpeas that needs using up. Since we’re stuck inside in a blizzard, it’s a good day to make some rolls – we’re so having this for dinner tonight.

  • I am so excited to find this recipe! First, because I also love meatball subs, and second, I think my clients who are looking for a vegetarian option once in a while will love this.

  • Bethany SAYS

    Bought the chickpeas today to try this recipe, think I’m going to try adding Worcestershire sauce to up the meaty flavor!

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