By Cassie Johnston
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Whenever someone is hesitant to try out eating more meatless meals, one of my favorite things to do is show them just how comforting and hearty plant-based eating can be.
I think a common misconception about a plant-based diet is that it’s just a bunch of salads. So not true! A plant-centered meal can be just as hearty and stick-to-your-ribs-y as meals with animal products. And this big ole plate of spaghetti and vegan meatballs is a perfect example of that.
I posted my first meatless meatball recipe back in 2011 after getting a recipe emailed to me by one of my coworkers. I was really happy with the taste of the recipe, but now looking back at it, the ingredient list was a little unwieldy. It had 17 ingredients just to make some daggum meatballs!
For years now, I’ve been working on perfecting that vegan meatballs recipe with four main goals in mind:
After a whole lot of spaghetti and meatball dinners (like, a lot), I think I’ve finally landed on a really great, relatively simple, perfectly meaty and delicious plant-based meatball recipe. Woohoo!
There are a lot of great meatless meatball recipes out there, but not a lot of great meatless meatballs recipes that don’t call for speciality ingredients like tempeh or TVP or tofu or wheat germ or seitan. These vegan meatballs are made only using ingredients that are regularly kept in my pantry.
When it comes to the cooking method for these beautiful, meaty babies, I’ve done all kinds of testing, and I’ll tell you that my favorite method is to pan-fry them (in avocado oil because it has an über-high smoke point) until brown and crisp.
BUT, if pan-frying isn’t your thing, I’ve also done these 100% in the oven with pretty darn good results. You obviously don’t get the crispy, crunchy outside crust, but you still get a really great meatball.
I’ve also done a lot of testing on this recipe using eggs, egg substitutes, and even no egg at all, and I’ve found little difference. If you have trouble getting the recipe to hold together, you can add an egg (if you’re not vegan) or a flax egg (mix one tablespoon ground flax meal with three tablespoons warm water and let thicken for five minutes) to the mixture, but I didn’t find it necessary.
The original version of this vegan meatballs recipe has been around for a while and quite a few folks enjoyed it, so if you’d like access to that, you can print it here. But I highly recommend trying out this new version! You won’t be sorry. Enjoy!
4.8 from 4 reviews
At last, meatless meatballs that don’t call for any specialty ingredients! These Easy Vegan Meatballs are relatively simple and perfectly meaty, and you probably already have the ingredients in your kitchen.
This is great base recipe, but you can doctor these up with spices however you see fit—add two tablespoons of Italian seasoning plus two tablespoons of nutritional yeast for great spaghetti and meatballs. Add Montreal Steak Seasoning for great cocktail meatballs. The possibilities are endless!
If your meatballs aren’t holding together, feel free to add either an egg (if you’re not vegan) or a flax egg (mix one tablespoon ground flax meal with three tablespoons warm water and let thicken for five minutes) to the meatball mixture. I didn’t find this necessary for my meatballs to stay together well.
For an extra boost of flavor, cook your brown rice in veggie broth or even not-beef broth.
If you want to skip pan-frying, you can just put the formed meatballs directly on the baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown and firm.
Add these meatballs to your sauce right before serving. The longer they swim around in the sauce, the more tender they become.
Keywords: vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, meatballs
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I like how the green leaves spell out “Al” on the top meatball.
Love reading this BTHR, its my guilty pleasure.
Hope all is well! Much love!
HAHA! I didn’t even notice that. That’s awesome!
that looks amazing! i think i need to try those vegan balls!
Let me know how you like them!
Looks amazing — thanks for sharing!
No problem! Let me know if you like them.
These look delicious! I’ll definitely have to make these! Thank you. :)
No problem! Let me know if you try any variations on them. :D
Thanks for the recipe! I’m going to have to try this one. I love cooking with lentils. I just made some lentil Sloppy Joe’s the other night they turned out pretty fab. They really do have the texture of meat and I actually enjoyed them more than I anticipated.
I’m not a hardcore vegan but I follow mostly a vegan diet because I feel best when I eat that way. Combine lactose intolerance with a generally fussy digestive system and vegan eats are the way to go for me.
But I agree with you, I think flexitarian is a very healthy choice. Most Americans eats WAY too much meat and dairy and I think there’s been a bit of a movement lately in the direction to follow a more plant-based diet. Have you seen the new documentary Forks Over Knives yet? I’m dying to see it!
Anyway, that’s all for now. Great post! :)
Oooh! No! I loooove food documentaries. Thanks for the recommendation!
I’m vegan and I’m soooooo making these – wonderful! Thanks for the recipe and beautiful photos:)
Let me know how they turn out!
Bookmarked- thank you!
Wow, good grief. These would cost me a fortune to try to make.. I’d have to buy Lentils, Wheat Germ, Wheat Flour, Kosher Salt, Balsamic Vinegar, Nutmeg, Mustard–whole packages of them even though I only need a little bit. Any ideas on how to sample recipes on a dime?
Wow, that is so crazy because everything in this recipe are pantry “staples” for me. The only thing I had to buy are then lentils, and that was only because we were out!
Do you have co-op or health food store nearby with bulk bins? That is how I test out recipes. You can buy 1 teaspoon of many of the spices (plus the flour, wheat germ and lentils) for only pennies. And then if you like it, you can invest in the full-size containers.
Sweet! There’s a WholeFoods a few miles away. I’ll see if they have the bulk foods section. Great idea!
This recipe is about as frugal as you can get. I buy various beans and brown rice by the 25# bags. Not only saving money but the planet too by avoiding all the plastic and cardboard from small expensive packages.
I’m going to try the recipe. It sounds REALLY good.
I noticed a few people including you mention “Lentils” I don’t see lentils in the recipe I printed out…I only see “Chickpeas”….is there a mistake?
I believe that is from the old recipe, before Cassie updated it a few months back!
I like your vegan meat balls a lot. Thanks to you I know what I will have for dinner this week :-)
I made these last week and I’m making them again tonight! Probably going to repost on my blog too — I’ll be sure to link back to you. Absolutely delicious! I used smoked paprika and chipotle chili powder, so they had a bit of a southwestern kick. Delicious!
I made these tonight! They turned out really delicious, thanks so much for the recipe! :)
yummmmmm yumm. My meat-eating boyfriend loved them!
YAY! So glad you liked them! I can’t wait to try them on a meatball sub. YUM.
Awesome! I can’t wait to try these out. I’m making a freezer-full of goodies for my boyfriend and I’m trying to sneak in healthy versions of his favorite comfort foods. These look delicious and meaty enough to trick him into enjoying it :)
Just wondering if you’ve tried freezing these at any stage: either after shaping into balls, or after baking?
Thanks so much!
I would say freeze them before baking. I think they’d freeze great! Let me know if you try it out.
I am just switching from vegetarian to vegan. Those look totally scrumptious! Will try them out for sure. Thanks for the recipe!
Hope you love them. They are one of our favorites!
I’m cooking these vegan meatballs tonight with a friend! I can’t wait. I’m vegan and I cook lots of delicious meals but I’ve never tried meatballs.
Let me know how you like ’em. Have a great dinner with your friend. :)
Oh my goodness! I’m not even vegetarian and these are phenomenal! I might get addicted to this stuff, LOL. If this is what vegan food tastes like, I think I could become a vegan!
I was wondering what kind of oats you used? (instant, old-fashioned rolled, quick oats, etc…)
Old-fashioned rolled. :)
great!I have never made a recipe with oats in it, so I was at a loss as to what I should buy. Thank you! :)
These are delicious, thanks for sharing the recipe!
Next time, I might try and add some parsley or spinach to add a little greens.
Thanks for this recipe! I doubled the batch and froze them. Now I have them handy to heat them up with pasta sauce or BBQ sauce. Definitely my favorite plant-based meat recipe and I (used to) love meat!
I have tried many different kinds. Ones I have made and others have. I will be trying therein a few weeks. I’ll let you know how we like them. Seems not many people write back so I’ll be sure to let you know. They look very good.
Hi, are the lentils, rice etc measured dry or cooked? If cooked, can you advise regarding the precooked volume?
This recipe was quick,easy and delicious! My family and I just enjoyed eating some. The only major change I made was to chop one onion,two cloves of garlic, one stick of celery, and some fresh parsley in my food processor first before adding the other ingredients. Due to the high salt content and lack of genuine flavor, I don’t use onion or garlic powder. Thanks for this user friendly, fantastic recipe. It’s definitely worth saving.
Gave this a try – it was ok but not really that great. Texture isn’t good (more like a dense cookie) and IMO doesn’t go well with bread or pasta. I hate the taste of VWG that’s in most other recipes I’ve tried, so this at least didn’t make me want to throw up, but I wouldn’t make it again.
I hope you’ll try the updated version of this recipe! :)
I’ve bought trader joe’s meatballs forever, glad to finally have something I can make at home!
These balls looks delicious , btw ,I didn’t see lentils in the ingredients list only chick peas . is it the same thing over in usa? ( sorry for silly question )
Lentils were in the older version of the recipe, but they aren’t in the updated one – they were replaced with the chickpeas!
I have made them and I was very pleased with the taste . I have also add them to my blog with link to Wholefully xx
Do you think they would work without the walnuts, or would I need to substitute? I’m crazy allergic to nuts, so the recipe as-is is not going to work for me.
Hi- excited to try these! Can you sub quinoa for the rice?
Oooh, I’m going to try these tomorrow!
Love all the plant based options lately. I’ll try them in my next batch cooking session – and you’re right,, all the stuff is already in my pantry. Thanks!!!
Definitely going to give these a go, they sound super delicious! Would really love to know what you put in your sauce?
Honestly? It’s usually just the jarred stuff! :)
Wow! This looks great! I love the idea of using chickpeas!
Hey Cassie, I just read your note about the recent recipes being inspired by your familiy’s choice to go meatless and dairy free. I’ve been excited by a couple of the recipes and meh on others, which is fine, to each their own right, and I recognize the content is super high quality.
I’m curious though, is the plan going forward to have every recipe follow this model?
Right now, we aren’t eating meat or dairy, but honestly, I hate to make sweeping declarations and say every post going forward will be meatless and dairy-free forever.
This is what is good for us now, but that might change next year or even next week. I’ve always followed a flexitarian diet—we’re just “flexing” a little more toward plant-based at the time (and feeling awesome because of it).
I will say that, for the next three months on my editorial calendar, all my new posts are meatless and/or dairy-free. I hope you’ll stick around! I promise, there will be plenty of awesome, relevant content regardless of if you’re an omnivore or herbivore. :)
i am just learning different ways to make meatballs and definitely adding this…they are so versatile and love the fact that they can be made ahead of time.
My husband will love these for lunch, or watching the game!…
these look delicious! do you happen to know the nutrition facts of this receipe? i’m jump starting a healthy kick and want to try to keep track of my intake.
There are lots of great calorie calculators out there that you can use. Here’s one I like: https://www.caloriecount.com/cc/recipe_analysis.php
Made these for the first time 1/10/2017. Delicious. Held together well and very tasty. I used a hot chilli powder for a nice kick
These are fab. It’s great to find tasty veggie options to add to my repertoire.
Would this recipe work without the rice?
I don’t think they would hold together well without the rice. You could maybe try using another grain, but I haven’t tried it, so I’m not sure.
Just a question: what’s the sauce you use? (And its toppings.)
I use just a store-brand organic tomato basil pasta sauce. And the toppings are parsley and Vegan Parmesan Cheese (recipe here: https://wholefully.com/vegan-stuffed-shells/
I made these last night! I fried a few and baked the rest. The fried ones tasted really good haha, the baked ones seemed to dry out a bit. I used white rice, because I didn’t have brown – not sure if that maybe made a difference. Either way, I just crumbled them and put them into a pasta sauce. They’re delicious! Next time I’ll most likely omit the chili powder and add a flax egg. But DEFINITELY will be making them again!
These are delicious. My grandkids, who are kosher, could not believe they were able to eat cheese with their “meatballs..” We loved the taste! Thank you so much for the recipe.
Is there anything you could substitute for walnuts if you are allergic?
Are you allergic to all tree nuts? Because pecans would also work in a pinch. Otherwise, I’d just leave out the nuts and add an additional 1/4 cup of oats.
Can’t wait to try this recipe. You mention that you can cook them in the oven, what temperature would you suggest? Thanks!
350° until they start to split on top—about 12-15 minutes in my oven. :)
Made this last night and they were a huge hit! Thanks :) Will make again – so easy and a great base to play around with other flavour combinations
Can I freeze these?
These are fab. It’s incredible to discover great veggie alternatives to add to my collection.
Just a question: what’s the sauce you use…
Just a store-brand organic tomato basil pasta sauce. Any tomato sauce would work great!
These are delectable. My grandchildren, who are genuine, couldn’t trust they could eat cheddar with their “meatballs..” We cherished the taste! Much obliged to you such a great amount for the formula.
I’ve been collecting vegan recipes for my next job. (18 omnivores and 1 vegan, 3 weeks over seas) My daughter and I tested this recipe as written and it was SUPER! Can’t wait to try the variations in spices.
I just made the vegan meatballs (Dec. 2018) and I can’t believe how good and easy they are — after 40 years as a vegetarian and an additional 10 as a vegan, raising kids, how come I wasted money buying veggie burgers when they can be made so easily from this recipe!!
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