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:
- Reduce the ingredient list as low as possible (it’s down to 10 for the base recipe).
- Use only pantry staples (the weirdest ingredient here is walnuts).
- Make it gluten-free (my husband eats GF—this is the best GF spaghetti we’ve found, by the way).
- Keep it delicious, meaty, and hearty (it totally is).
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!
Simple and Easy Vegan Meatballs
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!Print
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.
- 1 14-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1/3 cup)
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1/2 cup walnuts (toasted is great, but not necessary)
- 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (gluten-free, if necessary)
- 1 cup cooked brown rice (wild rice is great, too)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or tamari if gluten-free)
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- Additional spices, if desired (see notes)
- Avocado oil (or other high heat oil), for pan-frying
- In the basin of a food processor, pulse together the chickpeas, onion, garlic, walnuts, and oats until it forms a coarse meal about the texture of ground beef. Don’t overmix. You should still see a few small chunks.
- Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl, and add in the rice, soy sauce, chili powder, ketchup, salt, and any additional spices you’re using. Stir until well-mixed.
- If you like a meatball with smoother texture, transfer half of the mixture back into the food processor, and pulse until very smooth and pasty—add back to the other half of mixture and stir well to combine.
- Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Form the meatball mixture into 1” balls and fry in skillet until golden brown on all sides—about 10 minutes total. Don’t overcrowd the pan—you’ll probably want to work in 2-3 batches.
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.
- Category: Vegan
- Method: Baking
Keywords: vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, meatballs