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 a meal 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 these 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).
- 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!
What are meatless meatballs made out of?
There are a lot of great meatless meatball recipes out there, but not a lot of great meatless meatball recipes that don’t call for specialty ingredients like tempeh or TVP or tofu or wheat germ or seitan. These vegan meatballs are made using only ingredients that are regularly kept in my pantry. They are all 100 recognizable—no soy protein isolate here! Here’s what’s in these meatballs:
- Brown rice
- Soy sauce (or tamari if gluten-free)
- Herbs and spices
How do you make vegan meatballs gluten-free?
Make sure to grab gluten-free old-fashioned oats and use tamari or coconut aminos instead of soy sauce, and this recipe is ready for all of your gluten-free friends and family! This is the best GF spaghetti we’ve found, by the way.
How do you cook these meatballs?
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.
Help! My meatballs won’t stay together!
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 flaxseed meal with three tablespoons warm water and let thicken for five minutes) to the mixture to make it stickier, but I didn’t find it necessary.
Can you freeze these meatballs?
You sure can! I like to freeze them after pan-frying in a single layer in a cookie sheet. Then once frozen solid, I transfer to a zip-top freezer bag and keep them stashed in the freezer for up to six months. When it’s time to cook those bad boys, I just drop them into a pot of sauce straight from frozen and cook until warmed through—about 10 minutes.
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!