There’s no need for meat in this irresistible recipe for veggie meatballs! Plant-based meatballs should be part of your regular dinner rotation because they're so quick, easy, and always delicious.
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Meatballs have existed from the beginning of written history in every culinary tradition across the globe. The simple combination of protein, aromatic herbs, and sautéed vegetables speaks to cravings that transcend cultural boundaries. Italians get credit for one of the most widely beloved versions around, especially when they come with a homey tomato sauce and al dente pasta to soak it all in.
These vegan meatballs are an innovative take that’s every bit as comforting and even more accessible, bringing everyone to the table. They are loaded with veggies and nutrition, and a fun addition to spaghetti with pasta sauce, other vegan pasta dishes, or you could even use them to make plant-based meatball subs. The only problem is that there might not be any leftovers afterward!
These veggie meatballs come from the phenomenal plant-based cookbook How to Go Plant-Based by Ella Mills. They’re perfect for dinner, protein-packed, and kid-friendly.
Packed with plant protein. 1 cup of cannellini beans contains over 15 grams of protein, and that’s before we even factor in the other ingredients!
Kid-friendly and parent-approved. Even if picky eaters insist on keeping everything separate, meatballs can become great finger food. Everyone loves the simple, hearty combination of flavors.
Meant for make-ahead meals. These veggie balls will keep beautifully in the fridge for up to a week when stored in an airtight container. For a longer-term solution, you can pop them in the freezer for up to 6 months! That means you meal planning can be set with a single batch, ready to heat and eat whenever you’re hungry.
How to Serve Meatless Meatballs
When you don’t feel like noodling around, there’s a whole world of possibilities beyond pasta! These veggie meatballs are also prime candidates for using in many other meals.
Grinders, hoagies, and other sub sandwiches – Make a delicatessen delight by sandwiching your veggie balls with the same tomato sauce and extra cheese between bread. It’s hot, gooey, just the right amount of messy, and always hits the spot.
Over mashed potatoes – For a naturally gluten-free option that’s incredibly comforting, mashed potatoes will never disappoint. Mashed sweet potatoes are another variation on the theme that adds tons of flavor and nutrition all at once.
On skewers and grilled – Line up your favorite veggies like bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions on skewers and fire up the grill! This is a great entrée to add to your next backyard barbeque party, especially since it doesn’t need forks or knives to enjoy.
Chopped and sprinkled on pizza – Instead of pepperoni or sausage, meatballs are a truly supreme topping. You can sauté them in advance for extra crispy edges or just pop them right on top before baking.
Simmer into soups – Get cozy and get spoon into your new savory stew! Make a classic Italian meatball soup or get creative by using them in anything from tomato bisque to corn chowder.
Wrapped in puff pastry – Turn these veggie meatballs into a fun appetizer by wrapping them in puff pastry and baking! These would work great in these mummy meatballs!
Dried mushrooms have a much more intense savory flavor than fresh, and less water to ensure a denser, meatier texture for the finished dish. Shiitake, porcini, king trumpet, and chantarelle are most common; you can use any you’d prefer.
Any white bean will do, such as navy beans or great northern beans, too. One can is equal to about 1 ½ cups of beans, drained.
Cheesy, buttery, and all things umami, nutritional yeast is like vegan cat nip! It’s indispensable in this dish as a natural plant-based alternative to dairy.
Soy sauce or coconut aminos are excellent alternatives based on what you have access to but mind the sodium levels particularly for the youngsters. Select a low-sodium variety or omit it entirely if needed.
This recipe calls for fresh breadcrumbs which are simply finely crumbled bread. Choose a gluten-free option if wheat intolerance or Celiac disease is a concern.
How to Make These Veggie Balls
This recipe is made with dehydrated mushrooms, which are fantastic because they are pantry shelf-stable, and even more flavorful than fresh mushroom. But they need to be rehydrated! Rehydrate the mushrooms in a cup of boiling water. Most dried mushrooms take around 20-30 minutes to rehydrate.
Meanwhile, begin preheating the oven and lightly grease a sheet pan; set aside.
Next, cook the onion and carrot in a medium saucepan with the oil until softened. You may need to add a splash of water if the vegetables begin to stick.
Add the garlic and cook for a minute longer, then stir in the tomato paste and remove from the heat.
Drain the soaked mushrooms and chop them roughly before tossing them into the food processor along with half the cooked vegetables.
Add the beans, basil, nutritional yeast, oregano, tamari, and breadcrumbs, and puree into a thick paste.
Divide the mixture into roughly 16 equal pieces and roll into smooth balls. If you’d like to make smaller vegan meatballs, feel free! The beauty of making your own veggie meatballs from scratch is that you have total control. They just won’t need quite as much time to bake if you make them smaller, so keep a close eye!
Place your veggie meatballs on your prepared sheet pan, equally spaced, and bake for 18 to 20 minutes. When finished, they should be golden brown all over and firm to the touch.
Tips for Success
Season to taste. Don’t be afraid to add salt and pepper if needed, or spice things up with some cayenne, chipotle, or even chili powder. Aromatic dried herbs like rosemary, thyme, and fennel seeds can take your vegetarian meatball masterpiece to the next level!
Keep the kitchen cool by using your air fryer. Instead of baking, you can easily pop the vegan meatballs into your air fryer preheated to 330 degrees for roughly 16 minutes.
Embrace the process! Use your food processor instead of blender and pulse the meatball mixture to retain a coarser texture. This will make a meatier blend, rather than a smooth puree.
2tablespoonsolive oil, plus a little extra for baking
1small onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
1smallcarrot, peeled and coarsely grated
2largegarlic cloves, peeled and crushed
114-ounce cancannellini beans, drained and rinsed
small handful ofbasil leaves, coarsely chopped (plus extra to serve)
1 ½tablespoonsnutritional yeast
Put the mushrooms into a cup, cover with boiling water, and set aside to rehydrate.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and carrot and cook over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until softened. Stir the mixture occasionally and add a splash of water if it looks like it might stick on the bottom of the pan.
Once the vegetables are soft, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then stir in the tomato paste and remove from the heat.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly oil a cookie sheet.
Drain the mushrooms and coarsely chop. Blend in a food processor with the cooked vegetables, the beans, basil, nutritional yeast, oregano, tamari, and breadcrumbs to create a thick paste.
Using wet hands, roll the paste into 16-18 balls, about golf ball size. Transfer to the oiled cookie sheet and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until golden and firm at the edges. Larger balls may need a few extra minutes to bake fully.
Tip for Toddlers – Tamari is high in salt, so omit it for toddlers.Can’t find tamari? Opt for soy sauce or liquid aminos.Fresh breadcrumbs are simply finely crumbled bread. They are light and moist compared to dry breadcrumbs.Serving suggestion – Serve up these veggie meatballs over a big bowl of pasta with tomato sauce or spicy Arrabbiata sauce!
These veggie “meatballs” are just one of over hundred amazing, family-friendly recipes from the cookbook How to Go Plant-Based by Ella Mills, founder of Deliciously Ella. She has created this beautiful cookbook specifically for making it clear and easy to adopt a plant-based lifestyle and debunk common myths surrounding the lifestyle.
This cookbook also doubles as a practical guide for eating plant-based, with insight from Ella’s own journey. She also tackles frequently asked questions sourced from her large social media following. With this cookbook you’ll be in good hands with helpful tips and easy recipes made from familiar ingredients!
This veggie “meatball” recipe is from the cookbook How to Go Plant-Based by Ella Mills. Photos by Amanda McGillicuddy, for World of Vegan, all rights reserved. Article written with support from Hannah Kaminsky and edited by Rachel Lessenden.
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