Perfecting meatless meals is easier said than done when you want to satisfy everyone at the table, including those with hefty appetites (raises hand). Luckily, beans and legumes rise to the challenge in providing meat-like bulk and density when there’s no meat to show for it. The following vegan meatballs are based in lentils, spiced, and cooked to “meaty” perfection, making your vegetarian lifestyle a whole lot easier to maintain (and preach). Plus, they’re gluten-free!
Make these vegan meatballs year-round and serve them wedged in between toasted pita bread with a vegan sour cream and a garnish of fresh herbs. You can also nosh on them atop your favorite pasta dish for an Italian experience or atop cauliflower couscous for a Middle Eastern vibe.
Buying the Ingredients
Lentils are plant-based but pack in the protein. In this recipe, one-half cup of dried lentils make 20 vegan meatballs. In one-half cup of dried lentils, there are 389 calories, 25 grams of protein, 58 grams of carbohydrates, 30 grams of dietary fiber, one gram of fat, 915 milligrams of potassium, 5% of the RDA of calcium, 40% of iron, 25% of vitamin B-6, 29% of magnesium, and 7% of vitamin C.
What holds the vegan meatballs together is a mixture of the moisture from olive oil and water and the dryness from gluten-free oat flour, ground flaxseeds, walnuts, almonds, and nutritional yeast.
Make sure the oat flour you use is labeled as gluten-free. If you don’t have Bragg’s liquid aminos on hand, feel free to use regular soy sauce, but make sure to check whether the version you buy is also gluten-free.
Before making the recipe, soak the lentils in a bowl with water for a few hours. Doing so helps to remove excess starch from the lentils as well as make them a bit more tender, so that they are able to cook faster. Just before using the lentils, drain and rinse them. Meanwhile, if you aren’t able to find pre-chopped walnuts and almonds, chop them yourself with a sharp knife or pulse them a few times in a food processor or blender to break them down.
The only major equipment you’ll need for this recipe is a pot, baking sheet, and food processor or blender. If you don’t have an electronic blender/mixer on hand, you can still grind the lentil mixture into a ground-beef-like state with the flat edge of a fork.
How to Make Vegan Meatballs
Vegan meatballs based in lentils, spices, and other gluten-free add-ins.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 cup dried green lentils
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons oat flour* (optional)
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes, (optional)
- 2 teaspoons Bragg's liquid aminos, tamari or coconut aminos
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place a medium-sized pot to medium-high heat on the stovetop.
- Add in the olive oil and onion.
- Stir the mixture as the onion begins to sweat. After 30 seconds, stir in the garlic, parsley, thyme, paprika, and green lentils.
- Pour in water and stir. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Let simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender and water has been soaked up by the lentils.
- Transfer the lentil mixture to a food processor and add in the remaining ingredients. Let the mixture sit for a bit to cool down before blending. Once it has cooled slightly, pulse the mixture until it begins to clump together but isn't overly blended.
- Use clean hands to form 20 tablespoon-sized "meat" balls. Place the vegan meatballs on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the meatballs are golden-brown and crispy to touch.