Did you see my Instagram of these meatballs? Did you laugh? Do you like my jokes? Please be my friend.
You guys know I’m on a roll with meatballs.
Origin of Meatballs
These days, meatballs are enjoyed all over the world and come in many different forms. But it’s believed that the idea originated from Persian meatballs known as kofta.
Our plant-based take on meatballs most closely resembles the flavors of Italian-American meatballs which are made with breadcrumbs and herbs. The story of Italian-American meatballs says that Italian immigrants served them with spaghetti and tomato sauce to make the dish more filling without much additional cost.
How to Make Lentil Meatballs
This recipe is simple, requiring just 10 ingredients and 30 minutes to prepare (when you start with cooked lentils).
It’s the perfect way to utilize leftover cooked lentils in an exciting, new way. In my opinion, if you put anything atop pasta and red sauce, it’s exciting (what does that tell you about my social life?).
In addition to being simple, these meatballs are also vegan and gluten-free, and packed with flavor thanks to fresh parsley, dried herbs, tomato paste, and vegan parmesan cheese.
They get their golden brown crust from vegan parmesan cheese and a quick sauté in a skillet, before finishing off in the oven to help them crisp up even more. While that’s happening, prepare your accompaniments. I went for carrot noodles – because, love – and store-bought marinara sauce to save time.
I hope you all love these meatballs! They’re:
Make these for a weeknight meal when you’re looking for something hearty that doesn’t require too much work. Per 4 meatballs, these pack 10 grams of protein! And if you pair them with a quinoa- or brown rice-based gluten-free pasta, you’ll get another 5-10 grams protein per serving.
If you try this recipe, let us know! Rate it, leave a comment, and don’t forget to tag a picture #minimalistbaker on Instagram! We’d love to see what you come up with. Cheers, friends!
Easy Lentil Meatballs
- 3 Tbsp (45 ml) + 1 tsp olive oil (divided)
- 1 medium shallot (minced)
- 3 cloves garlic* (minced)
- 1 Tbsp flaxseed meal (to make flax egg)
- 2 ½ Tbsp water (to make flax egg)
- 1 1/2 cups cooked + cooled green lentils* (cooked in vegetable stock)
- 1 1/2 Tbsp dried Italian seasonings (dried basil + oregano)
- 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 5-6 Tbsp vegan parmesan cheese (plus more for coating)
- ~1/4 tsp Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 Tbsp coconut flour (optional // or gluten-free oat flour or panko bread crumbs*)
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C), and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or more if increasing batch size).
- Once skillet is hot, add 1 Tbsp olive oil (amount as recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size), shallot and garlic. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until slightly golden brown (being careful not to burn), then remove from heat and turn off stove top.
- To a food processor, add flaxseed meal and water and let set for 2-3 minutes.
- Add cooked, cooled lentils, 1 tsp olive oil (as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size), sautéed garlic and shallot, Italian seasonings, parsley, tomato paste, vegan parmesan cheese, and a pinch each salt and pepper. Pulse, mixing until combined, but not puréed, leaving a little texture.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt and pepper or herbs for flavor, vegan parmesan for cheesiness and to dry out, or more olive oil to moisten. The texture should be dough-like. If the mixture is still too wet, add coconut or oat flour, or panko bread crumbs if not gluten free.
- Use a Tablespoon or cookie dough scoop (like this one), to scoop out rounded Tablespoon amounts of dough and carefully form into balls. The mixture is moldable, but fragile, so the best way to do this is to rest the dough in the palm of one hand, while using two fingers from the other hand to gently mold/form into a meatball. If it cracks, moisten your fingers with a little water to help reform/bind them. Repeat until all meatballs are formed – about 12 or 13.
- Roll/coat in vegan parmesan cheese (optional) and arrange on baking sheet.
- Heat the skillet from earlier over medium heat. Once hot, add 1 Tbsp olive oil and half of the meatballs (amounts as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size). Brown for 4-5 minutes, or until golden brown, shaking the pan or using a wooden spoon to roll the balls around to cook evenly on all sides.
- As they are done cooking, transfer to your prepared baking sheet and set in the preheated oven. Repeat process, adding remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil (amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size) to the skillet and sautéing remaining meatballs, then transfer to oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, while you prepare your carrot noodles, pasta and/or marinara sauce.
- Remove meatballs from oven and let cool slightly – they will firm up the longer they are cooled. Serve over carrot noodles or pasta with marinara sauce.
- Best when fresh, though leftovers keep in the freezer up to 1 month. Reheat in a 350 degree F (176 C) oven until warmed through.
*2/3 cup (128 g) dry lentils yields ~1 1/2 cups (297 g) cooked.
*If not gluten-free, add 1 Tbsp panko bread crumbs (amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size) to the filling instead of coconut flour, and mix it with vegan parmesan cheese to coat the outside before cooking, as seen here. This will add a little more texture and flavor!
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with the lesser amount of vegan parmesan cheese and without optional ingredients.