Simple Vegan Meatballs

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Plate of noodles with marinara and easy 10-ingredient vegan meatballs

When I was in college I lived in a shady apartment complex in Wichita. The laundry room was in a separate building, which meant I had to lug my clothes back and forth in the rain or shine to ensure I didn’t run out of presentable clothing for work and school.

Society, why do you impose such harsh rules on us?

Well, that lasted about a month. Before long I was trucking it back to my dad’s house just 20 minutes away where he’d often cook me dinner while I was folding my socks.

(Just kidding. Who folds their socks? Ugh, Rhonda. You would.)

Cutting board featuring tempeh and seasonings to make delicious vegan tempeh meatballs

If your dad is anything like mine, he’s all about simple, hearty meals.

Spaghetti was one of his specialties. A little pasta, a lotta sauce, and a considerable amount of meatiness.

In fact, one evening (whilst doing laundry), I had two platefuls then promptly passed out on his couch from sheer exhaustion. My father proceeded to fold all of my clothes for me and wake me up with a kiss on the forehead reminding me it was time to go home.

Aren’t dads the best? Mine is.

Food processor with ingredients for making our homemade vegan meatballs recipe

I still love spaghetti and crave it almost weekly.

And the good news is, meatless meatballs can taste just as delicious and are even healthier than their meaty counterparts. Who knew?

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.

Freshly rolled vegan tempeh meatballs resting on a parchment-lined cutting board

How to Make Tempeh Meatballs

These meatballs are based with tempeh, which is made from fermented soy beans.

I know, sounds suspicious. But think of nutritious soy beans processed in a way that makes it like tofu, but less processed. (More info here.) This not only means it’s firmer to work with, but also more nutritionally dense! One 4 ounce serving contains ~20 grams of protein.

WHAT? Now that’s a meatball.

Baking sheet featuring a batch of our perfect meatless vegan meatballs recipe

Plus, this recipe is simple with just 10 ingredients and roughly ~45 minutes total prep and cook time. That’s manageable, right? Even for the busy cook.

Vegan meatballs, pasta, parsley, and marinara for the perfect vegan meal

And the important part: What do they taste like? They’re

Warm
Savory
Tender on the inside
Firm with a crust on the outside
Italian herb-infused
Fresh
Simple
Satisfying
& PERFECT with marinara and pasta

Plates of pasta topped with marinara, vegan meatballs, parsley, and vegan parmesan cheese

This recipe would be the perfect special weeknight meal. Though it takes a little more time to prepare, it’s still simple in nature and yields an incredibly satisfying meal that’s wonderfully healthy and nutritionally dense. What more could you ask for?

While I can’t offer you laundry service while you enjoy this meal (thanks, dad), I can say it’s worth the effort and is sure to satisfy the whole family.

Close up shot of a plate loaded high with pasta, marinara, and homemade vegan meatballs
Holding up a marinara-dipped vegan meatball on a fork

We hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did! If you give it a try, be sure to let us know! Leave a comment, Pin it, or take a picture and tag it #minimalistbaker on Instagram. We genuinely love seeing what you cook up. Cheers!

Simple Vegan Meatballs

10-ingredient vegan meatballs with tons of flavor and simple preparation. Perfect atop pasta or on their own in your favorite marinara sauce.
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Plate of spaghetti noodles topped with marinara and Tempeh Meatballs
4.84 from 121 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 22 (meatballs)
Course Entree
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Italian-Inspired, Vegan
Freezer Friendly 1 Month (freeze before baking)
Does it keep? 2-3 Days

Ingredients

FOR MEATBALLS

  • 1/2 cup white onion (minced)
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 Tbsp flaxseed meal (to make flax egg)
  • 2 ½ Tbsp water (to make flax egg)
  • 8 ounces tempeh* (or as recipe is written, sub 1 heaping cup rinsed and drained chickpeas for similar result)
  • 1/3 cup vegan parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp Italian seasonings (or 1/2 tsp each dried basil and oregano)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley (optional)
  • 1/2 cup vegan bread crumbs (gluten-free for GF eaters // or sub almond meal)
  • 2 Tbsp your favorite marinara or tomato sauce
  • Olive oil (for sautéing)
  • Salt & pepper (to taste)

FOR COATING

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) and prepare flax egg in a small dish by mixing flaxseed meal and water and let it rest for a few minutes.
  • In a large, deep skillet, sauté onion and garlic in 1/2 Tbsp olive oil (as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size) over medium heat until soft and translucent – about 3 minutes. Set aside.
  • Add tempeh to food processor and pulse to break down. Then add sautéed garlic, onion, and remaining ingredients (except olive oil) and mix, scraping down sides as needed. You want it to form into a moldable “dough.”
  • Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. The tempeh will come across as a little bitter, but once coated, baked and served with marinara it’s not nearly as apparent.
  • NOTE: Depending on how salty your vegan parmesan cheese is, you may need to add a little salt and pepper at this point. However, I didn’t find it necessary.
  • Scoop out 1 Tbsp amounts of dough and roll into balls. At this time, heat the same skillet you used earlier to medium heat.
  • Mix remaining bread crumbs and parmesan cheese together in a shallow dish. Add tempeh balls one or two at a time and roll to coat.
  • Add enough olive oil to form a thin layer on the bottom of your hot skillet, then add your coated tempeh balls in two batches, as to not crowd the pan. Brown for about 5 minutes total, shaking the pan to roll them around to brown all sides.
  • Add browned meatballs to a baking sheet and add to the oven to bake for about 15 minutes, or longer if desired for a crispier result.
  • At this time, prep any pasta your want to serve with your meatballs, as well as your favorite marinara sauce (I love this pizza sauce).
  • Once meatballs are deep golden brown and fairly firm to the touch, remove from oven.
  • To serve, top cooked pasta with meatballs and pour over marinara sauce. Top with another sprinkle of vegan parmesan cheese and fresh parsley. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to a few days, though best when fresh.

Video

Notes

*Though I haven’t tried it myself, you can steam or boil tempeh for ~15 minutes before use to neutralize its flavor. However, I didn’t find it necessary.
*Heavily adapted from One Green Planet
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate.

Nutrition (1 of 22 servings)

Serving: 1 meatball Calories: 58 Carbohydrates: 4.1 g Protein: 3.3 g Fat: 3.6 g Saturated Fat: 0.6 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.8 g Monounsaturated Fat: 1.7 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 73 mg Potassium: 88 mg Fiber: 0.9 g Sugar: 0.7 g Vitamin A: 6 IU Vitamin C: 0.7 mg Calcium: 15.8 mg Iron: 0.5 mg

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  1. Cher says

    I have made a lot of your recipes. They are all a hit I am going to try this one tonight (reply pending) we don’t like tempeh. But are huge tofu fans… could we not press the heck out of the tofu, crumble it and put in pan with everything else. I’m craving some tofu meatballs and I bet my little ones will love. Thanks :) Clare

  2. Stephanie says

    LOVE this recipe! Such an easy addition to any dish! I’ve added them to pizza, sandwiches, and pasta (obviously). This most recent time I made a few modifications because I was feeling especially lazy. I just used onion and garlic powder instead of the real things and added a little extra tomato sauce. I also doubled the recipe and did half tempeh half chickpeas and my god were they good! Highly recommend!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you enjoy it, Stephanie! Love your creative modifications too. Thank you for sharing! xo

  3. Ada says

    I’ve made this recipe a few times and love it, except I find that the balls really stick to the pan during browning and break apart. I’ve tried more/less oil, various heats, and a couple different pans (stainless steel, cast iron, enameled cast iron). Any tips for less stickage?

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Ada, We’re so glad you enjoy it! We’d suggest trying more breadcrumbs. Hope that helps!

  4. Polly says

    Super yummy! Love your recipes–you are a go-to! Questions (sorry): is the serving size really 1 meatball? And the whole batch is 1400+ calories? Seems healthier than that. Thank you for confirming. I want to enter this accurately into MyFitnessPal. :)

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Polly, we’re so glad you enjoy it! You can enjoy as much as you want for 1 serving =) But for the nutrition calculation, it is for 1 meatball just for ease of calculating. The nutrition looks pretty accurate, but we’ll give it another look and modify anything if it’s off!

    • Polly says

      Thank you! I’ll admit, I loved the meatballs so much, I ate half the batch. I need to own up to it on MyFitnessPal!! And I should try to control myself next time!

  5. Lisa P says

    Delicious!!! This is my favorite vegan meatball recipe, and my non-vegan husband loves it, too. I make it nearly every week using chickpeas and your recipe for yeast-free cashew parmesan. Thank you!

  6. Lisa Peters says

    I absolutely love these meatballs. I always make them with chickpeas and a batch of your Yeast-Free Cashew Parmesan. We serve them with spaghetti or in a (vegan) meatball sub sandwich. So good!

    • Emily says

      These meatless balls were incredibly flavorful. The carnivorous people in my family tolerated them at first, then decided they actually liked them. The additional coating before pan frying is a necessary step; those who are tempted to skip it are missing out.

      I used non-vegan Parmesan, a real egg, and homemade sourdough breadcrumbs. I topped them with homemade marinara.

      Thank you for a great recipe. I’ll be keeping this one!

  7. Colleen Sikorski says

    I have been searching for a vegetarian protein to eat with pasta dishes for a long time. This hit the spot. It took me longer than 15 minutes to prep (but I did have to make my own breadcrumbs and vegan parmesan while making this recipe). Having both of those things to go would significantly cut down on prep time. Overall, I can not recommend this recipe enough! I made it with chickpeas and loved the taste.

  8. Moersch says

    I searched for easy vegetarian meatballs and these are not it.
    While they may be great tasting and maybe even easy to make they contain ingredients that are not known to me and certainly not part of my stock ingredients on hand.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Moersch, sorry to hear that! We also have these and these. If vegetarian, not vegan, you could sub regular parmesan. If there are other ingredients you don’t have around, feel free to ask or search in the comments and we may be able to offer an alternative.

    • Nicole says

      These were great and very easy! I skipped the onion to save effort and my sensitive tummy, replaced the breadcrumbs with rolled oats ground in the food processor, and skipped coating them with breadcrumbs. After shaping, I dabbed my fingers in a little oil and gave the balls a once over, then sprinkled some vegan parm over them. I baked these in a large cast iron skillet with about a TBS of oil for 25 minutes and they were beautifully browned, crisp on the outside and perfect inside. I was so excited to make something other than fake bacon with the tempeh I had and my boyfriend loved it too, thank you Dana!

  9. Alli says

    This was INCREDIBLE for meatball subs! Would maybe use a little less salt for the vegan parm but everything else was spot on for me – so so delicious!! Definitely saving this recipe – thanks for sharing!!

  10. Anna says

    I used oatmeal instead of bread crumbs (that’s all I had!!) and they worked REALLY well. I loved the flavor and the consistency from the food processor was perfect. Great recipe! Thank you!

  11. Marina says

    This is my go-to recipe for a delicious pasta meal with vegan meatballs. Such a feel good meal. I use a can of chickpeas and only one garlic clove due to slight intolerance, but still very delicious!
    We have even made these in burger shapes for on a bun with some fresh vegetables.

      • Lorene says

        Once you get the onions and garlic sautéed, it’s pretty quick to combine and mix in the food processor. Add plenty of seasonings!

  12. Evalata says

    Hi Dana! I want to make a vegan Italian wedding soup which is traditionally with boiled (in the soup) tiny meatballs. Do you think that I can put these meatballs in the soup and let them stew with the veggies? Or will I have to add them directly to my plate once I have served the soup? Just wondering if they would fall apart if they stay in the pot. 🤔

    Many thanks!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Unfortunately that won’t work with these as they won’t hold up. I’ll have to hink on alternatives!

  13. Advith Natarajan says

    This vegan meatball recipe was amazing! We air-fried our meatballs instead of pan-frying and baking them and they turned out super crispy! We had some leftover olive garden breadsticks and cut them vertically almost like a cheesesteak! I will definitely be making this in the future!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Smart! Thanks for sharing, Advith! Next time would you mind adding a rating to your review? It’s super helpful to us and other readers! xo

  14. Maureen says

    Delicious! I used 1 c. chickpeas option. So much tastier than the faux meatballs. Would definitely make this again, thanks!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you enjoyed them, Maureen! Thanks so much for the lovely review!

  15. Claire says

    I have made this recipe twice and it is one of my favourites! It is so delicious and works really well! ❤️

  16. Lydia says

    Loved this recipe. very easy and tasty. Always enjoy recipes that have a lot of protein in them. I doubled the batch and we ate almost all of them. Great lunch the next day. Thanks.

  17. Pat says

    Just made this recipe and I was so impressed! Lots of flavor and stayed together very well. I replaced the flax egg with Red Mill brand egg replacer. I also used chickpeas instead of tempeh, yielded about 10. Will definitely double next time for more leftovers!

  18. Hilah says

    I love this recipe!! I’ve made it many times. I also sauté chopped mushrooms with the onion and sometimes substitute the parm with nutritionist yeast! So delish:)

  19. Chloe Bergman-Ray says

    These came out so great! I substituted one regular egg and real parmesan cheese (since we aren’t vegan – at least not yet!) and they stuck together so well and have a delicious taste. Thank you !! Will make again.

  20. Carly says

    Hi!

    I love all of your recipes and was looking to try out a new vegetarian meatball recipe! I was wondering which you recommend between this one “Simple Vegan Meatballs,” and “The Best Vegan Meatballs” which is also on your blog. I see that they’re made with really different ingredients – what do you find is the difference in taste and texture between the two?

    Thanks for your help!!!

  21. Suzanne says

    Wow, these were SO good! So moist and flavorful. I was shocked that they could stick together so well without eggs. My husband did say they took longer to cook than the recipe said. He cooked them for at least 10 minutes longer because they were too mushy at first. I will definitely double the recipe next time as there wasn’t much left over after feeding a family of 4. Thanks for the great vegan recipe!