Friends, this feels big. Vegan meatballs made with real food that are full of flavor, don’t fall apart, aren’t mushy, and are easy to make! Let’s do this!
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 Vegan Meatballs
This 10-ingredient recipe starts with black beans that have been baked to dry them out – this is important, as it helps prevent the meatballs from becoming mushy.
The beans are then blended with herbs, spices, and sautéed garlic and shallot for layers of flavor.
Next comes the cooked and cooled quinoa, more herbs, tomato paste, and vegan Worcestershire (which is optional, but it adds more depth of flavor). Pulse a few more times and you’re ready to form your meatballs! After a quick chill in the refrigerator, it’s time to cook (and eat)!
To cook the meatballs, we went for a stovetop-oven combo. A quick sauté in the skillet you used to cook the onions and garlic in provides a crusty outer texture, while a bake in the oven dries them out a bit and ensures they’re cooked through the center.
At the end, for even more flavor, you can add your favorite marinara sauce and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until bubbly. Swoon. Then it’s meal time!
We hope you LOVE these meatballs! They’re:
Firm but tender
Packed with flavor
Made with wholesome ingredients
Protein- + Fiber-packed
& Incredibly delicious
These meatballs are delicious on their own, but they would also pair well with just about any pasta, like our Simple Chickpea Bolognese or 30-Minute Cashew Alfredo or Chili Garlic Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower. I could also see them working well on things like pizza and even sub sandwiches! Melt a little Vegan Mozzarella on top and you’re in business!
If you try this recipe, leave a comment, rate it, and tag a photo #minimalistbaker on Instagram so we can see what you cook up. Cheers, friends!
The Best Vegan Meatballs
- 1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa* (ensure it’s cooked + completely cooled before using)
- 1 15-ounce can black beans* (rinsed, drained, dried)
- 2 Tbsp water (or sub olive or avocado oil)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1/2 cup diced shallot
- 1/4 tsp sea salt (plus more to taste)
- 2 1/2 tsp fresh oregano (or sub half the amount in dried)
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flake (reduce for less heat)
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds (optional)
- 1/2 cup vegan parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil or parsley (we mixed both // plus more for serving)
- 1-2 Tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce (optional // adds depth of flavor // ensure gluten-free for GF eaters)
FOR SERVING (optional)
- If you haven’t prepared your quinoa yet, do so now (make sure it’s cooked and cooled completely before use). 1/3 cup uncooked quinoa will yield ~1 cup cooked. *Prep/cook time does not include preparing quinoa.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C). Add rinsed, dried black beans to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until beans appear cracked and feel dry to the touch (see beans in food processor photo). Remove beans from the oven and then increase oven heat to 375 degrees F (190C).
- Heat a large (oven-safe) skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add water (or oil), garlic, and shallot. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until slightly softened, stirring frequently. Remove from heat (and reserve pan for later use).
- Add black beans to a food processor along with garlic, shallot, sea salt, oregano, red pepper flake, and fennel (optional) and pulse into a loose meal (DON’T overmix). Then add cooked/cooled quinoa, vegan parmesan cheese, tomato paste, fresh basil or parsley, and Worcestershire (optional). Pulse to combine until a textured dough forms (you’re not looking for a purée, but it should be semi-tacky).
- Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more salt for saltiness/depth of flavor, red pepper flake for heat, herbs for earthiness, or Worcestershire (optional) for more depth of flavor. If it’s too tacky or wet, add more vegan parmesan cheese and pulse to combine (we added a bit more).
- Scoop out heaping 1 1/2 Tbsp amounts (using this scoop or a Tablespoon) and gently form into small balls using your hands. Add to a plate and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
- Heat an oven-safe metal or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add a small amount of oil to prevent sticking, then add the meatballs. Sauté for a few minutes, gently turning the meatballs to get a slight crust on either side. Then transfer to the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown on the edges and slightly dry to the touch.
- These meatballs are delicious as is, or you can add some marinara to the pan and heat over medium heat for 5 minutes (or until bubbling / hot) to infuse more flavor.
- Serve with marinara and additional vegan parmesan cheese (optional)! These are also delicious atop any pasta. Leftover meatballs keep for 4-5 days in the refrigerator or 1 month in the freezer. Reheat in the microwave or in a 375-degree F (190 C) oven until warmed through.
*Prep/cook time does not include preparing quinoa.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate for 1 of 12 meatballs calculated without optional or serving ingredients.