If you’re looking for meatless meatballs which are delicious and simple to make, you have come to the right place. I know, I know…Meatless meatballs? How contradictory! Why is vegan food always trying to be non-vegan food?
See, the word meatballs without the word “meat” in it, is just balls. Whilst both are technically inanimate objects, the former sounds much more enticing and quite frankly is capable of stimulating a strong salivary response. Yes, that means drooling. The latter on the other hand, doesn’t really do it for me and I’m sure you’d agree that the word ball doesn’t make you think “Yum!”. Hence, the downwards spiral that was the naming of this recipe:
Moving on to bigger issues. I’ve seen several vegan meatball recipes floating around and my qualm is that many of these are nut-based meatballs. These can be quite energy dense, which only means I can eat less of it in a sitting. Not good. In response, I’ve created not one, not two, but three recipes that are based on other equally delectable ingredients: lentils, mushrooms and quinoa. All of these were inspired by a different country.
#1 India: Indian Spiced Lentil Balls
Goes lovely with curry, in curry or really by itself. Immensely flavourful, pretty as a picture and very delicious. Yes, please.
#2 Italy: Mushroom and Thyme “Meatballs”
This one incorporates brown rice, parsley and a little sprinkle of pine nuts – a little reminiscent of the Italian arancini balls sans the deep fryer. Delicious, nutritious and if you’re not avoiding cheese – do stick a little piece of mozzarella in it before baking. Oozy goodness, indeed.
This tastes good by itself and makes a mean starter or canapé.
#3 Spain: Smoked Paprika Quinoa balls
The non-starchy nature of quinoa makes it quite difficult to make a ball that didn’t just fall apart. Difficult but not impossible. Nutty but not nut-filled. A good source of protein but no meat. This one was delicious wrapped in a cos lettuce leaf and topped with romesco sauce – a kind of “taco” if you will! Romesco sauce is a beautifully nutty, red pepper-based sauce from Northeastern Spain.
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tsp oil, for sautéing the above ingredients
- 250g (1.5 cups) cooked brown lentils
- 1/2 cup carrot, grated
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1/3 tsp chilli powder (can be left out if you are not a fan of chilli)
- 2.5 tbsp tomato paste
- 1.5 tbsp fresh coriander, stems and leaf
- A good pinch of salt
- Extra 1 tbsp of oil to brown the formed lentil balls
- In a pan, sauté the onion and garlic in a little bit of oil.
- Meanwhile, drain your lentils really well - using paper towels to blot of excess moisture.
- Then add the onion and garlic mixture, lentils and all other ingredients into a food processor and blitz for 30 seconds to a minute, until the ingredients are well incorporated and all the lentils have broken up. Your mixture should be quite dry. This prevents the balls from collapsing later on. Taste the lentil mix for seasoning and add more if needed.
- Now taking a large tablespoon of the lentil mixture, form them into balls (golf ball-sized) by rolling them between the palms of your hand.
- Next add the tablespoon of oil to the pan and let heat up over medium/high heat. Now add in half your formed lentil balls. We do this in two batches so we don't overcrowd the pan. Keep turning the lentil balls until as evenly browned on all sides as possible. Repeat with the other half of your lentil balls.
- Serve with a curry, chutney or raita.
- 1 medium brown onion, quartered
- 3 garlic cloves
- 250g mushrooms
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tbsp dried thyme)
- 150g cooked brown rice
- 2/3 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 flax egg* (See note)
- 1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
- A good pinch of salt and black pepper
- 1/3 cup raw, dried polenta (or 1/2 cup extra breadcrumbs)
- Start by making your flax egg (See note).
- In a food processor, add your onion and garlic and pulse until chopped. Set aside.
- Now add your mushrooms to the same food processor and pulse until the mushroom is finely chopped.
- To a pan heated over medium heat, add your onion and garlic. Sauté until well until the onions become translucent before adding mushrooms and thyme. Keep sautéing until your mushrooms are well cooked. Set aside to cool slightly for a few minutes before draining off any excess liquid that may pool at the bottom of the pan.
- Now add your brown rice, breadcrumbs, flax egg, parsley and salt and pepper to a large bowl. Also add in your drained mushroom mixture and stir well. Cover bowl with cling wrap and let sit in the refrigerator overnight or at least for an hour. This helps the flax seed combine with the mixture and for the flavours and textures to develop.
- Preheat your oven to 175°C. Meanwhile, taste your chilled mushroom mixture for salt and pepper, adding more if necessary.
- Form 12-15 balls from the chilled mixture and roll each one in the raw polenta or breadcrumbs.
- Place on tray lined with baking paper and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until browned on the outside and hot on the inside.
- To make a flax egg: Combine 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed to 3 tablespoons of water. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes until thick and goopy.
- If you eat cheese - this recipe goes beautifully with a piece of mozzarella rolled into the centre of each ball. Once baked, the cheese will be oozy and very decadent.
- 1.5 cups cooked quinoa
- 1.5 tsp smoked paprika
- A small pinch of cayenne, if you can handle it
- 1.5 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/3 cup carrot, grated
- 2 tbsp parsley
- 1 flax egg* (See note) or regular egg
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat an oven to 175°C.
- Add all of the ingredients into a food processor and blend for about 2 minutes. What we're looking for is for all of the quinoa to be broken down- This helps the ingredients bind better and to form a ball that holds shape.
- Form 12-15 balls (golf ball-sized) from the mixture.
- Place formed balls on a lined tray and bake in the oven for 15 minutes until it forms a nice crust on the outside!
- Serve with warm with romesco sauce for a greater Spanish adventure!