Who doesn’t like a good meatball sub, pasta with meatballs, or spicy meatballs as an appetizer? The good news is that you don’t need beef to make amazing hearty meatballs. You don’t need eggs either to bind them together. Most store bought vegan meatballs (like Gardein’s or Impossible Meatballs) contain wheat gluten and often soy protein. That’s what gives them a meaty, and firm texture. The good news is that you can make them gluten and soy-free too! I have been using lentils (black and brown) as the main source of protein and a flax egg as a binding agent. It works great and they are easier to digest!
Interesting facts about lentils
There are several types of lentils, namely: brown, green, black, red and yellow. Brown lentils are the most common ones. Brown, black, and green lentils will keep their shape when cooked. Red and yellow, on the other hand, tend to disintegrate which makes them perfect for soups or stews like Indian dahl. Lentils may not look very exciting but they are so nutritious. They are rich in fiber, iron, folate, potassium, and polyphenols. They are great for managing blood pressure, and lowering cholesterol. They are also help cleanse the liver and protect from cancer. One cup of dried lentils makes about 2.5 cups of cooked lentils. Did I mention that they are also very affordable?
Make the meatballs (a.k.a. Neatballs!)
You first need to rinse and cook 1 cup of dried green, brown or black lentils until they are tender (yields about 2 cup of cooked lentils). This will take about 10-12 minutes covered.
While they are cooking lightly sauté the finely diced onion, garlic (2 cloves or 1 tbsp of powder), 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar and salt until they are translucent.
Peel and grate a medium size carrot (about 1.5 cup). Dice about 2 cups of mushrooms.
Prepare the flax egg: Mix 1 tbsp of ground flax seeds with 3 tbsl of warm water and stir until it starts to thicken.
Add the flax egg, shredded carrots, 1/2 cup of tomato sauce or 1/4 cup of tomato paste and stir well.
Incorporate the diced mushrooms, soy sauce (2 tbsp), 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke, and let them sweat.
Add the spices, paprika, sage, chili flakes or powder, cumin powder.
Slowly stir in a cup of breadcrumbs that will help binding all the ingredients and make firm balls! For a gluten-free version, substitute 1 cup of rolled oats or oatmeal flour.
Next you need to pulse the mixture in a food processor, just enough to create a smoother medium but careful not to turn it into mush. You will need to use a spatula because it will be on the dry side.
Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Set aside to cool down.
Line a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 375 F.
Wet your hands and form balls. You should have enough for 25 balls.
Brush a little oil on them and bake for 15 minutes, flip each ball and bake for another 5 minutes until they are done.
These meatballs are hearty, filling, and lightly spicy.
Serve them with a marinara sauce on your favorite bread rolls as a meatball sub, with pasta, as an appetizer with your favorite sweet and sour sauce, or BBQ sauce, you name it!
Double the recipe and freeze for later.
Spicy Meatless Meatballs
- Lined baking sheet
- 1 cup dried green or brown lentils
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 medium yellow or white onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup peeled and shredded carrots
- 2 cups diced white mushrooms
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce
- 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 cup oat flour or gluten-free breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp sage
- 1 tsp chili powder or flakes
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- salt & pepper
- 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
- 3 tbsp warm water
Cook the lentils
- Heat up 3 cups of water with a pinch of salt and cook the cup of lentils until tender. This should only take 12-15 minutes.
- Drain and set aside. Measure one heaping cup of cooked lentils and save the rest for a salad or other dish.
Make the flax egg
- Mix the ground flax powder with 3 tbsp warm water until it thickens.
Prepare the meatballs
- Sauté the finely diced onion, garlic (2 cloves or 1 tbsp of powder), 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp soy sauce, and salt until they are translucent.
- Peel and grate a medium size carrot (about 1.5 cup). Dice 2 cups of mushrooms.
- Add the shredded carrots, mushrooms, spices, and cook covered for 5 minutes.
- Remove the lid and stir in the flax egg, the flour or breadcrumbs. It will soak all the juices.
- Taste and season if needed. Set aside to cool down a little.
- Pulse the mixture in a food processor, just enough to create a smoother medium but careful not to turn it into mush.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat, and preheat the oven to 375 F.
- Wet your hands and make balls. You should end up with 24-25 balls.
- Spray or brush a little oil on each and bake for 15 minutes,
- Flip each ball and bake for another 5 minutes until they are done.
- Let them cool down for at least 15 minutes before serving them, because they will firm up and make it easier to handle.
- Serve on a sandwich, as an appetizer, or with pasta and marinara sauce.