Hallelujah, a vegan meatball that is crisp on the outside, moist on the inside and looks so much like meat I can’t even. Eat it with pasta, on a sub, with dips, on a kebab. You do you.
My biggest tip? Season season season. I think one of the most fortunate and unfortunate things about vegan and vegetarian cooking is that you need to work hard to make flavours work together instead of relying on rich and fatty meat to do it for you, so the pressure’s on here! I’ve also added some variations down the bottom so you can make your meatballs more Turkish or Thai style, etc, if that’s what you’re feeling.
By the way, these are oven-baked because unlike real meatballs, vegan ones will soak liquid up and go soggy unless they’re pre-cooked first – so they’re kind of like a dumpling. You can try grilling or barbecuing them instead of baking them, just let me know how it goes!
Anyway let’s get to it –
Approximate cost $20 for everything. Makes about 24 meatballs. Takes an hour, most of which is oven time. Ticks all the boxes as a vegan source of protein, iron and calcium.
2/3 cup nuts (I used walnuts, adjust to your preferences/allergies)
100g firm tofu, roughly chopped
3 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 can red/brown lentils, drained well
3 cloves garlic, diced
3 tbsp flaxseed (linseed) meal, combined with 2 tbsp water or red wine
2 tbsp barbecue sauce (check yours is vegan, most are)
1 tbsp tomato paste
½ cup flour
¼ cup breadcrumbs
Chopped herbs – I added about 2 tbsp of parsley and basil to mine as I was going for an Italian style
Salt and pepper
Blitz nuts in a food processor until finely crumbled. Add tofu, mushrooms and garlic and blitz again. Add lentils, flax and sauces and blitz once more until well-combined, nicely crumbled and mince-like. Don’t overprocess it or it’ll become a paste (gross).
Remove mixture from processor and transfer to a bowl. Stir through flour, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and any herbs you’re using. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200*C.
Line a large baking tray with parchment and roll heaped tablespoons of meatball mixture into balls. Place evenly spread apart on baking sheet and brush with a little olive oil. Bake for 35-40 minutes, turning halfway, until fully cooked through, nicely browned and crispy on the outside.
Serve these meatballs alone, marinated or stirred through pasta sauce.
If you’d like to make variations of these, try the following:
- Thai style: soak flax in lime juice instead of water, use chopped coriander, mint and lime leaf as your herbs, substitute 2 tbsp fishless fish sauce for the barbecue sauce, and add 1 tbsp coconut milk powder in place of tomato paste.
- Turkish kofta style: soak flax in lemon juice instead of water, use parsley as your chopped herb, and add 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp dried mint, and ½ tsp allspice. You can bake them for 20 minutes and then finish them off on a barbecue or grill if you like (or try the whole thing on a barbecue, idk if they’ll be too soft – let me know how it goes)
- Greek style: soak flax in lemon juice instead of water, add grated red onion, and use 2 tbsp chopped parsley, 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint, 2 tsp ground cumin and 1 tsp ground oregano. Serve with tzatziki.
- Lamb style: add 1 tbsp finely-chopped rosemary and 1 tbsp chopped sage. You could also try adding some vegan butter to boost the fat ratio, but may need to reduce other liquids to prevent sogginess.
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