It may seem impossible to make meatballs without meat. But, I promise – it’s possible AND delicious!
In this version, I made Italian-inspired ‘meat’balls using mostly plant-based ingredients. Read on to learn how to make them yourself!
Ingredients you’ll need to make meatless ‘meat’balls:
- White beans: I typically use cannellini beans, but you can use any white beans, such as Great Northern or chickpeas/garbanzo beans.
- Rice: Or quinoa, farro, wheat berries or any other ancient grain you have on hand. Just be sure it’s cooked first! I like to use pre-cooked brown rice and/or quinoa that I can just pop in the microwave. Or I’ll use leftovers I have from another recipe.
- Parsley: I grab a bunch of fresh parsley, chop it up and toss it in! This would also be good with some fresh oregano and basil.
- Parmesan: I use freshly grated, but if you’re looking to make this recipe vegan, you can substitute with nutritional yeast.
- Egg: Eggs act as a binder in meatballs and cannot be skipped or your meatballs will fall apart! However, you can try using egg replacer (such as Bob’s Red Mill) or try making a flax egg. See the recipe card for details!
- Tomato Paste: This adds richness to the ‘meat’balls. Yum!
- Herbs and Spices: Garlic, minced onion, dried Italian herbs and crushed red pepper flakes. This is where major flavor comes in!
- Salt: As always, salt brings out the flavors of the other ingredients, but feel free to adjust the amount to make it work for you.
How to prepare the ‘meat’balls:
- Simply place all of the ingredients in a food processor and give it a whirl until the mixture becomes a chunky paste. (It may not look the most appetizing at this point, but I promise they’re delicious once cooked!) If you don’t have a food processor, finely chop all of the ingredients, mix them in a bowl and use a potato masher to make a paste.
- Roll the mixture into 16 balls and line on a wire rack fitted inside of a baking sheet. Be sure to use cooking spray on the wire rack to avoid sticking!
- Bake at 375 degrees for 22-28 minutes or until set.
- Simmer the ‘meat’balls in marinara, then serve! Delicious!
I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry! Let’s eat.
- Prep Time: 15-20 mins
- Cook Time: 25-30 mins
- Total Time: 40-50 mins
- Yield: Makes 16 meatballs 1x
- Category: Entree
- Method: Baking, Stove-Top
- Cuisine: Italian-inspired
Easy vegetarian meatballs made with white beans, whole grains, egg, Italian herbs and garlic in a bath of marinara sauce.
- 1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup cooked quinoa and/or brown rice
- ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
- 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan + more for serving
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons low sodium tomato paste
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 24-ounce jar lower sodium marinara
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Fit a baking sheet with a wire rack and coat with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the beans, quinoa or brown rice, parsley, Parmesan, egg, olive oil, tomato paste, garlic, onion, oregano, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes until a paste forms.
- Form into 2-inch round balls and line on the wire rack about an inch apart. Optional: coat each ‘meat’ball with cooking spray.
- Bake 22-28 minutes or until the meatballs are golden brown and firm.
- Warm the marinara sauce in a skillet. Transfer the ‘meat’balls to the marinara and bring to a simmer. Serve ‘meat’balls and marinara with grated Parmesan on top.
Cooking Tip: To make the meatballs vegan, try Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer or a flax ‘egg’. To make a flax egg, mix together 1 tablespoons ground flax seed with 2 tablespoons water and let sit in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. This replaces 1 egg.
Serving Tip: Serve with a green salad with vinaigrette dressing.
- Serving Size: 4 meatballs + 3/4 cup sauce
- Calories: 311
- Sugar: 1g
- Sodium: 581mg
- Fat: 16g
- Saturated Fat: 3g
- Unsaturated Fat: 13g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 28g
- Fiber: 7g
- Protein: 11g
- Cholesterol: 50mg
Keywords: vegetarian, plant-based, vegan, meatballs, beans