Our ongoing effort to eat more plant-based meals led to looking into alternatives for meatballs, but most of the prepared options contained soy and/or rice flour, both of which are also off-limits. After a lot of trial and error, and even more swearing, we arrived at this little flavor explosion we call Vegan Italian Meatballs.
The key is to prep the night before by soaking the chickpeas and cooking the red quinoa (calm down – it’s a seed, not a grain). Once those conditions are met, the total process takes about an hour since several things come together simultaneously. This is a recipe to read and plan fully before executing. The results are seriously delicious, served as an entrée with veggie pasta or an appetizer with marinara sauce for dipping. We added a bit of white truffle oil for a kick of extra flavor, but it’s not required.Print
Vegan Italian Meatballs made with chickpeas, red quinoa, and mushrooms.
- 1/2 cup dry chickpeas, soaked overnight (do not use canned), measure dry, soaked volume will be close to 2 cups
- 3/4 cup cooked red quinoa (made with water), fully cooled*
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/3 cup finely diced yellow onion
- 1/3 firmly packed cup minced baby bella mushrooms
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 1/4 cup Anthony’s Blanched Almond Flour, packed and leveled
- 2 tbsp golden flaxseed meal
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp tomato paste (or 2 tbsp minced sundried tomatoes soaked in 1 tbsp boiling water)
- 1 tbsp Anthony’s Arrowroot Flour or Anthony’s Tapioca Flour, packed and leveled
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce or coconut aminos
- 1 tsp white truffle oil (or an extra teaspoon of olive oil)
- 1 tsp parsley flakes
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/8 tsp paprika
- 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
- Pinch of ground black pepper
- Favorite marinara sauce for serving/dipping
- Night before: Soak chickpeas in 4 cups of cold water, cover and leave overnight. Cook quinoa and refrigerate overnight.
- Place oven rack in center position, preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.
- Drain chickpeas and add to a medium saucepan with 2 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, and continue boiling for 10 minutes, then drain and transfer chickpeas to the prepared pan.
- Roast chickpeas 15-20 minutes, until they look dry, turn white on the outside, and the moisture bakes off. Remove from oven and set aside until they are just cool enough to handle. If you taste one of the chickpeas now, it should be firm and a bit crumbly, not mushy.
- While chickpeas are boiling/roasting, heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat and add a teaspoon of oil and the mushrooms and onions. Leave on medium 1-2 minutes to sear the mushrooms and onions, then stir and reduce to medium-low. Cook another 3-5 minutes, stirring as needed, then add minced garlic and cook until fragrant (1-2 minutes) Add the tomato paste and mix to combine. Remove from heat and flip over constantly until the tomato baste darkens in color a bit, then transfer to a food processor.
- Add salt, parsley, and all spices to a small bowl and combine. Add a teaspoon of olive oil to a small bowl and set aside.
- Add chickpeas, Worcestershire sauce, a teaspoon of white truffle oil and a teaspoon of olive oil (or just use two teaspoons olive oil), and spice mixture to the onion mixture and pulse until a crumbly meal forms. Scrape the sides down every 2-3 pulses. You want to be able to see chunks of chickpeas, but not whole chickpeas. Don’t overdo it or you’ll have a pasty mess.
- In a large bowl, combine nutritional yeast, flaxseed meal, tapioca/arrowroot flour, and almond flour then add the cooked quinoa, chickpea mixture, and two tablespoons of water. Stir to combine completely, then let sit for 10 minutes as you preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Gently stir mixture one more time and taste for seasoning. Adjust with salt and ground black pepper to taste.
- Use a cookie scoop (one-tablespoon size) to scoop tightly packed scoops of the mixture. Release the ball into the palm of one hand (you will use the reserved oil to thinly coat the palm of one hand, so the mixture doesn’t stick – just a dab is enough for every few scoops) and squeeze to compact, then cup the ball in on your palm while pinching to form a round ball. The trick is to pack them tightly.
- Continue forming balls with the remaining mixture (we got 20 balls out of this) and gently transfer to the cooled the baking sheet (with parchment/Silpat) from the chickpeas.
- Bake for 30 minutes, gently flipping half way through. After baking, the outside of the balls will be dry with a little bit of crunch. This will soften once you top with a sauce and the balls will still hold up.
- We love them over spaghetti squash with homemade marinara sauce, or even on their own with vegetable marinara sauce as a dip.
Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 4 days.
Total time does not include quinoa prep or chickpea soaking time.
*Red quinoa has a richer, nuttier flavor than white quinoa. It also remains firm, which gives the balls more texture.
Keywords: MEATLESS BALLS, MEATBALLS, VEGAN, PLANT-BASED, GRAIN-FREE, GLUTEN-FREE, ITALIAN MEATBALLS, CHICKPEAS, QUINOA, MAIN COURSE, APPETIZER, PARTY FOODS, HOLIDAYS, HEALTHY MEALS