These easy Vegan Meatballs will give you the perfect meatless meatballs in a recipe that's both healthy and delicious! It's packed with comforting ingredients and along with a traditional flavor that's sure to win your heart. What's best is these are gluten-free too and can be ready in under 1 hour from scratch using pantry staple ingredients.
They're absolutely perfect for meal prepping for the week since you can have them with spaghetti or a side salad or even use them in subs. They prove that you don't need meat for a complete and satisfying meal.
It's one of the best vegan mushroom recipes and you'll see why. They feature perfectly cooked vegan meatballs with tangy tomato sauce seasoned with delicious Italian herbs and spices. It has that classic, traditional flavor but it's entirely vegan. That means no eggs, dairy, or meat!
I've used mushrooms as a meat substitute. Since I started on a plant-based diet, mushrooms took on the best "meat" substitute for me.
So that's how I came up with this delicious recipe. You'll love the thick tomato sauce that coats each meatball and you won't want to waste a single drop of it.
Read on to learn exactly how to make these delicious vegan meatballs today!
- What are Vegan Meatballs?
- Why This is The Best Vegan Meatballs Recipe
- What You Need to Make Vegan Meatballs At Home
- How to Make Vegan Meatballs Step by Step
- Tips For Making the Best Vegan Meatballs Every Single Time
- Serving Suggestions
- Recipe Variation Ideas for Vegan Meatballs
- Frequently Asked Questions
- How to Store Leftover Vegan Meatballs
What are Vegan Meatballs?
Vegan meatballs are plant-based alternatives to traditional meatballs. And so, they are made without animal products, such as meat, eggs, or dairy. But they still taste incredible and capture the flavor of traditional meatballs.
Instead, they are usually made of ingredients like legumes such as lentils or chickpeas, grains such as rice or quinoa, vegetables, herbs, spices, and binders such as flaxseeds or breadcrumbs. These ingredients are combined and formed into ball-shaped patties or balls, which are then baked, fried, or simmered in sauce.
Vegan meatballs try to replicate traditional meatballs' taste, texture, and appearance while offering a cruelty-free and environmentally-friendly option for anyone following a vegan or vegetarian diet, or those who simply enjoy plant-based alternatives.
What's best is that they can be served in a variety of ways, including with pasta, in sandwiches, on salads, or as appetizers.
Why This is The Best Vegan Meatballs Recipe
Meatless meatballs: Meatballs made without meat, egg, and dairy, is it even possible? Absolutely! These dairy-free, savory vegan meatballs are proof that you don't always need meat for a complete and satisfying meal.
Packed with flavor: With some simple ingredients, we'll be adding a ton of flavor to our meatballs. You'll get the delicious flavors of mushrooms, aromatics, and spices in each bite.
Versatile: What's best is that this recipe is incredibly versatile and you can change up the flavor easily to make it your own. This makes it perfect for that recipe you bookmark to keep coming back to!
What You Need to Make Vegan Meatballs At Home
All you need are some incredibly simple, pantry-staple ingredients to make this delicious vegan meatballs recipe at home.
Here's an overview of the specific ingredients for this recipe. For the exact ingredients and measurements, please scroll to the recipe card below.
Rice: We'll need some rice for our vegan meatballs and I've used basmati rice in this recipe. It'll adds a fluffy and slightly sticky texture to the vegan meatballs, helping them hold their shape when formed.
Olive oil: You'll also need some olive oil. We'll use it to the onions, carrots, and mushrooms, bringing out their natural flavors.
Onions: We'll be using one onions in this recipe. It'll add a savory and aromatic flavor in the meatballs and add depth to the overall flavor.
Carrots: You'll also need some carrots! They'll add a subtle sweetness to the vegan meatballs and a slight crunch and moisture to the mixture.
Garlic: We'll also be using as some garlic in this recipe. It'll add the perfect savory notes that'll bring out all the flavors in this dish and also give it a delicious traditional touch.
Portobello mushrooms: I made these vegetarian meatballs with the Portobello mushrooms, however, Button or Crimini mushrooms will work here as well. They're the perfect way to get a meaty flavor without using any meat. It's truly the best meat substitute!
Tomato sauce: We'll also need some tomato sauce for this recipe. It'll serve as the base for the sauce in which the meatballs cook. It provides a rich, tangy, and savory flavor that adds depth to the dish.
Water: To get the right consistency, we'll also be using some water in our recipe. We'll use it to also make our cornstarch slurry to adjust the consistency and thickness of the sauce.
Italian seasoning: You'll also need some Italian seasoning for the meatballs. It includes a combination of herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram and add a traditional and authentic flavor to the meatballs.
Smoked paprika: We'll also need some smoked paprika. It'll add a distinct smoky flavor which will bring out the warm and rich taste in the dish.
Cornstarch: We'll use some cornstarch with water to create a slurry that'll thicken the meatball sauce to help you get the right consistency.
Maple syrup: For natural sweetness, we'll be using some maple syrup. It'll help balance out the tanginess of the tomato sauce and other savory flavors in the dish.
Salt and pepper: To season our vegan meatballs perfectly, we'll also be using some salt and black pepper in our recipe. It'll bring out all the flavor and balance the other ingredients.
Parsley: We'll need some fresh parsley to garnish our meatballs. It'll add a fresh and clean flavor to the meatballs and add a pop of color when we serve our delicious vegan meal.
How to Make Vegan Meatballs Step by Step
- Cook rice
Start off with preparing the rice for the vegan meatballs. Rinse it one time with filtered water, add to a medium pot along with water and salt, and bring to a boil.
Give it a stir, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until rice absorbs all water is cooked about 15 minutes.
After that, transfer the rice to a medium or large bowl to cool. Note, that the rice is supposed to be a little sticky and gluey.
- Cook the onion and carrot
Heat olive in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half of the minced onion, and carrot and saute, stirring from time to time, for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.
- Cook the mushrooms
Add finely chopped mushrooms and cook on high heat for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms slightly brown. Transfer the veggies to a plate and wipe down the pan with a paper towel.
- Prepare the sauce
Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the remaining onion, salt, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water. Whisk in tomato sauce, all spices, Maple syrup, salt, and pepper.
Add the tomato sauce to the sautéed onion and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the sauce slightly thickens. Adjust salt and pepper if needed.
Blend the sauce using an immersion or stand blender until fewer veggie chunks remain.
- Combine rice and sauteed vegetables
In a large bowl, add cooked rice and sautéed onion, carrot and mushrooms. Mix with a spoon for a few minutes until the mixture is slightly "sticky". That way you'll be able to shape it into the balls easily.
Note: It's very important that the rice is soft and gluey. If it doesn't look like it, add it to a food processor and pulse for a few seconds until desired consistency. After that, you can mix the rice with the other ingredients.
Taste the mixture and adjust salt and pepper if needed.
- Shape the meatballs
Take about 1 heaping teaspoon of the mixture and using your hands shape into the meatballs. I recommend placing a bowl with clean water nearby so that you can dip your hands into the water after each meatball. I had about 29 meatballs.
Place vegetarian meatballs into the tomato sauce, simmer for 2 minutes and remove from the heat.
Sprinkle these easy, gluten-free meatballs with some fresh parsley and serve as they are or over some pasta.
Your delicious Vegan Meatballs are ready to serve.
Tips For Making the Best Vegan Meatballs Every Single Time
- Cook the rice properly: Follow the instructions for cooking the rice carefully. Be sure to rinse it well and cook it until it absorbs all the water and becomes soft. The slightly sticky and gluey texture of the rice will help the meatballs hold together better.
- Finely chop the vegetables: When chopping the onions, carrots, garlic, and mushrooms, aim for a fine and uniform size. This will ensure even cooking and distribution of flavors throughout the meatballs.
- Blend the sauce to desired consistency: After adding the tomato sauce and other ingredients to the sautéed onion mixture, use an immersion blender or stand blender to blend the sauce until fewer veggie chunks remain. Blend it to your preferred consistency, whether you like a smoother or chunkier texture.
- Keep hands moist: When shaping the meatballs, keep a bowl of clean water nearby. Dip your hands into the water after shaping each meatball. This will prevent the mixture from sticking to your hands and make the shaping process easier.
- Simmer the meatballs gently: When cooking the meatballs in the tomato sauce, simmer them gently for a couple of minutes. This will allow the flavors to meld together and ensure that the meatballs are thoroughly heated.
- Use two separate pans (optional): To speed up the process, I used two separate pans for sautéing the veggies and making the sauce. You can totally make everything in one pan.
- Wipe and use the same pan: After you sauté onion and mushrooms, I recommend transferring the vegetables to a separate plate, wiping the pan clean, and continue making the sauce.
These non meat meatballs are delicious on their own since they're made of both protein and carbs. Here are some serving suggestions you can try:
Over pasta: The recipe suggests serving the meatballs over pasta, such as spaghetti or linguine. Toss the cooked pasta in a little olive oil or tomato sauce, then top it with the meatballs and a generous spoonful of the tomato sauce from the recipe. Sprinkle some chopped parsley on top for garnish. You can also use some zucchini noodles instead.
With a side of vegetables: Serve the meatballs with a side of steamed or roasted vegetables. This adds color, nutrition, and variety to the meal. You can choose vegetables like broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, or green beans. It also tastes great with some mashed potatoes on the side.
In a sub or sandwich: Use the meatballs to make a delicious sub or sandwich. Toast a sub roll or a slice of crusty bread, spread some vegan mayo or a sauce of your choice, and layer the meatballs along with some fresh lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and pickles. Serve it with some fries for a wholesome family meal.
Over rice or grains: Instead of pasta, serve the meatballs over cooked rice or grains like quinoa, couscous, or bulgur. The meatballs and sauce will add flavor and moisture to the grains, creating a satisfying and complete meal.
As an appetizer or finger food: Serve the vegan meatballs as a party appetizer or finger food. Arrange them on a platter with toothpicks or skewers, and provide a variety of dipping sauces, such as marinara sauce, vegan ranch, or spicy salsa.
Recipe Variation Ideas for Vegan Meatballs
Bean-based meatballs: Instead of using rice as the base, you can replace it with cooked and mashed beans such as black beans, chickpeas, or lentils.
Combine the mashed beans with sautéed vegetables, herbs, and spices, and shape them into meatballs. Adjust the seasonings accordingly.
Cheese: Another great idea is to add some vegan parmesan cheese to your meatball mixture before shaping them.
Nuts: Add a nutty twist to the meatballs by incorporating finely chopped or ground nuts like walnuts, almonds, or cashews into the mixture. Nuts add flavor and texture and provide a source of healthy fats and proteins.
Spicier: If you enjoy some heat, add spices like chili powder, cayenne pepper, or red pepper flakes to the meatball mixture. Adjust the amount of spice according to your preference. You can also serve them with a spicy marinara or hot sauce.
Crispier: If you want your meatballs to have a crispier texture, you can cover them with panko breadcrumbs and pan-fry them instead after shaping them. You can even bake them in the oven instead of pan-frying them this way.
Frequently Asked Questions
Plant-based meatballs can be made with many ingredients that don't include meat, eggs, or dairy. Some of these ingredients are lentils, beans, quinoa, or eggplant.
I love using mushrooms in vegetarian meatballs recipes since they're packed with flavor and nutrients. In addition, mushrooms have a "meaty" texture which helps make the vegan balls delicious even for non-vegans.
Cooked rice helps the meatballs hold their shape and not fall apart. The trick is to overcook the rice slightly making it sticky and gluey. If your rice is fluffy, you'll have to use a vegan binding agent in a form of chia seeds or flax egg.
Absolutely! While the recipe suggests using tomato sauce, you can experiment with different sauces based on your preferences.
Consider using your favorite marinara sauce, pesto, barbecue sauce, or any other sauce you enjoy with meatballs.
Yes! Make sure to freeze the sauce and the meatballs separately. Arrange meatballs in a single layer on a baking tray (make sure they don't touch each other.
Otherwise, the vegan balls will stick together) and freeze until solid.
Transfer the mushroom rice balls to a freezer bag and freeze for 1-2 months.
How to Store Leftover Vegan Meatballs
These easy meatless meatballs can be stored in a refrigerator for up to 3 days.
To reheat, microwave the meatballs for about 40 seconds or simmer in a little bit of sauce just until warm.
You can also freeze them! Store them in a freezer-safe container and freeze them for up to 1-2 months. Allow them to thaw overnight in the fridge before warming them up on a stovetop or in a microwave.
If you make this recipe, please leave me a comment below and rate it. I always appreciate the feedback. Also, you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.
Vegan Mushroom Meatballs
- 1 c white Basmati rice
- 4 tablespoon olive oil divided
- 2 medium onions very finely chopped
- 1 large carrot grated on a large box grater
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 8 oz Portobello mushrooms finely chopped
- 1 ½ c tomato sauce
- 4 c water divided
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 ½ teaspoon corn starch
- 1 teaspoon Maple syrup
- 1 ¼ teaspoon salt divided
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoon parsley chopped
- Start off with preparing the rice. Rinse it one time with a filtered water, add to a medium pot along with 2 ½ c water and ½ teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Give it a stir, reduce the heat to medium low and cook until rice absorbs all water and is soft, about 15 minutes. Transfer rice to a medium or large bowl to cool.Note, that the rice is supposed to be a little sticky and gluey. That's why I use more water to cook it than for a regular rice.
Cook the onion and carrot
- Heat olive 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and over medium heat. Add half of the minced onion, carrot and saute stirring from time to time for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.
Cook the mushrooms
- Add finely chopped mushrooms and cook on a high heat for about 5 minutes or until mushroom slightly brown. Transfer the veggies to a plate and wipe down the pan with a paper towel.
Prepare the sauce
- Heat 2 tablespoon of olive oil in the same pan and over medium heat. Add the remaining minced onion, ½ teaspoon of salt, and sauté stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine corn starch and 1 ½ c water. Whisk in tomato sauce, smoked paprika, Italian seasoning, Maple syrup, ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper.
- Add this mixture to the sauteed onion and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the sauce slightly thickens. Adjust salt and pepper if needed. Using an immersion or stand blender, blend the sauce until fewer veggie chunks remain.
Combine rice and sauteed vegetables
- In a large bowl add cooked rice and sauteed onion, carrot and mushrooms. Mix for a few minutes until the mixture is slightly “sticky”. That way you’ll be able to easily shape it into the balls. Adjust salt and pepper if needed.
Shape the meatballs
- Take about 1 heaping teaspoon of the mixture and using your hands shape into the meatballs. I recommend placing a bowl with clean water nearby so that you can dip you hands into the water after each meatball. I had about 29 meatballs. Place meatballs into the tomato sauce, simmer for 2 minutes and remove from the heat.
- Sprinkle the meatballs with some chopped parsley and serve as they are or over some pasta.