Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs gets a vegan makeover with these amazing Italian dried herb infused veggie balls. Made with chickpeas and couscous for amazing texture. These are loaded with flavor and spice and will leave you feeling wonderfully satisfied.
The day has arrived. You now have this amazing "meatball" recipe that I shared a teaser photo of on both IG and Facebook, which everybody went wild over. Guys, it is almost a bit "scary" how meaty these are, hahaha. They are soooo unbelievable and full of flavor. Speaking of flavor....I need flavor in my food! I've tried a few veggie ball recipes online and they have been SO bland that they only taste good with tons of sauce on them. No, I need every aspect of my food to have flavor. Well, these veggie balls are LOADED with flavor and spice and incredibly moist. They are moist without hardly any fat and zero oil.
I can't even count how many times I have been asked about turning my popular Spicy BBQ Lentil Loaf into "meatballs". Unfortunately, that mixture is way too wet to form into balls, but it has been on my list to create some veggie "meat" balls for a long time. One of my ALL-TIME favorite meals to eat pre-vegan was the classic, Spaghetti and Meatballs. Simple, comforting and delicious. My husband would always take me to eat at Carrabba's Italian grill and 9 times out of 10, that is what I would get.
Several years ago before I become a mom, I was heavily into fitness. Like, I worked out 6 days a week, sometimes-twice-a-day-fitness. I still workout now regularly, but I don't stress out obsessively if I miss a workout, like I did in the past. So silly, but that is how it was and I enjoy my life so much more now than being that old person. Anywaysssss, back then I trained for a figure competition and the first thing I wanted after the competition was over, which involved many weeks of intense training and strict eating, was one thing.....to go to Carrabba's Italian Grill and eat spaghetti and meatballs. My hubby took me and it was amazing. Since becoming vegan, I have not had a meal like that...until now.
Now, do they taste exactly like meatballs?? No, of course not, they aren't meat... nor do I want them to. But they have a very similar meaty texture and chew to them, which is exactly what I was after. I wanted them super moist, chewy and meaty, like meatballs, but of course so much healthier.
There are several key ingredients to nailing both an amazing flavor AND texture to these Italian veggie meatless balls. I used ketchup and salsa in them, as well as some chili powder. It gives them amazing kick of flavor that is only further enhanced by a delicious spaghetti sauce. They have a good kick of heat from the salsa and chili powder, but not too spicy. You can always use half the chili powder if you like. Also, make sure to use a mild salsa as well and that will totally make them less spicy. I used Trader Joe's medium regular plain salsa and they are perfect. The ketchup gives a very subtle sweetness to these balls, which plays well with the Italian herbs because if you think about it, Italian sausage has a bit of sweetness to it and I really thought the ketchup would go great in them, and I was right. I tried regular tomato paste and tomato sauce, and no, just not the same at all!
SO, for the meaty texture, what did I use?? COUSCOUS. Yes, couscous, it has a really chewy, hearty texture that worked freaking amazing in these balls! Dare I say it...they were amaze-balls, hahaha! I tried several different things and I'm here to tell you, none of them were that great, but the couscous was the final win! I tried cornmeal, like I did in my lentil loaf and it didn't work at all because the balls are so much smaller and cook much faster than the lentil loaf does, therefore the balls were crunchy and too cornmeal-ish, so that is when I thought of using couscous.
These are so reminiscent of a classic spaghetti and meatballs dish with the noodles and spaghetti sauce all mixed in, that you will be in such pasta heaven, you won't miss the meat. These even hold together and don't fall apart when you stick your fork into them, just like traditional meat. That was the biggest challenge I found when trialing these.
And oh boy will you be stuffed off this meal, just like a classic spaghetti and meatball dish. I mean, stuffed. Best part about this, besides the yum factor, it is sooo healthy and cholesterol-free, unlike the meat version. Absolutely zero oil and hardly any trace of fat!
Serve them with my 5 minute pizza sauce, which works amazing here as spaghetti sauce, and some spaghetti and you have total comfort food! I'm talking, LOADS OF FLAVOR. I am one happy vegan eating this! As usual, you only need 8 ingredients (+salt & pepper) to make these balls! There is the optional liquid smoke, which makes them taste a little more meaty, but it's certainly not needed if you don't have it.
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I hope you all really love this vegan classic of spaghetti and meatballs and enjoy every bite of these Homemade Italian Vegan "Meatballs"! Be sure to make the recipe as is for the amazing results and then leave me feedback below after!
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