These Easy Vegan Meatballs and Spaghetti are infused with amazing Italian dried herbs and flavor. These are oil-free, dairy-free and made with chickpeas and couscous for amazing texture.
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. These Easy Vegan "Meatballs" 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.
Back in the day I use to train 6 days a week. I was heavily into fitness. A bit too much. Anyways, back then I trained for a figure competition and the first thing I wanted after the competition was over, 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.
THE SECRET TO AMAZING VEGAN MEATBALLS
There are several key ingredients to nailing both an amazing flavor AND texture to these oil-free vegan meatballs. 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. 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!
HOW TO OBTAIN A MEATY TEXTURE WITHOUT MEAT
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! 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.
These easy vegan meatballs hold together perfectly 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.
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 hope you all really love this vegan classic of spaghetti and meatballs and enjoy every bite of these Easy Vegan Meatballs! Be sure to make the recipe as is for the amazing results and then leave me feedback below after!
Other Impressive Delicious Vegan Dinners:
- Vegan Barbecue Lentil Loaf
- Pumpkin Chipotle Chili
- Vegan Stuffed Ricotta Shells
- Cheesy Mexican Tortilla Bake
- Chickpea Tomato Ragu
Easy Vegan Meatballs
- 1/4 cup couscous + 1/4 cup water I used this Rice Select brand
- 1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained & rinsed & patted dry
- 1/2 cup (75g) chopped onion
- 6-8 Tbsp start with 6, see directions mild or medium salsa (I used Trader Joe's medium plain red salsa, keep in mind the level of heat and flavor your salsa is will be reflected in the veggie balls)
- 3 tablespoons ketchup
- optional: 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 2 tablespoons dried Italian spice blend (one without salt or red pepper flakes)
- 1-2 teaspoons regular chili powder (I used 2 and it has a kick of heat, use 1 for less spicy)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup (80g) brown rice flour
OPTIONAL FOR SERVING
- First, make your couscous. Add the water to a small pot and bring to a boil, AS SOON as it starts bubbling, stir in the couscous quickly and remove from the heat. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.
- In a food processor, add your chickpeas and onion and pulse to break up the mixture for a few seconds (refer to video for visual). Add all of the remaining ingredients, except the couscous and brown rice flour. Pulse for just a few seconds, no more, just until the mixture resembles a wet rough chunky texture similar to a salsa. You don't want to over-blend and puree it too much or the balls will be too wet/mushy (refer to video for visual). You just want to make sure the chickpeas are no longer whole.
- Add the mixture to a large bowl and add the cooked couscous and brown rice flour. Stir for a few minutes until it all comes together in a sticky batter. Press the mixture repeatedly with the back of your spoon to make it come together. If the mixture is not sticking together, add a bit of the remaining salsa only if necessary. Once it is well mixed, place to chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes. This will make it easier to roll into balls.
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Roll about 14 golf-sized balls with your hands, making sure they are tight and compact and place on the pan. Bake for 15 minutes on the first side, they should easily turn over. I just used my hand to flip them over. Bake another 15 minutes until firm and getting a nice golden brown crust. If you want them super crispy, go another 5 minutes. These balls are very moist inside so they can withstand the crispy exterior.
- While they are baking, heat up your pasta and marinara sauce of choice, or I highly recommend my 5 minute pizza sauce which works amazing as a spaghetti sauce! When the balls are done, coat them well with lots of sauce and pasta and enjoy!