These Easy Vegan Meatballs and Spaghetti are infused with amazing Italian dried herbs and flavor. These are baked, not fried, oil-free, dairy-free and made with chickpeas and couscous for amazing texture.
These Easy Vegan Meatballs are LOADED with flavor, Italian spices and wonderful texture. They are made with whole foods and plant-based protein from chickpeas and couscous. They are moist and delicious, and totally oil-free. They are baked and not fried, for a healthier version.
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.
- Italian seasoning: I use my homemade Italian seasoning because it’s the best!
- Salsa or my homemade pizza sauce: This gives SO much flavor to these balls. I’ve found too many recipes don’t have enough flavor and these deliver in a big way. You could also try a thick marinara sauce if you like.
- Brown rice flour: Instead of using eggs like in traditional meatballs, the brown rice flour helps to hold these easy vegan meatballs together.
- Chili powder
- Liquid smoke
- Salt & pepper
HOW TO MAKE VEGAN MEATBALLS
Step 1: Cook the couscous.
Step 2: Process the onion and chickpeas in a food processor until chunky.
Step 3: Add the rest of the ingredients (except the brown rice flour and couscous) and process, being careful not to over process.
Step 4: Add the mixture to a bowl and stir in the cooked couscous and brown rice flour until thick and holding together well.
Step 5: Form into balls and bake at 375°F until firm and browned on each side.
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 so healthy and cholesterol-free, unlike the meat version.
I hope you all really love these vegan spaghetti and meatballs!
MORE VEGAN DINNER RECIPES
- Vegan Barbecue Lentil Loaf
- Best Vegan Alfredo Sauce
- Pumpkin Chipotle Chili
- Vegan Stuffed Ricotta Shells
- Cheesy Mexican Tortilla Bake
- Chickpea Tomato Ragu
Easy Vegan Meatballs (Baked, Oil-free)
- 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 medium-heat salsa OR my homemade pizza sauce (see directions)
- 3 tablespoons ketchup or more pizza sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning (one without salt or red pepper flakes) I use MINE
- 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 more (if needed) 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.
- I created this recipe using salsa for a wonderful depth of flavor, but some readers have subbed that with my pizza sauce, so that is an option too, for a more Italian flavor. If doing my pizza sauce, then reduce the Italian seasoning listed above from 2 tablespoons to only 1 (but following the exact recipe of my pizza sauce).
- In a food processor, add your chickpeas and onion and pulse to break up the mixture for a few seconds. Add all of the remaining ingredients, starting with just 6 tablespoons of the salsa or pizza sauce (you'll likely need 8 for the pizza sauce since it's thicker), 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!
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