The title of this recipe post is a total oxymoron but Vegetarian “Meat”balls isn’t very SEO-friendly. Neither is Vegetarian Meat(less)balls, which was also heavily considered. Welcome to my extremely stressful job, friends.
I know there are lots of different types of vegetarian diets (and diets in general), so I’ll cut to the highlights to save anyone with dietary restrictions some time:
- Meat: No
- Dairy: No
- Eggs: Yes
- Gluten: Yes but easily No (use gluten-free bread crumbs)
It’s taken me a lot of failed attempts and tweaking to get this recipe down (texture was hard to nail) and after his fifth forced taste test, Joe turned to me and asked, “Why don’t you just roll your veggie burger recipe into balls instead of patties?”
Sonofabitch he had a point.
But I was in too deep. I had to persevere. Again, welcome to my extremely stressful job, friends.
- 1 1/2 c cooked brown rice
- 1 can chickpeas (15 oz)
- 1/2 c breadcrumbs
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 yellow onion
- 2 tbsp packed fresh parsley
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- Salt & pepper to taste (be generous!)
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare the ingredients: Drain and rinse the chickpeas, pat them dry with a paper towel. Cook the rice (I usually do 1 c dry rice which makes more than I need and then I save the excess for other meals). If you have a good food processor, you may not need to cut up the other ingredients but otherwise: Mince the garlic, chop the fresh parsley, dice the onion.
- Texture is important with these--you DON'T want to over-blend the mixture into a paste. It should be a little rough (see below for a picture). To achieve that, I like to roughly chop up the onion, garlic and parsley beforehand. I then put all ingredients except the eggs into a food processor and pulse until it's fully combined but not smooth.
- Transfer to a bowl and stir in the eggs (I crack and quickly whisk them in a separate bowl before adding in). I use my fingers to sort of knead the eggs into the mixture.
- Roll the mixture into small balls (about 1 1/2"). Place on a lightly oiled baking pan and bake for 25 minutes.
- If you're going to eat them right away, they're ready to go out of the oven. BUT I like to heat a super thin layer of olive oil on a skillet on medium-high and then add the meatballs in, rotating occasionally for a couple minutes to make the outsides a little crispy (love the texture!). Remove any excess oil from the pan , lower the heat, and then you can stir in whatever sauce you're using in your meatball dish.*
- If you're going to freeze some or all of the batch for later, let them cool out of the oven and then put in an airtight container in the freezer. When you're ready to eat them, let them thaw completely and then use the stovetop method described above. Just make sure they've thawed first so that the insides don't stay cold.
*If you're short on time, you can skip the baking and just heat oil on a skillet and cook the raw mixture as described. I've done this before and they turn out fine, just softer than with the baking-first method (and I like mine to be firmer).
This recipe is a meal prepper’s dream because you can make a big batch, pop them in the freezer, and thaw weeks later when you need a quick lunch or dinner.
These are great over pasta, zoodles or spaghetti squash with marinara sauce, pesto, alfredo–you name it. I also like to use these “meat”balls to give salads a bit more substance or to mix into stir-fries. So versatile! If you’re food prepping today, make a batch.