Meatballs and meatloaf are comfort foods for me, and I imagine they are for many of us! I have fond memories of my mom cooking a family meal consisting of the Great American Trio… meatloaf (beef of course), mashed potatoes, and veggies. Mixing a little bit of each ingredient in every savory bite is still one of my favorite ways to indulge in this comforting dish, only now I leave out the animal products and the saturated fat! It’s my hope that this recipe gets you excited about eating plant-based, and gives you confidence that almost any meal can be transformed to support a vegan lifestyle and still be delicious, comforting, and soul-nourishing. These meatballs do take some time as the mixture needs to chill before rolling the balls and baking, so I like to make a big batch and freeze the rest. If making meatloaf, you can skip the chilling step.
*This recipe can be easily made gluten free, just use gluten free bread and gluten free soy sauce.
Plant-Based “Meatballs” or “Meatloaf”
Time: 2-3 hours (includes prep, chill time, and baking time)
Serves: 8 (Makes 32 meatballs or 1 meatloaf)
- 1 cup dry yellow split peas (cooked in 3 cups water)
- 3 medium organic carrots, sliced into rounds
- 5 organic celery hearts, sliced
- 1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
- 1 shallot, diced
- 3 slices of near-stale or frozen bread (I used sprouted whole wheat slices)
- ¼ cup pecans, raw
- ¼ cup almonds, raw
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- ½ cup white rice, cook according to package instructions
- 1 vegan egg (1 T flax mixed with 3 T warm water, let sit for 2 minutes)
- 2 T tomato paste
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp cumin
- 1 T Italian seasoning
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp tamari or soy sauce
- 1/2 cup veggie stock (for veggie saute)
- In a medium pot, cook the yellow split peas
- In a large Dutch oven or sauté pan, to veggie stock add the chopped carrots, celery, onion, and shallots. Cook until soft.
- While the veggies are softening, cook the rice in a small pot
- Gather your dry ingredients and a large mixing bowl
- Pulse bread in a food processor until fine like breadcrumbs (if you’re using frozen bread, no need to toast it ahead of time. Fresh bread will work best toasted and then pulsed), add to bowl.
- Pulse pecans and almonds in the food processor, add to bowl.
- Add nutritional yeast, Italian seasoning, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper
- Mix flax egg in a small bowl, let sit for a few minutes
- Now we process the warm ingredients. Depending on the size of your food processor, you may need to do these one at a time. Process the lentils and the sautéed veggies (together if they fit, otherwise separately) and add to the dry ingredients.
- Add tamari, vegan egg, and tomato paste
- Add the white rice to the mixture
- With a sturdy wooden spoon, mix thoroughly. If moisture is too wet, add some more breadcrumbs.
*If making meatloaf, this is your last step! Line a loaf pan with foil and cooking spray. Scoop the mixture into the pan and bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes, using a toothpick to check for doneness. This meatloaf goes great with mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, and a side of peas and carrots. I’ve also had great success topping it with ketchup or BBQ sauce.
*If making meatballs, you’ll need to chill the mixture in the fridge for 1-2 hours to make it easier to roll them into balls. Do some yoga, read a book, enjoy a glass of wine, and feel great that your masterpiece is almost done!
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line two cookie sheets with foil sprayed with olive oil
- Using your hands (time to get messy), form and roll 1-1/2 inch balls and place on cookie sheet. Bake for 25-35 minutes. The meatballs won’t brown like meat, but they will develop a nice outer crust.
- Serve alone or over your favorite pasta with marinara sauce, pesto, or vodka sauce (plant-based vodka sauce recipe coming soon!). For a culinary twist, dip in your favorite BBQ sauce or Thai peanut sauce.
Any leftover meatballs can be frozen and eaten within 6 months (but I doubt they’ll last that long). Enjoy!