Since embarking on my vegetarian journey, I've tried vegetarian meatballs of all shapes and sizes. From meat substitutes, to beans, to lentils, and back again, I've cooked and tasted quite the rainbow of veggie meatballs; however, none have had that perfect balance of firm + tender texture that is so indicative of a good meatball. After a cannelini-meatball flop and fail a few months back, I set out on a mission to create the perfect veggie meatballs. After a few tries and a few fails, this glorious quinoa meatball recipe came to be and it is the definition of delicious.
The texture is that perfect balance of firm + tender, the flavor is rich and meaty, and the ingredients add a balanced dose of healthfulness to this hearty dish. These meatballs are so easygoing and delicious, you can incorporate them into your life in a multitude of ways. Served with your favorite pasta, lined up on a toasted sub roll and topped with marinara, or tossed over spaghetti squash with a bit of parmesan; each option is just as tasty and satisfying as the next.
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa, cooked according to package instructions
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 red pepper, finely diced
- 1 yellow onion, finely diced
- 8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, stems removed and finely diced
- 6 cups baby spinach
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 ½ cups Italian style breadcrumbs
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese*
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten*
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add in red pepper and onion and sauté for 5-7 minutes. Add in the mushrooms and sauté another 3-5 minutes. Lastly, add in baby spinach and continue to sauté until spinach is wilted. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.
- Add cooked quinoa to a large mixing bowl. Add in sautéed veggies and gently stir. Add in the parsley, breadcrumbs, parmesan, salt and pepper. Stir to evenly distribute. Lastly, add in the eggs and gently mix until just combined to bind.
- Prepare two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon 1 ½ tablespoons of mixture into your hand and roll into "meatball" form and place on baking sheet. Continue to do this until all meatballs have been formed. Note: the mixture will seem very sticky but, trust me, these meatballs will cook up and hold together well. They are sticky because you want them to bake up super moist, which is exactly what they do.
- Bake the meatballs for 25 to 30 minutes or until just taking on a golden hue.
- Serve with your favorite marinara and pasta.
- Store leftovers in fridge for up to 5 days or freeze.
Vegan Option: substitute vegan parmesan cheese (e.g., Go Veggie) and two flax or chia eggs (i.e., 1 tablespoon chia or flax meal mixed with 3 tablespoons water = one egg. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.)
That pasta looks absolutely exceptional - delicious meatballs too!
Ashley Melillo says
Thank you! I worked very hard to perfectly twirl that pasta, so I'm glad it didn't go unnoticed!
[email protected]'s Recipes says
These meatballs look wholesome!
Ashley Melillo says
Well, thank you! They're filling and very satisfying :)
I made these for dinner and they were amazing! I couldn't wait to tear into them for lunch again today. Cudos for this recipe! I didn't change a thing to it. THANK YOU!
Ashley Melillo says
I'm do glad you enjoyed them! Always brings a smile to my face to get positive feedback like this, so thank YOU for reporting back :)
Kaylee @ Lemons and Basil says
I made these meatballs several months ago but I pin and flag so many yummy recipes, that I just realized I got them from your site. They were absolutely wonderful! My meat-loving husband went nuts over them! I kept the recipe pretty close to yours but switched out the breadcrumbs and used almond meal with different seasonings. Wonderful recipe, thanks for sharing it!
Hiya... I'm not sure if you're aware but parmesan isn't vegetarian. You can get Italian style vegetarian hard cheese, but anything that's actually called Parmesan contains calf rennet, it's part of parmesan legally protected name and ingredient list. I was unaware for the first few years I was veggie since restaurants included it in their veggie menus, but sadly it never will be vegetarian!
Hi, Andie! I'm so glad you brought this up. I learned about the parmesan/calf rennet issue after I went vegan a year ago and by that point I wasn't eating dairy cheese anyway, but I had no clue the entire time I was vegetarian. I've read that all imported Parmesan contains calf rennet, but there are quite a few well-known domestic brands (e.g., Trader Joe's Parmesan) that use vegetable rennet or other vegetarian alternatives. Definitely a food that requires some label-checking. I'm going to update this recipe to note this, so thank you for pointing this out!
Just wondering, has anyone tried the vegan version with the flax eggs? Do they hold up ok?
I just made these with chia seeds as the egg substitute, I also added tomato paste before rolling into meatballs, it helped with consistency also it was DELICIOUS!!! great recipe!!!!
Vandy G says
I made these with chia seeds powder instead of egg and they worked great. I also puréed the cooked vegetables to hide them in meatballs as my kids do not like some of these veggies. The texture was great and kids loved them.
So happy to hear you're enjoying the recipe, Vandy! Great tip to purée the veggies to hide them, too. Thanks for taking time out of your day to share your thoughts!