I’m on this weird veggie burger/ball lucky testing streak. After months of testing veggie burger and ball recipes to no end, everything is finally clicking into place and the ingredients are binding and syncing and dancing on my taste buds. I would shed a tear of joy if I weren’t too busy stuffing my face in veggie goodness!
I’ve had many requests for a vegan “meat” ball recipe and I thought it was time make some magic happen! It’s actually something I’ve been working on here and there over the past year or two, never quite getting it right, but determined to keep trying. Initially, I was working on a mushroom lentil combo, but I had issues with the lentils drying out too much, producing a stiff and cranky end result. I’m not going to give up on it though; I just had to switch it up for a while lest I go completely mad.
In the meantime, I came up with these Italian bean balls. Considering that we polished them off in less than 2 days, I’d say they were a hit on all fronts. I don’t want to pretend that these taste like traditional meat balls, but they are magnificent in their own right with a great flavour and texture. And to me, that’s what vegan cooking is all about – creating alternatives to traditional fare that taste so damn good who cares that they don’t have meat. That’s always my goal with recipe creation. Options. Enticing veggie-based alternatives.
The hardest part was choosing which bean to use. Navy? Kidney? Pinto? Black? Chickpea? Adzuki? etc. Kidney beans won (so far, anyway). Not to mention, the purple/red skins are quite beautiful all mashed up among the speckled orange and green bits. Have you ever seen such a vibrant batter?
To infuse some Italian flavours into the mix, I added plenty of fresh basil, finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes, dried oregano, and fresh parsley. For some depth of flavour, toasted walnuts really took it all to the next level. I just love the combo of walnuts and tomato (such as in my pesto), they were just made to go together in the same mouthful!
To keep with the light and fresh theme, I served it over a bed of spaghetti squash. It’s #2 on my squash favorite’s list with delicata reigning supreme and butternut claiming third place. This list seems to change every week, but for now those three are in steady rotation in my kitchen. With a sprinkle of pink salt and freshly ground black pepper, the crunchy strands of spaghetti squash are ready to form a fiber-filled base for all your pasta dreams. We felt so energized and light after eating this meal- always appreciated this time of the year when it’s easy to crawl under a blanket and hibernate. Well, we still do that too, but at least we can feel a bit better in the process.
Italian Bean Balls and Spaghetti Squash Noodles
18-20 bean balls
Delightful Italian bean balls filled with basil, oregano, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes round out this fresh & light meal of spaghetti squash "pasta" and tomato sauce. I bake the bean balls for a good amount of time until golden and quite firm, so they stand up better to the tomato sauce. I suggest roasting the spaghetti squash in advance (and preparing tomato sauce in advance too, if making homemade) and simply reheating it just before serving. I heat the tomato sauce in a pot and once it's hot enough I gently fold in the bean balls to cover in the sauce and then serve it immediately. The bean balls will soften with time, so it's best not to leave them in the sauce for too long. While they don't taste like traditional meat balls, I can assure you these are a flavourful plant-based option with a great texture! Feel free to shape the mixture into burger patties, if that floats your boat. This recipe is adapted from my Thai Sweet Potato Burgers.
For the bean balls:
- 3/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped and toasted
- 3/4 cup gluten-free rolled oats, processed into a coarse flour
- 1 cup shredded carrot
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
- 2-3 tablespoons finely chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (about 2 large)
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons ground flax + 3 tbsp water, mixed
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Toast the walnuts for 7-9 minutes until fragrant and golden.
- Meanwhile, add the oats into the food processor and process until finely chopped. You want the texture to be like a coarse flour.
- Add the grated carrot, chopped parsley, basil, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, walnuts, and oat flour into a large bowl. Stir to combine.
- Add the drained and rinsed beans into the food processor and process until finely chopped. You want the mixture to be a coarse paste with some beans still intact, but don't completely puree the mixture. Stir the processed beans into the bowl with the vegetables and oat flour.
- In a mug, whisk together the ground flax and water. Let it sit for only 15-20 seconds, any longer and it will get too thick. Stir into the vegetable bean mixture until fully combined.
- Stir the oil, oregano, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using) into the bowl, adjusting amounts to taste if necessary.
- Shape the mixture into 18-20 balls (the size of golf-balls), packing each ball tightly between your hands so it holds together well. Place each ball onto the prepared baking sheet an inch or two apart.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then gently flip the balls and and bake for another 15-20 minutes until golden on both sides.
- After baking, place balls on a cooling rack for 10 minutes to cool slightly.
- Serve with spaghetti squash or pasta and tomato sauce (either homemade or store-bought). I also sprinkled some of my vegan Parmesan on top.
Notes: 1) To make this recipe nut-free, omit the walnuts and use sunflower seeds instead (or omit entirely - but keep in mind they add a great crunch!). 2) For how to roast a spaghetti squash, see this post.
Nutrition Information(click to expand)
Stay tuned tomorrow for a special reveal of the Canadian cover of my cookbook!
Yum! The photographs are beautiful! What a delicious looking meal! I like the spaghetti and beanballs from Veganomicon, but I love the use of spaghetti squash here (have been hooked on it ever since I tried your recent Tex Mex spaghetti squash recipe), and I think the sundried tomatoes probably add so much goodness. Can’t wait to try this recipe out. How do you come up with this stuff?? You are amazing!
lots of testing and trials (oh and lots of eating! my fav part) =) Thanks for your kind words Kathy!
Hi! Do you know how to make this recipe with soaked oats? I keep reading how beneficial it is to soak oats (especially) and beans before consuming. Thanks!
Hey Tara, I’m sorry I don’t know how to make it with soaked oats. Maybe someone else has an idea though!
When I make meatballs I usually “soak” the bread in water for 5-10 min. then squeeze it well before adding to the mix. I’d do the same with oatmeal. Keeps the meatball moist and helps hold it together.
I made this tonight along with your Kale salad topped with pecan parmesan and oh my gosh!!! They were both amazing. I have made tons of homemade veggie burgers, but not meatballs and these came with perfect texture and flavor…great job on them and I can’t wait to try more recipes from your site! :) I know it’s not part of this recipe but the pecan parmesan is wonderful and I am already making extra to have for salads and entrees..love it!
This may be the most delicious looking recipe I’ve ever seen on here! I’m thinking I need to go to the store after work so I can make this tonight!
These look fresh and delicious and I love how they are baked…this is something I would definitely enjoy making!
Looks beautiful too!
Mm these sound awesome Ange! You always have an amazing way of making meals that would normally be very messy look so perfect and beautiful! I love experimenting with new veggie ‘meat’ recipes as well, but they often mean eating lots of leftover/failed attempts and lots of beans for a few days following! I totally trust ya on this one – can’t wait to give it a try!
I have all of the ingredients on hand, carrots in the garden waiting to be picked and a perfect spaghetti squash ready to be cooked. I will definitely be making this tonight!
Love the bright colors – and love spaghetti squash for skinny pasta!
So excited to try these tonight. Looks delicious.
Seriously you read my mind with these! I love spaghetti squash but have been overdoing it a bit latley, buuut these could coax me back into jumping back on the train.
I have a lentil meatball recipe–but it’s super basic because my kids kinda freak out if I start adding a ton of a veggies in their “meat’balls or veggie burgers.
These look so flavorful–I will have to try on my kids–if it passes with them, it’s for SURE a winner in my house.
(can’t wait to see your cookbook cover–exciting!)
These look great! Would they work with pecans instead of walnuts?
I can’t see why not :)
Do you think that these could be frozen and then reheated without getting weird in texture or taste?
Hey Kate, Yes I do! Bake them first and cool completely before freezing. Then to reheat, thaw first (if possible, but I wouldnt microwave them) them and bake them in the oven until heated throughout. Hope this helps!
Finding a good vegan ball recipe is not easy. I’ve gone through so many test runs and trials to find one that sticks together..I have hope for this one! Looks delicious!
I’ve made veggie burgers but never meatless “meat” balls. These look like you have hit the jackpot!
I just found your website a few days ago, but I am absolutely salivating over your creations! I cannot wait to try one!
Thank you Cassie! Hope you enjoy the recipes :)
Mmm, looks yummy! Any sub suggestions for the walnuts to make it completely nut-free? (allergic household)
All those spices and veggies in the “meat” balls look good enough to eat without the spaghetti!! Yummy..
What a coincidence! Just two weeks ago I posted a recipe with vegan bean “meatballs”! I used different spices and real spaghetti and it tasted quite good!
Love your recipes!
I was planning a little something like this for Halloween – eyeballs, blood and worms (zucchini spaghetti). Cool!
I’m constantly looking for new ways to eat beans as they are by far my main source of protein but I always wind up defaulting to a squeeze of lemon or adding them to soup. Thank you for doing all of the leg work for me! :)
Okay, I have been such a dork in my not giving spaghetti squash a try but this recipe may have finally push me over the edge. This looks AWESOME!
Love this and your blog!! How about freezing them? Would you do it before or after baking them?
Hey Margo, I think they should freeze just fine (because my veggie burgers do and these are similar). Bake them first though, then cool completely, before freezing. Thaw and then reheat in the oven until warmed throughout. Hope this helps!
This looks so good! I never liked meat (haven’t eaten red meat or ground meat of any kind in over 20 years) so the replacements never piqued my interest… until now! Can’t wait to try it!
Those bean balls are just loaded up with great texture, which I love! And spaghetti squash – I havent made one in ages. Must change that! Such a pretty meal you made, Angela!
This recipe looks amazing! I can not wait to try it out. I have tried other recipes for bean balls that just weren’t right. I seriously love your recipes and am patiently waiting for your cookbook to come out! I always look to your blog first for recipes because I have been so happy with the results. In fact, I have been eating your lentil walnut loaf all week!
Thank you Maria, you are so sweet! :)
Thank you for this masterpiece Angie :) can’t wait to try it!
Do you think they will freeze well like the bean burgers?
These look delcious. I always struggle with the consistency of burgers/’meat’balls i’ll have to give these a try!
I cannot wait to make this except once concern. I am living abroad right now and I do not have a food processor. I do have a Vitamix – could I use that instead here? It seems so but wonder what you think. Thanks!
Hey Laura, Yes I do think you could use the Vitamix for the oats. I would mash the beans by hand though. enjoy!
Can I leave the walnuts out?
Yes you can – see my note in the recipe.
This looks Delish!! Do you have any ideas for an alternative to oats in the recipe?
hmm maybe breadcrumbs? or is it a sensitivity issue? The oats help bind, so you would need another binder in there most likely. Mind you, I haven’t tried them without the oats…maybe the flax egg is enough, but it would be very sticky without the oat flour. I would try a bit of gluten free flour but I wouldnt use much. Maybe 1/4 cup max?
Thanks and yes it is due to a sensitivity. I am sensitive to almost all GF grains and gluten containing grains. Maybe I could use a little almond flour?
I omitted the oats as I didn’t have any and used nutritional yeast. They were cheesey and yummy. My 5 year old grandson didn’t like them but he and my husband ike their meat meatballs. I loved these. Put them atop shredded, steamed butternut squash.
This looks so great! Have you tried to freeze the bean balls?
Hey Jenn, Not yet, but I would expect they freeze well since they are similar to my veggie burgers. Just cook them and cool completely before freezing. Enjoy!
Oh, yay! I’m really excited for this recipe; I’ve been trying to cut way back on my meat consumption, but since I have Celiac all the wheat-based meat alternatives have been total non-starters for me. I’ve tried coming up with my own alternatives, but they’re usually an epic fail — so I must say, this is a big accomplishment. :) Huzzah!
These look so good! I love making vegetarian burgers and meatballs too – and it is definitely hard to get the texture just right. Will be trying these out soon! Thanks!
i spent a whole afternoon making a similar recipe then into the crockpot with my sauce…huge mistake…it all fell apart! ha but so very delicious. I will try again!
I am making these now!! They smell so good! I didn’t have plain oats so I used an oat, barley, quinoa, rye, wheat blend. Thanks for all your great recipes :)
This sounds like a wonderful alternative to traditional spaghetti and meatballs. I agree that you probably can’t completely replace the taste of meatballs, but I think this perfect for lightening up a comfort meal. I could totally imagine enjoying this on a cold winter evening.
Fabulous. I love recipes that have flax in them. It’s so healthy. I found a delicious roasted golden flax seed and chia seed blend on amazon called FitFlax. I’m adding it to a lot of my recipes.
Hi: Can I substitute almond meal for the ground oats in this recipe. Thanks.
These look awesome, thanks for sharing! One question – it looks like there is something purple (maybe red onion) in the balls but I didn’t see it in the recipe — is that just funny color on my computer? Or did I miss an ingredient?
I thought it was red onions at first, too, but I think that’s the kidney beans. :)
Yes it’s the beans! :)
I was really excited for your thai sweet potato veggie burgers and now I’m doubly excited about these bean balls!! When I was a kid, meatballs were one of the only types of meat I’d eat and now I just miss having something to eat with marinara sauce :)
This looks delicious!
I have an unrelated/nosy question… Your skin always looks amazing, and I’m curious what foundation you use! Over on my blog (www.herfixationmedia.com) I am testing the top eight cult favorite foundations in what I’ve dubbed The Great Winter Foundation Face Off, and I would like to test whatever you’re using!
Hi Alexandra, Aw thank you! I use mineral powder mostly – Bare Minerals or other similar brands. It isn’t the best in the dry winter months though, so I’m on the hunt for a good liquid foundation that’s cruelty-free.
Check out RMS Beauty’s un-coverup. Has raw, organic ingredients and cruelty free. Gives you a nice dewy look and the ingredients are amazing including coconut oil, jojoba oil, seed oils, etc. It melts into your skin. Changed my complexion… have a look :)
I am currently looking for a new skin care line, so I checked out RMS Beauty and their foundations and mascaras all have beeswax. Something to be aware of if you’re a vigilant vegan. I will personally continue searching for a product that is 100% vegan.
Be aware of dry mineral’s, It has silica crystalline (basic component of soil, sand, granite, …) which can cause irreversible respiratory problem. I used it for 18 months and had a sore throat all that time, it stopped when I switch back to liquid based foundation. Noticed the dust it leave on furniture where you apply it? The veil is even worst since the particles are so fine they float in the air … You can mix the dry mineral with water to prevent breathing it :) Lots of you tube on this. I found I still worked great. did not try with the veil. Found that out in a uni research a few years back. It is also present in the kitty box litter if you use dry clay.
Oh no…..I just licked my monitor. Such gorgeous photos!
My daughter and I have had so much success with your recipes – this will definitely be one we try. I wasn’t so crazy about spaghetti squash (pre-Vegan days), but I’m going to give it another go. I find my tastes have changed drastically and I just crave all the veggie goodness.
Pulling these out of the oven right now!! I am super excited to eat them, they look and smell fantastic!
looks delicious! as a squash lover, you must try kabocha and sweet dumpling! (i’m only assuming you haven’t because you didn’t mention them in your top faves.=)
Could you use oat bran instead of putting the rolled oats into the food processor? I can’t wait to try these…I’m even hoping my picky three year old will gobble them up!
Awesome. I tried a meatless meatloaf the other day, these will definitely be my next try.
Oh good gosh this looks DELICIOUS!! I’ll have to try them.
Yum! Was planning on having spaghetti squash this weekend-need to try it with these bean balls!
One of the things I find hardest to cook since becoming vegan is “meat” balls! I have a hard time getting an actual ball to form and stay that way, it always falls apart the minute I fry it or drop it into a soup. Thank you for this recipe! I am learning so much from your site and will try your recipe this weekend ;)
Hi, I am wondering what food processor you use as I’m out to buy a new one! this recipe looks gorgeous, can’t wait to try it :)
I can’t wait to make these! These look fantastic! I think I might serve them over some soba noodles! Can’t wait for the release of your cookbook!