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!
I love spaghetti squash, but I haven’t even made any yet this fall – I’ve been too focused on butternut and kabocha. This recipe is the perfect reason to go out and buy one at the market this weekend!
These look awesome! I have made bean balls using kidney beans & oats before, but they always tasted a little bit too much like…. kidney beans. But I think adding the walnuts would really help with that, as well as with the texture.
Do you think I could sub chia seeds for the flax seeds? I find flax seeds are kind of hit or miss for me; they don’t always work that well… but I’m kind of new to the chia seeds as well, so I haven’t really used them much.
Thanks for the recipe!
I cannot wait to make this recipe! Big fan of your blog!! Your lentil loaf is a huge hit in my house!!
As soon as I read this post I knew that was what I wanted for dinner! I made it last night and followed the recipe exactly and it turned out perfect! My guy (meat lover) absolutely adored them. He made room in his top three for this recipe. Great Job!
yay! This makes me so happy.
I really enjoy your blog ! As your pictures are always very inspiring, is it possible when we choose to print them to also have the image in the printout ? How ?
Thanks and Happy Halloween !!!
I made your beanball recipe today and they are great! They taste wonderful, even the dough, and so easy to roll them into perfect balls. This recipe is a keeper – lots of great ingredients.
Hey Pam, That’s great, thanks so much for letting me know! I agree about the batter. It’s hard to keep my paws off it! Enjoy the rest.
Angela! I just made this for dinner and it’s soooo yummy! You continue to amaze me with your plant-powered recipes. Keep it up! I didn’t change a thing in this recipe :)
Looks AMAZING!!!! I have some spaghetti squash in the oven right now…thanks for the inspiration!
My daughter loves meatballs despite the fact that I don’t make meat for her at home (to give you an idea of her obsession: she calls Ikea the “meatball store”). The meatless ones from the grocery store are eh, so I will definitely be trying this!
Angela, My daughter loved these as always!! We have tried mushroom “meatballs” in the past and she wasn’t a fan. These were amazing but we knew they would be. I know I can make almost any subs w/your recipes and will still turn out brilliantly. Had leftover lentils that we used, cilantro instead of parsley, didn’t toast the walnuts, rice breadcrumbs instead of oats, and s. dried tomatoes soaked in water rather than oil. They were great! Thanks Angela for another keeper!! Nina
These look better than real meatballs! I can’t wait to try out this recipe
These look fabulous! I don’t have a food processor, but do you think they could be made with just mashed (with a fork or such)beans or something else? I have a Vitamix, so I know I can grind the oats coarsely in that, but processing the beans is holding me back :( Let me know! Thanks!
What a lovely recipe as I’m getting more into squash as ‘noodles.’ The veggie balls look super flavorful and perfectly textured. I love that you can see the colorful bits of vegetables in each one! Can’t wait to try these!
This was a great recipe Angela! I haven’t had meatballs in probably three years or so. I made this with gluten free pasta and it was so nice to have that familiar ‘meatball’ on my plate, but without the cruelty! I thought this had great flavor too. The basil, sun dried tomatoes, and garlic were delicious. My husband even tried a bite and said ‘not bad’! That’s about as big of a compliment you can get from a carnivore. My mom, who is vegetarian, says the one thing she misses are meatballs. I can’t wait to make these for her and to pass the recipe along.
cant wait to make these
OMG!!!!!!! These were the best bean balls. They were delicious. I’d rather have it without the tomato sauce and spaghetti squash.
So glad you enjoyed them Rose!
Oh yum! These look & sound awesome. I love the idea of eating them with spaghetti squash =)
Angela, I have made so many of your recipes and they’ve always been amazing! But seriously – this one takes the cake. My meat-and-potatoes-loving husband went back for seconds and thirds and said: “When are you making these again?” :) Thank you thank you!
these look great!
Holy shit this was insanely delicious!!! I actually thought the dough was better raw so next time I will just cook the spaghetti squash and top with raw balls! I used a little extra parsley and a little less basil. I used about 1 cup of adzuki beans because that was what I had in hand. Kind of a lot of work for a weeknight meal but soooo worth it! Thanks for a great recipe! Can’t wait for the cookbook! Too bad this one can’t make it!
These look so good Angela!
Do you think the beanballs would be okay to make ahead and then bake as needed?
I made this for dinner tonight and oh my goodness, it was fantastic! I did use real parmesan on top and a couple dashes of worcestershire in the bean ball mix because I’m not vegan myself (and incapable of just leaving a recipe alone haha), but this really was a wonderful, hearty, and comforting meal. The bean balls were delicious, full of flavor, and had a great texture! Thank you so much for sharing, we will be making it again!
Hey Amanda, So glad you enjoyed them!! You reminded me I have some vegan worcestershire in the fridge that would go wonderfully in these. Thanks for trying them out!
Made these tonight and they are SOOOO good!! Lots of flavor with a slightly crispy outside. Definitely on the must make again list!! Great “meat”ball recipe!
I made these bean balls tonight for supper, and they were great! A couple notes: I didn’t have the fresh herbs, so I used basil paste & some dried herbs, & it worked out well. Also, I intended to use a chia egg mixture, but completely forgot to add it, and the balls still held together beautifully!
Instead of spaghetti squash, I used my spiralizer to spiralize some butternut squash, which turned out really well! Then I sauteed it in oil, garlic, pepper & salt and served the bean balls & sauce on top. Super tasty.
Any thoughts on what grain free flour you think would work instead of the oat flour?
Made this last night, but replaced the carrots with 1 c finely chopped mushrooms due to a grocery store snafu – worked out wonderfully, just FYI!
I made these bean balls last night, with the spaghetti squash, and my husband thought these were actual ground beef meat balls. The recipe made 25 golf ball sized balls, and I froze some for another meal later. They were delicious. Thank you for making vegan recipes doable and extremely tasty. Really looking forward to your cookbook!!
I come from a large Italian family and meatballs are “our thing”. I made these tonight in an effort to single-handedly drag some of my family into healthier eating and I have to say, SO Ridiculously Good!!!! This isn’t the first of your recipes I’ve tried and loved. I’m sure it won’t be the last. Thanks for your hard work and commitment!!
What a great, delicious, easy dish! My husband eyed these beans balls suspiciously and said “just two, please”. After eating the entire plate, his second serving was a full one! Thanks, Angela for an easy, yummy, healthy recipe :-)
Some of my family members have started living vegan this year. It’s been interesting trying new foods and many of them especially meatballs have been terrible. I made these this week and they were wonderful. Thank you for recipes my entire family can still enjoy.
This was spectacular! I just finished it up for dinner tonight with my husband! What a great combo of flavors :)
Mmmm, looks delicious! I would love to try out this recipe this weekend but I don’t have any ground flax. Do you have any suggestions on a substitution? Thank you! :)
ground chia seed?
Hubby and I are not total vegetarians but close to it, and I must say these were absolutely fantastic!! I made two red sauces the night we had this–one with meat for my son and the other for our vegan daughter and hubby and I. Well, much to our surprise, hubby and I actually enjoyed these more than the meat marinara sauce with pasta. Thanks! And we’re looking forward to trying your Thai sweet potato burgers and basically all your other recipes like this! Thanks for all your sharing.
Hey Kathy, So happy to hear this! Thanks for letting me know :)
This looks great. I have a spaghetti squash I want to use up. I have a question. Do you think I would be able to substitute walnut for another kind of nut. My boyfriend has a walnut allergy. I usually replace walnuts with almonds in dessert recipes, but I am not sure if it would work with a savory recipe. What about pine nuts? What do you think? thanks.
Hey Cindy, I think pecans would work nicely if that’s an option. Enjoy!
I haven’t made this yet, but I think I will grind all the meatball ingredients together, because it looks like they will fall apart in the sauce. Just a thought. If someone that has made it says different, I would like to know before I try this.
When I took mine out of the oven I kept them out of the sauce until they were on my plate and the texture held up wonderfully!.
Simply amazing combo! Where do you come up with them? So satisfying without the bloat of pasta.
I am looking through these comments and it looks like no one else had the problem I had so I am wondering what I did wrong. These tasted amazing but they were very mushy for us- we baked them even longer in the oven and ended up pan frying them and they just never firmed up- the center was total mush! It’s just a texture thing but mush is my biggest pet peeve when it comes to veggie burgers/balls. I don’t know what we did wrong?
Aside from being a beautiful host, your recipe is very timely. The proliferation of junk foods cause our fellows different sickness and I realize, it’s time to put-up a unique business. Wish me good luck.
Why did mine come out so dry, do you think? I followed the recipe to a T. Thanks for any insight!
Just finished making these, they are very tasty. They will be going into my favorites folder for sure.
Oh My God! Angela,
This was by far the best plant based dish I have ever made (I have been cooking a lot for the last 2-3 months). Can you believe my meat eating husband was really impressed with the “meat” balls!! He usually comes up with something to complain about but not with this one:) This one is definitely a keeper. Thank you so much for your recipes and can’t wait for your new book to come out. Happy New Year and Wish you the BEST!!!!!!
These worked out perfectly! The only thing I changed from the recipe was that I food processed everything a little bit right before forming into balls, because I don’t think I chopped everything well enough. So tasty, and I’ll definitely be making these balls and spaghetti again!
Anyone try putting these into muffin tins to make individual meatloaf servings as opposed to rolling into balls? If so, how did it work and how long and at what temp did you cook them for?
Hi! I’m beginning my way into the vegetatian and vegan food/world, and since I found your blog, it has helped me a lot with new recipes.
I have a blog myself, I hope you find some time to look into it! (thebigvictus.blogspot.com/) :)
Keep up with the great work you do, it is amazing and inspiring.
Hi!! I tried this recipe last night and LOVED it! Eating a few of the bean balls for a snack now! I am currently transitioning to vegan. I am still eating some goat cheese from a local farm my friend owns, but I plan to taper that off as well. All these recipes are SO HELPFUL and make me fee hopeful that I can take control of my health and happiness by feeding myself the right foods! Thank you!
I made this 2 days ago and used a pan with openings in the bottom because I don’t have a large baking pan. The bean balls came out a little overcooked but they were still tasty with the tomato sauce and vegan parmesan! I also learned how to cook spaghetti squash from your Tex Mex spaghetti squash recipe. Everything turned out delicious!
Wow this is amazing! I made this yesterday and I will definitely be making it again soon. Then I had leftover spaghetti squash so I made your black bean guacamole to go with it. All delicious!
Made these last night and they are amazing! LOVE. LOVE. LOVE! I’ve never eaten spaghetti squash (it’s a sin, really!) and it was so perfect and amazing! Thanks for another fantastic recipe!
I made these bean balls last week and loved them. Even my husband loved them and did not miss the meat in our dinner at all. Thank you for this recipe!
You are such an amazing inspiration to me, I read you blog every day!!