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!
After eyeing these bean balls for a while I finally had the time to make them. One thing I love about them is that I had all the ingredients already! The only thing I changed while making was substituting 1/4 of out flour for vegan italian bread crumbs because I could not imagine making any meatless meatball without italian bread crumbs lol! I would have to say hands down this is now on my list of must have foods. They came out delicious!! Great recipe Angela :)
These are great- do you have the nutritional facts on this dish?
I have been using your recipes often since discovering your website this past summer – and I just wanted you to know that so many of your creations have made me so happy! I just tried this recipe, and already I want more – this was delicious. I just used what I had on hand and subbed or omitted what I didn’t, and it still turned out fantastic – yumm!!! Thank you so much for sharing your talents.
I’m so happy to hear that Kirsten! :) Thanks for trying out so many recipes.
I made these for dinner tonight, and they were fantastic! I served them as you did, with your homemade marinara and vegan parmesan on spaghetti squash! This was a HUGE hit, even with my kids!
(And, by the way, your creamy avocado pasta is one of my kids’ most requested dinners! :) )
I very recently started eating mostly vegan meals. Trying to find recipes and ideas, I found your blog and made these. I used pumpkin seeds instead of walnuts and left out the oil.
They are amazing. I couldn’t believe how delicious they were! I will definitely try more recipes.
I’m coming a bit late to the game but I made these tonight – along with tomato sauce and your vegan parmesan – and they were great: the perfect texture and so tasty. (I didn’t have nuts or seeds on hand so I substituted roasted edamame – extra protein, which helps as I’m breastfeeding – as do the oats.) Thank you!
Hi Claire, I’m so happy you enjoyed it! :)
We just made the Italian Bean Balls and they were FANTASTIC! My husband took a photo for our blog and will reference your website for the recipe. They were so flavorful that we will probably make them as patties next. Thanks!
I just made this recipe and I am quite happy with the result. It was delicious! Thank you!
I made this dish last night. They are delicious! Your recipes never fail me! Can’t wait to try all the recipes in the cookbook too!
Did anyone make these with aduki beans or cannelini beans? If so, I’m curious to know how they came out.
cant wait to make this tonight only need to buy 2 ingredients looks so delicious thanks for the recipe :D
I made this tonight & it blew my mind!! I used zucchini noodles since squash is out of season. I wasn’t expecting such flavor! The texture of the bean balls were perfect & the crunch on the outside helped them hold up in the sauce! Talk about satisfying a comfort food craving!! I’m new to vegan cooking & your website is my new bible! Go girl :)
Rather than ground flax and water, could Chia be substituted with same amount of water to function like an egg since it turns gel-like?
Ok, so I tried the substitution. It was amazing. Consistency was just like meatballs – but better! So easy & delicious! So moist!
Made these last night but swapped the walnuts for pine nuts and added a little onion too, came out perfectly! my hunt for a meat free meatball is finally over.
i’m excited to try this recipe! i’m not a vegan, so do you have a suggested number of eggs to use to substitute the ground flax + water mixture? thanks!
I made these last night and they are amazing! Thank you so much!
This came out really well. I had to substitute white cannelini beans and it was delicious. One trick I found really helped was to wet my hands a bit before making the balls, they stuck together much better.
I LOVE your new cookbook too! Thank you!
I made these last night for my omnivore fiancé (though I turned them into “meat”ball sandwiches instead of eating them with spaghetti squash) and he gave them an A++ and said I might just convert him to vegetarian after all :) I thought you’d also love to know that I have your cookbook, and the other day we were looking for something to make for dinner and when I pulled out your cookbook he said I could make him anything from that cookbook because everything we’ve tried has been amazing. Thanks so much for all your recipes!!
I am going to try these again. Total user error. I used gf all purpose flour instead of gf oats….I now know there is a difference. lol Thanks for making my switch easier!
I’m new to a vegan diet and I am loving your website! I made your Bean Balls last night and even my husband loved them (he’s been skeptical about going without meat). I made them with black beans instead of kidney and cashews instead of walnuts because that’s what I had on hand – but they came out perfectly. Thank you so much for your help as I navigate this new world of not eating animal products!
I can’t wait to get your book. I have been trying to find recipes with gluten free and soy free together. I have looked at your reviews and hope I can get my husband to eat more vegan. Thank you for all your work to help us.
I made this recipe tonight… It had me at first bite… these are the most delicious meatless “meat” balls I’ve ever had. I could have these every day :-). Another successful recipe. Thanks Angela! I have not found a recipe that was not delicious and really easy to make!! I wish you published a book with all these recioes :-) I would pre-order it now!! :-)
This recipe sounds delicious! Could you recommend any other beans, besides kidney, that might work well in this recipe?
Great recipe, everyone in this picky family loved it! Thank you so much!
Can you substitute anything for the sun-dried tomatoes (or leave them out)? We have a nut AND tomato allergy in our household.
You can leave them out, but they offer a lot of flavour to the recipe. You may need to boost the spices and possibly the garlic.
Hello there! I’m wondering if it’s okay to replace the flax egg with regular egg? Ground flax and I don’t mix well!
It was very good! My kids who already eat very well and are used to my always trying new things, loved them. I made my own sauce while roasting the spaghetti squash, and then made the meatless balls. I can’t use walnuts b/c my son has an allergic reaction but, I used blended up raw unshelled pumpkin seeds. You can also use sunflower seeds blended up, too. I also put nutritional yeast on when I served it.
Hi Angela!! First I must tell you my latest obsession is you and your cookbook. I started dabbling with vegan cooking just out of a passion for healthy eating and the
second cookbook I bought early this summer was yours.What an amazing choice I made!! I’m totally addicted. AS a result, my sister and Mom are too! We just keep saying to one another “I tried page XX and it was so good! I can’t believe they are all so good!” Also, my husband knows your Dad (we’re from Shediac, NB) so you may soon hear a story about my obsession from him ;) I actually bought the book before we made that connection. SMALL WORLD!!
I just stumbled upon this recipe and I have to make it this minute. I think I have every bean BUT kidney. You mentioned you tested a lot of beans. If I had to use a different bean, which one should it be if any at all?
Thanks a bunch. :)
Really great recipe! I looked at a lot of different vegan meatball recipes but a lot of them had lentils in them, and I do not like the taste of lentils very much. This recipe was really yummy. I had to add two ingredients though – 1 small onion and some finely chopped celery. I also put more carrots and walnuts than the recipe called for. The consistency was perfect! I prefer my meatballs to not have quite so much texture so all the ingredients went into the food processor at some point. :) All in all, this is a favorite than I plan to keep around!
I can’t do nuts…can I omit??
So I was wondering if I could make these with chickpeas. I read that you have tried it with chickpeas? Can you maybe remember how that turned out?
Hi, I was just wondering if you could use gluten free bread? Since my daughter is sensitive to oat. Will it still hold the bean balls together?
I made these a while ago and enjoyed them quite a bit! Great texture :)
Going to make this for dinner tonight, along with your Crowd-Pleasing Vegan Caesar Salad. I made the balls last Sunday and have them in the freezer, so they will be easy to pull out and warm in some homemade tomato sauce. I started prepping the salad and wow, the dressing is amazing! It is going to be fantastic! I am loving the new year, how health becomes the focus. So far, I have your Moroccan Yam Burgers, the Italian Bean Balls, the Crispy Quinoa Cakes and your Thai Sweet Potato Burgers made and in my freezer to pull out for lunches or dinner. Just yesterday my husband and I took the Big Vegan Bowl for lunch and topped it with some leftover Creamy Hemp Seed Dressing…it was so filling and nutrient dense. Thank you for all the great recipes and inspiration.
It’s like every one of your recipes that I try is a hit. These balls are no exception, glorious! They hold together perfectly, the texture and flavour are great. You are such a talent! Just bought your first cookbook and I can’t wait for the next :)
I’ve tried more recipes than I can count from your site and this is one of the BEST! My three boys even gave their seal of approval. Thanks for sharing the recipe.
Hey, Angela, this recipe is great. It inspired me. I used black beans and quick oats and made some black bean meatless balls. They turned out very good. Thanks for sharing the recipe.
I had been drooling to try this recipe for awhile now for my vegan 2 yr old son. It did not go as expected. I roasted my little spaghetti squashes as instructed. I scraped the strands out, then realized, to my intense dismay, they were crispy hard. I googled it and read some sites where it said to roast the squashes flesh side down in the pan for 1.5 hrs. I always roast butternut squash and acorn squash with cut side face down in the pan with a little water for about an hr, and they always turn out great. Anyway, I know from past experience spaghetti squash does cook tender, so from now on I will cook it the way I have always cooked squash. Regarding the bean balls…So I did puree those babies, only because they were for my son. So my son helped scoop the dough and I rolled them, and then he started dipping his fingers into the balls and enthusiastically exclaimed, “Yummy!! Sweet!!” I had to stop him from eating all the balls uncooked, as there were already funny, yet cute, finger marks in all of them where dough was now missing. So, long story short, I cooked them as directed, and now my son doesn’t like them. Neither do I. A complete bust and day’s worth of wasted cooking effort. I also did make the sauce to go with this, and the sauce in my opinion was okay. I had made a marinara 2 days before I liked better from a different book. I think I will try and salvage the bean balls sitting in my freezer and try crumbling them into pasta sauce for my son. He’s pretty keen on taste, however, so I may just toss the balls out this time. My dog will likely eat them, however, since she has lately been a little garbage picker at night from my garbage can in the kitchen. However, although some recipes are a miss, I have already tried some incredibly delicious and fabulous recipes from this site and the book, so I’m excited to make the veggie burgers today and also am making the apple chia pudding parfait again. I also tried a yogi juice yesterday and it was delic!
I also want to add after I realized the spaghetti squash strands were still crispy and hard, I tried microwaving them with water in a pan for awhile. Didn’t work. Then I dumped the strands into a pan with plenty of water and boiled them and simmered them for another hr. Didn’t work. Clearly this was a case of I fought the spaghetti squashes and the squashes won. So I may be disappointed, but never defeated. I will try another spaghetti squash down the road once the memory of these 2 squash failures fades.
I’m sorry to hear you had so many struggles with this one! My guess is that since you pureed the bean balls this greatly impacted the flavour. This is why I never puree any veg. burger or ball recipes (texture is also mushy when pureed) – the flavours all blend together instead of being distinct. Hope this helps!
All my best,
This recipe looks amazing! I have ben looking for a meatless meatball recipe. Have considered using one of your veggie burger recipes and forming them into balls, but this recipe will convince me to try this first!
Question, what would be a nut-less substitute for the walnuts?
Delicious, delicious, delicious, my three year old devoured these! Filling but not heavy. Great for a winter’s night :)
So I just made your meatballs and I must say, I really like them. I am not Vegan but a health nut and full blown meat eater and I find them satisfying.
Definitely making these again but next time I will add Worcestershire sauce and use fresh oregano instead. Also, I am enjoying them plain as a snack but I will add a tomato sauce next time.
Forgot to rate, comment above.
Angela, these bean balls had me like YAASS!!
Served them atop wholewheat spaghetti tossed in tomato sauce – such a delicious meal.
Thanks for another outstanding recipe. Sending love from London!
Would aia be able to substitute the oats with buckwheat flour do you think? I can’t eatoats, not even GF ones!
Very tasty. They hold together well and are flavorful. I made a small change to create a crispy version. I made smaller balls, and after baking I lightly sauteed them in oil on medium heat. Thank you for the recipe.
I made this tonight and it was delicious!! This will go in my folder of fav’s.
Here is the marinara sauce I used.
Hi -I tried the italian bean balls today at a potluck and I love them! I was wondering if I can double the ingredients to make a double sized batch? Or do I need to stick to the recipe and make 2 single batches?
Your recipes are so great and I can hardly wait for your new book to come out!
All the best,
Can I replace the walnuts with almonds?
Oh. My. Goodness. This recipe is so delicious. I recently bought a super nice food processor and was excited to use it for the first time with this recipe. I went all the way with it and made my own tomato sauce and used spaghetti squash. The combination is incredibly tasty and incredible filling in the best possible way. I’ve been sending pics of the meal to friends and family and they’re all impressed by the beautiful colors. I will definitely be making these lovely little bean balls on a regular basis!
This is one of my favorite recipes! I just made it this morning for today’s lunch. It takes forever to make the bean balls (took me 50 minutes), but the end result is well worth the wait. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this recipe. Thanks, Angela!!