Vegan Italian Meatballs are delicate, rich and tender, fully embodying the Italian experience. So authentic you’ll have to remind yourself their name is oxymoronic!
Vegan Italian Meatballs
All of the recipes I post on Nutritionicity are developed with a lot of TLC. If I make something that I don’t feel is truly exceptional, it doesn’t get posted. I realize not every recipe is going to suit every person, but my goal is to try to please the vast majority. There are certain creations (that for me personally) are hits out of the park. And they’re usually traditional recipes that in their original form are not plant-based, like my Creamy Vegan Alfredo.
This recipe is no exception. I love comfort food, and there are very few ailments that a meatball can’t cure! These are the real deal!
Authentic Tasting Vegan Meatballs
When I first thought about making a plant-based version of the classic Italian meatball, I knew I had a mountain to climb. They could end up being globs of flavorless muck, a la Olive Garden. That they are not. This is no tofu turkey!
Instead I crafted a recipe for vegan meatballs that captures the complete essence of this traditional Italian dish. A meatball is not about the meat. It is about the subtle onion and garlic flavors. It is about the texture, the delicate chewiness that brings dimension to the meal it accompanies.
But most of all, it is about how the sauce adheres to the meatball. Why do the most flavorful meatballs and sausages come from a pot of sauce that has been simmering all day? Because of the give and take of flavors; the meat donating to the sauce, the tomato and spices being drawn in to the meatball.
This is what is achieved in this recipe.
When we tested the final version, all of them were consumed in one sitting. I thought meatballs would be one of the tougher dishes (like pizza) to recreate as vegan and gluten-free. But with this recipe you will never need to eat another ground beef meatball again.
They are that authentic. They are that delicious.
How to Make Vegan Meatballs
A few notes about the recipe before we get on with it. If you want to see prep photos for roasting the acorn squash hop on over to my post for the Spicy Acorn Squash With Garlic Infused Quinoa. The Vegan Italian Meatballs are wonderful served with a nice red sauce on pasta. But they are also delicious on their own, as an appetizer or side dish!
And don’t forget to save those squash seeds! Check out my five-minute recipe for making Crispy Choco Seeds . A great chocolaty snack that is filled with protein and so good for you!
I added the Plant Protein Power Salad to compliment this meal with greens and additional sources of proteins. It was a lovely Italian meal and I can’t wait to eat it again! Enjoy!!
Vegan Italian Meatballs are delicate, rich and tender, fully embodying the Italian experience. So authentic you'll have to remind yourself their name is oxymoronic!
They are wonderful served with a nice red sauce on pasta (I used Schar gluten-free spaghetti). But they are also delicious on their own, as an appetizer or side dish!
- 1 whole acorn squash roasted (about 1.5 pounds raw)
- 2 tablespoons walnut oil
- sea salt and black pepper (to sprinkle on both sides of squash)
- 1/2 stalk celery (diced finely)
- 1/2 small onion (diced finely)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil (for sauteing celery and onion)
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
- dash of sea salt and black pepper
- 1/2 cup gluten-free bread crumbs (I used Udi's White Sandwich Bread)*
- 1/2 cup Daiya vegan mozzarella cheese
- 1 teaspoon raw coconut aminos (I use Coconut Secret)
- 2 tablespoons coconut flour
- Steps 1 and 2 are squash roasting instructions
- 1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut squash through the center around the circumference. Remove seeds (don't forget to save them for roasting) using a spoon or ice cream scoop. Slice squash in 3/4 inch slices. If you find it difficult to cut, you can slice the halves in half. Cut in the same direction as the lines on the squash. This will make it easier to grip.
- 2) Place squash in a large bowl with the 2 tablespoons of walnut oil and mix with hands until coated. Place on baking sheet and sprinkle each side with sea salt and pepper. Place in oven and bake for about 30 minutes (turn squash over about half way through). After roasting, cool on baking sheet for 30 minutes, then remove squash skin. It should pull off easily. See pictures in post.
- 3) Finely chop celery and onion. Place olive oil in a small frying pan and place on medium/low heat. Once oil is hot, add celery and onion to pan and stir. Mix in oregano, garlic salt, sea salt, and black pepper. Saute until onion begins to appear slightly translucent. Remove from heat and set aside.
- 4) Place roasted squash in food processor or blender and pulse to break down. Most chunks should be gone. There should be no liquefying. See picture in post for proper consistency. Add squash to a medium mixing bowl. Add onion and celery and stir. Then add coconut aminos and stir. Next add vegan cheese and gluten-free bread crumbs, stirring after each addition. Lastly, add coconut flour and mix well.
- 5) Using melon ball scoop to measure, roll meatball mixture in your palms. Be sure to firmly pack each ball. If you find meatball mixture to be too moist you can add an additional teaspoon of coconut flour. Let it sit for a minute to see how much moisture it absorbs before adding yet even more coconut flour. Place meatballs in rows in a 7 1/2 inch square pan greased generously with olive oil. See picture in post. Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.
Gluten-free bread crumbs - I toasted the bread to a nice dark brown color before making the bread crumbs as it adds a nice nutty flavor to the mixture. I then processed them to a fine powder.
Total time does not include the 30 minutes of cooling time for the squash. As a way to save time, I did all of my chopping and measuring prep work during this period.
This is an amazing recipe! thank you for sharing. I have mine in the oven now. Doubled the recipe I was so confident it would be good. It surpasses good. I have been vegan for 4 years and have yet to find a recipe for meatballs vegan style, that stick together and taste like a meatball would.
Hi Stephanie! Thanks so much for letting me know how happy you are with my vegan meatball recipe! I’m glad you enjoyed the texture and flavor–both are so important for a meatball! 🙂
Can I bake these? Seems like they’d be incredibly mushy without baking…
Yes, they are baked. Step 5 in the recipe calls for baking them. 🙂
I’d like to give these a shot, but do you think they’d work without the vegan cheese?
Hi Mike, It’s great that you want to try the meatballs! I’m not sure if you mean without the vegan cheese specifically or without the cheese period, so I will try to answer both. 🙂 I have not tried either of these options but: I believe a dairy based mozzarella cheese could probably be successfully substituted. If you want to eliminate the cheese completely, you may need to add a few more bread crumbs as the cheese does contribute to some of the binding. From a flavor perspective I think they would still taste delicious. My only concern with eliminating the cheese is the possibility that they may be more prone to falling apart. Let me know how it goes 🙂
Kathryn @ Mamacado says
These look amazing! And I love they’re allergy friendly for our family (if I sub olive oil for walnut oil). Thanks for the great recipe and I can’t wait to try!
Hi Kathryn! Thanks so much!! I’m so glad they meet your family’s dietary needs and I hope they will make a great addition to your table! 🙂