Vegan Italian Meatballs

Sometimes for Christmas, you just want classic comfort food. If you are a vegan or vegetarian or maybe just a family trying to cut down on meat consumption, then this recipe is perfect for you!  Classic Italian meatballs, completely plant based!  I have made these quite a few times, and served them to my other family members who are not vegan and they loved them.  Some of them even said that they preferred it to real meatballs.  The secret to the delicious texture that mimics the real thing?  Lentils and walnuts. They happen to add protein and fiber too, so this is also a balanced meal if served with some pasta. I make a rich flavorful red sauce to combine them with and they taste delicious!  The meat balls and sauce can be made ahead, just don’t combine them with the sauce until you are ready to serve.  If you are doing that, I suggest heating the meatballs on a sheet pan in the oven (at 350F degrees for about 20 minutes if they are cold) and the sauce on the stove in a saucepan.

Author: Amy Lyons O’Neil

Amy has worked for Fresh and Natural Foods since 2006 contributing to the variety of healthful foods we offer. She graduated with a degree in studio art from Bethel University in 2007, but in her senior year of college, found that her passion was with the art of food. She later used her photography and culinary skills to create a vegan food and recipe blog, Fragrant Vanilla Cake. She has also written 3 cookbooks. She specializes in vegan and vegetarian recipes. Local, fresh and organic food has always been her focus in whatever she creates.



  1. To make the meat balls, add the lentils to a pot, and cover them with enough water to have a few inches above the lentils.  Bring to a simmer, and cook for about 40 minutes until the lentils are tender.  Drain, and set aside.
  2. In a pan, heat the olive oil and onions, and cook until the onions are softened and tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and sautee a minute more until fragrant.
  4. Add to a food processor, along with lentils, and all other meatball ingredients.  Pulse until everything is blended but not completely smooth.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375F degrees.  Roll the meatball mixture into one and a half inch balls, and place them on a lined baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until firm, but still soft in the middle.
  6. Meanwhile, to make the sauce, heat the oil in a non-stick skillet, and add the onions.  Sautee for about 5 minutes until softened, over medium heat, then add the garlic and spices and cook a minute more.  Add the tomatoes, water, and sea salt, and bring to a simmer.  Cook for about 10-15 minutes until the flavors have combined.
  7. When the meatballs have finished cooking, toss them with the sauce, and serve garnished with parsley over pasta!

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Recipe Type

  • Dairy-Free
  • Gluten-Free
  • Heart Healthy
  • Vegan
  • Vegetarian

Course Type

  • Entree

Skill Level

  • Intermediate
  • Moderate