Vegetarian Meatballs


These umami-rich meatless meatballs have quinoa, black beans, deeply roasted vegetables, and nutritional yeast. You can make these vegan by omitting the egg.

Meatless Meatballs

Frederick Hardy II / Food Styling by Melissa Gray / Prop Styling by Christina Brockman

Active Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
1 hrs
6 servings
40 meatballs

These tender veggie-packed meatless meatballs are full of deep savory flavors. Black beans and quinoa along with raw pecans act as the base of the meatball, which give it a wonderful meaty texture and offer the overall flavor a mild nuttiness. Deeply caramelizing the cauliflower rice and shiitake mushrooms add multiple dimensions of umami while nutritional yeast brings in some cheesy funk.

Fennel seeds stay true to the Italian flavors here profile while parsley introduces a fresh, earthy, and herbaceous balance. All the ingredients get pulsed in the food processor, combined in a bowl, and formed into balls. They cook up browned and lightly crisp on the outside with tender centers. While the egg does help bind the ingredients together, they will also still hold if you would prefer to enjoy them vegan. You can also substitute the egg with a flax egg  by combining 1 tablespoon ground flax to 2 1/2 tablespoons of water and let the mixture rest for 5 minutes.

This recipe makes 40 meatballs. Serve them up for a plant-based crowd or freeze them and eat as needed. You can toss them in marinara sauce and serve with pasta or tuck them into a hoagie roll for a meatball sandwich.


  • 1/2 cup uncooked white quinoa

  • 1 cup water

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

  • 4 cups riced cauliflower (from 1 large head cauliflower or 12-ounce package)

  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided

  • 8 ounces sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms (about 4 cups)

  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)

  • 3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped (about 2 teaspoons)

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground fennel

  • 1/2 cup roasted pecan halves

  • 1 (15-ounce) can unsalted black beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley

  • 1 large egg


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil; set aside. Stir together quinoa, water, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over high. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low; cook, undisturbed, until water is fully absorbed and quinoa is cooked through, about 12 minutes. Uncover and fluff quinoa using a fork. Transfer to a plate or bowl; set aside, and let cool.

  2. Place riced cauliflower in a large bowl, and add 2 tablespoons of the oil and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, stirring to fully coat. Add riced cauliflower to foil-lined baking sheet, and bake in preheated oven until tender and browned in spots, about 20 minutes, stirring halfway though baking time. Remove from oven; set aside, and let cool.

  3. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add mushrooms, and cook, undisturbed, until browned on 1 side, about 4 minutes. Stir and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender and browned, about 6 more minutes. Add shallot, garlic, fennel, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until shallot is softened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside, and let cool.

  4. While mushrooms cool, pulse pecans in a food processor until finely chopped, about 5 pulses. Transfer to a large bowl. (Do not wipe food processor clean.) Pulse black beans until creamy and mixture resembles a thick paste with some chunks still remaining, about 8 pulses. Add to bowl with pecans. (Do not wipe food processor clean.) Pulse mushroom mixture until finely chopped, about 5 pulses. Add to bowl with pecans and black beans. Add cooked riced cauliflower, nutritional yeast, parsley, egg (if using), cooked quinoa, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt to bowl, and stir until well combined.

  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using clean hands, roll heaping tablespoonfuls of mixture into balls (about 40), and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Working in 3 batches, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium. Add meatless meatballs to oil, and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over, about 5 minutes per batch. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to skillet, as needed, between batches. Transfer to a platter or individual plates; garnish with parsley.

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