I’ve written before about how my parents are eating vegan these days. It still amazes me that they made this switch.
What I didn’t know, was that my mom was missing eating really filling, hearty dinners. It’s really easy to forget that everyone has their own style of eating. I haven’t eaten meat in over a decade, so I had no idea that there was some category of food to miss!
So I happened to be experimenting with recipes, and made these meatballs for dinner. I served them with a zippy homemade tomato sauce and bowtie pasta (since it was all I had on hand).
I don’t think I’ve ever cooked something that she’s enjoyed so much! Her feedback was that these vegan meatballs were tender, filling, and had a great texture. And apparently they look a lot like ground beef! That might be a plus for any new plant-eaters.
The recipe has four main components:
- the mirepoix + spices (aka. the flavour)
- the grains (oats and panko breadcrumbs)
- proteins (nuts and beans)
All of these components go into the food processor, and create a fairly wet dough. Don’t be put off, though! Use two spoons to create round balls of dough and plunk them onto a baking sheet. After a session in the oven, they become crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
The real trick to making these meatballs unreal is to let them sit in the tomato sauce for 5+ minutes before scooping it all up. It re-hydrates the crunchy outside, without making them fall apart. This does a lot to enhance the texture!
A word of warning: don’t treat these like real meat meatballs and leave them to simmer in the tomato sauce for a long time. They will fall apart! In which case you get a nice bolognese-like sauce. But that’s not what the recipe intends.
Tender Vegan Meatballs
These meatballs are made with black beans, cashews, and oats for a hearty protein- and fibre-filled meal!
- 1/3 cup whole oats
- 1/4 cup plain almond milk
- 1 carrot
- 2 stalks celery
- 1/2 cooking onion
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 cup black beans (canned or rehydrated)
- 1/4 cup raw cashews
- 2 tbsp hemp hearts
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- handful fresh parsley
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
- fresh ground pepper
- tomato pasta sauce
- pasta of choice (up to 4 servings)
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
In a small bowl, mix the oats and almond milk together. Put to the side and allow to soak.
Create mirepoix by finely dicing the carrot, celery, half onion, and clove of garlic. Heat up the olive oil in a frying pan and saut? these veggies until cooked down and flavourful.
Set up your food processor. Add the black beans, cashews, hemp hearts, soaked oats (along with any leftover liquid in bowl), and mirepoix. Pulse a few times.
Add the fresh parsley, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and some fresh ground pepper. Process until it reaches a fairly smooth consistency - leave some texture.
Add the panko bread crumbs. Pulse until incorporated.
Line a baking sheet with parchment or a reusable sheet liner. Using two spoons, shape the meatballs into spheres. The batter should be fairly moist but hold together when gently formed. Place onto the baking sheet; should make about 12.
Pop the sheet into the oven. After 15 minutes, flip the meatballs onto another side - you will notice a flat side wherever they lay on the sheet. Bake for another 15 minutes, or until the exterior is crispy and the interior is tender.
Prepare or heat up the tomato sauce in a pan. When simmering, take off the heat and drop in the number of meatballs you want to serve. Don't stir, put a lid on and leave for 5 or 6 minutes.
Cook the pasta al dente according to instructions. Serve on shallow dishes or plates.
Gently turn over the meatballs and cover them in the sauce. Scoop them out with sauce onto the pasta.
Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh parsley leaves.