Flavorful and easy to make, these are the Best Vegan Lentil Meatballs you will ever try! Crispy outside & light inside, fully plant-based.
Why we love this Vegan Lentil Meatballs Recipe
Ok, so it’s no secret, we love lentils. They are a versatile ingredient, that you can turn into many, many plant-based dishes. And turning lentils into plant-based “meatballs” is easy, and the end result is absolutely delicious. Lentils are a pantry staple in our household, and you can totally make this recipe entirely from pantry staples – no need to rush to the store!
To make vegan lentil meatballs we like to use canned lentils. This saves us up a lot of prep time, as we don’t need to pre-cook dry lentils (but you can totally use dry lentils and cook them up before using them in this recipe).
We also bake the lentil meatballs in the oven – this saves us time behind the stove, plus we can use way less oil than if we pan-fried the lentils.
The baked lentil meatballs turn crispy on the outside, but soft and fluffy inside, and they’re absolutely flavorful and delicious!
And though you can have this any day of the year, it makes for an absolutely killer holiday meal, especially served with some mashed potatoes and green beans (both recipes will be published soon!).
Health benefits of eating lentils
Lentils are not only delicious but also good for you and your health, plus they are a cheap and rich source of dietary fiber and plant-based protein. In contrast to beans, they do not need to be pre-soaked, and are cooked faster – brown lentils need just about 40 minutes of cooking time.
You can get lentils canned or dried, both will last in your pantry a really long time, and should become a pantry staple.
1 cup of cooked lentils contains about 18 grams of plant-based protein, 16 grams of fiber, and about 230 calories.
Lentils contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps stabilize your blood sugar and reduce blood cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Insoluble fiber aids in better digestion and gut health, as it feeds your gut microflora. If you are often constipated, eat more insoluble fiber!
Thanks to a good ratio of fiber and carbohydrates, lentils offer a slow and steady release of energy, avoiding energy spikes.
Lentils are also a rich source of iron. A cup of cooked lentils provides as much as 37% of our daily needs. Remember to always pair an iron-rich food source with a vitamin C food source for better iron absorption, like a wedge of lemon, orange juice, or some fresh parsley.
One cup of lentils also provides as much as 90% of the recommended daily intake of folate, the vitamin B that helps build new cells, which is especially important for pregnant women. It is also a rich source of magnesium, which plays many crucial roles in our body, like supporting muscle and nerve functions.
To make these Vegan Lentil Meatballs you will need:
- Lentils. Both dry or canned lentils will work, but save some time and use the canned ones for a quicker meal. We recommend using brown lentils in this recipe, as they hold their shape well during cooking, but green lentils or puy lentils will also work. Red or yellow lentils will not work, as they disintegrate when cooked.
- Flax egg helps bind ingredients together. It is a bit gluey, like real egg whites, and also contains some fat, as egg yolk does. To make a flax egg just mix 1 tbsp of ground flaxseeds with 2 tbsp of water and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Walnuts will provide a bit of crunch and extra nutrients, as well as add to the final taste. Can be replaced with pecan nuts or almonds.
- Flour. Helps bind the ingredients so the mixture doesn’t fall apart while shaping and baking. If you want this recipe gluten-free try using gluten-free flour, like rice flour.
- Breadcrumbs. Help soak up excess moisture, so the lentil balls are nice and crispy, instead of wet and soggy. You can replace them with ground oats, or a gluten-free alternative.
- Soy sauce. Adds saltiness, flavor, and umami to the recipe. Choose gluten-free soy sauce if needed.
- Tomato paste. Adds flavor and a familiar taste to the lentil meatballs.
- Salt, Pepper. For seasoning, of course.
- Herbs, such as oregano, thyme, and parsley. I like to use fresh herbs, when available, but dry herbs will work just as well. Don’t avoid herbs, they are your friend in making these meatballs delicious.
How to make the lentil meatballs
If you are used to making regular meatballs, you’ll see making the plant-based version is very similar. It’s an easy and straightforward process that only takes about half an hour (if using canned lentils).
If you go with dry lentils, see instructions below on how to cook lentils from dry.
Once you have your lentils cooked and ready, add them to a food processor bowl.
Prepare a flax egg by mixing ground flaxseeds with water and setting them aside for 10 minutes to soak. During this time, the flaxseeds will soak up the water and turn into a thick mixture. Add the flax egg to the lentils.
Next, in a pan, cook some diced onion and minced garlic, until tender, about 10 minutes. Cool them down a bit, then add to the lentils.
Now to the lentils in the food processor bowl, add also tomato paste, herbs, such as oregano, thyme, and parsley, and ground walnuts. Pulse until roughly combined, but don’t make it a paste. The mixture should still have some whole lentils and bits of walnuts in. Stir in a bit of soy sauce, then transfer the mixture to a bowl and add breadcrumbs and flour.
Knead the mixture with your hands until combined, then let it rest for about 15 minutes for the flavors to combine. During this time the breadcrumbs and flour will also soak up the liquids, making for a thicker mixture that is easy to shape.
Before you start shaping your lentil meatballs, preheat the oven so it’s ready to go and line a baking tray with parchment paper. This will prevent the lentil balls from sticking to the baking tray, and potentially making a mess. We want nice, round, and crispy lentil balls.
Scoop out the lentil mixture by the tablespoon, and shape it into balls. Place each lentil meatball on the baking tray and brush it with some vegetable oil. This should make about 28-30 lentil meatballs, but you can make them as big or small, as you like – adjusting for the cooking time.
Bake for about 30 minutes at 180°C / 356°F for about 30 minutes, or until crispy and brown in color. Flip them over halfway through the baking process, so they are evenly baked on all sides.
When the lentil meatballs are done, remove them from the oven and set them aside for a couple of minutes, so they firm up and get a bit crispier.
And that’s it, lentil meatballs to feed 4-6 people, done!
We love having them with a side of:
- mashed potatoes
- cooked rice
- vegetable noodles
- green beans, or other vegetables
- a velvety onion gravy
While you can make the meatballs ahead and reheat them, we recommend doing so separately from the gravy, and in the oven or microwave. If you reheat the lentil meatballs in your gravy on the stovetop, they tend to disintegrate. The result will still be edible, but not quite resembling meatballs.
Store the baked lentil meatballs separately from the gravy or sauce. Keep them refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
How to cook lentils from dry
If you want to save time, you can use canned pre-cooked lentils, which is what we did in this recipe, and it works very well. But you can also cook your own lentils from dry, which makes the recipe cheaper.
If you’re using dry lentils, choose brown lentils, which hold their shape best during cooking. Use about 200-220 grams of dry lentils (1 cup). Give them a wash, then add them to a medium pot, and cover with about 2 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 35–45 minutes until tender. Give them a taste to see when they are done. Once cooked, drain any excess liquid and let them cool down.
How to make an onion gravy
These lentil meatballs are great when served along with onion gravy.
To make the onion gravy cook sliced onions and garlic until tender, season with salt and pepper, then pour over with white wine and vegetable stock. Add some soy sauce for seasoning as well. Cook until tender, then blend until smooth.
We have the recipe for a delicious onion gravy here.
More recipes using lentils
We love cooking with lentils, as they are a healthy, nutritious, and versatile ingredient. Here are some more recipes you can make using lentils:
- Lentil Loaf
- Lentil Meatballs in Curry Sauce
- Lentil Shepherd’s Pie
- Lentil Stuffed Peppers
- Lentil Bolognese Pasta
- Italian Lentil and Chestnut Stew
- Chickpea Lentil Coconut Curry
- 480 grams cooked lentils (I used 2 cans, rinsed)
- 1 tbsp flaxseeds, ground
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley
- 1/3 cup walnuts, ground
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp flour
- If you are cooking your lentils from dry, see notes. Cook the lentils, or drain and rinse from canned until you have about 480-500 grams of cooked lentils ready.
- Mix 1 tbsp of ground flaxseeds with 2 tbsp of water and set aside for 10 minutes to soak. This will create a flaxseed "egg" replacer.
- Dice 1 onion and mince 4 cloves garlic.
- Heat a pan on medium, add a drizzle of vegetable oil, then add in the diced onion. Gently fry on medium heat, stirring often, until the onion softens and turns translucent. A bit of browning is fine, too. Then, stir in the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Set aside.
- To a food processor bowl add the cooked lentils, the soaked flaxseeds, the cooked onion and garlic, 1 tbsp tomato paste, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp thyme, 1 tbsp fresh parsley, and 1/3 cup ground walnuts (I just pulsed them in a mini food processor, so they are coarsely ground). Pulse until roughly combined. The mixture should still have some whole lentils and should not be a smooth paste. Stir in 1 tbsp soy sauce.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and 2 tbsp flour. Stir it in and knead the mixture with your hands until fully combined. Leave to rest for 15 minutes so the flavors combine and the breadcrumbs and flour soak up the liquids.
- Preheat your oven to 180°C / 356°F and line a baking tray with parchment paper. This will help to avoid the lentil balls sticking to the baking tray.
- Scoop out about 1 tbsp of mixture and shape it into a ball, then place it on the prepared baking tray. Repeat until you have used up all of the lentil mixture. You should end up with about 28-30 lentil meatballs.
- Brush the lentil balls slightly with some vegetable oil, then place the baking tray in the preheated oven to bake.
- Bake the lentil meatballs for about 30 minutes, flipping them over about halfway through, so they are evenly baked on all sides.
- Once baked, remove the baking tray from the oven and let the lentil meatballs cool for 10 minutes - they will firm up and get crispier during this time.
- Serve hot along with a serving of gravy or other sauce.
- If you're using dry lentils, choose brown or green lentils and use about 200-220 grams of dry lentils. Lentils soak up water when cooking and they increase about 2.5x times in size.
- To cook the lentils: in a medium pot, combine lentils with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 35–45 minutes until tender.
- This recipe makes about 28-30 lentil meatballs.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 192Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 184mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 8gSugar: 3gProtein: 10g
Nutrition data is automatically calculated using Nutritionix and may not be accurate.