Vegan MEATBALLS

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Round abouts the holiday season, Trader Joe’s stopped carrying our favorite frozen vegan meatballs. Initially, I thought it was just on account of making room for holiday goods, but alas they’re GONE. Apparently there’s an issue with the supplier, but sometimes I think that’s just something they say to pacify a disappointed customer. Those things were awesome. Since then we’ve tried others and have only found disappointment. And some are darn expensive. Especially with a five year old that can eat her weight in meatballs. So, we did what every self respecting foodie does: we made our own! They’re definitely not gluten free, as one of the primary ingredients is vital wheat gluten. If you happen to have a gluten-free recipe you like, please let us know! We would love to give it a try. So given that this is a gluten-fortified recipe, take care not to over mix it. More mixing means tough meatballs and nobody likes that. If you do happen to overdo it, a good soak in some red sauce will do the trick. Here are a few great recipes to keep your meatballs company:

Linguine Arrabbiata

Meatball Sandwiches

Quick Pasta with Tomato Sauce

Vegan Meatballs

Six to eight servings
About an hour to prepare
Adapted from For Reals Life

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Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 oz. tempeh
  • 6 oz. fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. dried fennel

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Chop and crumble your tempeh into little pieces, like smaller than a pea.
  3. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add garlic and cook for about a minute, then add the chopped spinach and tempeh. Cook until the spinach is just wilted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  4. In a separate bowl mix together your vital wheat gluten, flour, nutritional yeast, salt, basil, oregano, dried pepper flakes and fennel.
  5. Mix the marinara sauce, tomato paste and rice with your tempeh mixture. Add that to your dry mix. Stir to combine and then knead gently until just combined.
  6. Take a small piece of the mixture out and roll into a ball that’s about 1 inch. You should end up making around 35 – 40 meatballs.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn and bake for another 10–15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes.
  8. If you’re going to add them to a red sauce, simmer them in your sauce for 5-10 minutes to warm them up. They also freeze well. To freeze, let the meatballs cool completely. Then store them in a freezer bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat, just simmer for 10 minutes in your favorite sauce.

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13 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your recipe for meatballs (minus the meat), always hunting for ways to keep it real.

  2. L. Walker

    Is vital wheat gluten easy to find? I’ve never heard of it. What part of the store would it be located?

  3. Well Vegan

    @L. Walker – It’s pretty easy to find at any health food store (Whole Foods, Jimbo’s, etc.). And it’s a Bob’s Red Mill product usually found tucked in with the flour.

  4. Thanks for the recipe. I did like the ones they had a Trader Joe’s and it was disappointing when they discontinued them. Of all the vegan “meatballs” I have tried, TJ’s was the best. I will give these a try. It’s nice that they freeze well too.

    Another store I have found Bob’s Red Mill products at is Sprouts.

  5. Freezing is critical for those nights you need something quick. How would these hold up in broth for a soup?

  6. Well Vegan

    @Cara – The vital wheat gluten makes them pretty solid. I wouldn’t hesitate to add them to a soup broth.

  7. We actually were told the same thing about the vegan meatballs by our Trader Joe’s in Palo Alto, CA. I think it’s true!

    Thanks for the recipe!

  8. They are switching producers and that can take a while. Bought all the stuff to try ‘em out. Vegan hoagies?!?!

  9. Well Vegan

    @Tom – Yes! Maybe with some melted vegan mozzarella?? Good luck!

  10. georgia gaudioso

    I’m going to have to make bulk. My Italian family loves their vegan meatballs. I like that these aren’t processed.

  11. Well Vegan

    @georgia – I see a meatball assembly line operation in your future… it would be totally worth it!

  12. Could you use tofu instead of tempeh?

  13. Well Vegan

    @Ell – I would be reluctant to use tofu. I could totally be wrong, but if I were going to try to skip the tempeh I would replace it with some cooked lentils. If you find a good substitute, report back! We would love to hear the results :)

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