Time is of the essence today, but lack of time doesn't mean lack of flavour. The lentil balls, we're making today, are packed with paprika, fennel, cumin, chilli and oregano. These vegan meatballs are umami-rich and hit that savoury "meaty" spot. In fact, they'll be ready before you can say shall we have spaghetti or rice!
Quick and easy dinners are part of my new vibe - trying to find my angle, has probably been my biggest struggle here on The Accidental Chef. But I've finally nailed down the categories in which each one of my recipes going forward is going to fall into. They are 'Comfort Food', 'Quick Dinner', 'Vegan Dinner', 'Salads', 'One-Pan (or tray) Recipes', 'Sauces, Dips + Condiments' and 'Snacks, Starters + Sides'. I know that's a comprehensive list, but it covers all the areas of food that I'm interested in.
Today's recipe, Italian inspired Vegan Lentil Meatballs, falls firmly into two of those newly formed categories: a quick dinner and a vegan dinner. I feel like I should preface all of this with "I'm not yet a full-time vegan", but I'm on a road that leads me to eat less meat. That road means I'm experimenting more and more with replacing meat, with alternatives, naturally. That's where simple lentil meatballs come in. Shall we?
Vegan Lentil Balls Ingredient List
I think it's safe to say that the recipe for these lentil meatballs is a store cupboard recipe, with the addition of onions and garlic, but those should be staples in most homes, right? Also - onions are garlic should be stored in the cupboard, rather than the fridge, so perhaps this is a true store cupboard recipe.
For this lentil ball recipe you will need:
- One finely chopped onion - a small one preferably.
- Two big, fat cloves of garlic - finely chopped, or grated.
- Half a teaspoon of fennel seeds
- A teaspoon each of dried thyme, dried oregano, chilli flakes, smoked paprika and cumin
- One tablespoon of tomato puree
- Four sun-dried tomatoes. The ones that come in oil, if you're lacking in this tomato, switch out for an additional two tablespoons of tomato puree
- 100 grams of cannellini beans - from a tin. Use the remaining beans in your sauce, so they don't go to waste, forgotten about in the fridge!
- 250 grams ready-cooked puy lentils. Regular readers will know I'm a huge fan of Merchant Gourmet packs, but you can also use the tinned variety.
- 50 grams of fresh bread crumbs. Just pop a couple of slices of bread in a food processor, and voila, fresh bread crumbs.
Substitutions & Additions
These lentil balls really are a superb carrier of flavour - so I'd highly encourage you to use this recipe as a base. After you've made them once - you'll be able to add, subtract and change the recipe to suit your taste. So what is safe to play around with?
No sun-dried tomatoes? No problem, simply switch it up and add two tablespoons of tomato puree instead.
Can I use a different type of bean? Of course! Black beans would be a great shout, kidney beans would work too! I wouldn't recommend leaving the beans out all together though, they are the main binder here.
Can vegan lentil balls be made gluten free? Sure - just use gluten free bread for the bread crumbs. You could also, probably, substitute with gluten free oats, although I haven't tried it. I'd recommend adding a tablespoon at a time until the balls hold their shape.
Playing with herbs & spices: The world is your oyster here. Basil & rosemary would work great in place of (or addition to) the thyme and oregano. You can use chilli powder instead of flakes, you can add MORE chilli powder if you're going for a spicier "meatball".
Quick Lentil Meatball Recipe
When I say that these are easy lentil meatballs, I'm not messing. Let's go through it step by step.
As with all the good recipes, start by finely chopping onion and garlic. Add half a tablespoon of oil to a frying pan, over medium heat, add the onions and sweat, sweat, sweat for 6 or 7 minutes until soft, add the garlic and fennel seeds and cook for another couple of minutes. Want to know more about the stages of cooking onions? Read this super interesting post by Kitchn
Transfer the onion mixture to a food processor, along with all the remaining ingredients, except the breadcrumbs, season well with salt and pepper. Blitz the mixture until you have a coarse paste. I like to keep back 50 - 75 grams of lentils to fold into the mixture with the breadcrumbs, but that's up to you!
This is the part where you get your hands dirty. Add the blitzed paste and breadcrumbs to a mixing bowl, and combine thoroughly. Using your hands (or if you're boring a cookie scoop) form 14 lentil balls.
Drizzle a little oil in a frying pan, over medium heat, and gently fry your little vegan meatballs on all sides, until a crust has formed. This will only take a couple of minutes per side. Add the beauties to your sauce, and serve.
Prefer to bake? Pre-heat your oven to 175C (that's 350F), line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, and bake the balls for 35 - 40 minutes, turning halfway through.
What to serve with lentil meatballs
Need inspiration? Well, the obvious answer is spaghetti and a quick tomato sauce isn't it? Don't forget to add the remainder of that can of cannellini beans. A fried lentil balls traybake, anyone? Add the beans, a tomato sauce, extra vegetables and some vegan cheese and bake, bake, bake! Finally, why not try a vegan meatball sub?
More Quick Vegan Dinners
- Store cupboard Artichoke Pasta
- Satay Sweet Potato Curry
- 31 Quick Vegan Recipes ready in 30-minutes or less
- Creamy Vegan Cabbage Pasta
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That's it from me for now, have a tasty day!
- 1 small onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- ½ tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 100 g cannellini beans from tin
- 250 g puy lentils already cooked
- 50 g fresh bread crumbs
- Finely chop onion and sweat over medium heat for 6 - 7 minutes until soft, add garlic and fennel seeds and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Transfer onion mixtures to a food proseccor with all remaining ingreidents, except bread crumbs, season well with salt and pepper and blitz until you have a coarse paste.
- Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl and mix in breadcrumbs.
- Use your hands to form approximately 14 "meatballs". Fry them gently over medium heat, until a crust has formed on the outside before adding to your favourite sauce.