Italian seasoned mashed lentil quinoa meatballs look and taste just like real meatballs, perfect for pairing with your favorite tomato sauce and nestling into a big bowl of warm noodles. Vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free.
Travis would rather have meat with every meal– but that’s not going to happen. I’m trying to reduce our meat intake, but meals that mimic meat are totally fine with me!
Travis always eats whatever I prepare, but this was the first time he was like, “wow, I really love this!” That barely ever happens on meatless meal nights people, I’m telling ya! So, that tells me this recipe is a keeper! I even saw him popping lentil quinoa meatballs into his mouth right out of the skillet when he thought I wasn’t looking!
I haven’t made meatballs in forever, and I was really craving spaghetti and meatballs. What’s a veggie loving girl to do? Clean out your pantry and use the leftover bits of lentils, quinoa, and sunflower seeds that you find, of course! We love lentils, so this worked out perfectly!
Popular Meatless Meals
- Rainbow cherry tomato pesto cream stuffed mushrooms
- Pesto spinach quinoa stuffed tomatoes
- Skinny quinoa bowls with pistachio kale sauce
- Cashew cream spinach artichoke dip
- Purple potato veggie shepherd’s pie
- Lentil stuffed red cabbage rolls
- Sweet potato noodles with roasted cauliflower cream sauce
- Southwest quinoa salad with avocado chipotle dressing
- Roasted sweet potato black bean enchiladas
- Zucchini crust pizza with beet hummus spread
- 30 minute garden veggie barley soup
- Clinton Kelly’s fabulous sweet potato burgers
Italian lentil quinoa meatballs are really easy to assemble, they’re packed with protein, and they bear a striking resemblance to real meatballs. They’re delicate, with big Italian flavor and sautéed to toasty perfection.
Once you’ve assembled the ingredients in a large bowl, you just have to dive in and mix with your hands. If I closed my eyes, the consistency was very similar to mixing real meatballs. Don’t forget to take off your rings!
Is The Texture Similar to Actual Meatballs?
I’ve made these lentil quinoa meatballs quite a few times and I’ve found that I like them best when the lentils are almost completely smashed. Also, it’s easier to mash them right after you cook them and they’re still warm. This time, I left a few lentils whole to see if it added more texture, but I actually preferred them with a creamier consistency due to the fully mashed lentils.
We thought they tasted very close to real beef meatballs. Not exactly the same of course, but they really do give you the flavor of eating meatballs!
Lentil Quinoa Meatballs: Substitutions
I’ve also made these lentil quinoa meatballs with almond flour in place of the blended sunflower seeds. The almond flour gives them a delicious nutty flavor, but sunflower seeds are very inexpensive so I usually will pick those up instead of the almond flour. We’re on a budget after all.
When sautéing the lentil quinoa balls, I make sure to stay by the pan. I like to gently rotate the balls every few minutes to make sure all sides get evenly browned. You can serve them like this, or you can add some tomato sauce into the pan, stir them around a bit and let them soak up all the saucy goodness. Your choice, but don’t forget to top with lots of fresh basil, that’s a must!
I served the lentil quinoa meatballs with linguine and tomato basil sauce, but you could use them for “meat” ball subs, or shape them into bigger patties for lentil burgers. I’ll definitely be using the leftovers to make some quinoa lentil meatball sandwiches this week.
These lentil quinoa meatballs definitely satisfied my craving for spaghetti and meatballs, and Travis really loved them, so this recipe is definitely going into my meal plan rotation. I hope your family loves them just as much!
- 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed + 3 Tbsp water (or you can use ground chia seeds)
- 1 cup green lentils,rinsed & drained
- ¼ cup quinoa, rinsed and drained (I've also used cooked cauliflower in a pinch)
- 1 Tbspolive oil for cooking onions + 2-3 Tbsp for sautéing lentil balls
- 1 medium yellow onion, minced
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1½ Tbsp Italian seasonings
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds, ground to a fine powder (or pumpkin seeds)
- ½ cup bread crumbs
- ¼ cup fresh basil, thinly sliced + extra for garnish
- Sea Salt and pepper to taste
- Marinara sauce
- Combine flax and water in a small bowl, stir and set aside to setup for 10 minutes.
- Use a food processor to blend the sunflower seeds to a fine powder.
- Rinse and drain the lentils, cook according to package directions. Drain the excess water, and then transfer to the food processor.
- Rinse and drain the quinoa. Cook it according to package directions, then add to the food processor.
- Saute onions in olive oil in a large pan over medium heat for 5-8 minutes. Add the cooked onions to the food processor. Don't wash or drain the pan because you're going to cook the lentil balls in the reserved onion infused olive oil.
- Add basil, Italian seasonings, bread crumbs, garlic powder, flax mixture, salt and pepper to the lentil mix. Pulse until you have a fine crumb and all ingredients are combined.
- If the mixture feels dry, add 1 tbsp olive oil to the mixture.
- With your hands, form golf ball sized lentil meatballs.
- Add marinara sauce to a large sauce pan, stir it around to coat the whole pan.
- Add the lentil balls to the pan, cover and cook for 8-10 minutes until heated through. The lentil balls are delicate, so be careful when moving them in the pan.
- Serve immediately over pasta or zucchini noodles.
What’s your favorite veggie for meat swap recipe? Let me know in the comments!
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