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.
I like to make a few meatless meals every week, like:
- 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
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!
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 cup green lentils, rinsed & drained
- ¼ cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
- 1 Tbsp olive oil for cooking onions + 2-3 Tbsp for sautéing lentil balls
- 1 yellow onion, minced
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1½ Tbsp Italian seasonings
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds, ground to a fine powder
- ¼ cup fresh basil, thinly sliced + extra for garnish
- Sea Salt and pepper to taste
- Rinse and drain the lentils, cook according to package. (I let them cook a few extra minutes to make it easier to mash.) Drain the excess water, transfer to a large bowl and mash with the back of a fork until you don't see anymore whole beans.
- Rinse and drain quinoa. Cook according to package directions, add to the bowl with the mashed lentils.
- Mince onion, saute in olive oil in a large pan, over medium heat for 8 minutes. Add onions to the bowl with lentils and quinoa. Don't wash or drain the pan because you're going to cook the lentil balls in the reserved onion infused olive oil.
- Use a food processor to blend the sunflower seeds to a fine powder, add to the bowl.
- Add basil, Italian seasonings, garlic powder, salt and pepper to lentil mix. Using your hands, mix until everything is completely combined.
- If the mixture feels dry to you, add 1 tbsp olive oil to the mixture.
- Form medium sized balls and shape with your hands. Once all balls are shaped, add a little more olive oil to the pan and arrange your lentil balls in the pan. Cook for 8-10 minutes, occasionally turning the balls to let all sides brown. They're delicate, so be careful when rotating. I use rubber tongs to handle them in the pan.
- Serve immediately over pasta.
What’s your favorite veggie for meat swap recipe? Let me know in the comments!
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