This is one of our base recipes. Plant-forward diets should not be restrictive or boring, which is why we created this delicious vegetarian meatballs base recipe! This easy recipe provides plenty of flavor, moisture, and quality protein to satisfy your plant-based meatball cravings!
Three Must-Know Cooking Skills
For recipe success, learn how to:
Culinary Tips for the Best Vegetarian Meatballs
Drain and rinse the beans to remove excess sodium. Mash to the texture you like. You can leave them slightly chunky or keep mashing to resemble refried beans.
If you have picky eaters, dice the onion or shallot finely so that they don’t notice them.
Do not overcook the meatballs or they will dry out! Once the edges are brown, remove them from the oven.
This recipe easily scales up. Simply double or triple the ingredient quantities. You may have to use two baking sheets to cook the meatballs; overcrowding the pan will prevent the meatballs from getting a delicious golden exterior.
- Beans: use any low-sodium beans of your choice. Black, pinto, chickpeas, cannellini, kidney, etc. You can also use 1 ½ cups of leftover beans from our stovetop or Instant Pot beans base recipes.
- Panko Bread Crumbs: substitute plain, whole wheat, or seasoned bread crumbs, but cut back on the added salt if you do. Panko is typically very low in sodium.
- Fresh Herbs: use any herb or combination of herbs, keeping in mind the final flavor or cuisine that you want. Basil, chives, cilantro, dill, Italian parsley, and rosemary are all great choices. Don’t have fresh herbs on hand? Substitute ½ Tablespoon dried herbs. Note that some herbs, like sage and dill, have stronger flavors, so start with 1-2 teaspoons. You can also substitute pesto, but if you do, omit the extra virgin olive oil.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: substitute canola or avocado oil.
- Shallot or Onion: use white, yellow, red, or green onions. You can also substitute ¼ teaspoon onion powder.
- Eggs: if vegan, substitute 1 flax egg. Stir together 1 Tablespoon ground flax with 3 Tablespoons water and let rest for 10 minutes or until mixture has thickened.
- Oil for the Pan: substitute cooking spray.
Meatball Recipe Variations
Remember that this is a base recipe, so the goal is for you to customize it to your taste!
Change up these meatballs by changing the beans. Vegetarian lentil meatballs, black bean meatballs, white bean meatballs, and vegetarian chickpea meatballs are all great options. You can even go crazy and use two kinds of beans!
Choose optional mix-ins that pair well together. It is helpful to have a cuisine or flavor profile in mind when choosing ingredients. Mexican, Italian, Moroccan, Indian, or Mediterranean ingredients are just some options that would be delicious with this recipe.
Use these other burger and meatball recipes for inspiration, then have fun exploring other flavors and ingredients!
Use these kitchen tools for recipe success:
- Colander or strainer
- Mixing Bowl
- Measuring Spoons & Cups
- Cutting Board
- Chef’s Knife
- Pastry Brush
- Portion Scoop
- Baking sheet
Are these vegetarian meatballs healthy?
These tasty vegetarian meatballs are a much healthier choice than their greasy counterparts. Unlike beef, beans provide fiber and no saturated fat. The featured ingredients in this recipe are beans, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh herbs.
Beans of all varieties contain plant-based protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients promote gut health, decrease risk of developing heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and promote a healthy weight. Beans are a key component of longevity diets around the world.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is a key component of the Mediterranean Diet. It contains high amounts of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and polyphenols which may reduce inflammation. (1, 2) In this recipe, it replaces the saturated fat typically found in 100% beef meatballs.
Not only do fresh herbs add a pop of freshness and flavor to a dish, but they add nutrition too! Herbs are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that promote health and help fight diseases.
For more information about the best ingredients to use, check out our ingredient guide!
Serve vegetarian meatballs as an appetizer with a dipping sauce or build a meatball sub, salad, or wrap. Depending on the flavor combinations you choose, serve meatballs in sauce with pasta or with gravy over brown rice.
How to Store and Reheat Bean Meatballs
Cool leftover vegetarian meatballs completely, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
Leftover meatballs can also be frozen for up to 3 months. To freeze, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze for 1-4 hours. Once partially frozen, transfer to a freezer-safe bag or container. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before heating.
To reheat, place bean meatballs on a pan and place in a cold oven. Turn the oven to heat to 350ºF. Once the oven hits 350° F, your bean meatballs should be warmed and ready!
Want more bean-based dinner recipes?
Try out these delicious recipes!
Vegetarian Meatballs Base Recipe
- 15-ounce can low-sodium beans, drained and rinsed (~3 cups)
- ¼ cup Panko bread crumbs
- 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh herbs
- 1 Tablespoon finely diced onion or shallot
- 1 large egg
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Dash pepper
- ½ Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (for the baking sheet)
- 2-3 Tablespoons pesto (replace oil and herbs)
- 2 Tablespoons diced fresh or sun-dried tomatoes
- 2 Tablespoons shredded or crumbled cheese
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- ¼ – 1 teaspoon spices and/or dried herbs
- 1 teaspoon citrus zest
- Preheat oven to 425ºF.
- Place beans in a large mixing bowl and mash until almost smooth or leave slightly chunky.
- Add bread crumbs, herbs, onion, extra virgin olive oil, eggs, salt, pepper, and any optional mix-ins. Mix until combined.
- Brush a baking sheet with oil or use pan spray. Use a portion scoop or spoons to create meatballs and place on the pan, spaced ~1” apart.
- Cook 8-10 minutes or until cooked through and slightly brown on the edges. Serve with desired sides and toppings. Enjoy!