You have to make the best vegetarian lentil meatballs recipe! Packed with veggies for nutrition and to add flavor to these meatless meatballs. Try these with sautéed veggies and pesto, or pair them with your favorite marinara sauce and pasta for a hearty meal!
If you know me then you know that I love to travel. I just love exploring new cities, visiting all the museums and learning about the history. But my FAVORITE thing to do while traveling is to try as many of the local foods as I can! Eating at chain restaurants when traveling is just boring and you don’t get the full experience if you don’t eat what the locals do.
One of my favorite places to travel to is New York City! I grew up in New York City until I was 8, and now it’s one of my favorite places to go back to. It’s a one of a kind city with tons of places to go shopping, beautiful parks, amazing museums and history, plus the food is to die for! You can get a slice of pizza that's the size of your head and the best cheesecake in the world just to name a few. Also, there’s a cheese bar. A CHEESE BAR!
This recipe for vegetarian lentil meatballs was adapted from a recipe from the Meatball Shop in NYC. It’s a really fun restaurant that specializes in - you guessed it! - meatballs! You pick your meatballs, sauce, and then pair it with a bowl of pasta or vegetable side. It’s such a fun concept! While I think their classic, chicken and salmon meatballs are absolutely incredible, I actually think their vegetarian meatballs are my favorite!
Why These are the Best Vegetarian Lentil Meatballs
Y’all, I’ve made my fair share of vegetarian meatball or burger recipes, and these lentil meatballs are some of the best! The sauteed vegetables are the key addition, which adds flavor and moisture to the balls. Sauteeing the veggies until they are deeply colored adds a rich, caramelized flavor the lentil meatballs. And although it’s made from lentils, so obviously doesn’t taste like meat, there is still a ton of umami flavor in here from the ground walnuts, tomato paste, mushrooms and parmesan. They are anything but bland and boring!
Substituting Lentils for Ground Meat
Lentils are a great ingredient to use as a substitute for ground meat. They have a similar texture to ground meat but also provide protein as well! I’m not a vegan or vegetarian but I do try to work in meatless meals when I can, and using lentils keeps me satisfied because they are packed with fiber along with protein. I’ve used lentils for many other of my recipes such as veggie burgers and sloppy joes. You can cook them from dry - just be sure to watch the cooking time since different types of lentils cook at different times. To save time, buy canned lentils, or you can find steamed lentils in the produce aisle at Trader Joe’s.
How to Include More Meatless Meals
Adding meatless meals every now and then can be beneficial for many reasons. It will reduce your carbon footprint, and add more fiber, vitamins and minerals, and more variety to you diet. Using foods like chickpeas, lentils, jackfruit, and beans are all great substitutes for meat because they contain protein and have similar “meat-like” textures.
There are so many products that make it easy to include meatless meals without the hassle of doing a lot of cooking. Some of my favorite are lentil pasta, BBQ jackfruit, and frozen veggie burgers (the Beyond Burger is my favorite).
These vegetarian lentil meatballs are incredibly versatile! I love to make them for meal prep early in the week and pull out for different dishes during the week. Go classic with pasta tossed with pesto or tomato sauce. Or serve them over a bed of sauteed spinach with pesto. You could also serve these bad boys on a hoagie roll with marinara sauce and melted cheese for a meatball sub, or over a bowl of mashed potatoes with sauteed mushrooms or kale.
Make Ahead Vegetarian Lentil Meatballs
While this recipe is a bit time intensive, you can also make a bunch at once and freeze for later! Just freeze them on a plate or baking dish, then transfer to a freezer bag for storage. Microwave or defrost when ready to eat.
The best vegetarian lentil meatball recipe has been updated to give you the best possible content.
The Best Vegetarian Lentil Meatball Recipe
Makes: 20-26 balls
2 cups lentils, any type you like
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
8 ounces white mushrooms, chopped
3 large eggs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Place the lentils in a large stockpot, cover with a couple inches of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20-25 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside to cool.
Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a medium skillet. Saute onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and a large pinch of salt on medium-high heat until tender and lightly browned/golden, about 7-10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook about 10 minutes, until all the liquid from the mushrooms is released and reabsorbed.
Transfer sauteed vegetables to a large bowl and set aside to cool slightly. Stir in the lentils, then add the eggs, parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley, walnuts, salt and pepper and mix by hand until thoroughly combined. Place mixture in the fridge and cool for 25 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil over a large rimmed baking sheet and spread evenly. Form the lentil-vegetable mixture into 20-26 golfball sized balls. Place on the baking sheet at least 1 inch apart.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until firm, flipping halfway.