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30 Minute Vegetarian Meatballs

92 reviews / 4.9 average

These vegetarian meatballs are incredibly easy and super versatile! Packed with cauliflower, quinoa, brown rice, garlic, and spices. Stockpile these in your freezer and your future self will thank you.

Here they are! The meatballs of the hour that are, in fact, not meatballs.

Because they are VEGETARIAN MEATBALLS!

Made without beans (!!) and without nuts (!!) but featuring cauliflower and brown rice and quinoa.

I know, right? Sneak-ayyy.

As much as I love a good MEAT-ball meatball from time to time, today we’re talking about these little vegetarian meatball nuggets of powerhouse nutrition that are inspired from the (here comes the weird zone) spicy cauliflower burgers.

They’re made with cauliflower, brown rice, quinoa, panko, eggs, and a nice big pinch of garlic and spices. And they don’t require hours of prep. That’s it! It’s just simple, straightforward, SUPER YUM plant-based goodness in the form of vegetarian meatballs made weeknight-dinner-friendly, because real food that matches real life is where it’s at.

And don’t we know it, guys? DON’T WE KNOW IT.

Ingredients for 30-minute cauliflower vegetarian meatballs.

We’re Working with Easy Ingredients Today

Here is your wonderfully do-able ingredient list:

  • panko breadcrumbs
  • brown rice
  • eggs
  • cauliflower florets OR just a bag of frozen cauliflower rice
  • spices

Tadah!

Cauliflower vegetarian meatballs on a sheet pan being scooped up with a spatula.
Meatless meatballs in a pan with sauce with wooden spoon.

Why I Absolutely Love These Vegetarian Meatballs

There are a few things that I think we can all approve of with these vegetarian meatballs:

  • INGREDIENTS: Basic, whole, wonderful –> Cauliflower // Brown Rice // Quinoa // Garlic // Spices // Eggs // Panko. Also – no beans. Which is kind of nice, right? since a lot of vegetarian meatballs are bean-heavy. All hail the versatility of cauliflower!
  • TIMING: 30 minutes. The cauliflower is not high maintenance here. Just a quick simmer in some hot water to soften it up, and then as a bonus on being speedy, you can use those amazingly convenient garlic brown rice/quinoa packages from Seeds of Change that you buy en masse at Costco – you know the ones, right? – and then your cauli and your rice and everything else gets pulsed around in our favorite appliance of all time THE FOOD PROCESSOR in order to make the mixture. If you can enlist the help of a few vegetarian meatball rollers (this is why people have children, right?), you will have vegetarian meatball dinner on the table AND vegetarian meatball stockpile built-up in your fridge in no time.
  • ADAPTABILITY: Cook once, eat many times. This recipe makes a million and a half meatless meatballs which means that you can use them with many different sauces in many different recipes for years to come. Er, no. Not years. But seriously – you will have a TON of meatballs with this recipe, so start brainstorming serving and/or sauce ideas (and please let the record state that I strongly recommend LIFE CHANGING MASALA SAUCE).
Close-up of cauliflower vegetarian meatballs.
Cauliflower vegetarian meatballs stacked in a container.

When I brought these to my sister after she had a baby, she declared them to be perfect finger food for her two-year-old since he loves things he can hold and dip and nibble on at his own slow-eating pace.

UM WHAT. How cute is the visual of your favorite two-year-old dipping a veggie meatball made with cauliflower and quinoa and brown rice into ketchup, marinara, or ranch (not above it) or – for the foodie toddlers out there – a little spicy masala sauce?

It’s like a chicken nugget meets veggie burger in kid-friendly size and adult-friendly tastes.

White hand holding a plate with cauliflower vegetarian meatballs, white rice, and fresh herbs sprinkled on top. There is a fork on the plate with greens.

I cannot get enough of these vegetarian meatballs with a few gallons of the life-changing 30 minute masala sauce, but you will be happy doing just about anything with these. They are begging for some creative serving combinations and a good drench in a delicious sauce, and as we know, sauce is life.

Go get em, dinner-makers!

30-Minute Vegetarian Meatballs: FAQs

The meatballs aren’t forming well for me. The mixture seems too wet. What should I do?

If the mixture doesn’t stick together in a ball when gently pressed, add about 1/3 of the mixture back into the food processor and pulse until it’s more the consistency of hummus. That should help it hold together. If that still isn’t enough, just add a little more of your “dry ingredient” till you get a consistency that you can gently roll between your hands to form ball shapes.

Can these be frozen for later?

Absolutely! These make for a great freezer meal! Just prepare the recipe as-is, freeze the meatballs in a freezer-safe bag or container, and rewarm them in the oven or in the microwave.

What kind of pre-cooked brown rice/quinoa mix do you use?

I used Seeds of Change pre-cooked garlic brown rice and quinoa for this recipe (1 packet = about 1.5 cups). Since this has garlic flavor already in the mix, if you are using your own pre-cooked quinoa and/or brown rice, make sure to add some minced garlic or garlic powder.


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30 Minute Vegetarian Meatballs


  • Author: Pinch of Yum
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 50+ meatballs (so, like, 10 or more servings) 1x

Description

These vegetarian meatballs are incredibly easy and super versatile! Packed with cauliflower, quinoa, brown rice, garlic, and spices. Stockpile these in your freezer and your future self will thank you. 


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • a 1012 oz bag of cauliflower rice or 3 cups cauliflower florets
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa and/or brown rice (I use one 8.5-ounce package of a pre-cooked blend – see FAQs)
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 12 teaspoons spices to taste (chili powder, paprika, and/or cumin will work)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • olive oil to brush over the top

Instructions

  1. Cauliflower and Rice: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Steam the cauliflower rice according to package directions in the microwave. Do the same for the rice so it’s warm and soft. (If using cauliflower florets, boil until tender and drain.)
  2. Mix: Pulse the cauliflower and quinoa through a food processor until semi-smooth (see pictures for texture). Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and combine with all other ingredients. Stir until everything is incorporated. Roll into small balls (about one heaping tablespoon per ball was best for me).
  3. Cook: Brush generously with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes. Serve with yummy sauces, salads, bowls, or freeze for later!
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: vegetarian meatballs, cauliflower meatballs, meatless meatballs

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This recipe was updated based on reader feedback on 8/19/21. The previous version had 3/4 cup oat flour, 3 cups brown rice, and 4 eggs.

Time To Show You Off!

Reader images of the 30 Minute Vegetarian Meatballs recipe.

One More Thing!

This recipe is part of our magical cauliflower recipes page. Check it out!

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Recipe rating

509 Comments

  1. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Really Helpful blog post. These make for a great freezer meal! Just prepare the recipe as-is, freeze the meatballs in a freezer-safe bag or container, and rewarm them in the oven or in the microwave.

  2. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Jennifer

    These were really good! My kids (5 & 6) loved them. We didn’t have any leftovers.

    Only “swap” I made was to use a riced cauliflower/sweet potato mix because it’s what I had in the freezer. Would do that again.






    1. Pinch of Yum Logo

      My brother couldn’t get over how good this meal was! He kept telling me it was the best Cook Smarts recipe we’ve made and to star it as a favorite.

  3. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Dru

    Love your recipe, tips, etc. I want to make these Vegetarian Meatballs but do not have a food processor. Any ideas? Thank you.

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      Great question! You could try a potato masher or a blender may work.

  4. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Alex

    I made these and they were amazing. I used just quinoa as I had no brown rice, and subbed flax eggs for the eggs and they stuck together just fine. I put fennel seeds and coriander in mine and they were delicious. They froze so well, and I ate them with kale/pumpkin seed pesto and pasta. I’ll definitely be making them again.






  5. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Stacy

    We are grain-free – has anyone had any luck making these without oats/panko and, if so, what did you substitute in place of them? Thank you!

  6. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Deborah Sweeney

    These were delicious! Even my “meat and potatoes” husband liked them






  7. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Maggie Engstrom

    These were tasty! The key is to squeeze as much water out of the cauliflower as possible and everything turns out great. I ate most of these off the baking sheet and found I didn’t even need a sauce. I will be doubling the recipe next time so I can actually freeze some for later! Highly recommend!






  8. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Leslee Jaeger

    Wonderful texture and taste. I added them to a curry sauce with shredded kale. Will be making a large batch next week to freeze!






  9. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Maybe I’m missing it but at what temp and for how long are these baked? Anyone bake/air crisp these in an airfryer? Tia!






    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      Hi Marni! 400 degrees for 20 minutes. These reheat really well in the air fryer, but I haven’t tried air frying them instead of baking. Let me know if you give it a go!

  10. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Robin

    Made these today and I really liked how easy they were. I like the crispy outside and soft center. I may up my spices a bit next time for added flavor, but everything else was nicely balanced. I may try pulsing some beans or tofu in during the food processor step to bump up the protein next time. Thanks for the recipe, I will definitely make them again.






  11. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Dannielle Heraclides

    I’m thinking of making these tonight. I’d like to keep it vegan. Has anyone tried using flax eggs in place of chicken eggs? How were the results?

    Thank you!

  12. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Kathryn Carlson

    How would you recommend modifying this to make it gluten-free? I’d like to try these in the sticky ginger rice bowls (which, by the way, is an AMAZING recipe), but have a gluten-free need. Thanks!

  13. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I just made this as well as the masala paste and masala sauce. I steamed fresh cauliflower–half a medium cauliflower was 12 oz–and short grain brown rice I cooked in my rice cooker. I added a bunch of finely cilantro leaves and stems to the mixture and used cumin, coriander, black pepper and a little cayenne for the spices. The texture was perfect. I panfried them as was short on time. They are SO good! Especially with that masala sauce. Thanks so much for the recipe. It’s a total winner. My teenager loved them too!






  14. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Ellen

    These were so delicious! We simmered them in a jarred tikka masala sauce and served over rice with some broccoli. So good and I’m sure they are super versatile!

    I really like it when you re-post old recipes. I often look for recipes based on your most recent posts but you have so many recipes that it’s fun to bring up the old ones too!

    Thanks!






    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      Great feedback, Ellen! So glad you enjoyed the meatballs! And using a jarred tikka masala sauce is a such a great shortcut!

  15. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Florence

    Wow! I loved these meatless meatballs! I actually blended a little ground beef in with the cauliflower. Super good either way!






  16. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Aimee Horne

    Holy cow.
    Lindsay. I made these for the life changing masala sauce and it was incredible- I gave paste to friends to prove it.
    And THEN I made spaghetti and ‘meatballs’ with them last night. No change of balls- just different sauce and it STILL worked.
    I’m so impressed. The cauliflower keeps it moist, it’s not doughy and has a delicious consistency.
    By far this is my favorite food blog. I’m cooking from here all this week and every night is a winner!






    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      Thanks so much for the comment, Aimee! We’re so glad you’ve been enjoying the masala sauce and meatballs!

  17. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Mary Menendez

    I made these and threw in a handful of walnuts because they were just sitting on my counter asking to be thrown in. Then I of course whipped up Magic Green Sauce to go with them while I had the food processor out. If we have any left after my family is finished grabbing them off the cookie sheet and dipping in sauce plan to use them in some sort of bowl concoction. Love these!






  18. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Randy

    These look great! If I wanted to make them vegan, do you think I could cut out the eggs? Or swap in a flax-egg?

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      We haven’t tested these meatballs with a flax egg, but we think it’d be a good substitute! Definitely think you’d need a binder in this recipe.

  19. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Kathleen

    For kids what spices would you recommend? Worry my two and four year old won’t like the spices suggested. But yes you never know!

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      Do your kids like tacos? Chili powder and cumin are typically found in taco seasoning. And paprika is generally very mild.

  20. Pinch of Yum Logo

    These look wonderful! I am just wondering if it would work to use oats (pulsed if necessary) in place of the bread crumbs?

    Thank you.






  21. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Maggie B.

    Coffee please☕? I do love your recipes, and maybe one day I’ll have the time to make them again, but for the moment I just read them and miss your “coffee dates”. Hope you and your family and staff are doing well!

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      Hi Maggie! Thanks for the kind note and feedback on the coffee date posts!