Vegetarian Meatballs in pan with spoon.

30-Minute Vegetarian Meatballs

117 reviews / 4.2 average

Here they are! The meatballs of the hour – that are, actually, not meatballs.

Because they are VEGETARIAN MEATBALLS! Made without beans (we’re going rogue!) and made instead with 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 I made and loved a few weeks ago.

The breakdown is that they’re made with cauliflower, brown rice, quinoa, oat flour, 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.

How To Make Our Vegetarian Meatballs:

Meatless meatballs.
Plate with rice a fork and meatless 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 // Oat Flour (which is nothing more than just old fashioned oats crushed in your food processor or blender). 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).
Seeds of change for meatballs quinoa and brown rice.
Meatless meatballs in a container.

Yesterday I brought a freezer-ready bag of these to my sister since she just had a new baby, and I was feeling a little vulnerable about being the weird sister who brings non-meat meatballs as a food gift, but right away when she saw them, she declared them to be a 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. As a non-mom, I didn’t even think of that genius, but 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 or 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.

I’m sure that someday, when Bjork and I have kids, they will be foodie kids who love to dip veggie nuggets in masala sauce, right?

That sort of thing has to be genetic? PLEASE SAY YES

Meatless meatballs in a pan with sauce and a wooden spoon.

I cannot get enough of these vegetarian meatballs with a few gallons of the life-changing 30 minute masala sauce, but I’d be okay if you did 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!

Plate of rice with meatless meatballs with a fork.
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Vegetarian Meatballs in a pan with a wooden spoon.

30 Minute Vegetarian Meatballs


  • Author: Pinch of Yum
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 50+ meatballs (so, like, 10 or more servings) 1x

Description

30 Minute Vegetarian Meatballs – cauliflower, quinoa, brown rice, garlic, and spices. SUPER versatile – recipe makes a huge batch so you can stockpile them in your freezer for easy meals later!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 cups cauliflower florets (roughly 1 head of cauliflower)
  • 3 cups cooked quinoa and/or brown rice (see notes)
  • 3/4 cups of a “dry ingredient” like oat flour, almond meal, breadcrumbs, etc.
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 heaping tablespoon spices (chili powder, paprika, and/or cumin will work)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a frying pan with a thin coating

Instructions

  1. Cauliflower: Cook the cauliflower florets in a pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes, till fork-tender. Drain well.
  2. Mix: Pulse the quinoa and cauliflower 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: Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat – add the balls and cook for a few minutes on each side – they will need to be gently turned every so often to get browned all the way around. Serve with yummy sauces, salads, bowls, or freeze for later!

Notes

I used Seeds of Change pre-cooked garlic brown rice and quinoa for this recipe (2 packets = about 3 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.

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.

Nutrition facts are for 1/12th of this recipe, so just take your total # of meatballs and divide them into 12 servings – the exact number of meatballs per serving depends on how big you make the meatballs.

  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: vegetarian meatballs, cauliflower meatballs, meatless meatballs

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495 Comments

  1. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Thanks for the recipe Lindsay! I wil l forward it to my vegetarian friend. Great array of photos and as always I love your writing.

  2. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Holly Deffenbaugh

    I made some lentil “meat”balls a few weeks back that were great! These seem like they too will be a yummy alternative. I am excited about the flavors with that sauce. Looks like the perfect healthy alternative I have been seeking for dinner this weekend.

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Natalie

      I just made these yesterday. I fried a few but decided to attempt baking the rest to make it easier. I baked them at 350 for 20 minutes and they came out fine and tasted the same!

      1. Pinch of Yum Logo
        cinimon imondi

        good to know thank u .
        can u freeze them ? id like to make them in advance for the holidays

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Ali

      I used ground flax seed instead of eggs to make these vegan. For each egg, use 1 Tbsp flax seed and 3 Tbsp water, so for the full recipe, 4 Tbsp flax seed and 3/4 cup water. This worked great for me!

    2. Pinch of Yum Logo
      m

      I just left out the eggs (using almond meal and quinoa flour) and the balls came out great!

  3. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This looks delicious! I made the masala paste this weekend with a friend and used it for some sweet potato & chickpea chana masala– it was heavenly! I hope to make these meatless meatballs soon to douse with more of that tasty sauce! Thanks for sharing. : )

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Caitie

      Hi Lindsay,
      Longtime fan! I always keep some masala paste in the freezer and your chicken tikka masala is one of my signature dishes… people request it all the time!
      I am ready to try it with these bad boys and I’m wondering if you think they could be done in the air fryer? Or is the dough too wet? If so, I think maybe baking then air frying could do the trick… what’s your expert opinion?

  4. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Nadi

    Thank you looks good..what can I use instead of eggs to make vegan and also can you bake instead of frying? We are staying from fried foods for health reasons..
    Can’t wait to try this with your suggestions.

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      sofia

      you can use flax eggs! 1T flax meal to 3T water = 1 flax egg Let the flax and water sit for 10-15 mins for max absorption

  5. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Ahh, perfect timing! I’ve been googling around looking for vegetarian meatballs and was thinking about just adapting the cauliflower burgers recipe myself (because I love those burgers!). Thanks for doing the work for me, Lindsay!

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Euan MacDonald

      This looks great! Can I ask – is it “three to four cups” of dry ingredient, or “three quarters of a cup”?

  6. Pinch of Yum Logo
    kristine | the beaute blend

    Wow…this recipe looks so interesting and yummy! I am for sure going to try this. I have a few vegetarian relatives that I am never sure what to cook for them. This looks like a great option! 🙂

  7. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I would love to see the nutrition info on these yummy looking meatballs if you have the chance to post it! thanks for all your mouth-watering recipes!






  8. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Ramona @ The Merchant Baker

    So, that Seeds of Change Quinoa/Rice mix is already a pantry staple. I love putting it on a salad (love the hot on cold thing) and we are huge fans of everything cauliflower, so a big yay for this recipe! Love, love, love the idea for an easy meatless meatball! Thanks Lindsay! (FYI….I’ve got your easy crockpot lasagna cooking as we speak.. It’s a total cheat on my traditional, takes forever, lasagna and I think that makes me love it more 🙂 It’s the second time I’ve made it since the post. What a super easy weeknight lifesaver!)

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo

      Good question – I didn’t try but I bet they could. I feel like the browned exterior they get from pan-frying though would be sad to miss…

    2. Pinch of Yum Logo

      You can bake them in the oven. I do it with all balls, like falafel, millet, rice. Put some oil on your hands before rolling them. They get a small crust and yur hands don’t get sticky. If it not works, put them after baking some minutes under the grill. this way you need less oil than in the pan.

  9. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Cassie

    These look just like some vegetarian meatballs I had at an Indian restaurant in vegetarian kofta. It tasted wonderful, but it wasn’t as clean as this looks! I would love to use this if I were to ever recreate that recipe. It would be amazing!






  10. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Libby

    So, when I saw “vegetarian meatballs” I gave you a big eye-roll. I can’t lie to you!
    But with a cauliflower and quinoa base, these sound so different! And I truly can not wait to try them. They sound so yummy. Thanks for thinking outside the box for me.

  11. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Lodi

    Genetic? I’ll show you genetic. “This is what we’re eating. Not hungry? See you next meal.” They’ll eat everything. It doesn’t take long. Kids get hungry. (This said as a mother, and aunt of a kid who eats 4 food items. EEEK!)

    Meatless balls sound great!