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30 Minute Vegetarian Meatballs

100 reviews / 4.8 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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Vegetarian meatballs on a green sheet pan with a metal spatula.

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

534 Comments

  1. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Lisette Callis

    think I will try it with some tinned pulses ie chickpeas rice, garlic and onion powder cayenne herbs eggs and my mushy rice. if its not nice will add parmesan

  2. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Tom

    This was terrible. The worst vegatable meatballs I’ve ever made. Flavorless. Took about 1 hr to brown. And the centers were still wet. Sorry, moving on. I wish there was a zero stars.






  3. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Sheri

    These were so good! I used quinoa and cauliflower rice. Found out I was short on panko, but added some potato flakes and that worked as a binder. Added Italian spices, a bit of Parmesan cheese and a touch of tomato paste to serve with pasta. So yummy! My 11 year old liked them too.






  4. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Kate

    I really love these veggie meatballs. I make them italian-style, with a few changes. I add sautéed, minced mushrooms and roasted pecans in lieu of the breadcrumbs, and Italian spices. They’re amazing each time. Thanks for the inspiration!






  5. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Wendi Richardson

    How many are in a serving ?? I didn’t see it . Sorry if I missed it or it has already been asked

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      Hi Wendi! No worries. It really depends on how many meatballs you end up making. The recipe should make 50+ meatballs, and there are 10 servings, so it comes out to be about 5 meatballs.

  6. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Meagan

    I don’t know what I did wrong but the ones I made didn’t taste good. I used 1 tsp smoked paprika and 1 tsp cumin. Any suggestions on what spices to use next time around?

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      Sorry to hear that, Meagan! We like to use the Seeds of Change brown rice and quinoa blend, which is already seasoned with garlic. if you are using your own pre-cooked quinoa and/or brown rice, we’d recommend adding in minced garlic or garlic powder and maybe onion powder too!

  7. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Denise

    Because I wasn’t sure I would like these I made a half batch. I should’ve made the full batch! They really are very good. I’ll make some more but add some different spices. I think some liquid aminos, smoked paprika, and Mexican oregano might be good. At any rate, I really like these and they satisfy my craving for a meatball while still being meatless.






  8. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Renae

    I couldn’t glean anything from your website due to the incredible amount of spam and forced pop-ups. I won’t be back for any recipes. This is ridiculous.

  9. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Abby

    I’ve made these about every 3 to 6 months to always have on hand…did you change the “breadcrumbs?” I thought you gave options w/oat flour… did this recipe change? Either way these are great & the masala paste is the best!!! I use the paste w/the veggie meatballs, shrimp & even chicken!!!! Yummmmm






    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      Hi Abby! We did update this recipe a few months ago, so some of the ingredient amounts have been tweaked!

  10. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Sally Agostino

    Looking forward to trying these. Can I clarify, the eggs in when you food process (as per video) or in the mixing bowl (as per written recipe).
    Thanks

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      Hi Lynn! We like to use Seeds of Change garlic brown rice and quinoa blend for this recipe, which provides plenty of garlic flavor. But you’re always welcome to add as much garlic as you’d like!

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.






  15. 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!

  16. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Deborah Sweeney

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






  17. 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!






  18. 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!






    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Swetcha

      Absolutely loved the recipe, all the picky eaters in the family cleaned these out. Just wondering if I can sub the cauliflower with sweet potato or another vegetable as cauliflower is bad for thyroid






  19. 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!

  20. 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.