These vegan meatballs, made with a meaty blend of TVP + seitan, are easy to make, freezer-friendly, and FULL of spicy Italian flavor. Unlike other vegan meatball recipes, these bad boys DO NOT fall apart or turn to mush in your mouth! Serve them with spaghetti, in sauce, with mashed potatoes, on a sandwich or eat them straight out of the oven!
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If there’s one food T and I both ADORE, it’s meatballs. In the pre-vegan days, T’s favorite Wawa hoagie was always a meatball sub, and I used to inhale bowls of meatballs with sauce and parmesan for dinner as a teenager.
We also have fond family memories surrounding a big bowl of traditional meatballs and spaghetti, and I mean, who doesn’t?! That’s why, for the last 8+ years, we’ve been working on perfecting our own vegan meatball recipe!
In that time, we have faced every major meatball hurdle I can think of. From meatballs falling apart before they even make it into the oven to flavorless balls of mush, we’ve seen (and eaten) it all.
These spicy vegan meatballs we’re sharing with you today are by far our favorite version of the recipe.
Why are these the best vegan meatballs?
Here’s why we (and plenty of readers like you – check out those 5-star reviews!) think this recipe for meatless meatballs is the best!
- Unlike lentil meatballs or varieties with black beans, these vegan meatballs won’t fall apart when you cook them in sauce or turn to mush in your mouth!
- They are so flavorful, you’ll be eating them right off the baking sheet! Readers have told us they do this too; it’s nice to know we’re not alone in that!
- The meaty texture will have you and anyone you serve them to completely mesmerized! No more “ew, it’s vegan” comments, thank you!
- There are so many different ways you can customize the flavor to your tastes.
- This plant-based take on classic meatballs freezes fantastically! Forget store-bought options and make your own freezer meatballs!
Vegan Meatball Ingredients
You’ll need 8 ingredients + some common spices and water to make these incredible plant-based meatballs. We’ll go through the ingredients in this section along with some notes to make sure you achieve the best results!
But don’t forget, the full recipe with ingredient amounts can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Flax egg – This is just a mix of ground flaxseed and water. If you’re new to flax eggs, check out our Flax Egg Guide!
- Olive oil
- Yellow onion – Finely minced.
- Garlic – finely minced
- Spice Cabinet: chili powder, sea salt, black pepper, ground cumin, ground fennel seed, crushed red pepper, Italian seasoning
- TVP crumbles – This is short for textured vegetable protein. it’s kinda like dried bits of tofu, a fantastic plant-based protein
- Soy sauce – This adds a little sodium in a way that’s absorbed really well by the TVP.
- Nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan cheese
- Vital wheat gluten – This helps bind them together and produce that subtle, stringy, meat-like consistency that REALLY takes these vegan meatballs to the next level. Substitute chickpea flour to make gluten free meatballs. Chickpea flour is the best gluten-free flour we’ve found for this recipe!
- Refined coconut oil – for greasing the cookie sheet
You can also order them on Amazon!
If you need to substitute an ingredient in this recipe, here are our best tips. Please remember substituting an ingredient we have not yet tried may lead to a (not always pleasant) final result. If you do try any new substitutions, let us know in the comments below!
For the yellow onion: White onion will also work. Shallots could be an interesting twist as well!
For the soy sauce: You can also use tamari for a gluten-free option or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos.
To replace the refined coconut oil: You can also use another high-heat oil or probably vegetable shortening.
For the spices: Feel free to shake these up with your favorite meatball flavors. Add some onion powder and garlic powder, vary the seasonings, or trade the chili powder and fennel seed for garam masala for a total twist. This is a fantastic base meat substitute recipe to create your own dishes!
How to Make Vegan Meatballs
Once you have your ingredients, the rest is fairly easy and, we think, pretty fun. And you don’t even need a food processor!
Step 1: How to rehydrate the TVP for vegan meatballs.
First, you’ll chop some onions and garlic, saute them in a generous amount of olive oil, and stir in your spices.
We went with a traditional Italian flavor but kicked it up a notch with a hefty amount of both black and red pepper because that’s how we loooove them.
You can totally lower the heat by adding less of those ingredients though because I know that’s not everyone’s thing. But if it is, you’re gonna LOVE this recipe as-is.
Next, you’ll stir in some dry TVP, water, and a few other ingredients for added flavor. Cover the lid and let that deliciousness simmer.
This method is what traps and intensifies all those yummy flavors!
Step 3: Make the vegan meatball mixture.
Once all the liquid is absorbed, you’re going to want to let the TVP mixture cool for a bit before you get your hands in there. 10 minutes should do the trick!
Check out the photo above – the one all the way to the right where you can see those meaty strings that form after kneading. This is the texture we’re going for!
Step 3: Form and cook the plant-based meatballs.
Finally, you’ll form and bake the TVP meatballs! Take a scant 1/4 cup of the mixture into clean dry hands and form into a ball.
Before placing each meatball onto the greased baking sheet, squeeze it a bit with your hands to make sure it’s nice and compact.
That’s my little trick for making sure they stay together and don’t fall apart in the oven.
Then, you’ll bake them on a parchment paper or tin foil lined sheet pan. I find that baking the meatballs helps them hold together better than pan-frying.
How do you keep vegan meatballs from falling apart?
To keep vegan meatballs from falling apart, it’s all in the forming and shaping! You have to make sure your meatball is tight and compact when formed.
Squeeze it HARD with your hands into a compact ball.
I keep my fingers together and hold the meatball from the bottom with one hand and use the other hand to cover the top, so my fingers are placed in different directions. See the photo above for a better depiction of this trick!
This allows me to squeeze the meatball tightly without squeezing down on my hand at the same time.
How to Serve Vegetarian Meatballs
Once the meatballs are baked, I like to warm them in some marinara sauce to get the full effect. It’s a crucial step for the best end result!
Vegan spaghetti and meatballs is probably the most common way to use them! If you’re making the gluten-free vegan meatballs, make sure you serve with gluten-free pasta like brown rice pasta.
T loves to serve them in a vegan meatball sub situation with a side of Sweet Chili Doritos!
Other options include serving them with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy or with zucchini noodles for a low-carb option.
How to Store Leftover Meatless Meatballs
These vegan Italian meatballs make fantastic leftovers and are perfect for meal prep!
Store leftover meatballs in an airtight container for 5-7 days or the freezer for up to 3 months. I would freeze the balls after cooking them rather than before.
Frozen meatballs can be reheated in tomato sauce on the stove until warmed through.
More Italian Vegan Recipes
If you loved this vegan meatball recipe, you’ll probably also love these other reader-favorite vegan Italian recipes:
- Homemade Vegan Ravioli
- Creamy Vegan Broccoli Pasta
- Best Vegan Chicken Parmesan
- Vegan Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells
- Vegan Linguine Clam Sauce
We have been loving every single batch of these vegan meatballs and really hope you do too.
When you make them, we can’t wait to hear what you think and how you served them!
Leave a star rating and comment review on the recipe below. We love hearing about your kitchen adventures, and this really makes a difference in getting our recipes to more people like you. We appreciate your support!
Now, pour yourself a nice glass of Chianti, and get in the kitchen. It’s meatball time. Enjoy!
- 1 flax egg (1 Tbsp ground flaxseed + 3 Tbsp water)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely minced
- 6 large cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 Tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground fennel seed
- 1 1/4 cup dry TVP crumbles (textured vegetable protein)
- 1 cup water
- 1.5 Tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce*
- 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup vital wheat gluten*
- refined coconut oil, for greasing the baking pan
- MAKE THE FLAX EGG: In a small bowl, mix together your ground flaxseed and set this aside to thicken.
- SAUTE THE VEG: Add the olive oil to your wok (or use a large deep saute pan) and turn the heat to medium high. Add the minced onions and garlic, stir. Then, add the chili powder, black pepper, cumin, and ground fennel. Stir again until everything is well-coated and continue sauteing for 3-5 minutes.
- REHYDRATE THE TVP: Next, add your TVP, water, Italian seasoning, red pepper, and soy sauce. Stir once more, turn heat to low, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed and the TVP is tender and meaty. Remove from heat and let it cool a bit before you start forming your meatballs. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 350F and liberally grease a large baking pan with refined coconut oil.
- MAKE THE MEATBALL MIX: Once the meatball mixture is cooled enough to touch, stir in the flax egg, nutritional yeast, and wheat gluten until well-combined. Then, get in there with your hands and knead it for a minute, just to activate the gluten.
- FORM AND BAKE: Take a scant 1/4 cup of the mixture into clean dry hands and form into a ball. Before placing each meatball onto the greased baking sheet, squeeze it a bit with your hands to make sure it's nice and compact. Bake the meatballs at 350F for 20 minutes. Then, flip them and bake another 20 minutes.
- PREPARE THE MEATBALLS: Let the meatballs to cool for at least 10 minutes. From there, we like to heat them up in our favorite marinara sauce and serve them over a mountain of spaghetti.
- TO STORE: Let the meatballs cool completely, then store them in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a week or the freezer for 2 months.
* To make this recipe gluten-free, replace the soy sauce with tamari and the vital wheat gluten with all-purpose gluten-free flour. The texture will be a little different (less "meaty"), but they're still delicious!
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Serving Size:3 vegan meatballs
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 319Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 545mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 9gSugar: 1gProtein: 12g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated.