Spicy Vegan Italian Meatballs

The BEST Vegan Meatballs made with TVP. They're SUPER meaty, full of spicy Italian flavor, and NOT mushy - our #vegan #meatball dreams come true! #vegetarian #veganmeatballs #plantbased #plantpowercouple // plantpowercouple.com

These are the BEST vegan meatballs you’ll ever eat. They’re made with a meaty blend of TVP + vital wheat gluten and are easy to make, freezer-friendly, and FULL of spicy Italian flavor. Unlike other vegan meatball recipes, these Gardein meatball copycats DO NOT fall apart or turn to mush in your mouth. Cook them in marinara sauce and serve as a plant-based spaghetti and meatballs or make a vegan meatball sandwich with dairy-free mozzarella!


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Are you ready for the vegan meatball recipe to end all vegan meatball recipes?

One that doesn’t fall apart when you cook it in sauce or turn to mush in your mouth the minute it’s chewed? One that is SO chock-full of flavor that your favorite way to eat them will be straight off the baking sheet?

Well, it just so happens we’re sharing that recipe with you today.

Welcome, friends, to our own personal version of vegan meatball heaven.

Click here to Pin this recipe for later.

The BEST Vegan Meatballs made with TVP. They're SUPER meaty, full of spicy Italian flavor, and NOT mushy - our #vegan #meatball dreams come true! #vegetarian #veganmeatballs #plantbased #plantpowercouple // plantpowercouple.com

Why We Love These Meatless Meatballs

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 meatballs and spaghetti, and I mean, who doesn’t?! That’s why, for the last 6+ 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.

An overhead shot of all the ingredients you need to make the best homemade vegan meatballs: TVP, onion, vital wheat gluten, flaxseed egg, nutritional yeast, garlic, water, olive oil, soy sauce, Italian seasoning, chili powder, crushed red pepper flakes, pepper, onion powder, and ground cumin

What are vegan meatballs made of?

The base starts with some TVP, or Textured Vegetable Protein, which sounds super technological and weird, but it’s kinda like dried bits of tofu. This gives our vegan meatballs that ground meat, crumbly texture.

Sidenote: If you’re looking for more TVP recipe ideas, check out our homemade vegan burgers or chili!

We also added a bit of vital wheat gluten to help bind them together and produce that subtle, stringy, meat-like consistency that REALLY takes these vegan meatballs to the next level.

If both of these products sound foreign to you, fret not. We find them at many mainstream grocery stores, usually Bob’s Red Mill brand, for a very good price. We mostly order them on Amazon because ordering things in my pajamas will always beat leaving the house. Always.

How to Make Vegetarian TVP Meatballs

Once you have your ingredients, the rest is fairly easy and, we think, pretty fun!

Three photos showing the first three steps to making vegan meatballs: saute onions and garlic in olive oil and sprinkle with spices. Add TVP, water, and soy sauce. Stir, cover the pot, and let the TVP rehydrate.

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!

3 photos showing the 3 steps to making TVP meatball mix: Step 1 shows a rehydrated TVP mixture with vital wheat gluten, a flaxseed egg, and nutritional yeast. The second shows the same bowl after being stirred together. The third shows the stringy meaty texture of the mix after kneading.

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!

Next, you’ll stir in a flax egg and your wheat gluten, and knead the mixture for 1 minute which will activate the vital wheat gluten and give these meatballs the BEST meaty texture. 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!

Three photos showing the 3 steps of how to form vegan meatballs: Take 1/4 cup of mixture in your hands, roll into a ball, and squeeze the ball tightly to make it compact.

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.

The BEST Vegan Meatballs made with TVP. They're SUPER meaty, full of spicy Italian flavor, and NOT mushy - our #vegan #meatball dreams come true! #vegetarian #veganmeatballs #plantbased #plantpowercouple // plantpowercouple.com

We have been loving every single batch of these vegan meatballs and really hope you do too. 🙂 

If and when you give this recipe a try, we would so love to hear about it. Leave a comment and rate it below or tag us in your meatball mania photos on Instagram (we’re @theplantpowercouple, with the ‘the’).

And if you want to be sure you never miss a Plant Power Couple recipe, don’t forget to sign up for our email list!

Now, pour yourself a nice glass of sangiovese, and get in the kitchen. Enjoy!

More vegan Italian-inspired recipes:

Yield: 12 vegan meatballs

The BEST Vegan Meatballs

The BEST Vegan Meatballs made with TVP. They're SUPER meaty, full of spicy Italian flavor, and NOT mushy - our #vegan #meatball dreams come true! #vegetarian #veganmeatballs #plantbased #plantpowercouple // plantpowercouple.com

These are the BEST vegan meatballs you'll ever eat. They're made with a meaty blend of TVP + vital wheat gluten and are easy to make, freezer-friendly, and FULL of spicy Italian flavor. Unlike other vegan meatball recipes, these Gardein meatball copycats DO NOT fall apart or turn to mush in your mouth. Cook them in marinara sauce and serve as a plant-based spaghetti and meatballs or make a vegan meatball sandwich with dairy-free mozzarella!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Inactive Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Instructions

  1. MAKE THE FLAX EGG: In a small bowl, mix together your ground flaxseed and set this aside to thicken.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Notes

* 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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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

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.

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69 thoughts on “Spicy Vegan Italian Meatballs

  1. Made these tonight because my 3yr old keeps asking for spaghetti and meatballs. Every vegan meatball I’ve tried has not passed the test...until now. She devoured these! And very easy to make also! Thank you for the recipe!!
    1. Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Kath! Kids are the hardest taste-testers to please; they're always brutally honest haha. So, we always love hearing stories like this! :)
  2. This was my third attempt at meatballs with three different recipes. I was still not successful with making a meatball but I got an incredibly delicious meat for spaghetti with marinara. I probably need pictures of what the TVP should look like since I have never worked with it. But again the flavor of this recipe is incredible.
    1. Hi, Susie! I love how you adapted the recipe for a meaty marinara. We actually do this a lot, and it's sooo good! :) You may want to watch the video above to see what the TVP looks like at different stages of the cooking process. We use Bob's Red Mill brand, and it looks like a ground meat texture. They do sell TVP in larger chunks though, so beware of that. Hope this helps!
    1. Hey, Franca! You can sub chickpea flour for the wheat gluten (or another flour like whole wheat, all-purpose, etc.). It will have a slightly less meaty texture but will still be delicious. Let us know how it goes if you give it a try! :)
  3. I made these tonight and they were great! I’m wondering if the leftovers need to be refrigerated or can be left out in a sealed container. I don’t want them losing their outer crust in the fridge unnecessarily. Thanks!
    1. Hi, Kendra! So awesome that you enjoyed the meatballs; they're a staple in our house. :) I'd store 'em in the fridge just in case (not that I'm a food safety expert at all). But either way, you should be fine reheating them in the oven or air fryer!
          1. Hi, Angie. Thanks for reaching out. We have not tried this, so I'm hesitant to give a recommendation that walnuts would definitely work in this. The recipe (liquids especially) would require some adjustment for sure. If you've tried it already, let us know how it went!
        1. We made these meatballs exactly as directed in the recipe . We were disappointed with the end result. We thought they had a bitter flavor and were overly dry. Not sure how to correct this recipe. Perhaps the recipe should have less then 1/2 cup wheat gluten? Or, perhaps the inclusion of some chopped mushrooms to give moisture.
          1. Hi, Mari. Really sorry these didn't work out for you. We've made them again and again, and, as you can see, they're rather a fan favorite. You said they were overly dry, and I wonder did you let them rest in sauce before serving? This step really helps allow the meatballs to pull back in some of their moisture.
          2. Do you live in a dry climate? I live in a very dry climate and they came out a little dry. I added some more water or broth, which ever you are using, and it came out a lot more moist.
  4. I rarely comment on blog posts but I really need to thank you. I'm no newbie to vegan from-scratch cooking which I say, not to brag but to tell you I'm not easily impressed. These meatballs are THE BEST vegan thing I've ever made (that chicken bouillon is no slouch either!). I discovered this recipe about 6 weeks ago and am cooking them as I type, for the 4th or 5th time. Now that I've got the spices just right for my family (for me, actually) I want to make about a hundred of them and freeze them. Thank you so much for this recipe and for food of this type: meaty and from scratch.
  5. "The Best" is an understatement! These are Amazing! I always make at least a double batch with the idea of freezing some, but they never make it to the freezer! They are even good cold at midnight :)! I make this recipe exactly as it's written, but I have made it into a "meatloaf" several times and it slices without falling apart. This is one of my favorite recipes of yours and it's really hard to pick a favorite, there are so many good ones!
    1. Oh wow, thank you for your kind words, Chelle! :) I'm SO happy to hear how much you're enjoying the meatballs, and I can also attest to their deliciousness out of the fridge at midnight, haha! LOVE the idea of using it for a meatloaf; we are totally going to try that. Thanks so much!
    2. Aaagh! I didnt have any onions left and ran out of real garlic so I used onion and garlic powders and sauteed some chopped walnuts. I made 23 meatballs. They LOOK good, I have another 10 mins in the oven then theyll join my spaghetti and marinara sauce. Fingers crossed. Supper will be yummy! Thanks you two for the recipe!
      1. You are so welcome for the recipe, Mandy! I hope they turned out all right for you.I like your idea of flavoring the minced walnuts to replace the onion and garlic. A+ for ingenuity!
        1. Hi, Michelle, thanks for the question. TVP can be ordered online if you can't find any locally. I'm hesitant to make a substitution suggestion because these really were designed for TVP. I think using something like pre-made, store-bought crumbles would offset the moisture ratio. I have no idea how those would turn out, so I'm remiss to suggest that either.
  6. I have made these twice already and both times turned out excellent. These are my go-to meatballs now!
  7. I make a lot of recipes from the internet and I never leave a comment, but I had to comment on this. I’ve made this recipe around four times now and it is THE BEST vegan meatball recipe. I will never search for another recipe. Thank you so much!
  8. I'm not a vegan (yet), but I am trying to reduce animal product consumption as much as possible, so for the past few months I've been cooking more and more with TVP. I have to say that these meatballs are outstanding and definitely replacing the "real" thing in my recipe notebook! Approved by both me and my (also not vegan) partner!
  9. These were really good! I didn't have nutritional yeast, but I thoroughly enjoyed these
  10. I made these today for vegan meatball subs (along with some homemade French bread), and they were perfect! It's the only vegan meatball sandwich I've ever made that didn't fall completely apart by the third bite. I'll definitely make these again!
  11. Oh I’m so excited to try these! I have all the ingredients and corona has made getting my usual gardein’s harder to come by! The reviews on your site are making me thing tomorrow is spaghetti night!!!
  12. Wow! These were a big hit! So easy to make and with great flavor and texture. I made meatball parmigiana sandwiches with these beauties for my daughter and her boyfriend, who is vegan. Thanks for another great recipe!
  13. Oh my gosh, these are a taste revelation! I cannot believe something so simple to make tastes this good. My husband has been experimenting with vital wheat gluten for the past 12 months and as a family we concluded that vital wheat gluten was a no go due to taste and texture, that is until today. These are a freezer staple and have already made a batch to freeze after tasting how good they are. Would be helpful to have cup measurements converted to British measurements too as we don't use cups but thanks to my American friends I was able to get cups from USA military base otherwise I would have struggled to convert as a novice cook.
    1. Hi, Emma! I am so happy you and your family had a good experience with the recipe AND that you've already frozen more for later. Smart move! :) And thank you for the feedback on the measurements. I'm going to look into that!
  14. These are indescribably good! Out of this universe amazing. :) Thank you for publishing this incredible recipe!! I will be using it for my vegan meatballs from now on.
  15. These were excellent. I didn't have fennel, and used your recommendation of chickpea flour since I didn't have wheat gluten. Loved them, not mushy, easy to make, great flavor. Will get fennel and make again. Thank you for a terrific recipe!!
  16. Hi Brittany & Terrence, This is my first visit to your lovely site! This recipe sounds Amazing!! & I can't wait to try it...I just have one question: Your description of the recipe mentions TVP plus SEITAN. I don't see any Seitan in the ingredients list & I don't have any right now. Do I need to use Seitan in these meatless meatballs & if so, how much?? Please let me know as I would love to try them sooooooooooooon!!! Thanks for sharing your delicious-sounding recipes with us!!! <3
    1. Hi, Kathy! Love your meatball moniker! LOL! The "seitan" is reference to the use of the vital wheat gluten - the main component in seitan. We don't use a finished seitan in the recipe per se, but rather create it as the binder simultaneously within the recipe alongside everything else. Hope that helps clear things up! Get back to us with any further questions! Hope you love them!
  17. Thanks very much for the recipe - I'll be using it a lot from now on. In the past I have tried many types of vegan meatballs made from beans such as chick peas. However, yours were by far the best! I used wheat flour instead of vital wheat gluten and they still turned out really good; next spring I'll buy some of the latter to try out.
  18. As one of the other commenters wrote, I do a lot of vegan cooking and a lot of recipes I see online are either overhyped or not that special. This one is the real deal! The texture was perfect (not mushy or crumbly!). I combined these balls with a Turkish style tomato based sauce and served it over quinoa. My wife and I really enjoyed them! Thanks!
    1. Thank you, Justin!! We are SO happy to hear you and your wife liked them and were not disappointed! (We take our meatballs very seriously around here. lol!) I'd love to hear more about this sauce, sounds delicious!! Thank you again, and hope you have a great day!
  19. Hi there, Like others here, I’ve been making vegan food for a really long time. Most of recipes I try are from award-winning vegan blogs. Wanting to make a hearty, mouth-watering but comforting X’Mas meal - I came across your FABULOUS faux-meatball recipe. Tried it for the first time tonight, my friend & I just couldn’t stop saying how AMAZINGLY PERFECT & MELT-IN-YOUR-MOUTH these meatballs were. Paired it with sauce & whole wheat spaghetti. JUST PERFECT!!! If this one fab recipe is anything to go by, then I hope the time & effort which is clearly put into your recipes blesses you with all that you wish for in 2021
    1. Hi, LK! Thank you for the very kind words! We're so glad you and your friend enjoyed these so much! We really appreciate you reaching out to let us know. Hope it's a wonderful 2021!
  20. I'm in the process of making these right now. I had to at least double the amount of water though, as the tvp soaked up that one cup in no time and actually would have burned within another 20 secs of cooking. Nobody else had that problem?
  21. I have made these 3x since finding the recipe last week! They are perfect! I’ve tried using my vital wheat gluten for so many other things without success (seitan) but I’m so happy this uses it too! So simple and so delicious! Thank you!
  22. What a fantastic recipe! I made a few changes to the seasoning and would adjust it a bit next time I make them, but the texture and overall taste was great. At one point It even felt a little weird because they were so similar to the turkey ones that we used to make. Thank you for sharing this!
  23. I don’t usually comment but these are THE BEST! I made them for the first time a few weeks ago and they’ve become a staple. You can change up the seasoning depending on your tastes, I’ll try doing a vegan meatloaf with the recipe as well. Made them for my non veg friends and they loved them, so close to the real thing. Thank you!
    1. Thank YOU, Cassidy! So glad to hear you - and your friends - loved them! We've adapted this recipe to a meat loaf once or twice ourselves...I don't think you'll be disappointed! Just make sure you've got a big batch of mash to go with it! Enjoy!
  24. I never comment on recipes but felt inclined to on this one. These are IT!! I have tried so many frozen vegan/vegetarian meatballs but they all had that aftertaste (you all know what I am talking about!!). These are not only absolutely delicious but have the exact texture of a "real" meatball. I am the type of vegetarian that misses that "chewy meat feel" and now I can enjoy without any of the guilt. I thought they were good when I tried them out of the oven but after simmering in my homemade sauce for a few hours they were superb!! They did not fall apart at all! I made a double batch knowing that my girls would eat them during the week but they were so good that I am eating the last two for my lunch today! Next time I am going to triple (maybe quadruple the recipe) so I can freeze some. I came back to site because I wanted to scope out the other recipes but felt that I needed to leave a bit of love for these first. Thank you so much for this recipe!!!
    1. So glad you enjoyed them, Eileen, Thanks for such high praise! And please let us know how any of the other recipes work out or if you're looking for anything specific. Thanks again!

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