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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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:
- 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.