There are certain ingredients and dishes that are not convertible to a vegan equivalent. A rib-eye steak, steamed mussels, roasted chicken … and (so I thought) spaghetti and meatballs. I mean, just the word itself — meatballs — would imply that we are firmly in a “carnivores-only” zone.
But when my daughter became a vegan a few years ago, I set out recreating her favorite foods — both sweet and savory — to adapt to her changed diet. And though we’ve had our share of failures, there have been a surprising number of successes. And by “successes,” I mean dishes that are delicious in their own right and not with the disclaimer of being a vegan version of the real thing. And these meatballs became one of them. Plus, they’re easy to make, requiring just a food processor and a bowl.
Just to be clear, these do not in any way taste like traditional meatballs but, the texture is perfect and the flavors (which you can borrow from your own favorite meatball recipe) are comfortingly familiar. Especially when served with our favorite marinara sauce and a heaping bowl of spaghetti.
Tips for success:
- For best texture, keep these meatballs on the smaller size — a tablespoon amount or less.
- Do not over process — the mixture should be crumbly, not smooth and paste-like, for best results.
- For even crisping on all sides, bake the meatballs on a wire rack set atop a baking sheet.
- Unlike traditional meatballs, there is virtually no fat in this recipe so these won’t brown in the oven. To promote a nice browned exterior, spray with a little olive oil before baking. You can also run them under the broiler after they are done baking, to brown even more.
- Feel free to substitute your favorite ingredients for the ones listed here. Add dried or fresh oregano and basil, a little chili powder, or hot pepper flakes.
Makes: 4 servings
- 1 cup oats
- 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 medium onion
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- Olive oil spray (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Set a wire rack atop a baking sheet and set aside. Process oats in a food processor until they turn into flour. Add chickpeas, garlic, and onion and pulse, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, until crumbly. Transfer to a bowl and add the garlic and onion powders, olive oil, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Form mixture into tablespoon-sized balls and place on the wire rack. Spray all sides with a little olive oil, if desired.
- Bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through. Run under a preheated broiler for extra browning.
- Serve immediately with your favorite pasta and sauce.