This post contains affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.
The Ultimate Vegan Meatballs ~ hearty, meaty, and bursting with Italian-style flavors! They bake up perfectly and they won't fall apart! (Air Fryer instructions included)
What are Vegan Meatballs made of?
There are many ways to make meatless meatballs using various grains, veggies, beans, and legumes. To get the perfect meaty texture, I used a combination of mushrooms and chickpeas.
This combo not only creates great texture but also adds moisture to prevent dry meatballs. It worked perfectly for my Vegan Wellington too!
I sautéd onions, garlic, and mushrooms, together and browned them slightly for phenomenal flavor. Then I added Italian seasoning, fennel seed, and crushed red pepper for a subtle kick. The fennel is optional, but I highly recommend it.
To bind everything up, I used a combination of rolled oats, breadcrumbs, and ground flaxseed. They also create a nice texture, too.
(full ingredient amounts in recipe card below)
- 1 - Sauté the onions until softened and browned. Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute more.
- 2 - Now add the seasoning and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant.
- 3 - Add the chopped mushrooms and sauté until they have reduced in size and are slightly browned. You want them to release their moisture and the pan to be mostly dry.
- 4 - Add the tamari sauce and cook for another minute.
- 5 - Add the chickpeas to a large food processor container and pulse a few times to break down the beans.
- 6 - Now add the cooked mushrooms, oats, breadcrumbs, flax egg, Worcestershire Sauce, tomato paste, salt, and pepper. Process until well combined and it ALMOST forms a paste. Now place the mixture uncovered in the freezer for 20-30 minutes.
- 7 - Remove mixture from freezer and form into smooth balls using your hands. Place on a baking sheet and repeat until mixture is gone. Spray with oil and place in the oven until golden brown and the outside is dry and firm.
- 8 - Flip the meatballs midway through. Remove from the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet so they firm up a bit.
- If you don't have a large food processor, you may have to work in two batches. You'll need to combine the mixture in a mixing bowl first before doing this. I have this 14-Cup Food Processor by Cuisinart. It chops like a dream and has a very sturdy base to keep it from moving around the counter.
- If you don't have a food processor, you can still make these vegan meatballs. Just mince the mushrooms, finely dice the onions, mash the chickpeas with a potato masher and you can pulse the oats in a blender (or use quick oats). Combine all ingredients well.
- If you don't have ground flaxseed, you can use chia seeds instead. You can grind them in a coffee grinder or just leave them whole (of you don't mind the texture). The method of making the chia 'egg' will be the same as the written recipe.
- If you want to cook them in sauce, you can add them in the last few minutes of the cooking time of your sauce. Just make sure they are fully baked (or air-fried) before putting them in the sauce.
Air Fryer Instructions
- Place the meatballs in your air fryer basket and lightly spray them with oil. Don't overcrowd the basket so they have room to cook and brown. You may need to work in batches depending on the size of your air fryer.
- Set to 390°F and cook for 10-12 minutes until heated throughout and firm on the outside. Shake halfway through. When done, let them cool for 10 minutes to firm up.
Can I freeze them?
Absolutely! They freeze really well fully baked or raw for about 3-4 months. If you freeze them in their raw state, just separate them with wax paper so they don't stick together. That will make it easier to use the portion you need.
To cook from their frozen uncooked state, spray lightly with oil and bake them at 375°F for 35-45 minutes until heated throughout and golden on the outside. You can also put them in the air fryer at 350 F for 10-15 minutes. Shake halfway through.
To cook from their frozen fully baked state, spray them lightly with oil and bake at 350°F for 25-35 minutes until heated throughout. Or you can pop them in the air fryer at 350 F for 10-12 minutes until heated. Shake halfway through.
- Turn them into meatball parm subs with sauce and Vegan Mozzarella Cheese.
- Top them on spaghetti and smother them with sauce and Vegan Parmesan Cheese.
- Use them for Italian Wedding Soup.
- Serve them as appetizers with bbq sauce or teriyaki glaze (omit the Italian seasoning and add cumin, smoked paprika, and liquid smoke).
- Slice them up and top them on pizza. Here's my Easy Vegan Pizza Recipe.
Looking for more dinner ideas? Check out these 35 Easy Vegan Dinner Recipes by Vegan Heaven. So many tasty options!
I love to hear from you
If you make this vegan meatball recipe, let me know what you think by ★ star rating it and leaving a comment below. It would really make my day. You can also follow me on Instagram and share your creation with me. Just tag me @veganhuggs and hashtag #veganhuggs so I don’t miss it.
- 2 tablespoons ground flax meal + 5 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil , or preferred oil (+ more for baking)
- 1 small onion , diced
- 4 cloves garlic , minced or crushed
- 12 ounces mushrooms , chopped (about 4.5 cups)
- 2-3 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- ¾ teaspoon fennel seed , crushed (optional but recommended)
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons tamari , low sodium (sub soy sauce)
- 1 - 15 ounce can chickpeas , drained well but NOT rinsed
- 1 cup rolled oats
- ½ cup breadcrumbs , Italian-style
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce (a vegan variety)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- Salt and pepper , to taste
- Combine the ground flax and water in a small bowl. Set aside for 10 min. It will thicken and gel up a bit.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened and lightly browned. About 3-5 minutes.
- Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Now add Italian seasoning, crushed fennel, and red pepper flakes. Sauté for 30-60 seconds until fragrant.
- Add mushrooms and sauté until softened and slightly browned. Cook for 5-7 minuted until they reduce in size and release their moisture. You want the pan to be dry. Now add the tamari and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat.
- Add the chickpeas to a large food processor container. Pulse a few times to break down beans.
- Now add the cooked mushrooms, oats, breadcrumbs, flax egg, Worcestershire Sauce, tomato paste, salt, and pepper to the processor. Process until well combined and it ALMOST forms a paste (about 30-60 seconds). You don't want it completely smooth so leave some texture. You just want the ingredients to stick together well (see process photos above for example). Taste and add more seasoning if needed. Place mixture uncovered in the freezer for 20-30 minutes (or in the fridge for 1-2 hours).
- Preheat oven to 400 °F (200 °C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Remove mixture from freezer and form into balls using your hands. Roll them until smooth. To keep the size uniform, use about 1.5 tablespoons of mixture (use a small cookie scoop or measuring spoon). Place on baking sheet and repeat until mixture is gone. Spray or brush with oil and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and the outside is dry and firm. Flip the meatballs midway through. Remove from oven and let them cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet. This helps firm them up. You can now serve them with warm spaghetti sauce or cook them in the sauce for 5 minutes to warm them up. Enjoy!
- If you don't have a large food processor, you may have to work in two batches. You'll need to combine the mixture in a mixing bowl first before doing this. Combine well.
- If you don't have a food processor, you can still make the meatballs. However, they will be more fragile and may crack a bit more. You won't be able to warm them in sauce. You'll need to mince the mushrooms, finely dice the onions, mash the chickpeas with a potato masher and you can pulse the oats in a blender (or use quick oats). Combine all ingredients well in a mixing bowl and follow the method in the recipe.
- If you don't have ground flaxseed, you can use chia seed. You can leave them whole of grind them in a coffee grinder. The method is the same as the flax 'egg'.
- Yields about 30-32 meatballs.
- See post above for air fryer instructions.