Delicious vegan meatballs

Vegan meatballs

I’ve been playing around for awhile with my meatless meatball recipe. I was trying to duplicate Nate’s Meatless Meatballs, or at least my memory of them (since it’s been a few years since I’ve had Nate’s). I’m happy to report that I’ve achieved success at last!

These little puppies have a great texture that is, from what I can remember, very very similar to meatballs made from ground-up animals. In fact, I’m willing to bet you could fool carnivores with these. They are firm but not too chewy, with a slightly crumbly texture. I used a combination of textured vegetable protein (TVP), gluten, gram flour and breadcrumbs, as well as oil to keep them moist, plus spices and seasonings. I kept the seasonings quite neutral, so they could be used for anything from spaghetti & meatballs to sweet-and-sour meatballs to curried meatballs, and so on.

The first time I made them, I simmered them in broth, the way I do my seitan cutlets, but they didn’t hold together very well in the simmering broth. Now I steam them, which works great, followed by a brief session in the oven to make a slight crust on the outside.

Note that when they come out of the steamer, they will have developed a slightly flattened shape. If you wait a couple of minutes (until they’re cool enough to handle), you’ll be able to easily reshape them back into round balls.

Last night we had them with spaghetti and a simple homemade sauce, made by sauteing onion, sweet peppers and garlic in olive oil, then adding passata (tomato sauce), and seasoning with basil, oregano, salt & pepper. The meatballs were served straight from the oven, on top of the spaghetti and sauce, and not simmered in the sauce. I’ve tried simmering the meatballs in sauce previously and it works okay, but you end up with softer meatballs, and I think they’re nicer served firmer.

I use a mixture of groundnut (peanut) oil and coconut oil (which is actually solid at room temperature), but I’ve also made them just with groundnut oil and they’re fine like that too, though the coconut oil seems to give them a slightly firmer texture.

Update 14/02/09: Denny of a simple kind of life modified this recipe to be gluten-free; and Andy of Aloka Life successfully made these meatballs soy-free by substituting mushrooms for the TVP.

Delicious vegan meatballs

British American
TVP mixture
60g textured vegetable protein (TVP) 3/4 cup
125ml prepared vegan beef-style broth 1/2 cup
1 teaspoon Marmite 1 teaspoon
3 drops gravy browning (optional) 3 drops
25 grams very finely chopped onion 1/4 cup
1 clove garlic, minced 1
Oil mixture
20g coconut oil 1-1/2 tablespoons
1-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1-1/2 tablespoons
(or use 3 tablespoons vegetable oil)
Liquid mixture
1/2 vegan beef-style bouillon cube 1/2
(or equivalent amount for 1 cup of water)
1 tablespoon
ketchup 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce 1 teaspoon
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1/8 teaspoon
water as needed (see directions)
Dry mixture
80g vital wheat gluten flour 2/3 cup
30g gram flour (besan, chickpea flour) 1/4 cup
2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs 2 tablespoons
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast 1 tablespoon

1. Make the TVP mixture ahead of time, as it needs to cool completely. Stir the prepared beef-style bouillon, Marmite and optional gravy browning together in a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil. Turn off heat, add TVP and stir well. Cover and set aside for 15 minutes, then stir again and add onion and garlic. Set aside to cool completely. The mixture must be cold before adding the other ingredients.

2. Mix together the coconut oil and vegetable oil until you have a smooth paste. Set aside.

3. For the liquid mixture, put beef-style bouillon cube in a glass measuring cup. Add a couple tablespoons of boiling water, and mix until bouillon cube is dissolved. Add ketchup, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and pepper. Then add enough cold water to equal 165ml (2/3 cup). Set aside. Note that this must also be cold before adding to the other ingredients.

4. In a medium mixing bowl, combine wheat gluten, besan, breadcrumbs and nutritional yeast and stir well.

5. When TVP and liquid mixtures are cold, first add oil mixture to TVP and combine well. Then add the liquid mixture and stir again. Now add this to the gluten mixture and mix it until it is evenly combined.

Vegan meatballs in the steamer

6. Form into meatballs. I make 24 meatballs, each about 2.5cm (1 inch) in diameter.

7. Prepare your steamer insert by lining it with greased parchment paper so the meatballs don’t stick (you can just grease the steamer insert without using the parchment paper, but they will stick a bit). Place meatballs in steamer insert with about a 2cm (3/4″) gap between them. My steamer is not very big, and I have to do the meatballs in three batches.

8. Bring an inch of water to boil in the bottom of your steamer, then turn heat down to maintain water at a simmer. Steam meatballs for 10 minutes, then carefully turn them over and steam for another 10 minutes. Remove them to a parchment-lined tray to cool. The meatballs will have flattened slightly in the steamer. Once they have cooled for a few minutes, you can gently reform them back into balls. Steam the rest of the meatballs the same way. Check the water level periodically to ensure the pot doesn’t boil dry, and add more boiling water if necessary.

9. When the meatballs are finished steaming, bake them at 180C (350F) for 10 to 15 minutes.

Makes 24 meatless meatballs.


  1. These look yummy. I have been trying to think up a way also for meatballs. I am Italian, and that is definitely one thing I am going to miss.

    I stopped by to tell you about these eggs I found. I called the farm as well and they do let the chickens have freedom. I may go visit the farm to make sure :).
    They are called Freedom Eggs and they are available from Goodness Direct.
    I guess we can never be 100% sure, so I may even buy myself 2 chickens from this place called omelette. Seems like a good website as well.

  2. Hi Dia,
    Thanks for the info about the eggs. The one thing I would probably never be sure about with buying eggs would be the fate of the chickens after their egg production dropped off and they were no longer “earning their keep”. Unless they were my own chickens, of course, in which case they would be pets for life. 🙂 I quite fancy rescuing battery hens, but it will probably be a few years until we get into chicken-keeping mode.

    I’ve seen eglus before and love them!

  3. O’my tofu!!! Felicity what on tofu heaven are you doing to me???

    That looks and I am sure thanks marvelous!!!!I want some. I want some.

    Thank you for your kind comment abt me grandpa. And haha to pics without heads. me mom is the same way and WITH SHAKY HANDS!!!

    Le sigh:)

  4. okay i am def trying this. don’t have the time yet but will get to this…cannot wait.cannot wait!

  5. These look delicious. I’ll have to try them! I’ll bet they’d be great in a sandwich. Here you can get meatball sub sandwiches, which I haven’t had in, oh…. 35 years? But I see them sold… thanks!

  6. Mmmmm those balls look good!!

    hee hee hee

  7. Mmmmmm, I’m thinking meatball sub! Nom!
    Thanks for posting the recipe >:o)

  8. Okay is gluten really necessary…cause I’m trying to do less wheat…I hardly take Worcestershire sauce and I wouldn’t know what to do with an entire bottle…and coconut oil….

    Sorry Felicity….I’m terrible:(

    I am terribly excited about this one. Yesterday I was running all the things I could do with just the basic meatball base!!!

  9. mmm, meatball subs, that would be yummers.

    denny – the gluten is what holds the balls together and gives them a firm texture. However, there is a restaurant in Vancouver I used to eat at, where they made really yummy tofu balls which were also firm and held together nicely. They wouldn’t give me the recipe, but did divulge that they were made with tofu and gram flour, so I know it’s possible to make a gluten free meatless meatball. I think they were deep-fried.

    You can try them with all veg oil instead of using the coconut oil. I don’t think it will make much difference. Also, the Worcestershire sauce is just there to add flavour, you could just add a bit of extra soy sauce, it won’t really matter.

    Monique at The Happy Veganarian makes sausages with tofu and gram flour which set firm when steamed, so maybe that recipe can be used to make meatless balls too.

  10. they look great. I’ll have to try these because Andy LOVES nate’s. though I’ll probably skip the marmite. is marmite as icky as vegamite?

    I deeply appreciate your feedback. You are so generous to me hon!

    Okay I am set on trying this…def when things are less crazed here.I do have most of the ingredients but not the time to experiment.
    Will def let you know how it goes.

    er one tiny burst of appreciation..

    YOU RULE!!!

  12. Bethany — I’ve heard that marmite and vegamite are pretty much the same, though I’ve never tried vegamite. It gives a sort of rich “beefy” flavour and saltiness to the meatballs, but you could substitute extra soy sauce or maybe make a stronger “beef” bouillon. Although marmite is extremely salty, I don’t think the meatballs taste particularly salty.

    denny — YOU RULE TOO 🙂

  13. I can’t wait to try these! this sounds amazing!

  14. Wow these look amazing. Just yesterday my husband was bummed because he realized we had forgotten to pick up vegan meatballs from Trader Joe’s (which are basically the same as Nate’s.) So now I have even more incentive to try these. But I have to admit I have never heard of marmite or vegemite and wouldn’t know where to find them… But I will try it without and see how it goes. Thanks for the recipe!

  15. Hi meatballs…*whistles

    I still love you…*wink wink

  16. HI, these looks great. Is it possible to exclude the TVP and use something else non-soy? I have a real intolerance to Soy these days ever since I went vegan. Thanks for your help

  17. I’ve only ever tried them with TVP, but I think cooked or canned chickpeas might work… they have kind of a crumbly texture when roughly mashed, not a pasty sorta texture like other beans have. Actually, finely diced cooked mushrooms might work too, I use mushrooms in my veggie burgers and they keep the burgers moist. I might try a version of the meatballs with mushrooms, actually, you have got me thinking now… 🙂

  18. Hi,

    I’m going to makes these meatballs for my son’s birthday party. I was wondering if I could make them in advance and freeze them or at least keep them in the fridge. If so, should I thaw before reheating with a sauce or cook from frozen.

    Thanks for your reply.

  19. Hi Natalie,

    Yes, they can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen successfully. If freezing, it would be best to thaw them first, then reheat in sauce. I did notice that reheating them in the oven (not in sauce) does dry them out a bit. Hope your son and his pals enjoy them! 🙂

  20. Thanks, Felicity.

    BTW, if I can’t find vegan worcestershire sauce, what alternative could I use?

  21. I think you could probably just leave it out or perhaps add a bit of extra soy sauce. It just adds a bit of depth of flavour, not any specific taste.

  22. I’m glad I stumbled on your blog. It’s fantastic. I’m raw vegan but my family is vegan and I need to find recipes that are especially kid-friendly and picky-husband friendly.

    Another question. Could I use my vegetable steamer to steam the meatballs?

  23. I forgot to add. It’s one of those vegetable/rice steamers in that plastic-like material not the metal. I’m just wondering if there is a difference.

    Thank you.

  24. Thanks, I’m so glad you like my blog! 🙂

    Is your steamer something like this?

    The meatballs should work fine in that type of steamer. In fact, it’s crossed my mind to get one of those myself so I can steam the meatballs in one batch instead of three. I am not sure if they would stick to the plastic though… lining the trays with baking paper/parchment would probably be best.

  25. Yes, I have something like that. I am making the meatballs now and you know what? The plastic steamer is excellent, the meatballs are turning out great! Furthermore, there is the timer which helps.

  26. wow, tonite i tried your suggestion with the mushrooms instead of TVP – i was in a hurry and decided to just oven bake (turning every 8 min). these were phenomenal. I’m sure they would be more tender if steamed first. I sauteed the mushrooms in the marmite and wow! so flavorful.. really great – thank you so much for this recipe as I am intolerant to Nate’s and my own efforts up to this point have been bland bean balls with italian spice. cheers!

  27. andy — that’s great you were able to adapt them to be soy-free! I’ve added a note in the instructions to let people know. Thanks!

  28. Well, the meatballs were a hit at the party! My husband loves them so much. I’m going to have to make a huge batch and freeze them. Thanks so much, Felicity.

    BTW, I too am a Canuck! Let me know if you have a tourtière recipe for us Canucks.

  29. Natalie — Glad the meatballs were a hit!

    Cool that you are Canadian 🙂 I’m afraid I don’t have a recipe for tourtière, though I’m sure I’ve seen a recipe for a vegan one, somewhere…

  30. ahhh, here it is!

  31. You have some interesting vegan ideas on your blog. i especially like the look of vegan meatballs…who would have thought! 🙂

  32. Thanks for the recipe. I usually buy the Meatless Meatballs from Trader Joe’s.

    I can’t wait to try them they sound delicious.


  33. Looks good, I have to try this recipe… Thanks

  34. This is a good recipe to have on hand since I do have some chickpea flour that I am not sure what to do it with. Now there is a recipe for it. I am wondering what other product can replace marmite? I don’t think they sell it around in the US. Thanks for sharing the recipe though :).

  35. Kutin — Marmite is savoury and salty. Try replacing with extra vegan beef-style bouillon or soy sauce.

  36. I made these today and they worked out really well! I’ve got some in the freezer to see how they hold up over the next few days, and then I’ll be making the big quadruple batch on Friday for the weekend. I’ll try reheating them in the tomato sauce, as you suggest. Hopefully it all works out!

  37. Why do people waste time telling folks how good a recipe looks and they just have to try it?! Why don’t you give it a try and give some feedback? I tried this recipe and it was great, thanks so much for posting!!! They freeze and reheat well. With the suggested variations, I’ll never need another bag of Joe’s!

  38. we are taking a stab at these tonight! great blog!

  39. Those meatballs look delicious and I would love to try them myself, but I have no idea where to get TVP in The Netherlands, or what it would be called here… do you have any tips?

  40. Hi Gus — Other names might be textured soy protein or soya mince. If you can’t find it, you can use finely diced cooked mushrooms instead… andy in the comments above tried this and said it worked great! 🙂

  41. Where can you get vegan beef-style bouillon cube for the liquid and TVP mixture in the UK. I know they do them in the US but have never seen anything similar in the UK

    • Hi Mark — Actually, I’ve never seen beef-style bouillon in the UK (I was using some I bought in Canada), but a good substitution is mushroom bouillon, which you can get in health shops.

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