Meaty vegan meatballs in tomato sauce

Meaty vegan meatballs in tomato sauce

vegan meatballs tomato sauce cut

If good meatballs don’t scream romance, I’m not sure what does 😉 . I was fretting a little that my vegan meatball recipe that I had planned for today isn’t very Valentine’s Day suitable so I added a little red tomato sauce to them and voila, the recipe is very current again.

In all seriousness, we have been enjoying these new vegan meatballs for a while now and I think they may be my favourite ‘meatballs’ on the blog so far, so I thought I would share so that you could experience a little meatball love yourself 🙂 . These have been inspired by IKEA meatballs, which we both really enjoyed but which I was dismayed to discover contain a lot of fat – like ‘you don’t need to add any oil to the pan to fry them’ amount of fat. I did enjoy them and I am not vowing not to have them ever again, but certainly not that often.

This discovery has prompted me to experiment. What I really liked about them was a bit of chew and resistance that is hard to replicate with plants without using something like vital wheat gluten, which would render these not gluten-free. IKEA achieves it using pea protein but as I didn’t have any, I thought that it may be worth trying with psyllium husks which are used to replace gluten in gluten-free baking and I had it in my cupboard. It worked a charm once I played around with the quantities.

I used two different shiitake mushrooms, fresh and dried. The former contribute texture and flavour as they are famous for their depth of flavour and meatiness, the latter, which was originally a leftover from a mushroom stock I made for a mushroom risotto, contributes even more flavour and tackles waste, which I personally like. Whenever I make something that calls for mushroom stock like my vegan ramen, risotto or bolognese and I cannot be bothered to chop rehydrated mushrooms finely, I freeze them and then add them to my meatballs to enhance their taste and nothing gets thrown away. I hate waste so that kind of efficiency really appeals to me.

These guys are flavoursome, meaty with a bit of a chew – perfect over a saucy pasta or in a sandwich. I hope you’ll give them a try and enjoy them as much as we have!

vegan meatballs tomato sauce ingredients




vegan meatballs tomato sauce pan

vegan meatballs tomato sauce close up

30 min
75 min
30 min
75 min

  • 2 medium (10 g / 0.35 oz) dried shiitake caps, rehydrated in boiling water (or sub with more fresh)
  • 15 ml / 1 tbsp vegetable oil, extra for frying
  • 2 large shallots / ½ medium onion, chopped roughly
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced roughly
  • 125 g / 4½ oz fresh shiitake mushrooms*, sliced
  • 130 g / ¾ cup cooked chickpeas or cannellini beans
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves or ½ tsp dried
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves or ½ tsp dried
  • 1¼ tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • ½ tsp black pepper, to taste
  • heaped ½ tsp salt, adjust to taste
  • 10 ml / 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tsp / 1 tbsp psyllium husks**
  • 20 g / ¼ cup oats (GF certified if needed)
  • 15 – 30 g / ¼ – ½ cup coarse breadcrumbs (or sub more oats)


  • 30 ml / 2 tbsp vegetable oil, extra for frying
  • 1 medium onion, diced finely
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced finely
  • 2 x 400 g / 14 oz plum tomatoes
  • 2 tsp Italian herbs or ¼ dried thyme, basil, parsley, rosemary, marjoram and ¾ tsp oregano
  • ¾ tsp salt, adjust to taste
  • ½ tsp black pepper, to taste
  • a good pinch chilli flakes (optional)
  • ½-1 tsp sugar (optional)


  1. Rinse dried shiitake and cover with boiling water (weigh the shiitake down or else they will float) to soften. Keep immersed in water for as long as possible. I tend to use rehydrated mushrooms leftover from a mushroom stock.
  2. Heat up a bit of oil in a skillet and add roughly chopped shallots and garlic, fry gently for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Next add in sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms and sauté until fully cooked and there is no moisture in the pan, a little caramelisation is nice too.
  3. Cut off stems from rehydrated shiitake and discard them, slice the caps and add to the food processor together with all the remaining ingredients – if baking your meatballs use only 15 g / ¼ cup breadcrumbs. I recommend not adding chickpeas yet and processing them separately to retain a bit of texture (but that’s optional).
  4. Process the mushroom mixture until everything is well chopped, transfer to a large mixing bowl.
  5. If you haven’t already, add your chickpeas to the food processor and pulse a few times until processed but there is a bit of texture left.
  6. Add chickpeas to the mushroom mixture and incorporate them together well with your hands.
  7. Squeeze portions of the mixture in your palm to make it stick to itself and then roll into balls (mine were 20 g / ¾ oz each) in your hands.
  8. Chill the meatballs in the fridge for a few hours (overnight is best if you have time), especially if frying them.
  9. FRYING: Heat up a tablespoon of oil in a heavy skillet or pan and once the oil is hot, arrange chilled meatballs in a circle in a clockwise fashion. Give them a minute or two on one side, lift gently and fry on the other size until browned and crispy on the outside.
  10. BAKING: Preheat the oven to 180° C / 355° F. Brush a little bit of oil under each meatball and brush the tops with a little oil also. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, flipping them once halfway through. Use a flat spatula to gently prise them off the tray if they stick.


  1. Heat up olive oil in a large frying pan.
  2. Add diced onion and sauté until softened and translucent stirring regularly (about 5 minutes on a low heat).
  3. Add diced garlic and sauté for another 2-3 minutes, until fragrant, stirring very frequently.
  4. Next, add in plum tomatoes and squash them gently with a spatula before adding in a can’s worth of water.
  5. Season with dried herbs, salt and pepper and a pinch of chilli flakes if you enjoy a little heat.
  6. Allow the sauce to bubble gently for about 45-60 minutes until the tomatoes break down completely and the sauce thickens. Keep an eye on the pan, giving it a stir now and then and top up with more water if the sauce is starting to look dry while the tomatoes are still too chunky.
  7. Once the sauce reaches the desired consistency, adjust the seasoning to your taste, adding a dash of sugar if the sauce tastes too acidic.

*You can use other mushrooms, but I find that shiitake mushrooms add the most flavour and they also have a better texture.

**Psyllium husks are what help these bind together and gives them, together with shiitake, their meaty texture. You can sub with 2 tbsp ground flax or chia seeds but the texture won’t be quite the same.

2 g
3 g
0 g
2 g
8 g
*per meatball
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5 reviews, 9 comments
Would you recommend freezing these before or after frying/baking?
    Hi Franziska,
    You could do either but I would probably recommend before frying. Hope this helps! x Ania
The combination of breadcrumbs, chickpeas and mushrooms is something we hadn’t tried in a falafel yet and we loved it. I guess we’ll make these again. (I didn’t try the sauce and subbed cumin for rosemary and thyme).
    Great to hear that you enjoyed them, Franziska, thanks for letting me know. x Ania
This might be a stupid question, but should I use whole psyllium husks if the powder for this recipe? I can get both at the store, It’s just not specified in the recipe. Can’t wait to try these!
    Hi Gracie,
    I used the whole husks like these but I don't think it matters much. Hope you'll enjoy the meatballs! Ania
These were sooooo good!! Thanks for the recipe!
    Delighted to hear that, Maria. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a review. x Ania
I used eggplant instead mushrooms and they were delicious. Thank you so much for recipe and advice
    My pleasure, Petra! I'm glad we resolved this and you were able to make these despite your dislike for mushrooms :) Glad you enjoyed them and thank you for taking the time to review – I really appreciate it. x Ania
Loved this recipe! Quick and easy. Served with Rao's jarred sauce to save time. Everyone loved it - even the usual meat eaters!
    Thanks, Maria! I'm delighted to hear that and thanks so much for taking the time to leave a review - I really appreciate it! x Ania
love all meatballs, vegan too, great flavors, thank you!
    Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed them! Ania
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