Not meatballs… nut meatballs. That’s right. Pay attention, because this will be one set of balls you soon won’t be able to live without!
I was pretty young when I stopped eating meat so I honestly can’t say that I missed meatballs, but when I discovered this recipe it was like discovering something I never knew I was missing…
These tasty vegan meatballs are seriously wholesome and fast to whip up, and you can even use the “nut meat” to make plant-based burger patties or sausage rolls instead! So versatile.
You can roll them to whatever size you like and YES, they are super-kid friendly. My 3-year-old loves them so I always make her a little pile of miniature ones to add to her pasta dishes or just as a side on her dinner plate. She even eats them raw, which is totally ok since everything in them can be eaten raw.
These nutmeat balls are high in all the good things: protein, healthy fats and flavour. So they’re a welcome wholefood alternative to the nasty processed vegan ‘meat’ (not to mention real meat) products out there.
How to make vegan nut meat
If you’ve only ever tried nutmeat from a can, you’ll need to completely forget everything you think you know about it!
This nut meat recipe blows the canned version out of the water, in terms of flavour, texture AND nutrition. The canned varieties tend to be based on peanuts and wheat gluten with some seasonings. Pretty nutritionally flat, and the texture can be a bit chewy thanks to the wheat gluten.
This recipe uses 3 different types of nuts as a base – and yes, you can feel free to switch them up! I have found the combination of cashews, walnuts and pecans to be just perfect for the flavour and texture of these.
However, any nuts will work so feel free to use what you have in your fridge (yes, I do hope you keep your nuts in the fridge to slow them down from turning rancid. Google “nuts and rancidity” to learn more 😉
The binding agent in this vegan nutmeat is the flaxmeal (or ground chia seeds work just the same). The oats also help to bind them together, but you can easily make this recipe gluten-free by swapping them out for a gluten-free flour. I have tried them using a gluten-free flour blend containing arrowroot (i.e. tapioca) flour, and they turned out just as good as with oats.
A food processor works best for this recipe, but if you have a good high-speed blender, this will work fine using the pulse setting too. You just may need to scrape the sides down a little and flip the mixture in the blender to get it to incorporate properly, as it will be quite thick.
I’ve offered 2 options for cooking the balls: frypan or air-fryer. My preferred option is the frypan as they don’t lose as much moisture this way. The air-fryer can tend to dry them out a little and you need to be extra cautious not to over-do them. Either way though, they only take less than 5 minutes to cook!
If you love the gorgeously dense (yet soft) texture, then once you’re comfortable with the recipe you can tweak the seasonings to your liking. I personally love them with every single one of the suggested flavour add-ins, but you may prefer a little less or more flavour.
Hope you love these as much as me and my fam do! x
PS: I wrote a post to clear up the confusion about whether oats are actually gluten-free, and why I never label my oat-containing recipes as gluten-free (even if they are otherwise GF). Check it out by clicking here.
Wholesome and delicious vegan nut meat balls!
- 1/2 cup pecan nuts
- 1/2 cup cashew nuts
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/4 cup quick oats or oat flour (can use gluten free flour to make these GF, this may change final texture)
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 2 tbsp tahini (or any nut/seed butter of choice)
- 2 tbsp ground flaxseeds (flaxmeal) or ground chia
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tbsp coconut aminos (or tamari/soy sauce if you are ok with soy)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/2 - 1 tsp liquid smoke (for a slightly smokey flavour)
Add the flax meal to a small bowl then gradually add the 1/2 cup of water, mixing quickly with a fork to stop the flax from clumping. Small clumps are fine. Set aside for 5 minutes.
Add the nuts, oats, salt, pepper and nutritional yeast & spices (if using) to the food processer and process to a fine crumb, or less if you want your nut meat to have a bit more texture.
Add the tomato paste, tahini, flax mixture, coconut aminos & optional liquid smoke, then process until well combined and the mixture resembles a thick dough.
Transfer mixture to a bowl and place in the fridge for 15-20 minutes to set. NOTE: This step is optional and can be skipped if you are time-poor, but it just makes the balls easier to roll.
Roll rough tablespoon-fulls of the mixture into balls and onto a plate.
COOKING OPTION 1: Preheat a non-stick frying pan to high heat (no oil necessary, the oils in the nuts should prevent them from sticking). Cook the balls for 4-5 minutes, rolling them around the pan with a soft spatula until golden brown.
COOKING OPTION 2: Place the balls in an air fryer for no more than 5 minutes on high. I do find this option tends to dry them out a little more, but you may prefer them to be crispier on the outside.
Serve them on sticks with a side of marinara sauce as a yummy party snack, or with your favourite spaghetti and sauce for a plant-based twist on spaghetti & meatballs. ?