This Meatless Mushroom Meatballs recipe is the result of much trial and error. There are a lot of ingredients that you can use to make vegetarian or vegan meatballs, and I quickly learned that some are better than others. I finally hit the nail on the head with this easy, mouthwatering meatless meatballs recipe that is pretty close to the taste and texture you love about the delicious Italian classic.
Why Meatless Meatballs?
Technically, you can make “meatballs" with beans, lentils, nuts, grains, vegetables -- or any a combination of those. The downside, however, is that many vegetarian meatballs, although tasty, do not resemble or taste like regular meatballs at all. Fortunately, after a lot of trying, failing, and trying again, I found that mushrooms are the perfect solution to get that meaty umami taste and texture.
But why go meatless at all?
Eating more plant-based foods is a healthy thing for our bodies, our budgets, and the planet too! Here’s a great article on the benefits of eating less meat and more plants: Is The Movement To Eat Less Meat Actually Making A Difference.
Plant-Based Doesn't Mean Zero Meat
Deciding to eat a more "plant-based" diet doesn't have to be an all or nothing decision.
Have you heard of the Flexitarian diet? People who adopt a flexitarian diet eat a mostly plant-based diet but occasionally eat meat, fish, or poultry in small quantities. This is also is the premise of the Mediterranean diet, which is considered to be the healthiest diet in the world.
Even if you don’t want to give up meat completely, you can still make a difference to your health and the environment by simply cutting back and eating more plant-based foods.
Here's What You Need to Make Meatless Mushroom Meatballs
- Mushrooms: I used about 1 pound of Cremini mushrooms, chopped very finely, but you can use white or button mushrooms as well.
- Oats: You will need quick-cooking oats or gluten-free quick-cooking oats for your meatless meatball mixture.
- Onions: Make sure you chop or dice the onions very finely.
- Panko Crumbs: I used Panko bread crumbs, but you can also use gluten-free Panko if desired.
- Eggs: The eggs are super important, as they will bind your mushroom meatballs together.
- Cheese: You can't have spaghetti and meatballs without freshly grated parmesan!
- Seasonings: You will also need salt, minced garlic cloves, dried basil, dried oregano, and dried thyme for this recipe.
How to Make Meatless Mushroom Meatballs, Step By Step
Step 1: Sauté Mushrooms and Onions
First, add oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high. When the oil is hot, add the chopped onions and sauté until translucent (usually about 5 minutes). Next, add the mushrooms and sprinkle with salt, then continue to cook, stirring often, until the liquid had been absorbed and the mushrooms are golden brown.
Step 2: Add in Seasonings
Now you will stir in the garlic, basil, oregano, and thyme, then cook for another minute. When the seasonings, mushrooms, and onions are well combined, transfer everything to a mixing bowl At this point, stir your oats and breadcrumbs into the mushroom meatball mixture -- make sure that all the ingredients are fully combined.
Step 3: Combine Eggs and Parmesan
It is finally time to add in your binder! Stir in two eggs, combining thoroughly, then stir in fresh, grated Parmesan cheese.
Step 4: Allow to Cool
Cover the entire mixing bowl with plastic wrap and chill the meatball mixture in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Step 5: Prep for Baking
When you're ready to cook (and your meatball mixture has had time to chill), preheat your oven to 400° and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking oil.
Step 6: Create Meatless Meatballs
Now, there are many methods to turning your mixture into meatballs. I prefer to use a melon baller to scoop even portions of the chilled mixture. Then, I roll the mixture into balls between my palms before placing them on the prepared baking sheet.
When all of your meatless mushroom meatballs are ready and on the baking sheet, put them in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. It's important to remember to turn the meatballs halfway through cooking!
Step 7: Enjoy
Of course, you can have these meatballs in marinara sauce with spaghetti, as is the most obvious choice -- and they are absolutely delicious that way -- but they also make a yummy meatball sub! You can use these meatless meatballs in any way that you would use regular ones, like this Greek Meatballs recipe -- simply swap the meatballs for these meatless ones, wrap in a pita, and smother with tzatziki.
Baked or Fried: How to Cook Your Meatless Meatballs
You can either bake or fry these meatless mushroom meatballs. Because they are a bit more delicate than regular meatballs, I prefer to bake them in a hot oven to make sure they stay intact until they are cooked. Generally, I just try to avoid frying whenever possible because I don't like the mess it leaves in my kitchen.
Make it Gluten-Free
You can easily make this recipe gluten-free by using gluten-free oats and breadcrumbs. You can even serve with gluten-free pasta for a delicious, diet-friendly dinner.
Make it Vegan
This recipe has both eggs and Parmesan cheese, so it's a vegetarian recipe, but not vegan. However, I have covered all the bases, and included instructions to make a vegan version, too!
To make your mushroom meatless meatballs vegan, follow the regular instructions EXCEPT omit the eggs and parmesan, adding instead (in the same order) 2 tablespoons ground flax seed soaked in 6 tbsp of water for 10 minutes and ¼ cup of nutritional yeast. You will chill and bake as the normal recipe.
Meatless Mushroom Meatballs
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb cremini mushrooms chopped very finely
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 onion chopped very finely
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- ½ cup quick-cooking oats or gluten-free quick-cooking oats
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs or gluten-free panko
- 2 eggs lightly beaten large
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese finely shaved
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high.
- Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes
- Add the mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, and cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed, and mushrooms are golden brown.
- Stir in the garlic, basil, oregano, and thyme and cook for another minute.
- Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in the oats and breadcrumbs
- Stir in the eggs, combining thoroughly
- Stir in the Parmesan cheese
- Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours
- Preheat oven to 400°
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment, or grease with cooking oil.
- Use a melon baller to scoop even portions of the chilled mixture
- Roll the mixture into balls between your palms, placing them on the prepared baking sheet
- Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown, turning halfway through.
- Serve with your favourite sauce
- Follow instructions above with these modifications: omit eggs and Parmesan, and add instead, in the same order;2 tablespoons ground flax seed soaked in 6 tbsp of water for 10 minutes¼ cup of nutritional yeast
- chill and bake as above