Simple Vegetarian Meatballs | Minimalist Baker Recipes

Plate of noodles with marinara and easy 10-ingredient vegan meatballs

When I was in college I lived in a shady apartment complex in Wichita. The laundry room was in a separate building, which meant I had to lug my clothes back and forth in the rain or shine to ensure I didn’t run out of presentable clothing for work and school.

Society, why do you impose such harsh rules on us?

Well, that lasted about a month. Before long I was trucking it back to my dad’s house just 20 minutes away where he’d often cook me dinner while I was folding my socks.

(Just kidding. Who folds their socks? Ugh, Rhonda. You would.)

Cutting board featuring tempeh and seasonings to make delicious vegan tempeh meatballs

If your dad is anything like mine, he’s all about simple, hearty meals.

Spaghetti was one of his specialties. A little pasta, a lotta sauce, and a considerable amount of meatiness.

In fact, one evening (whilst doing laundry), I had two platefuls then promptly passed out on his couch from sheer exhaustion. My father proceeded to fold all of my clothes for me and wake me up with a kiss on the forehead reminding me it was time to go home.

Aren’t dads the best? Mine is.

Food processor with ingredients for making our homemade vegan meatballs recipe

I still love spaghetti and crave it almost weekly.

And the good news is, meatless meatballs can taste just as delicious and are even healthier than their meaty counterparts. Who knew?

Origin of Meatballs

These days, meatballs are enjoyed all over the world and come in many different forms. But it’s believed that the idea originated from Persian meatballs known as kofta.

Our plant-based take on meatballs most closely resembles the flavors of Italian-American meatballs which are made with breadcrumbs and herbs. The story of Italian-American meatballs says that Italian immigrants served them with spaghetti and tomato sauce to make the dish more filling without much additional cost.

Freshly rolled vegan tempeh meatballs resting on a parchment-lined cutting board

How to Make Tempeh Meatballs

These meatballs are based with tempeh, which is made from fermented soy beans.

I know, sounds suspicious. But think of nutritious soy beans processed in a way that makes it like tofu, but less processed. (More info here.) This not only means it’s firmer to work with, but also more nutritionally dense! One 4 ounce serving contains ~20 grams of protein.

WHAT? Now that’s a meatball.

Baking sheet featuring a batch of our perfect meatless vegan meatballs recipe

Plus, this recipe is simple with just 10 ingredients and roughly ~45 minutes total prep and cook time. That’s manageable, right? Even for the busy cook.

Vegan meatballs, pasta, parsley, and marinara for the perfect vegan meal

And the important part: What do they taste like? They’re

Tender on the inside
Firm with a crust on the outside
Italian herb-infused
& PERFECT with marinara and pasta

Plates of pasta topped with marinara, vegan meatballs, parsley, and vegan parmesan cheese

This recipe would be the perfect special weeknight meal. Though it takes a little more time to prepare, it’s still simple in nature and yields an incredibly satisfying meal that’s wonderfully healthy and nutritionally dense. What more could you ask for?

While I can’t offer you laundry service while you enjoy this meal (thanks, dad), I can say it’s worth the effort and is sure to satisfy the whole family.

Close up shot of a plate loaded high with pasta, marinara, and homemade vegan meatballsHolding up a marinara-dipped vegan meatball on a fork

We hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did! If you give it a try, be sure to let us know! Leave a comment, Pin it, or take a picture and tag it #minimalistbaker on Instagram. We genuinely love seeing what you cook up. Cheers!

Prep Time 15 minutes

Cook Time 25 minutes

Total Time 40 minutes

Servings 22 (meatballs)

Course Entree

Cuisine Gluten-Free, Italian-Inspired, Vegan

Freezer Friendly 1 Month (freeze before baking)

Does it keep? 2-3 Days

US Customary – Metric


  • 1/2 cup white onion (minced)
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 batch flax egg
  • 8 ounces tempeh* (or as recipe is written, sub 1 heaping cup rinsed and drained chickpeas for similar result)
  • 1/3 cup vegan parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp Italian seasonings (or 1/2 tsp each dried basil and oregano)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley (optional)
  • 1/2 cup vegan bread crumbs (gluten-free for GF eaters // or sub almond meal)
  • 2 Tbsp your favorite marinara or tomato sauce
  • Olive oil (for sautéing)
  • Salt & pepper (to taste)


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) and prepare flax egg in a small dish.

  • In a large, deep skillet, sauté onion and garlic in 1/2 Tbsp olive oil (as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size) over medium heat until soft and translucent – about 3 minutes. Set aside.

  • Add tempeh to food processor and pulse to break down. Then add sautéed garlic, onion, and remaining ingredients (except olive oil) and mix, scraping down sides as needed. You want it to form into a moldable “dough.”

  • Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. The tempeh will come across as a little bitter, but once coated, baked and served with marinara it’s not nearly as apparent.

  • NOTE: Depending on how salty your vegan parmesan cheese is, you may need to add a little salt and pepper at this point. However, I didn’t find it necessary.

  • Scoop out 1 Tbsp amounts of dough and roll into balls. At this time, heat the same skillet you used earlier to medium heat.

  • Mix remaining bread crumbs and parmesan cheese together in a shallow dish. Add tempeh balls one or two at a time and roll to coat.

  • Add enough olive oil to form a thin layer on the bottom of your hot skillet, then add your coated tempeh balls in two batches, as to not crowd the pan. Brown for about 5 minutes total, shaking the pan to roll them around to brown all sides.

  • Add browned meatballs to a baking sheet and add to the oven to bake for about 15 minutes, or longer if desired for a crispier result.

  • At this time, prep any pasta your want to serve with your meatballs, as well as your favorite marinara sauce (I love this pizza sauce).

  • Once meatballs are deep golden brown and fairly firm to the touch, remove from oven.

  • To serve, top cooked pasta with meatballs and pour over marinara sauce. Top with another sprinkle of vegan parmesan cheese and fresh parsley. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to a few days, though best when fresh.

*Though I haven’t tried it myself, you can steam or boil tempeh for ~15 minutes before use to neutralize its flavor. However, I didn’t find it necessary.
*Heavily adapted from One Green Planet
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate.

Serving: 1 meatballs Calories: 66 Carbohydrates: 6.1 g Protein: 3.2 g Fat: 3.5 g Saturated Fat: 0.7 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 45 mg Sugar: 0.6 g


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