Crowd pleasing lentil meatballs are savoury, garlicky bites and packed with flavour! They’re loaded with protein and simple to prepare. Plus, they taste great served on their own, or with your favourite pasta and marinara sauce, or even with sweet potato noodles.
This recipe was originally published in May 2018. It has been updated for content and photos.
They’re full of protein, fiber and iron and have a great hearty texture, making it a perfect ingredient in vegetarian and vegan cooking.
Some added benefits? Lentils are budget friendly, versatile and naturally gluten free, making them great for gluten intolerance.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Allergen friendly: These meatless balls are not only vegan and vegetarian, but they’re free from most common allergens. They’re nut free, gluten free, and soy free!
- Oil Free: Yes, you read that right! These lentil meatballs are not only free from common allergens, but they’re also completely oil free!
- Great texture: Unlike many vegan meatballs, these lentil meatballs are not mushy. They have a nice bite of crunch and texture, thanks to pumpkin seeds, all without frying!
- They freeze well: Go ahead and fully prepare your lentil meatballs and freeze them before or after baking.
- Pantry friendly: These delicious bites are made using pantry staples that you probably already have hanging around!
Expert Tips for making the BEST lentil meatballs
- Use dried GREEN lentils that have been cooked for best texture. Do not sub for red as they get a little too mushy for my liking in this particular recipe. For added depth of flavour, cook the lentils in veggie broth.
- Make sure not to overcook your lentils or they will get very mushy. Cook according to package directions, but under cook by a minute or two for best results. (They’ll cook more in the oven later.)
- Do not over process your ingredients. This will make the mixture too soft and difficult to roll, and again will result in a softer/mushier texture. (If this happens, you can refrigerate for a bit to help them firm up enough to roll, or add some oats or flour (gluten free, if preferred) to help firm up the texture of your lentil meatballs.
- Use wet hands when forming your balls. This will prevent the balls from sticking to your hands and fingers, making them easier to roll. Wet your hands after forming every few balls or so, as needed. Work near your sink, or fill a small bowl with some water before you begin.
- Spices are key here! I use quite a bit of dried seasoning, plus freshly minced garlic to make these vegan meatballs flavourful. Don’t skip out on the spices. Taste the batter once processed and add more to your taste if you’d like.
How to make lentil meatballs
What you’ll need
Dried and cooked green lentils really work best, but if you don’t have any, you may sub for canned and be mindful not to over process.
Cook your lentils according to package directions and slightly under cook to prevent them from becoming mushy. Using leftover lentils also works well here, if you’re a meal prep fan, you may have some in your fridge ready to go.
Step by step
(This is a summary with step by step photos, full recipe measurements and instructions are in the recipe card below.)
Then sauté your veggies with a tablespoon or two of water. (photos 1-2)
If preferred, you may use oil, but to keep this low in fat, I’m using water to sauté. (You may sauté the veggies 1-2 days in advance if preferred.)
Transfer your sautéed veggies to your food processor, along with the cooked lentils, tomato paste and all the seasoning. Don’t add the pumpkin seeds yet. (photo 3)
Process into a crumbly mixture without over processing. You don’t want a mushy mess, and these lentil meatballs taste best with some texture. (photo 4)
Now add the pumpkin seeds and pulse a few times to gently break them down and mix them throughout the mixture. (photos 5-6)
Again, do not over process. Once combined, taste for seasoning and add more to your tastes if you’d like.
Roll the mixture into balls and place them on a lined baking tray. (photos 7-8)
The mixture should be soft, but still firm enough to roll into balls. You should get about 20 lentils meatballs of about 1-1.5″ in diameter.
EXPERT TIP: Use wet hands to prevent the mixture from sticking to your fingers. Re-wet your hands every few balls or so, as needed.
Bake your lentil meatballs for 30 minutes in your preheated oven and let them cool for about 5 minutes before handling. (photos 9-10)
This will help them firm up more.
Serve your vegan meatballs with sweet potato noodles, or noodles of your choice, with or without marinara sauce.
For nuttier flavour and texture (and of course, only if there is no nut allergy) you may sub the pumpkin seeds for walnuts at an equal ratio.
You may sub the cooked green lentils for canned if you prefer. However, be extra careful not to over process. The mixture will quickly turn to mush if you over blend in your food processor.
Change up the called for veggies to suit your taste, or to accommodate what you have on hand. No carrots? Use mushrooms or peppers. Either way, just chop them up and sauté first. Don’t skip the sautéing as this will remove the excess moisture and you don’t want that extra water in your meatballs, for best texture.
Serve your lentil meatballs on their own. (They’re that good!) Or serve them with your favourite pasta, or vegetable noodles for a low calorie meal.
These lentil meatballs taste great both with or without sauce. For a softer, more traditional meatball texture, use your favourite marinara sauce. For a crunchier, more textured meatball, serve without sauce.
Can I prepare ahead?
Go ahead and cook your lentils and sauté your veggies, store them until you’re ready to make your batter and then bake.
Or, make your batter entirely and refrigerate in a large bowl (or your food processor bowl) for 1-2 days in advance. Make sure to cover it with plastic wrap, or store in a sealed container.
You may also shape your lentil meatballs in advance and refrigerate until ready to bake the following day.
How long do they keep?
Your cooked lentil meatballs keep refrigerated for 3-4 days. Reheat in the oven or toaster oven. Or break them up and heat through in a skillet with noodles and marinara for a bolognese style dish.
You may also freeze your lentil meatballs, baked or unbaked for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and cook as directed if you froze them unbaked. Or bake just enough to heat them up if you froze them baked.
More easy lentil recipes
- Lentil Banana Protein Pancakes
- Cheesy Lentil Quinoa Casserole
- Lentil Pizza Crust
- 1-Pot Enchilada Rice
- Dal Palak in Instant Pot
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- 1 yellow onion finely chopped
- 1 large carrot peeled & diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 cups cooked green lentils (approx 3/4 cup dry) or 2 cups canned
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds
- pasta your choice
- veggie noodles your choice
- marinara sauce
- Add onion, carrot and garlic to a skillet with a tablespoon or two of water and sauté approx 5 minutes, until softened. Add more water if needed to prevent sticking.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a large tray with parchment paper.
- Add the cooked veggies, cooked lentils, tomato paste, and all the seasoning to your food processor and process until well combined, but not pureed, scraping down the sides if needed. Then add the pumpkin seeds and pulse a few times to break them down and mix them in. Do not over process. Taste the mixture and add more seasoning if desired.
- Form the mixture into small balls (approx 1-1.5" diameter) and place them on prepared baking sheet. You should get about 20 lentil balls.
- Bake for 30 minutes, and remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before handling.
- Serve with your favourite pasta and marinara sauce, or some sweet potato noodles or rice.