Happy Friday everyone! I am counting down the hours to the weekend, and how much longer I have to wait until I can make up a batch of these eggplant and lentil vegan meatballs! If you ask me, there is no better way to welcome the weekend than a comforting spaghetti and meatball dish.
Thought that us vegan had to opt-out of spaghetti and meatballs for dinner? Well, think again! There are plenty of delicious non-meatball alternatives out there for us plant-based folks. Turns out, you don’t need beef to make a kickass meatball. These ones are made using eggplant and lentils.
I find eggplant a great substitute for meat based dishes. Eggplant has a nice meaty texture and great binding potential. It’s also a nice alternative to using mushrooms in recipes, which is a popular ingredient in vegetarian cooking. However, I notice that people either love or hate mushrooms and so I wanted to show you another option for a comforting “meaty dish” in case you’re planning to host a get together and want to avoid a food preference mis-hap.Low and behind these vegan meatballs! They are made by combining eggplant, lentils and oat flour for a cozy pasta and meatballs dish that will charm any vegan skeptic.
I love the addition of lentils in this dish for an extra protein punch. In fact, the first time I experimented in making these vegan meatballs I only used eggplant and oats. Even though they were delicious I found them a little too carb-based, especially served alongside spaghetti. Lentils were the perfect addition in keeping the ground beef consistency while also upping the protein.
But what really makes these vegan meatballs so delicious is the flavouring. When it comes to flavour these vegan meatballs pack a punch! In fact, I reckon this goes for most meat based dishes. I truly believe it’s not the meat that people yearn for; it’s the way the meat is spiced. And the flavours in these vegan meatballs are plentiful. I’ve started with some classic onion and garlic, spiced with cumin, nutritional yeast and chili flakes. Then I’ve added tahini, liquid smoke (or you can use tamari), and lemon juice. All finished with a generous pinch of sea salt (because everything is better with this handy little ingredient). The outcome is a heavenly spiced meatball that’s FULL of flavour. You can’t help but pop one after the other into your mouth.
These meatballs are so delicious you can enjoy them on their own. Or, they can be stuffed into pita wrap with some lettuce and tahini to drizzle. But my favourite way to enjoy them is tossed into a classic tomato sauce and scooped over spaghetti noodles.
I’ve used my Classic Tomato Sauce recipe. It takes 10 minutes to throw together for a heavenly pasta sauce. And trust me, it’s well worth the few extra steps.
I think you’ll agree that these flavourful Eggplant and Lentil Vegan Meatballs is just what we need on a Friday evening to unwind from the week. Pop a bottle of red wine and you’re looking at TGIF done right. And, if you do make this recipe please let me know in the comments below what you think! I love hearing from you. And of course, tag me on Instagram with the hashtag #twospoons. Nothing makes me happier than to see your recreations.
Eggplant and Lentil Vegan Meatballs
For the meatballs:
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 red onion
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 (425g) eggplant
- 1/2-1 cup gluten-free oats
- 1 cup cooked green lentils (you can also use black lentils)
- 1/3 cup black olives, pits removed and chopped
- 1/2 lemon zest and juice
- 2 tsp liquid smoke (or gluten-free tamari)
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes
- pinch sea salt and pepper
For the tomato sauce and spaghetti:
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- 1 jar (700g) organic tomato puree
- pinch sea salt
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- splash red wine (optional, but I love it)
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes
- more sea salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 packet (450g) whole wheat spaghetti noodles
For the meatballs:
- Finely chop garlic and onion and add to skillet with coconut oil. Bring to medium-high heat and cook until onion is translucent in colour (5-10 minutes). Chop eggplant into bite sized pieces and add to the skillet. Cook until softened (10-15 minutes)
- Pulse oats in a food processor until it's a powder form. Transfer to a bowl. Then Transfer the softened eggplant mixture to food processor with cooked lentils, black olives, lemon juice, liquid smoke (or tamari) and tahini. Pulse to combine.
- Spice the mixture with cumin, nutritional yeast and cayenne pepper flakes, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Finally, add 1/2 of ground oats. Pulse to combine. (The oats will help to thicken the meatball mix. The texture should be moist, but you want it dry enough to handle with your hands. I needed only 1/2 cup ground oats, but optional to add more if needed).
- Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Shape meatball mixture into little balls, about the size of a ping-pong ball and place on baking tray. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until meatballs are crisp and golden in colour.
For the Classic Tomato Sauce and Spaghetti
- Meanwhile, add chopped garlic and coconut oil to saucepan. Bring to medium high heat and cook until softened (3-4 minutes). Then pour in tomato puree and reduce to a gentle simmer. Add a generous pinch of sea salt, lemon juice, and splash red wine. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper flakes and more salt and pepper to taste.
- Add Eggplant and Lentil Vegan Meatballs to the sauce and gently mix to combine. Keep meatballs on low heat while you cook your noodles.
- Cook spaghetti noodles in a large pot of water for 7-8 minutes, or until al-dente. Strain and divide into bowls. Top with saucy eggplant and lentil meatballs.