When I'm craving something rich and decadent, I think about my grandma's Vegan Swedish meatballs. Smothered in a rich, thick, creamy gravy, I remember my sister and me begging my grandma to make her famous Swedish meatballs. Although grandma's recipe was loaded with meat, butter, and heavy cream, I figured out how to transform my favorite childhood Swedish meatball recipe into an oil-free vegan lentil meatballs recipe.
SMOTHERED IN A THICK CREAMY, SAVORY VEGAN GRAVY
Typically, Vegan Swedish meatballs are drenched in a thick and creamy gravy made from butter, oil, heavy cream, and beef broth. However, in 'veganize' the sauce without sacrificing the savory flavors, I swapped in unsweetened, unflavored almond milk, raw cashews, and shallots. Like other tasty sauces I make, the cashews, almond milk, and a small amount of flour make a roux for the gravy.
For those allergic to or avoid nuts, I supply a nut-free option as an alternative.
Blending a small amount of flour, regular or gluten-free, with your plant-based milk creates a roux or thickener for your sauce. This cooking tip can be used with other dishes and prevents lumps from forming when you make any sauce.
For example, in my Hungarian Mushroom Soup or Creamy Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff, the creaminess comes from the combination of almond milk, cashews, and a small amount of flour. Similarly, the shallots, onions, and garlic work together to give the sauce a savory flavor.
And, because I love mushrooms, I added thinly sliced mushrooms to give the dish a more savory and meaty texture. In the past, I served this dish with brown rice and whole-grain noodles, which absorb the thick gravy. Today, though, I decided to opt for my new favorite gluten-free noodles made from Tumeric and chickpeas.
HOMEMADE LENTIL MEATBALLS VS STORE-BOUGHT MEATBALLS
Lentil meatballs, for example, are a perfect meat substitute loaded with nutrients and protein. Compared to other types of dried beans, lentils cook quickly and easily in advance. Or, Trader Joe's sells steamed brown lentils, pre-packaged and ready to use. In addition, lentils absorb a variety of wonderful flavors from other foods and seasonings. For that reason, using lentils as a base for meatballs works very well.
Subsequently, the consistency of the ingredients makes or breaks the lentil meatballs. Make sure to follow the directions when preparing the lentil meatballs so the texture resembles meat.
Although I use a melon baller to scoop the meatballs, I also use my hands to form the lentil meatballs and pack them tight. The melon baller does, though, help to keep the lentil meatball size consistent.
Another homemade option for lentil meatballs is my Vegan Meatloaf – "Meatless" Lentils! Instead of making a meatloaf from this lentil meatloaf recipe, you can form the mixture into vegan lentil meatballs.
Other vegan meatball options
Even though I made my meatballs for this oil-free vegan lentil meatballs recipe, Trader Joe's sells the BEST store-bought vegan meatballs I have ever eaten. If you are in a hurry or are not concerned about fat and oil, these meatballs may be a choice for your meal. Remember, Trader Joe's meatballs are not low in fat. They are fabulous, but I only use them in a pinch or a hurry.
Regardless of what lentil meatball recipe you choose, homemade lentil meatballs can be frozen and prepared in advance. One more fun cooking tip, which I often do, is cooking the lentil meatballs in a mini muffin pan.
Though you can also cook the lentil meatballs on the stove, I prefer to bake them to get a crispy outside before adding them to the savory gravy.
Cooking the Lentils:
- 1 ½ cups cooked Brown Lentils 1 cup dried
- 3 cups Organic Vegetable Broth
- 1 hallot minced
- 1 ½ Tablespoon chopped, fresh Basil
- ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian Parsley
- 1 Tablespoon Muir Glen Organic Tomato Paste
- 5-6 Tablespoons Italian Panko Bread Crumbs
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
How to Make a Flax Egg:
- 1 Tablespoons Flaxseed Meal
- 2 ½ Tablespoon Water
Making the Gravy:
- 3 cups Organic Vegetable Broth
- 2 cups Unsweetened Unflavored Almond Milk
- 3 Shallots minced
- 2 cloves Garlic minced
- 1 White Onion diced
- 8 ounces sliced thin Baby Bellas or Other Mushrooms of Choice
- 4 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
- ½ cup raw cashews soaked overnight or (nut-free option: 4 Tablespoons Gluten-free flour or whole wheat flour)
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 3 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 Tablespoons Tamari Liquid Aminos, or Soy Sauce
- 3 teaspoons fresh ground Pepper
COOKING THE LENTILS OR USE PRE-COOKED LENTILS
- Rinse the lentils: Measure the lentils into a strainer or colander.
- Pick over and remove any shriveled lentils, debris, or rocks.
- Thoroughly rinse under running water.
- Combine the lentils and veggie broth: Transfer the rinsed lentils to a saucepan and add veggie broth.
- Bring to a rapid simmer, then reduce heat: Bring the water to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer.
- You should only see a few small bubbles and some slight movement in the lentils.
Cook the lentils:
- Cook, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes
- Remove from heat. Measure out 1 ½ cup
PREPARING THE LENTIL MEATBALLS
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a
- Using a food processor, add flaxseed and water and let set up for 2-3 minutes (aquafaba or chickpea juice).
- Add cooked, cooled lentils, sautéed garlic and shallot, Italian seasonings, parsley, tomato paste, and a pinch each salt and pepper to a food processor.
- Pulse, mixing until combined; DO NOT purée or over pulse; it needs the texture of rice.
- Add breadcrumbs, and stir by hand.
- I like it salty, so add salt as you please.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt and pepper or herbs for flavor.
- Use a melon baller or cookie dough baller, scoop out rounded Tablespoon amounts of dough and carefully form into balls.
- You may use your hands (I do).
- I don't use oil, so place lentil meatballs on a baking pan, and bake them. or I use a mini muffin pan to bake the lentil meatballs.
- While the lentil meatballs are baking, keep opening the oven, and shake the pan, moving the meatballs around.
- Cook 30 minutes total, rotating the meatballs every 10 minutes to make sure all sides are covered.
- Remove meatballs from oven and let cool slightly; about 10 minutes.
- They get firm sitting there, so don't disturb them.
- In the meantime, make the sauce.
MAKING THE GRAVY
- Saute onions, garlic, and shallots in a large skillet with high edges.
- Add sliced mushrooms.
- Add onion powder and garlic powder.
- Add ½ cup of vegetable broth slowly to make sure onions and mushrooms are not sticking to the bottom.
- In a high-speed blender, combine almond milk (or other non-dairy milk), nutritional yeast, and rinsed cashews (or use flour instead).
- Blend until smooth ( if using the nut-free version, blending the flour mixture and almond milk together makes it so the flour doesn't clump; it is your thickening agent).
- Add additional sauce ingredients, including soy sauce (tamari or liquid aminos).
- Add almond milk mixture slowly and increase the temperature to medium.
- As it begins to heat and boil, it will thicken.
- Continue whisking until the thickness desired is achieved.
- If you like it thicker, add more flour to a small amount of vegetable broth, blend, and add.
- Taste and adjust seasoning for your specific taste.
- Add baked meatballs to the sauce.
PREPARE PASTA OR RICE
- I prefer this dish with gluten-free pasta, but many people serve this dish with rice. The choice is yours.
- You can pre-make brown rice in a rice maker or the stove before, so it is ready to go.
- If using noodles, prepare noodles according to the packaged directions.
- Drain, and rinse.
- Put the desired amount of noodles or rice in the bottom of a bowl.
- Spoon meatball/sauce mixture over the top.
- Garnish with chopped parsley
Hi! My name is Kathy, I am a retired high school English teacher & vegan enthusiast and blogger. My entire blog is fully plant-based vegan. I truly believe what we eat & how we live determines our health & the preservation of our planet! 🙂
I see the serving size is 1 but what does that equal in the lentil balls?
Hi John, there are 6 servings in each batch of meatballs, so depending on how big you make your lentil meatballs, the servings would be divided by 6. Hopefully that helps 🙂
Hi Kathy, Just made the meatballs which are very good. I am making the gravy right now. I used 1/2 cup broth into the mushroom shallot mixture as the recipe indicates. Am I to add the rest to the almond milk mixture? It seems like a lot of liquid. I'll just do that for now, but am wondering if I understood correctly. Thanks so much for your recipes.
Hi Barbara, once you add in the flour mixed with the vegetable broth and simmer, it begins to thicken. Let me know if you like the recipe. Stay safe and healthy.
Gorgeous recipe and the sauce is to die for. Only slight peeve was that the addition of breadcrumbs was omitted from the instructions. Obvious after I'd done them but didn't notice at the time as I was concentrating to the directions. Still very yummy though and thank you so much for sharing. I've added it to my favourites 🙂
Sorry Nicola. I will fix it. I must have just missed it. I appreciate you telling me
I can't figure out how to print this without it printing the whole page, am I missing a "print recipe" button?
There should be a print recipe button. On my end I see it but I can't see what you see. I will see if I can have my husband log in and see if it is different so I can fix it.