When I’m craving something rich and decadent, I think about my grandma’s Swedish meatballs. Smothered in a rich, thick, creamy gravy, I remember my sister I begging my grandma to make her famous Swedish meatballs. Although grandma’s recipe was loaded with meat, butter, and heavy cream, I figured out a way 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, Swedish meatballs are drenched in a thick and creamy gravy made from butter, oil, heavy cream, and beef broth. In order to ‘veganize’ the sauce without sacrificing the savory flavors, I swapped in unsweetened, unflavored almond milk, raw cashews, and shallots. Similar to other savory sauces I make, the cashews, almond milk and a small amount of flour make a roux for the gravy.
For those who are 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 as well 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.
MEATBALLS…HOMEMADE LENTIL MEATBALLS OR 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 Joes sells steamed brown lentils, pre-packaged and ready to use. 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.
Even though I made my own meatballs for this oil-free vegan lentil meatballs recipe, Trader Joes sells the BEST store-bought vegan meatballs I have ever eaten. If you are in a hurry, or you 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 if I am in a hurry.
Regardless of what lentil meatball recipe you choose, both homemade lentil meatballs can be frozen and prepared in advance. One more fun cooking tip, which I do often, 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.