Vegetarian meatballs can sound like an oxymoron at first. Even though they’re meatless, these Southeast Asian-inspired vegetarian meatballs are delicious.
STRICTLY VEGAN AND LOADED WITH FLAVOR!
Okay, before we go any further, I want to clear the air on this. I know all of you vegetarians and vegans out there are celebrating, relieved to have access to yet another healthy meatless meal.
But for the meat eaters among you…
Allow me to expand your horizons as a former carnivore. These vegetarian meatballs are created with split peas, vegetables, and meaty mushrooms instead of ground meats. To round out the flavor, I went a little off the beaten path and tossed in some toasted nuts. Although almonds were my nut of choice, walnuts and cashews would work just as well. What you’ve got!
To make it taste more like a big dish of Vietnamese pho or a Thai stir-fry, I added some fresh herbs like basil, cilantro, and mint, as well as loads of ginger, garlic, and chile. (I also added fish sauce to have a more authentic Southeast Asian flavor, but if you want to make this dish vegetarian/vegan, feel free to leave it out.)
COMBINING THE INGREDIENTS FOR THE VEGETARIAN MEATBALLS
Blending those components while attaining the appropriate texture is the secret to making vegan meatballs. A solution: the Vitamix. The Mozart of mixers. The Ascent Series blenders are revolutionary.
The blender’s ability to whip up the filling without making a racket was far more impressive than its raw power. Almost a buzz could be heard from it.
The filling for these vegetarian meatballs should be semi-smooth and semi-chunky so that the meatballs can be held together. Still, some of the vegetables and herbs can be seen.
So, let’s prepare some meatballs right now!
FOR THE MEATBALLS:
- 1 1/2 cups of yellow split peas (or lentils)
- 2 tbsp. of olive or vegetable oil (plus more for drizzling)
- 2 tbsp. of ginger (minced)
- 5 cloves of garlic (minced)
- 1 large onion (chopped)
- 2 medium carrots (chopped)
- 2 stalks of celery (chopped)
- 1 ½ tsp. of salt
- 12 oz. of mushrooms (cremini, button, or shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced)
- 1/3 cup of cashews, almonds, or walnuts
- 1 pc. of fresh red chili
- 1/2 cup of thai or sweet basil leaves
- 1/2 cup of cilantro
- 1 cup of mint
- 2 tbsp. of fish sauce (optional for vegetarians/vegans)
- 1 tsp. of sesame oil
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup of breadcrumbs
FOR THE DIPPING SAUCE:
- 1 tbsp. of soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. of rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp. of water
- 1 tsp. of sugar
- 1 tsp. of chili sauce
- 1 tsp. of sesame seeds
- Bring enough water to cover the lentils in a medium saucepan to a boil. Simmer them for 35–40 minutes on low heat, until they are cooked through but not falling apart. Rinse out and set aside to cool.
- Next, ginger should be added to a wok or large skillet with 3 tablespoons of oil and cooked over medium heat. The cooking time needed to achieve a fragrant aroma is roughly 2 minutes. Add the garlic, onion, and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Then add the carrots, celery, and salt, and simmer for another 10 minutes.
- After the veggies have shed their liquid, add the mushrooms and simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Put the nuts, pepper, basil, cilantro, mint, fish sauce, and sesame oil in a blender and blend until smooth. To get the nuts and herbs finely chopped, pulse them for a few seconds. Add the cooled lentils and cooked veggie combination. Pulse until the ingredients are combined but still have some texture.
- Put the ingredients in a bowl and add the eggs and bread crumbs. Put the concoction in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.
- Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread a little olive oil across the paper.
- Form meatballs, about the size of a golf ball, out of the cooled vegetable mixture by rolling and packing it tightly. Spread out on the baking sheet, leaving a half-inch gap between each. Baste the meatballs with olive oil every so often while roasting them in the oven at 400 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes, or until they reach the desired crispness.
- Meanwhile, whisk the dipping sauce ingredients together in a separate bowl and set it on the table next to the meatballs.