Lebanese Lentil Meatballs - tender, fragrant, spiced vegan meatballs cooked in a rich tomato sauce. Perfect served with crusty bread or salad!
Lebanese meatballs are typically made with lamb and are characterized by their warming flavors. This plant-based version keeps all of the signature flavor but swaps lentils in as the protein source making them both vegan and vegetarian!
Reasons to love this recipe!
- Lebanese meatballs are as comforting as more well known Italian meatballs, with a slightly warmer flavor profile - delicious!
- They are versatile! Serve them with crusty bread, a salad, over noodles and more.
- Each serving boasts 26 grams of protein and 28 grams of fiber!
- They are vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free.
Ingredients and substitutions:
For the lentil meatballs:
- Flax egg - made by mixing 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed, also called flaxseed meal, with 3 tablespoons water. Or use a regular egg. You could even try a chia egg.
- Crimini mushrooms - or button or shiitake.
- Onion - white, yellow, red or use shallots.
- Olive oil - I always recommend a good olive oil. Like cooking with wine, you want to cook with an olive oil you'd want to enjoy on bread or a salad.
- Garlic - use fresh cloves or garlic paste.
- Seven Spice - you can make it here (the spices are pretty common) or buy it here. In a pinch, use ½ teaspoon allspice and ¼ teaspoon each cinnamon and ginger if you have them.
- Lentils - you could also use canellini beans, navy beans, great northern beans, or small white beans.
- Quick oats - certified gluten free if needed. If you have rolled oats on hand, pulse them a few times in a food processor until they resemble quick oats.
- Sun dried tomatoes - I like the dry packaged variety. You can use oil packed, too. Just be sure to drain the oil well and pat them with paper towels before using.
- Dried oregano
For the sauce:
- Another splash of olive oil.
- The other half of your onion.
- Dry Spices - cumin, cinnamon, seven spice, salt
- Tomato paste - adds tomato-y sweetness and depth of flavor.
- Diced fire roasted tomatoes - If at all possible, use fire roasted! They add the most amazing smoky flavor. Substitute regular diced tomatoes, if needed.
- Cherry tomatoes - the combo of fire roasted and fresh tomatoes makes the most incredible sauce!
- Vegetable broth - or water.
- Fresh parsley - optional, but adds great freshness!
How to make lentil meatballs:
The ingredient list might seem long, but this is a basic four step recipe. And the flax egg in the first step, it practically makes itself :)
Make your flax egg: Whisk together your flaxseed meal and water. Set aside to thicken. Just before using, whisk again.
Cook the mushrooms and onions: Pulse the mushrooms and onion in a food processor until finely diced. Sauté in olive oil and salt until tender and the mushrooms have released their liquid. Add in the garlic and seven spice. Cook until fragrant.
Mix, roll, and bake: Return the onion and mushroom mixture to the food processor. Add in the remaining ingredients and pulse until everything is combined. You want the mixture to be mostly broken down, but still have some texture. Roll into meatballs, or use a cookie scoop, and bake until golden.
Make your sauce: While the meatballs are cooking, sauté the onion in olive oil until tender. Add in the spices, tomato paste, and cook until fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes and broth. Cover and simmer until the tomatoes are broken down and the sauce has thickened.
Combine and serve: Gently add the cooked meatballs to the sauce and toss to coat. Let the meatballs simmer in the sauce for 3-5 minutes to meld their flavors together. Top with parsley and enjoy!
Fridge: Store leftover meatballs and sauce in the fridge for 3-5 days. I recommend reheating them in the microwave. Heating them on the stovetop may cause them to break apart.
Freezer: Freeze baked, unsauced meatballs and sauce separately. Thaw in the fridge before reheating. Reheat the meatballs in the oven or microwave. Reheat the sauce on the stove or in the microwave.
What is Seven Spice and do I need it?
Lebanese Seven Spice, also known as Baharat, is a staple in Lebanese cooking. It is richly flavored, warming and adding instant heartiness to any recipe.
I have recently fallen in love with it's warm fragrance and versatility in cooking. It adds richness, warmth, and mild spice to these meatballs.
You can easily make Seven Spice at home, following this recipe here. If you don't have all the spices on hand (most are very common!), check out the substitutions section.
Once you have a jar of Seven Spice. Try adding it to slow cooked dishes like braises and soups, like this Lebanese Lentil Soup. A little goes a long way, so start small and add more to taste.
How to serve lentil meatballs?
- Simply, with a side of good crusty bread and a fresh salad.
- Over a bed of pasta. These homemade noodles would take it over the top!
- Or veggie noodles. If you're watching carbs, or simply love vegetables, this is another tasty option!
- With a side of sautéed vegetables or greens.
More lentil recipes you'll love!
- Lebanese Lentil Soup
- 20 Minute Curry Red Lentil Salad
- Cauliflower Lentil Salad with Maple Tahini Dressing
- Lentil Loaf with Butternut Squash
- 30 Minute Instant Pot Red Lentil Curry
For the meatballs:
- 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons water
- 4 oz crimini mushrooms
- ½ yellow onion, rough chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons Lebanese Seven Spice - see notes
- 1 ½ cups cooked lentils
- 1 cup quick oats, certified gluten free if needed
- ½ cup gently packed sun dried tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon seven spice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 (14.5)oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes
- 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes, or diced campari tomatoes
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, whisk together your flaxseed meal and water. Set aside to thicken. Just before using, whisk again.
In a food processor with the S blade attachment, pulse the mushrooms and onion until finely diced. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add in the onions, mushrooms, salt, and cook until tender and the mushrooms have released their liquid, about 7-10 minutes. Add in the garlic and seven spice. Cook until fragrant.
Return the onion and mushroom mixture to the food processor. Add in the flaxseed mixture, lentils, oats, sun dried tomatoes, and oregano. Pulse until everything is combined. You want the mixture to be mostly broken down, but still have some texture.
Roll into meatballs, or use a cookie scoop, and place on the parchment lined baking sheet, leaving 1 inch between meatballs. Bake for 45 minutes, flipping halfway through.
While the meatballs are cooking, make the sauce. Add the olive oil and onion to a skillet over medium heat. Cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the spices, tomato paste, stir, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and broth. Cover and simmer until the tomatoes are broken down and the sauce has thickened, about 20-35 minutes.
Gently add the cooked meatballs to the sauce and toss to coat. Let the meatballs simmer in the sauce for 1-2 minutes to meld their flavors together. Top with parsley and enjoy!
Quick Oats: If you have rolled oats on hand, pulse them a few times in a food processor until they resemble quick oats.
Sun Dried Tomatoes: I like the dry packaged variety. You can use oil packed, too. Just be sure to drain the oil well and pat them with paper towels before using.
- Serving Size: ¼ recipe
- Calories: 550
- Sugar: 11g
- Sodium: 1275mg
- Fat: 18g
- Saturated Fat: 3g
- Carbohydrates: 75g
- Fiber: 28g
- Protein: 26g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
Keywords: seven spice, cumin, cinnamon, oregano, sun dried tomatoes, fire roasted tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, garlic, oats, vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, healthy, tomato sauce, Lebanese