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Lentil Veggie “Meatballs” with Tomato Coconut Sauce

Things have been a little quiet around here lately, as I’m investing all of my energies into some exciting things behind the scenes (including a whole new branding, website design, aaand another secret project I’m pouring my heart into!). I can’t wait to reveal it all to you, so stay tuned, I’ll have some exciting updates to announce very soon!

We’ve been having an unseasonal heat wave this past week and a half, but the temperatures have finally dropped down to normal a couple days ago, making it appropriate again for me to share the recipe for these cozy lentil/veggie “meatballs”.

I’ve been playing with vegan meatballs for a little while, experimenting with different veggies, grains, nuts and seeds, to finally settle on this tasty version. The ball has a nice meaty texture (oh hey mushrooms!) and is packed with flavours. The simple tomato and coconut sauce is the perfect little coat to dress these babies up. The sauce is lightly creamy and so comforting. The tomatoes alone are super flavourful, but the addition of a few toasted spices makes it even more special.

Lentil Veggie "Meatballs" + Tomato Coconut Sauce (Vegan + GF) by The Green Life

Lentil Veggie "Meatballs" + Tomato Coconut Sauce (Vegan + GF) by The Green LifeLentil Veggie "Meatballs" + Tomato Coconut Sauce (Vegan + GF) by The Green LifeYou’ll see very few store-bought ingredients in the recipes I share on this blog, as I try to make most of them from scratch whenever I can. But one that I’ll probably always buy is canned tomatoes. I admire those who do it, but for me, the project of canning my own tomatoes seems way too ambitious, especially when I know that there are some high quality, organic ones available out there. Let’s face it, they’re super convenient and totally help minimize prep time.

I’ve been using Muir Glen’s products for years now and they’re my go-to for any recipe that calls for diced or crushed tomatoes. They’re rich, super flavourful, and made from 100% organic ingredients. I particularly love their fire-roasted tomatoes – which I use in my favourite butternut squash chili. I usually buy them at Bulk Barn, but you can also find them in the natural foods section at all Sobeys and Whole Foods, and in most Loblaws stores too.

I hope you enjoy. Happy October, friends! xxLentil Veggie "Meatballs" + Tomato Coconut Sauce (Vegan + GF) by The Green LifeLentil Veggie "Mealtballs" with Tomato Coconut Sauce (Vegan + Gluten-Free) by The Green LifeThis post is sponsored by Muir Glen Organic. All opinions are my own, and I truly love their products. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make The Green Life possible!


Notes: The lentil mixture can be prepared a few hours or even a day before, and the balls cooked right before dinnertime. This recipe is a great way to use up leftover cooked lentils in the fridge.

UPDATE (February 25, 2018): After a few readers mentioned that they had trouble forming the balls, I re-tested the recipe again to make sure it was foolproof. I noticed that I had initially forgot to mention that the lentils should be completely cooled (not hot) before using. If you cook your lentils right before making these meatballs, run them under very cold water to make sure they’re cold. If you’re still having trouble forming the balls, you can add a bit of flour (such as oat or chickpea flour), breadcrumbs, or more sunflower seeds.

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Lentil Veggie "Meatball" with Tomato Coconut Sauce

Servings 26 balls

Ingredients

For the spice mix

  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon

For the balls

  • 2 cups cooked and cooled green or French lentils (about ¾ cup raw*)
  • 2 tbsp coconut or olive oil for cooking
  • 1 onion diced
  • 8 oz cremini or white mushrooms sliced
  • ½ cup grated carrot
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp psyllium husks or ground flax seeds
  • 2 tsp tamari
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ tsp sea salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Optional: A couple tablespoons of breadcrumbs/panko or oat flour or chickpea flour

For the sauce

  • 1 28 oz can (796 ml) Muir Glen Organic Crushed Tomatoes with Basil
  • 1 cup coconut milk (a little more than half a can)
  • 2 tsp coconut sugar or other type of sugar (optional)
  • A big pinch of sea salt

To serve

  • Your choice of accompaniment (brown rice, quinoa, pasta or spiralized vegetables)
  • Fresh parsley finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Place the coriander, fennel and mustard seeds in a small skillet and toast on low heat for a few minutes, until fragrant (be careful not to burn them). Let cool slightly and transfer to a mortar and pestle. Crush the seeds, then add the smoked paprika, turmeric and cinnamon. Set aside.

  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and mushrooms. Cook and stir until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms slightly golden, about 5-6 minutes. Press the grated carrot in a tissue paper to remove excess moisture. Add it to the pan and cook about 30 seconds more. Remove from the heat and let cool.

  3. In your food processor, place the sunflower seeds, cooled lentils, mushroom mixture, garlic, psyllium or flax, tamari, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, black pepper, and 1 ½ tsp of the reserved spice mix.

  4. Pulse a few times until everything is combined, but keeping some bigger chunks for texture. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding more vinegar/tamari or salt as needed. If the texture is still too wet/soft, add more sunflower seeds or oat or chickpea flour, or breadcrumbs.

  5. Using a cookie scoop, scoop out a bit of mixture and roll into balls. You should get about 25-26 balls total.
  6. Place balls in the fridge to set for at least 15 minutes. (You could form the balls and cook them right away but I find that placing them in the fridge beforehand makes them hold together better).

For the sauce

  1. Place the crushed tomatoes in a medium saucepan and warm over low heat. Add the remaining spice mix, sugar and sea salt. Stir in coconut milk, and let simmer until warm.

Cook and serve

  1. Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the meatballs, turning them often until all sides are browned, about 7-8 minutes total.
  2. To serve, top your grain, pasta or veggies with a few meatballs and pour over the tomato-coconut sauce. Sprinkle with fresh parsley. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Recipe Notes

*To cook the lentils: Place ¾ cup of lentils in a strainer and rinse under running water. Place lentils in a saucepan and cover with fresh water (water should reach about 2 inches above the lentils). Cover and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils and tender, about 15-20 minutes (try not to overcook them, you don't want them to be mushy). Strain and let cool completely.

Lentil Veggie "Meatballs" + Tomato Coconut Sauce (Vegan + GF) by The Green Life

 

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  • I always buy Muir Glen… especially their fire roasted tomatoes. I love the subtly charred taste it lends to my sauces / stews. 🙂 Also, I am so down to try this recipe, but I need to find my dang mortar and pestle!! I seriously can’t find it arghh!!

    • So glad you like them too. They’re my favourite! 🙂
      Ah, I’m sorry you haven’t found your mortar and pestle yet. That’s such a bummer. You could grind spices in a coffee grinder or blender too. 🙂 Sending loads of cozy vibes your way. <3

  • Can’t wait to see your new site, so exciting! And love the idea of vegan meatballs, and how you’ve used lentils and mushrooms for heaps of flavour <3

    • Thank you Claudia! I’m super excited for the new site! We had so many technical issues along the way, it’s waaay overdue now. I’ll hopefully share it in the next couple weeks!

  • I made this recipe for a special occasion and unfortunately it was a flop. As a relatively experienced vegan chef, I still followed the recipe exactly and was left with mush that barley would form into a ball and certainly wouldn’t stay that way. Honestly, the flavour didn’t make up for the consistency flop either, disappointing.

    • Hi Erica,
      I’m sorry the recipe didn’t work out for you. I made this recipe at least 4 times and it always worked really well for me. Placing them in the fridge surely helps them keep their shape better, although you should be able to form the balls nonetheless. Sorry again it was a disappointment.

  • I wish I had read through the comments before making these. I had the same challenges making the balls stick together; I have no idea how you pulled it off. Mine as well were just a bunch of mush. Photography is beautiful.

    • Hi Jacquie,
      I’m sorry to hear you ran into the same issue. I re-tested the recipe again tonight and had no issue forming the balls…they turned out perfect (you can see the result in my IG stories). But I noticed that I had forgotten to mention that the lentils should be completely cooled before using. If you cooked them right before making the meatballs and blended them while they were still hot, it probably explains why the texture wasn’t right. I apologize for this. I just modified the instructions to make sure this is clear. If the mixture is still too soft or wet, adding more sunflower seeds, or a bit of flour or breadcrumbs would help as well.

  • Did them yesterday, followed the updated instructions and it worked. They were delicious! I also decided to bake them in the oven – it worked just fine ! I’ve got to say that the spice mix is unbelievable. Will do them again for sure !