Italian-Style Lentil Meatballs

Hearty, savory, garlicky meatballs just like you grew up eating...but totally meatless! These lentil meatballs are packed with flavor, easy to whip up, totally vegetarian, vegan, and optionally gluten-free!


Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup dried brown lentils (or sub 2 cups precooked or canned)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, divided and minced
  • 1 cup rolled oats (optionally gluten-free)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

Instructions

  1. If using dried lentils, place them into a small saucepan and cover them with water. (If your lentils are canned or precooked, skip to step 5.)
  2. Place the pan over high heat and bring the water to a boil.
  3. Allow the lentils to boil, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until the they're tender but not mushy.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat and drain the water. Give the lentils a quick rinse in cold water.
  5. Lightly coat the bottom of a medium skillet with oil and place it over medium heat.
  6. When the oil is hot, add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, until soft and translucent.
  7. Add 2 cloves of garlic and sauté for about 1 minute more, until very fragrant. Remove the skillet from the heat.
  8. Preheat the oven to 400° and lightly oil a baking sheet or oven-safe skillet.
  9. Place the oats into the bowl of a food processor fitted with an s-blade and blend to a powder.
  10. Add the cooked lentils, cooked onion and garlic, the remaining raw garlic, tomato paste, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, oregano, thyme, basil, red pepper flakes, liquid smoke, salt and pepper to the food processor bowl.
  11. Pulse just a couple of times — much more and the mixture will quickly turn to mush. 
  12. Taste test the mixture and adjust any seasonings to your liking.
  13. Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls (about 24 of them), and arrange them on the baking sheet or in the skillet.
  14. Lightly brush or spray the balls with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  15. Bake for about 24 minutes, until firm and lightly browned, flipping the balls about halfway through.
  16. Serve with your favorite sauce and optionally some pasta.

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