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Vegetarian Italian Meatballs

The Best Vegan Meatball Recipe Ever! (gluten-free, soy-free!)

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5 from 3 reviews

  • Author: Elaine Gordon
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 20 balls 1x
  • Diet: Vegan


The Best Italian Vegan Meatballs Ever are here! They're made with caramelized onions, oats, mushrooms, and walnuts, and delicious spices.


Units Scale
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice (tip: microwave frozen brown rice to keep it easy!)
  • 1 caramelized onion
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 10 ounces shiitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1.5 teaspoons garlic powder (optional)
  • 1.5 teaspoons Italian seasoning (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup raw walnuts
  • 3/4 cup oats (gluten-free if desired)


  1. Prepare brown rice ahead of time.  I like to use frozen brown rice that microwaves in two minutes to keep this recipe quick and easy.  Stovetop or instant pot brown rice also works.
  2. Prepare the caramelized onion in advance since this takes an hour to fully caramelize. 
  3. Add oil, mushrooms, and seasonings to a non-stick, non-toxic skillet and cook over medium heat for 20-25 minutes until the mushrooms have released their juices and softened.  I like to give them time to sear a bit and allow their umami flavors to fully develop.  Set cooked mushrooms aside.
  4. To a 7-cup food processor add walnuts and oats and process for 20 seconds until crumbly.  Add cooked brown rice, caramelized onion and cooked mushrooms.  Add the tomato paste.  Pulse until everything is well combined and no large chunks of anything remain.  Do not over-process the mixture - you don't want it to turn into mush.  A little texture is good.
  5. Use a 1.5 tablespoon retractable cookie scoop and form the mixture into small balls with your hands.  You should have about 20 balls.  Preheat a large non-stick, non-toxic skillet over medium heat and coat the bottom of the pan in olive oil.  Once the oil is hot, place the balls in the skillet.  The balls should not be touching.  Depending on the size of your skillet, you may need to do this in two batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.  Cook the balls about 5 minutes per side until ALL sides are seared, crispy and golden brown.
  6. Serve "meatballs" overtop spaghetti with marinara sauce, fresh basil or parsley and a sprinkle of vegan parmesan cheese if desired!  Store leftover meatballs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.


Be sure to cook your mushrooms for the recommended time or it won't release enough of the juices and your vegan meatballs could end up slightly mushy.  Same goes for the caramelized onions, if they are undercooked they retain more liquid and will make the recipe mushy.  

  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 25
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Stovetop and Food Processor
  • Cuisine: Italian