Quinoa Meatballs | Vegetarian “Meatball” Recipe

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Do you love to cook with quinoa? Maybe you want to learn how to cook it, or a few different ways to enjoy it? If you’re looking for a substitute for meat on a Meatless Monday or as part of your new plant-based meal, quinoa is the way to go. You don’t have to sacrifice your favorite meals to eat a healthier diet! Making these Quinoa Meatballs is the way to go.

Learning to cook with quinoa is simple, and the grain is packed full of plant-based protein (making it a great alternative to meat). These Quinoa Meatballs are just as hearty as a traditional beef meatball, but they’re much lower in saturated fat. Quinoa meatballs are even a great substitute for turkey and chicken meatballs because you’ll consume a serving of whole grains as well as a protein!

Turn This Quinoa Meatball Recipe Into a Vegan Meal

If you’re following a plant-based diet, you know you can’t have cheese or eggs. We have a quick-and-easy tip for turning these Quinoa Meatballs into an entirely vegan recipe. Instead of using the eggs, mix together 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds with 3 tablespoons of water. Let the mixture sit for a minute before mixing it in with the remaining ingredients.

The purpose of the egg is to bind together the quinoa, lentils, and other ingredients. Flax works perfectly as a binder because it expands into a gel-like substance when combined with water. It’s similar to the way that chia seeds swell, except flax doesn’t have that chewy texture you’ll notice from chia seeds. Plus, there are all kinds of benefits from consuming more flax.

As for the cheese, it’s mostly there as a flavoring ingredient, so feel free to skip it if you’re going dairy-free or vegan. The recipe is delicious as-is, but we always like to help you with easy substitutions to make our recipes fit your diet and wellness plan. Let us know in the comments if you’d had any success with changes and replacements. We always love hearing what you think of our recipes!

Check out our step-by-step video!

Quinoa "Meatballs" | Vegetarian Meatball Recipe

Quinoa "Meatballs" | Vegetarian Meatball Recipe

Yields: 6 | Serving size: 2 meatballs | Calories: 291 | Total Fat: 10 g | Saturated Fats: 2 g | Trans Fats: 0 g | Cholesterol: 3 mg | Sodium: 309 mg | Carbohydrates: 39 g | Dietary fiber: 6 g | Sugars: 2 g | Protein: 13 g | SmartPoints (Freestyle): 5 |


  • ½ cup dry quinoa, pre-rinsed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup cooked green lentils, well drained
  • ¼ cup diced red bell pepper
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup gluten free bread crumbs or whole wheat panko bread crumbs (add additional bread crumbs if the meatballs need to be firmer and aren't holding together well)
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped flat parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Sea salt to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 egg white (for vegan add 2-3 teaspoons water)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil


  1. Add pre-rinsed quinoa and water to a medium pot, cover, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking 15 minutes or until water is completely absorbed. In the meantime, in a large non-stick skillet add 1 tablespoon olive oil, heat to medium-low and sauté diced onions and bell pepper until tender about 4 minutes, add garlic, parsley and oregano and sauté one additional minute.
  2. Remove quinoa from heat and allow to rest 10 minutes. Press down on quinoa with a paper towel to remove any remaining water.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine sautéed onion, garlic, parsley and oregano along with remaining ingredients, except oil. Use either a potato masher or fork and mash the ingredients until the lentils are well mashed. Using your hands, shape into 1 ½ “ (meatless) meatballs, place in a large bowl, cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.
  4. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to a large non-stick skillet, heat to medium-low and add quinoa (meatless) meatballs. Brown meatballs, turn over and brown on the other side. Cook until browned and heated through, about 16 minutes. Remove from skillet and drain on a paper towel.
  5. If you plan to serve these (meatless) meatballs with marinara, add to the marinara sauce, gently turn to coat. Simmer until hot and serve over pasta.
  6. These are a perfect food to eat prior to working out as they provide complex carbohydrates for energy and protein for building muscles. When on hand, I’ll have a few before a workout.
  7. TIP: For a vegan version, use vegan egg replacer or 1 tbsp of flaxmeal mixed with 3 tbsp water rather than the 2-3 teaspoons straight water.
    Here's a tip from Joey, one of our readers:
  1. "Istead of browning the meatballs in a skillet, I brushed them with olive oil and broiled them for about 15 minutes (flip meatballs after 7 minutes). Result is evenly browned meatballs."

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33 Comments on "Quinoa Meatballs | Vegetarian “Meatball” Recipe"

  1. Kim Cashin  June 15, 2012

    These look yummy! I'm going to make them soon!

  2. Dyeager  June 25, 2012

    having a hard time getting the meatballs formed, they keep falling apart.  Any tricks or suggestions for this???

    • Elizabeth  July 29, 2013

      Xanthan gum, potato FLOUR, hydrated flaxseed meal, guar gum, these all help in binding gluten free together, the potato flour especially. =) Hope this helps.

  3. Jeannett Alcá  August 12, 2012

    This is my favorite!!! Yummm 🙂

  4. Vanessa H  August 12, 2012

    Just had leftover of these that I put in the freezer. Came in handy for a quick dinner 🙂

  5. Jeannett Alcántara  August 12, 2012

    This is my favorite!!! Yummm 🙂

  6. Heather Love  August 22, 2012

    Since the egg white acts as a binding agent, I'd suggest a vegan egg replacer or 1 tbsp of flaxmeal mixed with 3tbsp water to replace it, instead of just straight water, if you need to go vegan. I've made them both ways (with the egg white and with flax) and they're really good!

    • Skinny Ms.  August 23, 2012

      Heather, Great tip!! I'll add this info to the recipe. Any other vegan tips are appreciated. Thanks. 😀

  7. Lyndsay  October 20, 2012

    Mine are also falling apart as I'm cooking them. Can anyone please give advice on how to avoid this??

    • Skinny Ms.  October 21, 2012

      Lyndsay, Try adding more bread crumbs.

  8. Tracee  May 8, 2013

    how many meatballs does this make?

    • Skinny Ms.  May 10, 2013

      Tracee, 8 Meatballs!

      • Tracee  May 11, 2013

        Thank you. Made them and they are absolutely delicious!

  9. Richard Jones  June 5, 2013

    Take a look at this!

  10. Kristi  July 26, 2013

    I just made these! It was hard to keep my hands out of them they are great!! I didn't make the dough into balls, I spread it out on lasagna. I have one other recipe for meatballs but it is overnite. I don't have that much time today. This recipe was super easy and it used things that I commonly have.

  11. Milan  September 29, 2014

    I am going to try baking these to save on the fat content instead of frying. Just spray with a little olive oil and bake turning once during cooking. These sound great. I am also thinking of all the other flavors of meatballs to make. Mexican, Asian, Greek etc. Oh the possibilities.

    • Grace  April 3, 2016

      how long did you bake them for?

      • Gale Compton  April 4, 2016

        Grace, These are cooked in a skillet. If you prefer to bake, place the meatballs on parchment paper, bake in a 350 degree oven.
        Turn after 10 minutes and cooked another 10 minutes.:)

  12. patty  October 25, 2014

    i used 2 eggs, tons of garlic and romano cheese, not parm cuz parm is not strong..absolutely delicious. mine stayed together very nicely!

  13. patty  October 25, 2014

    I baked them too..Made a batch yesterday. spray your pan and top of meatballs and cook till brown

  14. Cindy  January 7, 2015

    Can rolled oats be used in place of the bread crumbs?

    • SkinnyMs  January 8, 2015

      Cindy, That should work, yes.

  15. partiesiheart  January 11, 2015

    Oh my gosh, made these tonight. I forgot to refrigerate for 2 hours and forgot to mash them but they were still insanely delicious! I only made a few tonight because I was running short on time, going to make the rest of the mixture the right way (refrigerating and mashing) and try making them. Big hit in my house, my husband loved them too. Thank you for sharing!

  16. Ellen  February 12, 2015

    Made these tonight after reading all of the enthusiastic comments. Have to say I was very disappointed. I've been a vegetarian for years and have had many fake meatballs, both homemade and store bought. These were so bland, even using them to make meatball parm sandwiches (i.e. covering them in flavorful sauce) only made them ok. They consistency was good, so that's a plus. I'm glad I only cooked half the batch and froze the rest – hopefully I can salvage what's left.

  17. Kathleen  June 26, 2016

    Just a minor critique – Parmesan cheese is make with animal (usually calf) rennet and is not vegetarian. There are some Parmesan-like hard cheeses that are made with vegetarian rennet. The recipe works fine without it.

    A good substitute for the eggs is 1 tablespoon of chia seeds or ground golden flax seeds/flax meal mixed 1 tablespoon of water.

  18. Joey  December 21, 2016

    Best vegetarian meatball recipe have encountered so far. A couple tips: I substituted the Parsley with Cilantro for added flavor. Also instead of browning the meatballs in a skillet I brushed them with olive oil and broiled them for about 15 minutes (flip meatballs after 7 minutes). Result is evenly browned meatballs.

    • Gale Compton  December 22, 2016

      Hey Joey, I tried your suggestion last night and they turned out “AMAZING”. I’ve added your tip to the recipe. Love the tips…keep them coming! 🙂

  19. Julie  March 30, 2018

    I am really excited to try this recipe after reading all the lovely comments! ???

  20. Michelle  January 11, 2020

    Any alternatives to parmesan for flavour to make these vegan?

  21. Melissa  March 2, 2020

    Add these tonight! The whole family loved it! I used a vegan Parm recipe, otherwise followed the directions. We are new to plant based/vegan living. These were a pleasant surprise! Thank you!

    • Gale Compton  March 4, 2020

      Melissa, Thank you so much! I’m thrilled your family enjoyed the meatballs. 🙂


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