30 Minute Vegetarian Meatballs

Here they are! The meatballs of the hour that are, in fact, not meatballs.

Because they are VEGETARIAN MEATBALLS!

Made without beans (!!) and without nuts (!!) but featuring cauliflower and brown rice and quinoa.

I know, right? Sneak-ayyy.

As much as I love a good MEAT-ball meatball from time to time, today we’re talking about these little vegetarian meatball nuggets of powerhouse nutrition that are inspired from the (here comes the weird zone) spicy cauliflower burgers.

They’re made with cauliflower, brown rice, quinoa, panko, eggs, and a nice big pinch of garlic and spices. And they don’t require hours of prep. That’s it! It’s just simple, straightforward, SUPER YUM plant-based goodness in the form of vegetarian meatballs made weeknight-dinner-friendly, because real food that matches real life is where it’s at.

And don’t we know it, guys? DON’T WE KNOW IT.

Ingredients for 30-minute cauliflower vegetarian meatballs.

We’re Working with Easy Ingredients Today

Here is your wonderfully do-able ingredient list:

  • panko breadcrumbs
  • brown rice
  • eggs
  • cauliflower florets OR just a bag of frozen cauliflower rice
  • spices

Tadah!

Cauliflower vegetarian meatballs on a sheet pan being scooped up with a spatula.
Meatless meatballs in a pan with sauce with wooden spoon.

Why I Absolutely Love These Vegetarian Meatballs

There are a few things that I think we can all approve of with these vegetarian meatballs:

  • INGREDIENTS: Basic, whole, wonderful –> Cauliflower // Brown Rice // Quinoa // Garlic // Spices // Eggs // Panko. Also – no beans. Which is kind of nice, right? since a lot of vegetarian meatballs are bean-heavy. All hail the versatility of cauliflower!
  • TIMING: 30 minutes. The cauliflower is not high maintenance here. Just a quick simmer in some hot water to soften it up, and then as a bonus on being speedy, you can use those amazingly convenient garlic brown rice/quinoa packages from Seeds of Change that you buy en masse at Costco – you know the ones, right? – and then your cauli and your rice and everything else gets pulsed around in our favorite appliance of all time THE FOOD PROCESSOR in order to make the mixture. If you can enlist the help of a few vegetarian meatball rollers (this is why people have children, right?), you will have vegetarian meatball dinner on the table AND vegetarian meatball stockpile built-up in your fridge in no time.
  • ADAPTABILITY: Cook once, eat many times. This recipe makes a million and a half meatless meatballs which means that you can use them with many different sauces in many different recipes for years to come. Er, no. Not years. But seriously – you will have a TON of meatballs with this recipe, so start brainstorming serving and/or sauce ideas (and please let the record state that I strongly recommend LIFE CHANGING MASALA SAUCE).
Close-up of cauliflower vegetarian meatballs.
Cauliflower vegetarian meatballs stacked in a container.

When I brought these to my sister after she had a baby, she declared them to be perfect finger food for her two-year-old since he loves things he can hold and dip and nibble on at his own slow-eating pace.

UM WHAT. How cute is the visual of your favorite two-year-old dipping a veggie meatball made with cauliflower and quinoa and brown rice into ketchup, marinara, or ranch (not above it) or – for the foodie toddlers out there – a little spicy masala sauce?

It’s like a chicken nugget meets veggie burger in kid-friendly size and adult-friendly tastes.

White hand holding a plate with cauliflower vegetarian meatballs, white rice, and fresh herbs sprinkled on top. There is a fork on the plate with greens.

I cannot get enough of these vegetarian meatballs with a few gallons of the life-changing 30 minute masala sauce, but you will be happy doing just about anything with these. They are begging for some creative serving combinations and a good drench in a delicious sauce, and as we know, sauce is life.

Go get em, dinner-makers!

30-Minute Vegetarian Meatballs: FAQs

The meatballs aren’t forming well for me. The mixture seems too wet. What should I do?

If the mixture doesn’t stick together in a ball when gently pressed, add about 1/3 of the mixture back into the food processor and pulse until it’s more the consistency of hummus. That should help it hold together. If that still isn’t enough, just add a little more of your “dry ingredient” till you get a consistency that you can gently roll between your hands to form ball shapes.

Can these be frozen for later?

Absolutely! These make for a great freezer meal! Just prepare the recipe as-is, freeze the meatballs in a freezer-safe bag or container, and rewarm them in the oven or in the microwave.

What kind of pre-cooked brown rice/quinoa mix do you use?

I used Seeds of Change pre-cooked garlic brown rice and quinoa for this recipe (1 packet = about 1.5 cups). Since this has garlic flavor already in the mix, if you are using your own pre-cooked quinoa and/or brown rice, make sure to add some minced garlic or garlic powder.

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30 Minute Vegetarian Meatballs


  • Author: Pinch of Yum
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 50+ meatballs (so, like, 10 or more servings) 1x

Description

These vegetarian meatballs are incredibly easy and super versatile! Packed with cauliflower, quinoa, brown rice, garlic, and spices. Stockpile these in your freezer and your future self will thank you. 


Ingredients

Units Scale

  • a 1012 oz bag of cauliflower rice or 3 cups cauliflower florets
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa and/or brown rice (I use one 8.5-ounce package of a pre-cooked blend – see FAQs)
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 12 teaspoons spices to taste (chili powder, paprika, and/or cumin will work)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • olive oil to brush over the top


Instructions

  1. Cauliflower and Rice: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Steam the cauliflower rice according to package directions in the microwave. Do the same for the rice so it’s warm and soft. (If using cauliflower florets, boil until tender and drain.)
  2. Mix: Pulse the cauliflower and quinoa through a food processor until semi-smooth (see pictures for texture). Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and combine with all other ingredients. Stir until everything is incorporated. Roll into small balls (about one heaping tablespoon per ball was best for me).
  3. Cook: Brush generously with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes. Serve with yummy sauces, salads, bowls, or freeze for later!

  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: vegetarian meatballs, cauliflower meatballs, meatless meatballs

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This recipe was updated based on reader feedback on 8/19/21. The previous version had 3/4 cup oat flour, 3 cups brown rice, and 4 eggs.


One More Thing!

This recipe is part of our magical cauliflower recipes page. Check it out!

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