Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs

Vegan Italian Lentil Meatballs

Welcome to Pasta-based! This blog has been a growing idea in our heads for a while now. Since the beginning of our relationship, five years ago, we loved cooking and creating recipes together.

Vegan Plant-based Italian Lentil Meatballs

A couple weeks into our relationship, Matt cooked a homemade Penne alla Vodka dish for Valentine’s Day. Shortly after that, I taught Matt how to make my mom’s sauce and traditional Italian comfort food.

Spending so much time cooking together, I think it’s safe to say that we fell in love in the kitchen.

Easy Vegan Italian Lentil Meatballs

We transitioned to plant-based eating over a year ago. At first, it wasn’t easy because food was such a big part of our relationship. Italian food was also a comforting memory from growing up and eating with family. So we set out on a mission to re-create the recipes we love, but only using plant-based foods.

Easy Plant-based Vegan Italian Lentil Meatballs

I grew up in an Italian-American family, in a neighborhood where there was a pizzeria on every corner. A lot of my cooking has always been focused around Italian cuisine. That’s why this blog will have mostly traditional Italian recipes, all plant-based and keeping taste a top priority.

Vegan Italian Lentil No Eggs No Meat Meatballs

Starting with the most traditional Italian recipe – spaghetti and meatballs. In my house, sauce and meatballs were standard for Sunday family dinners. Before switching to a plant-based diet, I don’t think I’ve gone a week in my life without eating this dish.

Vegan Italian Lentil and Mushroom Meatballs

We put our own spin on Italian meatballs to make them plant-based. This recipe uses lentils for the bulk and mushrooms for the savory flavor. For binding, we used a ground flax + water mixture – which is an awesome substitute for egg.

Easy Quick Vegan Traditional Plant-based Italian Lentil Meatballs

The recipe comes together so easily and is perfect for a traditional Italian plant-based Sunday dinner. Don’t forget to top with vegan parm and red pepper flakes! Buon appetito!

4.86 from 7 votes
Print Friendly Version
Vegan Italian Meatballs
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
45 mins

100% Plant-based Italian Meatballs made with lentils and mushrooms. Option to bake or lightly fry in oil - no animals harmed in the making. 

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 9 golf-ball sized balls
Author: Pasta-based
  • 1 cup cooked brown/green lentils
  • 1 cup yellow onion chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 3/4 cup cremini mushrooms chopped
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs vegan
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley chopped
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax + 2.5 tbsp water)
  • 1/2 tsp salt + pepper (each)
  1. TO BAKE: If baking instead of frying, preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.

  2. To cook dry lentils (skip this step if using canned lentils): Cook 1/2 cup dry lentils on stovetop, using 1 1/2 cups water. Be sure to use a large enough saucepan as the lentils will double or triple in size. Bring to a boil, cover tightly, reduce heat and simmer until they are tender. About 15-20 minutes. Drain if needed and measure out 1 cup cooked lentils for the recipe.

  3. Make a flax egg by mixing together 1 tbsp ground flaxseed and 2.5 tbsp water in a small bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes to thicken. 

  4. Meanwhile, chop yellow onion, garlic and cremini mushrooms. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet on medium heat, add chopped veggies to pan and sauté until soft. About 5 minutes.

  5. Once vegetables are soft and lentils are cooked, add to food processor along with breadcrumbs, fresh parsley, flax egg, and salt + pepper.  Pulse ingredients until combined. Use a spatula to scrape down sides as needed. You'll want the mixture to be well-combined, very mushy and sticky.

  1. If baking, roll each ball between your hands to form golf-ball sized balls. Place evenly spaced on a lightly greased baking sheet. 

  2. Bake in pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes. Rotate each ball and reshape if needed every 10 minutes. (The longer you leave them in the oven, the crispier the outside will become).

  1. If frying, heat 1/4 cup olive oil on medium-heat in a large skillet. Roll the mixture into golf-ball sized balls and add to hot oil - be careful because it can splash. Carefully turn balls as they start to brown on each side. 

  2. As each ball gets browned, place them on a paper-towel lined plate to absorb some excess oil.

Recipe Notes
This recipe is SO perfect to make ahead and freeze! Bake or fry first, then freeze in tupperware for another time. Reheat in oven at 350F until warm (about 15-20 minutes), the outside will be slightly more crispy but this makes me LOVE them even more!

Serve over pasta with tomato sauce.

This recipe makes about 9 golf ball-sized balls.

Nutrition information per ball:
Calories 121     Total Fat 7.9g     Saturated Fat 1.1g    Sodium 28mg    Potassium 18mg     Total Carb 9.8g     Fiber 1.7g    Sugars 2.8g    Protein 3.4g

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  • Keith

    This was my first go at homemade meatballs and they were delicious!!! I do have one question I was hoping you might have some advice for: I made a bulk version of it by following the recipe x6 (that’s how many cups of lentils I made) because I like to make and freeze. While they were super tasty, they were a tad soft after cooked and mixed with sauce. Do you think with me making such a large batch I should have added more flax egg or breadcrumbs? I do want to make it very clear that these are delicious meatballs and it was probably an oversight on my part. I will never buy store bought again. Just hoping you may have some insight on this SMALL dilemma. Thanks for your time. With the success of this recipe, you are def one of my go-to’s now.

    May 31, 2017 at 7:20 pm Reply
    • pasta-based

      Hi Keith,

      That’s great news that you had success multiplying the recipe like that! We haven’t had an issue with them being soft when added to the sauce, but maybe that’s because we eat them all too fast haha! It might be hard to avoid them going soft, since they are only browned on the outside. My only suggestions would be to either cook the lentils a little less so they are a little firmer (but still cooked), or brown them a little longer so the outside is crispier.

      If we experiment with this, I will let you know the result. Let us know if you end up making again and if there was any success 🙂 Take care and thanks for checking us out!

      June 1, 2017 at 4:57 pm Reply
  • Kailey

    Hi there! This looks delicious! I was wondering if these could be made in advance and then frozen? If so, would you freeze them before or after frying?
    I am trying to transition to a plant based diet, and I’m trying to make it as easy as possible 🙂

    June 24, 2017 at 12:25 pm Reply
    • pasta-based

      Hi Kailey – thanks for your kind words!

      Your best bet would probably be to fry them, let them cool and then freeze. You can either fry again, bake them or warm them in pasta sauce when you want to eat 🙂

      June 27, 2017 at 9:21 am Reply
      • Micaela

        I did the recipe for 3 servings & my mix is way too soft. I cannot roll it into a ball. What can I add more of to make it firm?

        June 28, 2017 at 5:20 pm Reply
        • pasta-based

          Hi Micaela!

          If the mixture is too moist, then you’ll want to add more breadcrumbs. Add slowly until the mix seems to be the correct consistency to roll into balls. We haven’t had an issue with this before, so let us know how it turns out! 🙂

          June 28, 2017 at 6:57 pm Reply
  • Alyssa

    Can these be baked? The mix is delicious but frying did not go well for me.

    July 4, 2017 at 6:14 pm Reply
    • pasta-based

      Hi Alyssa,

      Yes, they can be baked! Bake at 375 for 25-35 minutes, flipping halfway through. 25 minutes does the trick, and 35 minutes will be a little crispier. Hope that works out well for you!

      July 6, 2017 at 8:26 pm Reply
  • Alicia

    Hi Steph & Matt,
    I’m located in the Springs and serendipitously found your blog today! Yay! My boyfriend and I saw the new “What The Health!” on Netflix over the 4th and now we, too, are switching (well, he’s still “unsure” if he can do it…) to a plant based diet. I have also begun a wellness blog recently and will def be advocating recipes and the like! First I have to try and make some… 🙂 And we can empathize with your story, food lovers to the core– we first fell in love over our mutual fondness for deserts. I’m from the east coast (Chris is a Colorado native) but so I love that you brought the Italian cuisine out here to Colorado! Thank you for your beautiful blog of helpfulness and inspiration. Wish you both the best!

    July 8, 2017 at 10:53 am Reply
    • pasta-based

      Hi Alicia!

      Thanks for the awesome comment 🙂 !! I’m so happy you’re liking our blog and getting inspired. We watched “What The Health!” recently too – it’s soooo interesting and eye-opening. Italian food is what I know best so it’s fun to play around with ingredients and show that you can eat vegan without sacrificing flavor or giving up on traditional meals. It can be a little tough to begin eating plant-based but it’s really fun once you get used to it. If you have any questions about it, please feel free to reach out! I’d love to check out your blog too, what’s it called?

      – Stephanie

      July 15, 2017 at 6:38 pm Reply
  • Angel

    Wow!!! Super delicious. Fed this to my husband who loves meat and he really enjoyed it.

    July 12, 2017 at 2:53 pm Reply
  • Angel

    Wow!!! Super delicious. Fed this to my husband who loves meat and he really enjoyed it. I baked mines and they were still very moist and a bit crunchy which we enjoyed.

    July 12, 2017 at 2:53 pm Reply
    • pasta-based

      Thanks for the great review, Angel. The baking method has been working out very well for us, too!

      July 12, 2017 at 4:35 pm Reply
  • Crystal

    The taste of these was amazing the only issue I had was when I baked them they flattened all the way out. Would adding more bread crumbs help? Maybe my veggies were to moist. Please help I really love these and will eat them flat if I have to ?

    July 14, 2017 at 5:22 pm Reply
    • pasta-based

      Oh no! That’s really odd, I’ve never had that happen when I made these. Hmmm.. the side that’s down on the baking sheet might turn out a little flatter. I’m really not sure! I’m sorry I can’t help more. I’m happy you like the flavor though! Please let me know if you try it again and if they come out any better.

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        Same thing happened to me…they flattened! Can’t figure out why????

        August 27, 2017 at 3:16 pm Reply
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  • Patsy

    Hello! I was wondering if the mushrooms added anything that effects the texture and are a “must-have” for the recipe? I’m not a big fan but didn’t want to mess up the meatballs if they were a necessity in the consistency or anything like that!

    August 10, 2017 at 8:14 am Reply
    • pasta-based

      Hi Patsy!

      I’ve actually disliked mushrooms my whole life, and have more recently started using them more. I promise that the mushrooms in this recipes do not stand out and meld together perfectly with the other flavors! We haven’t tried making them without the mushrooms, so I’m not exactly sure how it would work without them since it’s quite a bit (3/4 cup). Maybe give it a go with the mushrooms or you could try adding extra of the other veggies to replace the 3/4 cup mushrooms. Hope this helps!

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  • Lorelei Hancock

    Found this recipe on Pinterest and made them today. They were absolutely fabulous! The only problem was we didn’t have any leftovers. Next time I will double the recipe. Thank you!

    August 29, 2017 at 7:35 pm Reply
    • pasta-based

      Hi Lorelei,

      That’s awesome! It makes what we do very fulfilling when we get comments like this. Thank you for trying it and your great feedback – we hope you have a chance to make another recipe on our site sometime 🙂

      September 3, 2017 at 8:27 pm Reply

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