Gloriously Meaty Tempeh Balls

My comfort food is a hot-off-the-pan, melty, gooey, crispy, greasy, grilled cheese sandwich. French fries are pretty good at assuaging my pain too. As are ice-cream (cookie-dough, please), chocolate-chip cookies, and mac’n’cheese. For some people, solace can be found in a heaping plate of Nonna’s spaghetti, smothered in slow-simmered sugo and topped with gloriously meaty meat balls. This recipe is for those people.

One of the most difficult things about adopting a vegan lifestyle is figuring out how to authentically create your favourite foods, the ones that bring you joy, that are always there for you no matter what. No one should have to give up the foods they love. What would be the point of life? I want everyone to be able to enjoy a giant plate of cheesy nachos and stuff their faces with sticky chocolate cake. Being vegan does not mean you will miss out on anything, and it has become my mission to prove that to as many people as I can.

Now, back to these meatballs. We start off with a base of tempeh which is packed full of umami flavours.

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Don’t be afraid of this innocent block of tempeh!

The tempeh gets crumbled into a pot with a little broth, soy sauce, and vegan Worcestershire sauce and is left to simmer to soak up all that juicy goodness.

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While that’s happening, we lightly caramelize some red onions to impart some sweetness to our meatball mixture.

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Then toss into a bowl the tempeh, onions, panko breadcrumbs, along with some spices and the magic binding powers of aquafaba (bean water) and mould into gorgeous little balls.

 

Then they’re baked in the oven for about a half hour, and they come out all perfect and golden brown. Easy peasy!

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Recipe (makes 18-20 meatballs)

  • 250g unflavoured tempeh (about 1 package)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 small red or yellow onion, very finely minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, measured, then finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp aquafaba
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Method

  1. Crumble tempeh into small pieces and place in a pot along with the soy sauce, Worcestershire, 1 tbsp olive oil, and vegetable broth. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes until all liquid is absorbed by the tempeh. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a pan, fry onion and garlic, along with a pinch of salt, in the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Simmer for 8-10 minutes until onion is very soft and sweet and are slightly browned. Add the tomato paste and mix well to combine with the onions and garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently so the tomato paste doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the tempeh crumbles and the onion mixture in a large mixing bowl along with the dried oregano and parsley, salt and pepper, fresh parsley, and aquafaba. Mix to combine. Add the panko breadcrumbs and use your hands to mix thoroughly until everything seems to hold together nicely. If the mixture seems too dry, add more aquafaba. If it seems too wet, add more breadcrumbs.
  4. Form the mixture into 18-20 meatballs (about 2 tbsp per ball) and use your hands to pack them tightly together. Place on the baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes, turning the meatballs occasionally so all sides get some colour. When they look nice and golden brown, remove from the oven.

 

These meatballs are super tasty eaten all on their own, but they’re even better when smothered in homemade marinara sauce. You can stick some toothpicks in them and serve them as an appetizer, or you can pop them in a bun and have a messy meatball sandwich. I chose to eat mine with some spaghetti, just like nature intended.

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