A Plant-Based Meatball Recipe With Heart-Healthy Benefits, From An RD

Registered Dietitian By Adrienne Ngai, R.D., MSc, CDE
Registered Dietitian
Adrienne Ngai, R.D., MSc, CDE, is a board-certified Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, and a healthy weight loss and mindset coach.
Tagliatelle With Meatballs with Freshly Grated Parmesan

Spaghetti and meatballs are a tried-and-true combination, but unfortunately, red meat is not always the most heart-healthy option. Research has even suggested that swapping in plant-based proteins for red meat may lower heart disease risk by 14%. So whether you're participating in vegan January, meatless Mondays, or simply looking to try new recipes, these heart-healthy, plant-based meatballs are a good place to start.

Nutritional benefits.

These vegan meatballs are packed with fiber, protein, and whole grains to keep you feeling satiated all night long. Each meatball contains 80 calories and provides 5.5 grams of protein and 1.6 grams of fiber. Add them to pasta and marinara, or enjoy them with a hearty salad for a wholesome, balanced, meatless meal. 

Oats (a major ingredient in this recipe) contain beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber, with cholesterol-lowering properties. When compared to refined grains, whole grains have been shown to lower cholesterol and support heart health. Fiber also supports a healthy gut microbiome and helps you feel fuller longer.

The tofu adds a healthy source of plant-based protein and naturally contains isoflavones, which have been shown to lower total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol.

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Plant-Based Meatball Recipe

Makes 16 1-inch meatballs

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. extra-firm tofu 
  • 7 oz. white mushrooms 
  • 1 medium onion
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1½ cup gluten-free quick or instant oats
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚F.
  2. Place paper towels under and on top of the tofu. Place a cutting board on top of the tofu and a heavy object to squeeze the moisture from the tofu. Let the tofu sit for 30 minutes.
  3. While tofu is being pressed. Add mushrooms, onions, and garlic to a food processor to puree. 
  4. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the pureed mushrooms, onions, and garlic and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until excess liquid is removed.
  5. Crumble pressed tofu (by hand) into a large bowl. The texture should resemble feta cheese.
  6. Combine cooked veggies, crumbled tofu, oats, nutritional yeast, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper; stir and mix well. Use hands to roll into 1-inch balls. 
  7. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Add to your favorite recipes that use meatballs!

Bottom line.

These heart-healthy meatballs are rich in vegetables, plant-based protein, and whole grains. The recipe makes 16 meatballs at a time, and they're a simple yet delicious meal-prep option. Trust me; you won't even miss the meat.

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