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At less than $1 per serving, these baked mushroom and red lentil meatballs are surprisingly nutrient-dense, packed with protein, fiber, and flavor but requiring just a few simple, inexpensive pantry staples! Oil-free, dairy-free, optionally gluten-free, and perfect for enjoying with spaghetti, in a sub, and more!
Fiber and Protein-Packed Vegan Lentil Meatballs
If you consume a meat-free diet, ingredients like lentils (check out our lentil guide here) are a must-have pantry item. They’re nutritious, hearty, and super versatile. Better yet, they’re also incredibly inexpensive and can make delicious dishes like Mediterranean lentil salad, curried butternut lentil soup, and these easy mushroom and red lentil meatballs!
These lentil mushroom meatballs are packed with plant-based protein and fiber while oil-free, nut-free, and relatively low-calorie. Alongside red lentils, the recipe includes ‘meaty’ umami-rich mushrooms, breadcrumbs (or oats), and simple, versatile seasonings that you can adapt to your dish. Once baked and added to your dish of choice (we recommend spaghetti and marinara sauce!), these red lentil meatballs will impress vegans and non-vegans alike!
Best of all, these taste even better on day two and freeze and reheat well. We recommend making a double batch, so you always have a simple protein in your freezer when needed! And if you want to experiment with even more nutrient-dense lentil foods, you might enjoy these red lentil and amaranth protein patties, Kichari (spiced lentil and rice) patties, or mega lentil burger patties (we’re obsessed!)
Estimated Cost Per Serving $.45 – .68
This mushroom lentil meatball recipe requires just a handful of inexpensive pantry and kitchen staples, including:
- Red lentils: Cooked red lentils are naturally very tender, which helps bind the vegan meatballs without eggs. If you wanted to substitute them with brown lentils instead, you might find the vegan lentil meatballs come out more crumbly.
- Water: Needed to cook the lentils. For more flavor, you could use low-sodium vegetable stock instead.
- Mushrooms: Use your mushrooms of choice: cremini, white button, chestnut, etc., – all work well for these lentil and mushroom meatballs.
- Kale: We used just 3 stalks of kale with the tough stalk removed. You could use spinach instead, too.
- Onion: We used one small yellow or white onion.
- Garlic: We used garlic cloves. Adjust the amount to taste and use garlic powder in a pinch.
- Dried basil: Adjust the amount to taste. You can use fresh basil if you have some.
- Breadcrumbs: Use regular or gluten-free breadcrumbs. Alternatively, you could use oats/oat flour. Crushed nuts can also help thicken the mixture, though they won’t be as absorbent (like walnuts).
- Salt & Pepper: Season to taste. You could use soy sauce (tamari for gluten-free) instead of salt for more umami flavor. Add it to the sauteing mushrooms and allow it to absorb completely.
Optional Add-ins and Recipe Variations:
These easy lentil meatballs are incredibly versatile and can easily be adapted to different dishes by tweaking the seasonings and add-ins. Here are just a few recommendations.
- For spice: Add a pinch of red pepper flakes or chili/cayenne paper.
- Fresh herbs: Instead of kale, you could use fresh parsley leaves.
- More dried herbs: There are tons of ways to experiment with herbs to adjust the flavor of these mushroom lentil meatballs. Options include dried oregano, thyme, cumin, Italian seasoning, etc. Wanting to keep your herbs fresh longer? Check out this guide!
- Nutritional yeast: For additional umami and ‘cheesy’ flavor, you can add a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast (or vegan parmesan cheese) to the lentil mushroom meatballs.
- Tomato paste: Add a tablespoon of tomato paste to the mushrooms while cooking them for extra depth of flavor and umami.
- Mediterranean: Use fresh basil, tomato puree (2 tbsp), and possibly 1-2 tbsp of finely chopped olives for simple Mediterranean lentil meatballs.
- Indian: Use parsley, curry powder, and a pinch of cumin for Indian-style vegan lentil balls.
- Liquid smoke: Add a splash of liquid smoke for a more ‘meaty’, grilled flavor. Add to the mushrooms and allow it to cool off.
- BBQ: For BBQ lentil meatballs, add a small amount of liquid smoke and BBQ sauce to the mushrooms when cooking. After baking the vegan meatballs, add them along with some BBQ sauce to a skillet over low heat and cook for 1-2 minutes until they’re coated in the sauce.
How to Make Easy Mushroom Lentil Meatballs?
1) First, sort through (to remove any debris) and rinse the red lentils. Then, in a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat.
2) Once boiling, add the lentils and a lid and reduce the heat to low. Simmer the lentils for 15-20 minutes, or until the water has absorbed and the lentils are tender. Then, remove them from the heat and allow to cool.
3) Meanwhile, finely chop the mushrooms (using a knife or a food processor) and heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Don’t wash the mushrooms first. Instead, use a lightly damp paper towel to rub away any dirt if they need cleaning.
4) Once hot, add the chopped mushrooms and cook them, stirring often, until they release their excess liquid. Then, remove from the heat and allow to cool. For extra flavor, allow the mushrooms to cook until they are lightly browned.
5) Once cooled, add the lentils, mushrooms, kale (ribs removed), onion (roughly chopped), and garlic cloves (peeled) to a food processor. Pulse on low until the items are mixed into a single, slightly textured consistency.
6) Then, slowly add in breadcrumbs, pulsing in between, until it’s just thick enough to form the lentil meatballs. Then transfer the mixture to the refrigerator for 10 minutes to chill (either in the food processor jug or in a separate bowl).
7) While chilling, preheat the oven to 425F/220C. Then, once chilled, remove the lentil mixture from the refrigerator and divide and shape it into the red lentil meatballs (make them between 1-2 inches based on your size preference) by hand. As you form the lentil balls, transfer them to a parchment paper (or silicone mat) lined baking sheet.
8) Bake the lentil mushroom meatballs for 10 minutes, then flip and cook for a further 5 minutes, until lightly browned and ‘dry’ looking on the outside. You may need to adjust the cooking time slightly based on the size of your meatballs.
What to Serve with Lentil Meatballs?
- Marinara sauce and spaghetti or other pasta. Here are 20 Easy Vegan Pasta Dishes that you can add them to! For a lower-carb option, use zucchini noodles.
- Serve with a marinara or BBQ dipping sauce as an appetizer.
- To top creamy mashed potato (or cauliflower mash) and gravy.
- Make a vegan meatball sub or add to wraps.
- Flatten a little and use in mini sliders.
- Add to a calzone.
- Use to top a soup (just before serving).
- Cut in half and use as a pizza topping.
- Add to salads—even a taco salad would work.
How to Store?
If you want to meal prep these lentil mushroom meatballs, you can freeze them fully baked (keep reading below) OR prepare the mixture into a bowl and freeze like that. When ready to continue, allow the mixture to thaw, then shape and bake them.
Once baked, you can store the leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5 days. Alternatively, they can be frozen for up to 2 months. Allow them to thaw in the refrigerator before reheating or reheat in the oven straight from frozen.
To reheat the vegan lentil balls, you can use the oven (just until warmed through, around 15-20 minutes) or a microwave. You could also warm them up in sauce on the stovetop for a few minutes.
Can I fix crumbly lentil meatballs?
These vegan meatballs are egg-free and naturally more crumbly than regular meatballs (especially when fresh from the oven). If you want to reduce the crumbliness, you could use a flax/ chia egg to work as a binder in the lentil mushroom mixture. Learn more about binders here!
Could I pan-fry the meatballs?
Though we haven’t tried, I can’t see why not. To make it easier, I recommend slightly flattening each meatball (more into a ‘puck’ shape). Use a non-stick pan and be careful when flipping them.
Can I make these into mushroom lentil patties?
I don’t see why not. Adapt the baking time, though, as large burger patties will probably need 20-25 minutes.
What are the best mushrooms to use?
Honestly, you can use almost any mushroom for this recipe. Shiitake and King Oyster mushrooms are particularly savory/’meaty’. However, we usually just use the most inexpensive option at the grocery store (usually white/brown mushrooms), and they work fantastically!
Do I have to use a food processor?
It makes things easier, however, you could try to make a version by finely mincing the various ingredients by hand and then using a wooden spoon/potato masher to gently mash and mix it.
Top Recipe Tips and Notes
- Raw vs. cooked aromatics: It can increase the depth of flavor to lightly sauté the chopped onion and garlic (until lightly browned) before adding it to the lentil-mushroom mixture.
- Don’t over-process the mixture: These lentil mushroom meatballs are best when they still have a bit of texture rather than completely pureed. The latter will be hard to form into balls and have a very different texture/ mouthfeel.
- For crispier meatballs: Lightly spray the meatballs with some cooking spray or oil to encourage browning and a crisp exterior.
- If the mixture is too wet: You can add slightly more breadcrumbs (or oats). We recommend waiting until after the refrigerator chilling time, though, as this will give them a chance to soak up the excess liquid.
- Drain the lentils if needed: If you find excess liquid in the pan once the lentils are cooked, drain it well to prevent mushy meatballs.
- Wet your hands before rolling: This can help to prevent the red lentil-mushroom mixture from sticking to them.
More Vegan Lentil Recipes
- Root vegetable lentil stew
- Rainbow veggie lentil fried rice
- Yellow lentil hummus
- Potato lentil turmeric soup
- Lentil and walnut bolognese
- Hearty red lentil and vegetable stew
Photos by Alfonso Revilla
Easy Mushroom Red Lentil Meatballs
- 1 cup of red lentils rinsed
- 2 cups of water
- 2 cups of chopped mushrooms
- 3 stalks of kale
- ½ of a small onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 teaspoon of dried basil
- 1 cup of bread crumbs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a saucepan with a lid over medium-high heat, bring water to a boil.
- Once water is boiling, add the lentils, bring heat to low, and cover with a lid. Cook lentils for 15 to 20 minutes, or until water is absorbed and lentils are soft.
- Remove the lentils from heat and let cool.
- In a nonstick pan over medium-high heat, add chopped mushrooms and cook until mushrooms lose their juices. Let mushrooms cool.
- Add kale, onion, garlic, mushrooms, and lentils to a food processor. Pulse on low until all items are mixed through.
- Transfer the lentil mixture to a bowl and add the dried basil and then add the bread crumbs slowly. You only need enough to get the mixture sticky enough to form balls.
- Place mixture in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
- While the mixture is cooling, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Remove mixture from refrigerator and form the vegan meatballs. You want them to be about 1 to 2 inches.
Disclaimer: Although plantbasedonabudget.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Plantbasedonabudget.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.