These Italian flavored black bean meatballs are a delicious and hearty plant based alternative to traditional meatballs. Serve with your favorite marinara sauce over pasta or zoodles for a comforting healthful meal.
Let’s get one thing out of the way. Yes, I’m calling this recipe black bean “meatballs” yet, there is no meat in sight. It was better than the alternative of “bean balls”.
Because, while I’m quite the fan of the word “balls” when it comes to snacks (aka No Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Balls and Nutella Cookie Dough Balls to name just a few), when it’s in reference to a savory dish, there’s really just nothing that sounds acceptable besides “meatball”.
So yeah, these are vegan plant-based meatballs made with black beans and we’re just gonna roll with it. I don’t need anyone being all “you can’t call these meatballs if they’re made with black beans”. I do what I want over here. Mmmk?
With everyone hunkering down inside their houses these days, two things seem to be happening (or are for me at least):
- Comfort food cravings are majorly up.
- Needing to make pantry substitutions and work with “less” when it comes to ingredients.
The good news is these black bean based meatballs do both those things.
Using canned black beans (which I know you all have right now because the bean shelf is continually empty at the grocery store!) and a pantry staple like rolled oats, these gluten-free vegetarian meatballs come together pretty easily in your food processor.
HOW TO MAKE BLACK BEAN MEATBALLS
The food processor does all the heavy lifting in this recipe using the following ingredients:
- black beans
- bell pepper
- parsley (can use dried or omit if you don’t have fresh)
- oats (instead of breadcrumbs, it’s my go to for meatloaf recipes and meatballs!)
- salt and pepper
- flax egg
The trick is to use the food processor to pulse the mixture until it just comes together enough to stick and hold a meatball shape but not too much that it becomes mushy.
Once combined, chill the “meatball” mix in the fridge for about an hour. This makes it much easier to scoop into balls before baking.
Once chilled, I use a medium cookie scoop to get the perfect amount of mixture and then form it into balls with wet hands (this is key). Place the black bean balls on a baking sheet lined with either parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes at 375°F, flipping them carefully half way through.
HOW TO SERVE THE “MEATBALLS”
There are plenty of ways to enjoy these bean based meatballs. You can go the traditional route and serve over any pasta (best comfort food option!).
If you do this, I suggest warming up your favorite marinara sauce (or make this quick 20 minute stove top tomato sauce) in a skillet and placing the baked meatballs in the skillet while gently tossing with the sauce. Spoon over cooked pasta and garnish with fresh basil or parsley if you have it.
You can also serve them over rice, cauliflower rice or zoodles. Any spiralized vegetable would also be great. They’re a delicious addition to a nice big salad too!
These black bean meatballs are both gluten-free and vegan as the recipe is written.
If you don’t need to be gluten-free and want to use breadcrumbs, go for it. You can do so in a 1:1 substitution for the oats. If you are gluten-free and prefer to use gluten-free breadcrumbs in place of oats, that’s also fine.
If you’re not worried about keeping the meatballs vegan, feel free to use a regular egg instead of a flax egg.
Want to add some spice to these? Try adding some red pepper flakes or sriracha to the ingredients.
The good thing about “meatballs” is they’re pretty adaptable and flexible. The black beans can be mushier than traditional ground beef so the one thing to watch out for is over-processing them in the food processor.
I know people (myself included) put black beans in all sorts of things they’re not “supposed to” be in these days (like Vegan Black Bean Brownies and Peanut Butter Stuffed Black Bean Cookies) and there seem to be two types of people in regards to that:
- the ones that are totally down with trying it and love healthier swaps
- the ones that are all “get the eff out of here with your beans in my cookie”
While obviously I’m the former type of person, I will say I “get it” with those in the latter group.
But, even if you’re not so into the black bean thing in sweets, please please please reconsider when it comes to savory swaps like these black bean meatballs.
They’re a delicious plant based meatball with all the Italian flavors of your favorite Italian comfort food dish.
And, there’s no pan-frying mess with this recipe unlike most meat based meatball recipes. Yay for less stove-top splatter, right?!
Want more recipes like this one?
Italian Black Bean Meatballs
- 1 flax egg, 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 2 tablespoons warm water
- 1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 small carrot, chopped
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- salt and pepper to taste
- Make the flax egg by combining the flaxseed and water in a small bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to thicken.
- Add the remaining ingredients to a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped and combined.
- Add the flax egg and continue pulsing until well combined and able to stick together but not mushy.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
- Preheat oven 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
- Use a medium cookie scoop to scoop meatball mixture into wet hands and gently roll into a ball. Place on baking sheet and continue with remaining mixture.
- Bake for 10 minutes then use a metal spatula to carefully flip each meatball and bake for another 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving. You can simmer in your favorite marinara sauce in a skillet on the stove top for a minutes as well and then serve over pasta, zoodles, cauliflower rice or any other way you desire.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.