• They look like meatballs, don’t they? They are. But they’re made from a most surprising blend of ingredients, none of which includes meat.

    This recipe was a labor of love. With a big dose of luck, really.

    It snowed here in New England today. Second time in less than a week. The usual drill. Everything got cancelled. And both of us felt housebound. All my good intentions to go to the gym flew out the window, along with my hair appointment (which I REALLY needed!).

    What do you need on a day like this? Comfort food. And in our world that means spaghetti and meatballs. Only I wanted to come up with an alternative that didn’t include meat.

    Looking through my files, I found a recipe I’d printed from a new blog that I really like alot – it’s called the Gluten Free Vegan Family blog. The recipe was for Vegan “meatballs” & Roasted Garlic Gravy. I really loved the sound of the meatballs part of the recipe (the gravy sounded good too, but I’d already decided on tomato sauce). So, I got to work.

    But I did exactly what I’ve told both of my daughters (budding cooks) never to do. Talk while you’re measuring. I ended up measuring twice as many lentils as the recipe called for but didn’t realize it until I’d already put them into the pressure cooker and gotten them up to full pressure.


    I also deviated from the original recipe in that I decided to cook the brown rice and lentils (two major ingredients in the recipe) in my pressure cooker rather than in a stockpot. Instead of taking 45 minutes to cook, it took 15 minutes.

    When the rice and lentils finished cooking and I opened the pressure cooker, I tried following the recipe directions, but I think because I screwed up on the amount of the lentils, it just didn’t look like it was going to cooperate. That’s when I decided to make some significant changes to the recipe. The result: a mistake turned into something wonderful! Don’t you love when that happens??!!

    So, I owe great, big thank you to Gluten Free Vegan Family! Because of her recipe, my family now has what I’m sure will be a staple in our rotation of dinner choices. With deference to the original recipe, I am including my variation on a theme.

    Gluten Free “Meatballs”
    serves 4

    1 lb. brown lentils, washed and picked over
    1 cup long grain brown rice
    1 tbsp olive oil
    1 tsp salt
    1 cup gluten free breadcrumbs (I used Gillian’s, but any GF breadcrumbs will do)
    1/2 cup finely diced onion
    5 oz. extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
    1/4 cup nutritional yeast
    2 cloves minced garlic
    handful of parsley, chopped
    1 tsp garlic powder
    1 tsp onion powder
    1/2 tsp paprika (I used smoked, but regular will be fine)
    1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)

    Cook the lentils and brown rice together, either in a stockpot (about 45 minutes) or a pressure cooker (with about 6 cups of water – bring to high pressure, then reduce heat but maintain pressure for 15 minutes). In either case, add 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp salt. If using pressure cooker, after 15 minutes, do a quick release by running cold water over the unit until the final hissing sound is heard.

    When the lentils and brown rice have finished cooking, drain any excess water by pouring the mixture into a colander. Save the liquid just in case you need it to moisten the “meatballs”.

    Pour about half the lentil/brown rice mixture into a food processor and blend into a paste. Pour back into the remaining lentil/brown rice. Put the breadcrumbs, onion, tofu, nutritional yeast, garlic, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika into the food processor and mix until blended. Add this mixture to the lentil/rice mixture, along with the crushed red pepper. Using either your hand or a large spoon, blend everything together. Use some of the leftover cooking liquid from the lentil/brown rice mixture, if needed, to hold the “meatballs” together.

    Although I didn’t have a problem, you might find it necessary at this point to chill the mixture, as it will make the process of forming the “meatballs” easier.

    Use either your hands or a small ice cream scoop (size will dictate size of your “meatballs”) to measure the “meatballs”. Scoop each “meatball” into your hands and roll until “meatball” shaped. If you find the mixture sticky, either wet your hands (or the ice cream scoop) or spray them with vegetable spray.

    Saute the “meatballs” in olive oil or bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 – 30 minutes (or until crisp). If you saute them on the stove, you will want to rotate them in order to get as much of the surface of each “meatballs” nice and browned.

    Serve over spaghetti (or pasta shape of choice) and tomato sauce. If you’re lucky, not only will you saute up some mushrooms to add to the sauce but you’ll also have a loaf of toasty gluten free garlic bread!

    Click here for printable recipe

    Spaghetti and “meatballs”. The day wasn’t so bad after all:).
    • Fayinagirl (means Free One)

      Your version looks great! Now you have me wanting a pressure cooker. ;-) Thanks for the nice mention – we'd rather be inspirational than have people follow recipes exactly anyway. =) Cooking is all about freedom to create.

    • I Am Gluten Free

      And yes, Fayinagirl, you definitely gave me the inspiration to create. I can't thank you enough. Honestly, Peter was completely wild about what I made for dinner tonight. His main go-to meal has always been spaghetti and meatballs, but since we don't eat meat (at least not in the house), I needed to find a replacement. This definitely does the trick!

    • Anne WithanE

      I've been using Mark Bittman's bean burger recipes for making meatballs and burgers. My husband is vegetarian and I'm gf. Yours looks interesting but a bit more involved than I'm used to. I really enjoy reading your blog.

    • GF Gidget

      OMG thank you so much for posting this! I don't have a pressure cooker, but I am definitely going to try this!

    • Tasty Eats At Home

      Ooh I love this idea! Second recipe in 2 days I've seen with brown lentils – maybe the lentil gods are telling me something! And thanks for sharing the Gluten-Free Vegan Family Blog – sounds like another great blog I need to read.

    • Tina

      I recently completed a thirty-day challenge with some friends that involved eating a vegetarian diet. I was SHOCKED to find out how much I didn't miss meat. The challenge ended several months ago and I'm still loving vegetarian foods, but I'm running out of creative recipes….that is until I found your blog!

      Thank you for sharing! I'm definitely going to attempt the meatless, meatball recipe!

      P.S. I've never heard of "nutritional yeast". Is this sold at regular grocery stores or do I need to go to a speciality store?

    • Julia

      I'm going to go look up 'nutritional yeast' but either way, I can't eat yeast—do you think it would make a difference if I didn't add it? Would I need to add something else instead? Looks good!

    • Julia

      If I left out the nutritional yeast do you think I would need to add something else in it's place? (Can't eat yeast).
      Thanks!

    • Jessica

      Just found your site! It's great! I am going to pass it along to all my gluten free friends!
      Jessica Tinkler
      http://www.blog.intofit.com

    • I Am Gluten Free

      Julia – while I think that the nutritional yeast adds a significant flavor and texture to the meatballs, I think you could leave it out. I would sub in something in its' place like extra beans or breadcrumbs or chopped walnuts. Let me know how it works for you.

      ~Ellen

    • I Am Gluten Free

      GF Gidget – I can't recommend a pressure cooker enough – it's one of my most fave tools in my kitchen. However, you can definitely make this in a regular stockpot.

      Tina – I've never seen nutritional yeast in a conventional supermarket. I've bought it either at our local small health store or at Whole Foods.

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