There are many ways to make meatless meatballs. Some folks use seitan; others use some form of soy byproduct, like tofu. We want to propose an alternative consisting of only one unrefined ingredient: mushrooms. Not any mushroom — the King oyster mushroom.
We made these mushroom meatballs both vegan and gluten-free, following the principle of simplicity. We have to emulate the properties of mincemeat and find a suitable eggless binder to keep everything together. We'll do it by using the least amount of ingredients possible.
First, let's tackle the ratio of lean to fatty meat you find in classic mince. For the lean part, we'll shred the king oyster mushrooms into fine bits. For the fats, we'll make a cream of rice flour and extra virgin olive oil. You can get leaner or fattier mushroom mince by controlling the amount of oil used.
Adding fats adds flavour to the otherwise plain mushrooms, and gives these plant-based meatballs a juicier texture. And of course, we'll add generous amounts of Italian spices and seasoning for extra flavour!
Then, we'll make a classic chia-egg binder to replace eggs. You can use flax-eggs if you prefer. By the way, if you are not intolerant to gluten, you can also replace rice flour with wheat flour. And if you couldn't find any king oyster mushrooms, shiitakes are a viable alternative.
The whole recipe will take you around 40 minutes, from blitzing to eating. Oh, and these balls are healthy too! A portion of 4 "veggballs" gives you 20% RDI for fibres, 11% RDI for proteins, and 8% RDI for carbs in just 200 calories. Compare that to 4 regular meatballs and you'll get four times fewer saturated fats and five times more fibres. Neat!
What flours can I use in this recipe?
While the classic meatball recipe includes breadcrumbs, we made our veggie balls with rice flour, for a gluten-free alternative.
Other wheat-free options include oat flour (you can make your own blitzing porridge oats in a food processor), cornmeal, chickpea flour, or any gluten-free flour mix you can find at your local supermarket.
Finally, if you don't have a gluten allergy, you can use normal flour, opting for wholemeal varieties for extra fibres.
What can I serve with these meatballs?
The most traditional way of serving meatballs is to simmer them in a rich marinara sauce.
However, these mushroom balls are incredibly versatile and can be paired with a roasted root vegetable traybake, sweet potato or pumpkin mash, or a green salad.
They're also great in sandwiches and wraps with hummus.
As these veggie bites taste great both hot and cold, they're perfect for serving as party food or for packing an outdoor lunch.
Which mushrooms can I use to make vegan meatballs?
In our recipe, we have chosen King oyster mushrooms for their fleshy texture and mild flavour. This way, we can give our meatballs a juicy feel and let our chilli and lime seasoning shine.
However, you can replace this mushroom variety with others, like shiitake or chestnut mushrooms.
Using shiitake will yield a darker tone and a deep flavour. With chestnut mushrooms instead, make sure to pre-cook them before adding them to the meatball mixture as they will release a lot of juices.
- Chia Seeds
- King Oyster Mushrooms
- Fresh Parsley
- Chilli Flakes
- Zested Lime
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Rice Flour
Let's start by preparing the "chia egg".
Add the chia seeds to a bowl along with the water, stir well, and leave the mixture to thicken in the fridge for 5 minutes (1).
Meanwhile, blitz the king oyster mushrooms in a food processor into very small bits (2).
Now, transfer the minced mushrooms into a mixing bowl and add chopped parsley, chilli flakes, and lime zest.
In a small pot, whisk 1 tbsp of oil with 1.5 tbsp of rice flour until smooth and then pour the mixture into the bowl with the mushrooms.
Give all a good stir and then incorporate the prepared chia egg and the remaining 2 tbsp of rice flour.
Work the mixture until it comes together into a moist and slightly sticky dough.
If it feels too wet, you can add more rice flour, or, if too dry, add a splash of water.
To shape the meatballs, pinch off a small handful of mushroom dough and roll it in between your palms into a ball.
Then, transfer the prepared meatballs onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and brush them with the remaining 0.5 tbsp of oil.
Finally, bake the vegan balls in the preheated oven for 25 minutes at 200°C (390°F) for static ovens or at 180°C (355°F) for fan ovens.
Once they're nicely browned and crispy outside, remove the tray from the oven and serve the meatballs warm.
To help you shape the meatballs more easily, we recommend you keep the mushroom mince mixture in the fridge for 5-10 minutes. As it cools down, the dough will harden and hold together better.
You can swap lime zest with lemon zest.
Add a tablespoon of fortified nutritional yeast per serving to the mushroom dough for a boost of plant-based vitamin B12.
Store these vegan balls in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or freeze for one month.