30 Minute Vegetarian Meatballs Recipe - Skillful Cook
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30 Minute Vegetarian Meatballs

106 reviews / 4.8 average

These vegetarian meatballs are incredibly easy and super versatile! Packed with cauliflower, quinoa, brown rice, garlic, and spices. Stockpile these in your freezer and your future self will thank you.

Here they are! The meatballs of the hour that are, in fact, not meatballs.

Because they are VEGETARIAN MEATBALLS!

Made without beans (!!) and without nuts (!!) but featuring cauliflower and brown rice and quinoa.

I know, right? Sneak-ayyy.

As much as I love a good MEAT-ball meatball from time to time, today we're talking about these little vegetarian meatball nuggets of powerhouse nutrition that are inspired from the (here comes the weird zone) spicy cauliflower burgers.

They're made with cauliflower, brown rice, quinoa, panko, eggs, and a nice big pinch of garlic and spices. And they don't require hours of prep. That's it! It's just simple, straightforward, SUPER YUM plant-based goodness in the form of vegetarian meatballs made weeknight-dinner-friendly, because real food that matches real life is where it's at.

And don't we know it, guys? DON'T WE KNOW IT.

Ingredients for 30-minute cauliflower vegetarian meatballs.

We're Working with Easy Ingredients Today

Here is your wonderfully do-able ingredient list:

  • panko breadcrumbs
  • brown rice
  • eggs
  • cauliflower florets OR just a bag of frozen cauliflower rice
  • spices

Tadah!

Cauliflower vegetarian meatballs on a sheet pan being scooped up with a spatula.
Meatless meatballs in a pan with sauce with wooden spoon.

Why I Absolutely Love These Vegetarian Meatballs

There are a few things that I think we can all approve of with these vegetarian meatballs:

  • INGREDIENTS: Basic, whole, wonderful -> Cauliflower // Brown Rice // Quinoa // Garlic // Spices // Eggs // Panko. Also - no beans. Which is kind of nice, right? since a lot of vegetarian meatballs are bean-heavy. All hail the versatility of cauliflower!
  • TIMING: 30 minutes. The cauliflower is not high maintenance here. Just a quick simmer in some hot water to soften it up, and then as a bonus on being speedy, you can use those amazingly convenient garlic brown rice/quinoa packages from Seeds of Change that you buy en masse at Costco - you know the ones, right? - and then your cauli and your rice and everything else gets pulsed around in our favorite appliance of all time THE FOOD PROCESSOR in order to make the mixture. If you can enlist the help of a few vegetarian meatball rollers (this is why people have children, right?), you will have vegetarian meatball dinner on the table AND vegetarian meatball stockpile built-up in your fridge in no time.
  • ADAPTABILITY: Cook once, eat many times. This recipe makes a million and a half meatless meatballs which means that you can use them with many different sauces in many different recipes for years to come. Er, no. Not years. But seriously - you will have a TON of meatballs with this recipe, so start brainstorming serving and/or sauce ideas (and please let the record state that I strongly recommend LIFE CHANGING MASALA SAUCE).
Close-up of cauliflower vegetarian meatballs.
Cauliflower vegetarian meatballs stacked in a container.

When I brought these to my sister after she had a baby, she declared them to be perfect finger food for her two-year-old since he loves things he can hold and dip and nibble on at his own slow-eating pace.

UM WHAT. How cute is the visual of your favorite two-year-old dipping a veggie meatball made with cauliflower and quinoa and brown rice into ketchup, marinara, or ranch (not above it) or - for the foodie toddlers out there - a little spicy masala sauce?

It's like a chicken nugget meets veggie burger in kid-friendly size and adult-friendly tastes.

White hand holding a plate with cauliflower vegetarian meatballs, white rice, and fresh herbs sprinkled on top. There is a fork on the plate with greens.

I cannot get enough of these vegetarian meatballs with a few gallons of the life-changing 30 minute masala sauce, but you will be happy doing just about anything with these. They are begging for some creative serving combinations and a good drench in a delicious sauce, and as we know, sauce is life.

Go get em, dinner-makers!

30-Minute Vegetarian Meatballs: FAQs

The meatballs aren't forming well for me. The mixture seems too wet. What should I do?

If the mixture doesn't stick together in a ball when gently pressed, add about 1/3 of the mixture back into the food processor and pulse until it's more the consistency of hummus. That should help it hold together. If that still isn't enough, just add a little more of your “dry ingredient” till you get a consistency that you can gently roll between your hands to form ball shapes.

Can these be frozen for later?

Absolutely! These make for a great freezer meal! Just prepare the recipe as-is, freeze the meatballs in a freezer-safe bag or container, and rewarm them in the oven or in the microwave.

What kind of pre-cooked brown rice/quinoa mix do you use?

I used Seeds of Change pre-cooked garlic brown rice and quinoa for this recipe (1 packet = about 1.5 cups). Since this has garlic flavor already in the mix, if you are using your own pre-cooked quinoa and/or brown rice, make sure to add some minced garlic or garlic powder.


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Watch Lindsay make these Vegetarian Meatballs on stories!

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Vegetarian meatballs on a green sheet pan with a metal spatula.

30 Minute Vegetarian Meatballs


  • Author: Skillful Cook
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 50+ meatballs (so, like, 10 or more servings) 1x

Description

These vegetarian meatballs are incredibly easy and super versatile! Packed with cauliflower, quinoa, brown rice, garlic, and spices. Stockpile these in your freezer and your future self will thank you. 


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • a 10-12 oz bag of cauliflower rice or 3 cups cauliflower florets
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa and/or brown rice (I use one 8.5-ounce package of a pre-cooked blend - see FAQs)
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-2 teaspoons spices to taste (chili powder, paprika, and/or cumin will work)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • olive oil to brush over the top

Instructions

  1. Cauliflower and Rice: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Steam the cauliflower rice according to package directions in the microwave. Do the same for the rice so it's warm and soft. (If using cauliflower florets, boil until tender and drain.)
  2. Mix: Pulse the cauliflower and quinoa through a food processor until semi-smooth (see pictures for texture). Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and combine with all other ingredients. Stir until everything is incorporated. Roll into small balls (about one heaping tablespoon per ball was best for me).
  3. Cook: Brush generously with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes. Serve with yummy sauces, salads, bowls, or freeze for later!
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: vegetarian meatballs, cauliflower meatballs, meatless meatballs

This recipe was updated based on reader feedback on 8/19/21. The previous version had 3/4 cup oat flour, 3 cups brown rice, and 4 eggs.

Time To Show You Off!

Reader images of the 30 Minute Vegetarian Meatballs recipe.

One More Thing!

This recipe is part of our magical cauliflower recipes page. Check it out!

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546 Comments

  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    What is the final texture suppose to be?
    Made these and the taste is great, however at 400° and 30 min they still came out a bit doughy on the inside. Not sure if this is normal texture or if they need more time.
    I’ll pop them back in. I did make them a little larger than 1 tbsp.

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    Is there an egg substitute? I want to make these with leftover quinoa but need it egg free due to allergies.

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    Made these tonight and dipped in your basil sauce – so delicious! Everyone loved them. Regretting not making a double batch!!! Thank you.

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    Crazy question… Could I use this recipe, then also add some meat to it to satisfy the carnivores in my house. I know it would probably double the batch but that would be perfect for me as I’m all about cooking once & eating all week(ish)!

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    I really liked these. We used them as an add-on to a salad that made it super nice. My husband found them a bit bland so I will try adding a bit more chili to them and also try to make the magical masala sauce and see how they go then.

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks for the recipe which I initially chose because of the healthy brown rice – quinoa. This being said, it would be nice to include how to make 3/4 cup of the mixture cooked. 10 min math later: 1/4 cup uncooked brown rice + 3 tbsp uncooked quinoa cooked together add up just right once cooked. 🙂 I also used 1/2 oats 1/2 bread crumbs. Finally, I read the comments and so augmented the spices – added garlic powder, nutritional yeast, oregano and cayenne. Thanks again.

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    Made these last night with leftover brown rice and some cauliflower I steamed in the microwave. So so good! I love that they’re pretty much a blank slate for whatever flavors you want. I added some nutritional yeast and a generous amount of garlic and onion powder and paired with an Asian inspired sauce. My oven was full so I popped them in the air fryer. Perfection! Crispy outside and oh so tender in the middle. These will definitely be added to my go to freezer prep meals.

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    My whole family, including meat-eaters, enjoyed these! I used Italian seasonings and served them up as spaghetti and meatballs. Thanks for sharing!!!

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    think I will try it with some tinned pulses ie chickpeas rice, garlic and onion powder cayenne herbs eggs and my mushy rice. if its not nice will add parmesan

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    This was terrible. The worst vegatable meatballs I’ve ever made. Flavorless. Took about 1 hr to brown. And the centers were still wet. Sorry, moving on. I wish there was a zero stars.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Tom-You didn’t have to be so nasty about it! Be kind and kindness will be given. Krista, you are so gracious in your replies to take the bad with the good!

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        I think the gentleman was just being honest. He was not nasty in my opinion just honest.
        Not everyone has to like the food. And it’s ok. You cannot only get nice reviews. Be ready for it all.
        I personally liked your recipe. Yes it was blunt and bit tasteless but like one lady said just add sauce extra seasoning and voila! Delicious!!

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    These were so good! I used quinoa and cauliflower rice. Found out I was short on panko, but added some potato flakes and that worked as a binder. Added Italian spices, a bit of Parmesan cheese and a touch of tomato paste to serve with pasta. So yummy! My 11 year old liked them too.

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    I really love these veggie meatballs. I make them italian-style, with a few changes. I add sautéed, minced mushrooms and roasted pecans in lieu of the breadcrumbs, and Italian spices. They’re amazing each time. Thanks for the inspiration!

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    How many are in a serving ?? I didn’t see it . Sorry if I missed it or it has already been asked

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi Wendi! No worries. It really depends on how many meatballs you end up making. The recipe should make 50+ meatballs, and there are 10 servings, so it comes out to be about 5 meatballs.

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    I don’t know what I did wrong but the ones I made didn’t taste good. I used 1 tsp smoked paprika and 1 tsp cumin. Any suggestions on what spices to use next time around?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Sorry to hear that, Meagan! We like to use the Seeds of Change brown rice and quinoa blend, which is already seasoned with garlic. if you are using your own pre-cooked quinoa and/or brown rice, we’d recommend adding in minced garlic or garlic powder and maybe onion powder too!

  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    Because I wasn’t sure I would like these I made a half batch. I should’ve made the full batch! They really are very good. I’ll make some more but add some different spices. I think some liquid aminos, smoked paprika, and Mexican oregano might be good. At any rate, I really like these and they satisfy my craving for a meatball while still being meatless.

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    I couldn’t glean anything from your website due to the incredible amount of spam and forced pop-ups. I won’t be back for any recipes. This is ridiculous.

  17. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’ve made these about every 3 to 6 months to always have on hand…did you change the “breadcrumbs?” I thought you gave options w/oat flour… did this recipe change? Either way these are great & the masala paste is the best!!! I use the paste w/the veggie meatballs, shrimp & even chicken!!!! Yummmmm

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi Abby! We did update this recipe a few months ago, so some of the ingredient amounts have been tweaked!

  18. Skillful Cook Logo

    Looking forward to trying these. Can I clarify, the eggs in when you food process (as per video) or in the mixing bowl (as per written recipe).
    Thanks

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi Lynn! We like to use Seeds of Change garlic brown rice and quinoa blend for this recipe, which provides plenty of garlic flavor. But you’re always welcome to add as much garlic as you’d like!

  19. Skillful Cook Logo

    Really Helpful blog post. These make for a great freezer meal! Just prepare the recipe as-is, freeze the meatballs in a freezer-safe bag or container, and rewarm them in the oven or in the microwave.

  20. Skillful Cook Logo

    These were really good! My kids (5 & 6) loved them. We didn’t have any leftovers.

    Only “swap” I made was to use a riced cauliflower/sweet potato mix because it’s what I had in the freezer. Would do that again.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      My brother couldn’t get over how good this meal was! He kept telling me it was the best Cook Smarts recipe we’ve made and to star it as a favorite.