Delicious meat-free Italian chickpea meatballs are ready in about 30 minutes, vegan and vegetarian, and are freezer-friendly, loaded with flavor and protein, and perfect on pasta, in a sandwich, or as appetizers.
These chickpea meatballs are the perfect comfort food! Savory, flavorful, and easy to make with pantry ingredients. Enjoy them on pasta, in sandwiches, even as appetizers. Instead of egg in these meatballs, ketch provides the needed moisture and binding. The color has the added benefit of making the meatball dough look just like traditional beef meatballs.
These healthy meatless meatballs are wonderful to meal prep because they keep refrigerated for 5 days, perfect for meals for the week. Like my grilled portobello mushroom steaks, Thai lettuce wraps, and my zucchini pizza bites, these vegetarian and vegan meatballs can be a main or side of any comfort meal.
Why You'll Love This
Spicy, soft, delicious taste. Chickpeas are neutral in flavor, so they are a wonderful canvas to flavor in these vegan chickpea meatballs. And flavor I do by adding fresh parsley and Italian spices. The result is a ton of savory flavor, and a luscious soft meaty texture. They also taste lighter and cleaner than their beef-counterparts and don't leave any fatty aftertaste.
Familiar healthy ingredients. Just to repeat, there is no beef or meat in this vegetarian meatball, and the ingredients are budget-friendly and probably in your kitchen right now. Chickpeas, the primary ingredient, are a great source of folate, a mineral that is not that easy to find in food and which is very important for brain cell support. Each meatball has 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per meatball!
Beloved by everyone. These easy meatballs are obviously vegetarian but also vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free meatballs. Plenty of my friends with no diet restrictions declare them to be the best meatball they've ever tasted. If you like these spicy meatballs, you might want to try my zucchini pizza bites, Italian stuffed mushrooms, and my portobello mushroom steaks.
Chickpeas. Buy canned, unsalted and bpa-free. Drain off the aquafaba and save it in the refrigerator for three days or freezer for dessert recipes such as my copycat, 4-ingredient Milano cookies.
Breadcrumbs, Panko or Oat flour.
Ketchup. Use a brand without refined sugar.
Parmesan cheese. Use dairy free parmesan cheese, or nutritional yeast to keep the meatballs vegan and dairy free.
Flavorings. Diced onion, garlic powder, parsley, Italian spices such as oregano and basil, salt and black pepper or cayenne pepper.
See the recipe card at the bottom for full information on ingredients and quantities.
Chickpeas. You can replace chickpeas with other beans. Canned is best, no sodium, and you can use black beans, white beans, or even lentils to make lentil meatballs.
Ketchup. You probably can't replace the ketchup entirely as it provides the binder, but you can supplement the tomato flavor by using half ketchup and half your favorite marinara sauce and add 4-5 chopped sundried tomatoes for a briny flavor.
Onions. Dice the onions into tiny bits, or use scallions/green onions. The meatballs are small so you don't want a big chunks of onion.
Add Vegetables & Fresh Herbs. To the food processor, feel free to add more veggies including frozen peas, raw shredded carrots, or chopped raw zucchini. Also consider adding fresh herbs such as chopped chives or basil leaves.
Step by Step Instructions
For more detail, visit the complete and printable recipe at the bottom of this post, but here are general steps.
Step 1. Rinse canned chickpeas, strain them, chop the onion and parsley. Add everything to a food processor including the chickpeas and other ingredients.
Step 2. Process the mixture for 15 seconds and use a rubber spatula to scrap sides. Process again for 30-45 seconds until you have a chunky batter. If the mixture seems too dry, add additional ketchup 1 teaspoon at a time. If it's too wet add more breadcrumbs or flour again 1 teaspoon at a time.
Step 3. Scoop meatballs. Use a medium cookie scoop to create 20 meatballs and set them on the baking sheet in rows. Roll them with wet hands to make perfect balls. Brush or spray olive oil on tops; or dab with water to keep tops from browning too dark.
Step 4. Bake meatballs uncovered for 25 minutes, jiggling them once after 10 minutes to be sure they aren't sticking to the bottom. The balls should be cooked soft in center but crusty on the outside.
Step 5. Coat baked hot meatballs in your favorite tomato sauce. Either eat or refrigerate them. They taste delicious hot, but also more flavorful the next day after a night in the sauce.
1. Don't process the mixture in the food processor longer than a minute or the meatballs will lose their texture.
2.Make them without a food processor. You can also put all ingredients in a bowl and use your hands or potato masher to knead the mixture that way.
3.Use a cookie scoop to make sure your balls are uniform in size.
4.Use nutritional yeast if you can't find dairy free parmesan cheese. Or use regular parmesan cheese if you don't need to keep the meatballs to be dairy free and vegan.
The meatballs can last in the refrigerator for 5 days, cooked and 2 days uncooked. The meatballs can be frozen uncooked for three months. To freeze them cooked, first toss them in a marinara sauce, and freeze them in single-meal batches for three months.
Yes, these are easy to freeze uncooked, but they will be more flavorful frozen in your favorite sauce in single-meal batches.
Baking is best for these meatballs to keep them intact, and lower in unhealthy fats from frying oil.
Of course! I served mine with a conventional marinara sauce, but you can use a curry, white sauce, any sauce you would add any meatballs to.
Not really. The black pepper or cayenne pepper lends some heat. You can increase that or lower it to taste.
The best way is to match the texture you see in my process shots. If the mixture is too wet, add ketchup; too dry, add flour or breadcrumbs. Also don't process beyond 1 minute, and don't over bake either.
Other Comfort Food Recipes
If you tried this recipe or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the 📝 comments below. Thanks for visiting!
Italian Chickpea Meatballs (vegan meatballs)
- 1 can chickpeas, canned
- ½ cup ketchup
- ½ cup breadcrumbs or oat flour
- ⅓ cup parmesan cheese or 3 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- ¼ cup fresh parsley chopped
- ⅓ cup onion, diced very small
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon basil
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- pinch salt
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Layer a baking sheet with parchment.
Make the Meatballs
- Rinse the chickpeas (I used canned), put in a food processor.1 can chickpeas, canned
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and process for no longer than 1 minute.
- Use a medium cookie scoop to create 20 meatballs and set them in rows on the lined baking sheet.
- Roll them with wet hands to make perfect balls.
- Brush the tops only with a light spray or dab of olive oil or avocado oil. Coating just the tops keep them from drying out. You can dab them with water if you want to keep the meatballs oil-free.
- Bake meatballs uncovered for 30 minutes, jiggling them once after 10 minutes to be sure they aren't sticking to the bottom. The balls should be cooked soft in center but crusty on the outside.
- The meatballs can last in the refrigerator for 5 days, cooked and 2 days uncooked. The meatballs can be frozen uncooked for three months. To freeze them cooked, first toss them in a marinara sauce, and freeze them in single-meal batches for three months.