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This vegan meatballs recipe is easy to put together, full of protein, and packed with flavor! A perfect go-to plant based dinner.

Vegan Meatballs
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Here’s a go-to when you need a plant based dinner that’s protein-packed: this Vegan Meatballs recipe! Now, there are two problems with most vegan meatballs recipes. Vegan meatballs take a long time to make, and many recipes don’t have much protein (so you’re hungry an hour later). This vegan meatballs recipe solves both problems. This recipe takes under 30 minutes to make, and it’s packed with protein! Even better: the flavor is outstanding.

The secret to the best vegan meatballs

Ok, you might need to use a new-to-you ingredient for this one. But we promise: this will revolutionize your vegan meatballs game! The key? Tempeh. Here are the particulars on this powerhouse ingredient:

  • Tempeh is a compressed cake of whole soybeans. It can include seeds like millet or grains like wheat, rice, or barley (most brands are gluten-free). It has a nuttier flavor and firmer texture than tofu. Read more about Tempeh vs Tofu here!
  • Tempeh is protein packed. One serving has a whopping 20 grams protein! That’s double the protein in one serving tofu.
  • Wait, are soy products healthy? Soy products in moderation are part of a healthy diet! Per to the Harvard School of Nutrition, soy is a nutrient-dense source of protein that can safely be consumed several times a week.
Vegan meatballs

Consider a double recipe!

Before you start, think about whether you’d like to make a single or double recipe for these vegan meatballs. Here’s what to know:

  • This recipe makes 14 meatballs, about 2 to 3 servings. They’re easy to cook in one skillet and feed a family like ours (2 adults and 1 preschooler).
  • Consider doubling the recipe, because they save well! They hold up very well refrigerated or frozen (without sauce). Instant lunch or dinner!
  • You’ll need a very large skillet for a double recipe. Use the biggest you have to cook them!
  • Use the 2x button in the recipe below. You likely won’t need the full quantity of olive oil: you can likely cook the meatballs in less than 6 tablespoons (start with ¼ cup).

Important: steam the tempeh first

The cardinal rule when using tempeh in recipes: it tastes bitter raw. While it’s completely safe to eat raw, you’ll want to cook it to remove that flavor.

  • Steam the tempeh for just 10 minutes. It gets just the right moistness to the tempeh and removes the bitter flavor.
  • Steaming doesn’t make the recipe take any longer, because you can prep everything while the tempeh steams.
  • You’ll need a steamer basket for this recipe. Don’t have one? Here are a few ways to steam without a steamer.
Vegan meatballs recipe

Tips for cooking vegan meatballs

Once you’ve got your tempeh steamed, you’ll simply mix the dough together with breadcrumbs and spices. When you cook them, here’s the main thing to note: use chopsticks to turn them! It’s hard to use a spatula to flip the balls so they get golden on each side. Chopsticks make it much easier! Of course, you can use whatever method you like. Just try to get each side lightly browned!

Italian breadcrumbs, and how to make them gluten free

Italian breadcrumbs are an important component to these vegan meatballs. It gives them just the right texture so they don’t fall apart. If you eat gluten-free, we’ve got some ideas. Here’s what to know:

  • Italian breadcrumbs are breadcrumbs mixed with herbs and salt.
  • Can’t find Italian style? Mix ½ cup plain breadcrumbs with ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt and ½ tablespoon Italian seasoning (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano and ¼ teaspoon each dried basil and thyme).
  • Try gluten-free panko or homemade. For gluten-free, it’s easy to find gluten-free breadcrumbs these days online or at your grocery. Or use gluten-free bread or crackers to make homemade breadcrumbs, then add the seasonings above.
Vegan meatballs

Make ahead and storage info

This vegan meatballs recipe is genius not only because it tastes great and has lots of protein. These also hold up very well! Here’s what to note about texture:

  • Store leftovers refrigerated for up to 5 days. Don’t store them with sauce, or they will get mushy.
  • Freeze leftovers after you allow them to cool. They’ll hold up in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. 

Ways to serve vegan meatballs

Once you’ve made your beautiful vegan meatballs…how to serve ’em? We’ve got ideas.

More vegan dinner recipes

There are lots of more vegan dinner recipes like this one! Here are a few more favorites to try:

This vegan meatballs recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free. For gluten-free, use gluten-free breadcrumbs or see the section above.

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Vegan Meatballs

Easy Vegan Meatballs

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

4.2 from 9 reviews

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 14 meatballs (2 large or 3 modest) 1x
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This vegan meatballs recipe is easy to put together, full of protein, and packed with flavor! A perfect go-to plant based dinner.


  • 8 ounces tempeh*, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup minced white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • ¼ cup olive oil, divided*
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 to 3 cups favorite marinara sauce


  1. Steam the tempeh: Place 1 ½ cups water into a saucepan with a steamer basket: the water surface should be right under the basket. Bring the water to a boil. Chop the tempeh into small pieces. Once boiling, add it to the steamer basket and steam it for 10 minutes while you prep the remaining ingredients.
  2. Mix the meatballs: Mince the white onion. Mince the garlic. Add them to a medium bowl with the breadcrumbs, fennel seeds and dried oregano. Once the tempeh is cooked, remove it from the steamer and add it to the bowl with the breadcrumbs. Stir in the soy sauce or tamari and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and mix. Once the tempeh cools slightly, use your fingers to mash it together into a uniform dough.
  3. Form the meatballs: Use your fingers to form the dough into golf-ball sized balls, about 13 to 14 total, placing them on a plate. 
  4. Cook the meatballs: Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a non-stick large skillet over medium high heat. Add the meatballs and cook, turning them occasionally with chopsticks, until lightly browned on all sides, about 5 to 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium if it starts to smoke.
  5. Serve: Once cooked, you can remove the meatballs from a pan and refrigerate up to 5 days until serving if you’d like. Or serve immediately: turn off the heat and add the marinara sauce to the pan (beware of spitting). Simmer for about 1 minute until warm, then top with chopped basil or parsley and serve. Store leftovers refrigerated without sauce for 5 days, or allow to cool then freeze in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.


*The meatballs save well, so we recommend making a double recipe and refrigerating or freezing leftovers! Click the 2x button for quick doubled quantities.

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Vegan
  • Diet: Vegan

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Andy says:

    Yum! This was my first time trying tempeh and it was a delicious way to start. Listening to other commenters who had trouble with their meatballs holding together, I made sure to chop my ingredients extra fine and even mashed/kneaded the mixture together a bit to prevent this. Worked great!
    The only thing I’d change next time is to add less salt. I think different brands of Italian Bread Crumbs are more/less salty than others, so add to taste :)

  2. Addie Martin says:

    The flavor was great but the “meat” balls did not hold, they crumbled and I decided to just go with it and called it a “meat sauce” I’ll use my food processor next time to see if that helps.

  3. janice stewart says:

    what can I use for the tempeh substitution in this recipe? Can I use tofu, if so how much and how.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      You could probably use an equal amount of super firm tofu. It would need to be that in order to hold together. We haven’t tried it!

  4. Jan G. says:

    I ended up doubling the recipe and winged it with the salt and pepper. They came out delicious! I did put the “dough” in the food processor to help get it mashed up better. I took a chance and brought them to a neighborhood Labor Day party and labeled them Vegan. I thought I would be the only one eating them, but there ended up being hardly any left! People told me they really liked them! If you don’t expect them to have the same flavor or texture as meat, they taste very good!

  5. Jan G. says:

    The ingredients list mentions 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, but I don’t see that added in with the directions. Should it be added with the oregano and fennel or is it a mistake and should be left out? I wanted to bring these to a party today, but I want them to turn out right.

  6. Caytee says:


  7. Annelise S. says:

    They taste great! I did use a blender to mix it to a better consistency and think I’ll bake them in the oven instead of pan fry next time.
    Thanks for the recipe!

  8. Tish says:

    Hi. I am not using oils so wondered if these could be made in the oven? If so what temp and time would you recommend?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      I’d try 400F for 15-20 minutes.

  9. Julia Ellis says:

    Sadly, these did not come out well at all. Most of the meatballs did not hold together, they soaked up all of the cooking oil, and the onions were raw inside of the few that did stay shaped. The flavor was tasty, so giving them 2 stars. Maybe putting the mix into a blender would make it work.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      I’m sorry they didn’t work for you!

    2. Emily says:

      Soooo tasty!! Do not fry them on high heat – I lightly fried them for brown edges then added them into my sauce on a higher heat with lid on for 5 minutes. Delicious will be making again. Toddler & baby enjoyed them also.
      I put all the Ingredients in at my own preference

  10. Jivan Dios says:

    Wonderful and delicious! Thank you :)