Veggie "Meat" Balls with Spaghetti


I'm always faced with the same dilemma when it comes to making dinner for Lulu. I try to make a meat-less equivalent for the vegetarians in the house. Today I cooked meatballs for dinner, which Lulu and his sisters obviously don't eat. I decided to try my hand at making veggie meatballs. The veggie balls are nut-free and egg-free, which is perfect for my 9-year-old-sister-in-law who has all those allergies. I didn't know what to expect, but the result was surprisingly pleasant.

You can serve the veggie balls as appetizers as well, falafel-style or in a sandwich à la Saad's. I serve them in a simple tomato sauce with wheat spaghetti.


Yields: 6

1/4 cup panko crumbs
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1 15-oz can canellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbs celery, very finely diced
1 Tbs baby carrots, very finely diced
1 Tbs parmesan powder
1 Tbs fresh mint, finely chopped
1 tsp sea salt
1/3 tsp black peppercorns, freshly ground
2 tsp jalapeno green chile, seeded, finely minced
1/2 tsp Vegemite
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
1/2 tsp smoked paprika powder
1/2 tsp sugar
2 Tbs lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 tsp soy liquid lecithin
4 Tbs canola oil
1/2 cup sorghum flour, for breading, as needed
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 jar marinara sauce
1 package wheat spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
1 Tbs unsalted butter
4 Tbs parseman cheese shavings
2 Tbs flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped


In a very small bowl, add the xanthan gum and lecithin to enough vegetable oil (about a teaspoon) to dissolve the xanthan gum.  This will keep the xanthan gum from beading up into balls when it comes into contact with water. Add the liquid lecithin. Stir them together thoroughly. It's kind of like making a roux.  Add the lemon juice and sugar to the xanthan gum / lecithin mixture. Set aside.

Combine the canellini beans, carrots, celery, mint, jalapeno, vegemite, garlic powder, ginger garlic paste and paprika in a food processor. Pulse just until everything is coarsely mashed. Add the panko crumbs. Add the xantham gum/lecithin mixture and pulse 2-3 times. Season with salt and pepper. Roll the mixture into 2-inch balls.

Sprinkle a plate with sorghum flour. Thinly coat each ball with sorghum flour.

In a large saucepan, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil. Cook the shallot until golden. Add the marinara sauce. Reduce the heat to a simmer.

In a non-stick pan, heat the rest of the oil. Add the minced garlic and cook until it's slightly golden. Remove the garlic to prevent it from burning. Add the veggie balls and cook them for about 5-6 minutes on each side until they are firm and nicely browned. Transfer the veggie balls to the marina sauce. Stir gently, without breaking the balls. Cover and let stand for about 3-4 minutes.

Transfer all the sauce and veggies balls to a large platter.

Saute the spaghetti in butter in the same saucepan used for the marina sauce for about 2 minutes, just enough to heat up the pasta.

When you're ready to serve, form a nest of spaghetti in each plate. Place some marinara sauce in the center and some veggie balls. Sprinkle some parmesan shavings and garnish with parsley.

Serve hot.


Panko is made from a kind of Japanese bread. The bread is crustless and is turned into crumbs. You can make your own or simply use regular bread crumbs. If you want to make this dish gluten-free, omit the bread crumbs and increase the amount of canellini beans for a thicker consistency.

I used wheat pasta for its good nutritional value. I find that the only wheat pasta that has a pleasant texture is spaghetti; other shapes tend to get gummy when cooked. 

When cooking each veggie ball in the oil, you might want to change the oil when cooking the rest of the "meat" balls, since some sorghum flour might be sticking to the bottom of the pan.

I also used Vegemite in my vegetarian Pho chay. Vegemite is a yeast extract with a vegetable flavoring, it has a meaty taste, kind of like beef bouillon. I find it at my local market but you can also find it online.

Xanthan gum is a fine powder used as a binder and emulsifier. If you look at the list of ingredients for salad dressings and ice cream at the supermarket, you'll find that they contain xanthan gum. I use it for texture and as an egg white substitute. You can find it online or in any specialty food store like Whole Foods.

I use liquid lecithin as an egg yolk substitute. You can also find this online or in any specialty food store like Whole Foods.

I finely chop a chunk of parmesan and place the pieces in a mini food processor to obtain parmesan powder.

Quick note for the ginger garlic paste: Just clean the ginger and remove any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife, then finely chop the root. Place the chopped ginger and 5 cloves of garlic in a blender, add about 2 tablespoons (or more) of water for a smooth flow. Transfer to a small jar and store in the refrigerator. You can keep this paste for at least a week in the refrigerator.

veggie meatballs

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on May 26, 2009.


[-] cheffresco - Guest-cheffresco
Wow lots of ingredients! And vegemite - interesting! Looks really good!

cheffresco Website Link
[ Posted at 5:12 PM on 5/26/09 | Reply ]
[-] Veggie Meatballs - Guest-Elyse
These sound delicious! I love the idea of a veggie meatball. Comfort food without the meat. Genius! Can't wait to try this out.

Elyse Website Link
[ Posted at 6:05 PM on 5/28/09 | Reply ]
Hey Jackie, I just found your blog today when I was looking for a recipe for spaghetti with veggie balls - well, I didn't follow it to the letter but I did use the recipe as a base for inspiration. I used Orgran egg replacer to bind it and added cumin, coriander, and a bunch of other things to make them to my taste. I'm also a kid of immigrants - in my case, Indians who migrated to Australia. Thanks again for the recipe and I'll definitely be following your blog from now on! Thumbs up for the Vegemite by the way - as an Aussie who's been eating it all her life, it's great to see it used in new ways.
[ Posted at 1:42 AM on 9/14/09 | Reply ]
Hi Jacqueline, tonight I tried your recipe for the first time. Except for the x. gum and lecithin which I replaced with EnerG egg replacer, I followed the recipe very closely and it turned out splendid! I so many times was disappointed by vegetarian “meat” dishes which are quite often dull or just weird. However, these “meat” balls of yours are ten out of ten - the real meat balls would not stand the competition, I think.
I now fell in love with your site and am learning a lot about cooking eggless and vegetarian. Thank you for being so generous and for giving various helpful tips. My husband and I will sure have a régal now that I discovered your beautiful site!

Best wishes,


Edinburgh, Scotland
[ Posted at 5:33 PM on 1/18/12 | Reply ]

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