Today I bring you my easy recipe for simple lentil meatballs with a fresh tomato sauce. Just look at that deliciousness, glistening in the sunshine and perfect for lunch al fresco!
I did that dreadful blogger thing with this dish, whipping it out from under my youngest’s nose and out into the garden to photograph it before he was allowed to dig in. He’s been very obliging up to now but, at 14, he’s started to roll his eyes and cross his arms at me! I can’t blame him really, the savoury cooking smells wafting through the house draw him to the kitchen. He watches me serve it up and then, whoosh, it’s gone!
He does get to scoff it down when I’m finished so don’t feel too sorry for him.
This is a lovely, simple recipe for a quick summer lunch in the garden but my easy lentil meatballs turn up in various dishes throughout the year.
- They work really well with a traditional marinara sauce, on top of spaghetti and sprinkled with fresh herbs.
- I use them like falafels in pitta with salad.
- They are great, cold, for picnics with a selection of dips.
- Serve them us as part of a vegan tapas selection and watch everyone dive in!
These meat free meatballs (I know, sounds ridiculous, taste amazing!) are richly flavoured with herbs and spices and full of texture. Crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, they are a big hit with children and adults alike.
Lentil Meatball Ingredients
Lentil Meatballs really are very simple to put together and many of you will already have the ingredients to hand. If not they are all readily available in supermarkets, there’s nothing weird or tricky here!
- Red Lentils – red lentils are the easiest to use for this recipe. They obligingly cook to a stiff puree in a matter of minutes without help and bind easily with all the other ingredients.
- Marmite – this little pot of deliciousness is not just for toast! Marmite yeast extract adds a fabulous depth of flavour in loads of my savoury dishes. If you are one of those weird Marmite haters (or you can’t buy it on your neck of the woods) you can substitute it with Vegemite, Vecon or any other spoon-able vegetable stock.
- Onion – there aren’t many recipes which don’t feature this little powerhouse. I used a common or garden brown skinned onion but red or white onions work just as well.
- Dried Oregano – oregano gives these these lentil balls a lovely herby flavour. You could use marjoram instead or chop up some fresh parsley and throw that in.
- Paprika – there’s a spoonful of sweet paprika in this recipe and half a spoon of smoked paprika for good measure. It makes the flavour zing!
- Chilli Flakes – optional, for a little kick.
- Wholemeal Breadcrumbs – for texture and to help bind everything together.
- Black Pepper – freshly ground.
- Salt – just a pinch, to bring out all those lovely flavours.
- Olive Oil – just a little, brushed on the lentil balls before baking. Optional, leave it out if you want an oil free meatball recipe.
Find the complete printable recipe with ingredients, measurements and method at the end of this post or read on for more tips, tricks and alternatives!
How To Make Vegan Lentil Meatballs – Some Helpful Tips
Lentil Balls are super easy to make but these simple tips and tricks should answer any questions you may have. If not, do leave a comment at the end of this post or pop me an email, I’m happy to help!
- Red lentils don’t need any pre-soaking, just give them a rinse and pop them in a pan with cold water. Bring them to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until the water has been absorbed and they are a creamy (if lumpy) puree. If you need to add more water just add a little at a time, you want a stiff puree to work with, not soup!
- If the lentil puree is still a bit loose after adding the breadcrumbs, add a few more breadcrumbs to firm it all up.
- When you have combined all the ingredients and are happy with the texture of your mixture leave it to chill in the fridge, it will make it much easier to roll into balls!
Fresh Chunky Tomato and Vegetable Sauce
A jar of good pasta sauce would speed this lunch up enormously but, while those balls are chilling, it’s easy to make a fresh tomato sauce with hidden veg. Hidden veg sauces always make me feel like Supermum – even when the veg aren’t making much of an effort to hide!
This sauce is a tasty mixture of onion, celery, carrot and tomatoes gently flavoured with garlic, oregano and paprika. It can be whipped up it up in 20 minutes, if you are in a hurry, but it really benefits from a long slow cook for about an hour.
Make a double batch of sauce and use the extra with pasta, on pizza or in baked potatoes for another quick meal later in the week, you’ll be glad you did!
More Lentil Recipes
if you’re looking for more lentil recipes, try one of these delicious savoury dishes next:
- Lentil Loaf – an easy vegan Sunday roast
- Green Lentil Burgers served in burger buns with sweet pepper sauce
- Braised Lentils with vegan sausages, tomatoes and green peppers
- Warming and nourishing Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup
If you make my recipe I’d love to hear how it turns out for you. Please leave a comment and a star rating below and share your pictures with me on social media. Tag me @thinlyspread and include the hashtag #thinlyspread so I can see them!
Easy Lentil Meatballs with Fresh Tomato Sauce
For the Lentil Meatballs
- 100 g red lentils rinsed
- 375 ml water
- 1 generous tsp Marmite
- 1 small onion peeled and diced
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
- 50 g breadcrumbs
- a little olive oil for brushing
For the Fresh Tomato and Hidden Veg Sauce
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion peeled and diced
- 1 stick celery diced
- 1 carrot diced
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 400 g can of chopped tomatoes
- 1/2 can of water
- 1 tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
To Make Vegan Lentil Meatballs
- Place lentils and water in a pan and bring to the boil.
- Stir in the Marmite, reduce heat and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes until lentils are cooked to a lumpy puree and water has been absorbed. Stir regularly. Add a little more water if needed during cooking. Remove from heat.
- Transfer cooked lentils to a bowl and add remaining ingredients apart from the olive oil. Stir until well combined. Add more breadcrumbs if needed. Chill for 30 minutes to an hour.
- Preheat oven to 180C/350F, line a baking tray with baking parchment.
- Take a spoonful of lentil mixture and roll in your hands to make a walnut sized ball (slightly wet hands help here), place on your prepared baking tray. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.
- Brush with a little olive oil (omit if you want to make these oil free) and bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until browned. Serve with fresh tomato sauce.
To Make Fresh Tomato Sauce
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a gentle heat.
- Gently fry the onion, celery and carrots for 10 minutes until soft.
- Add the garlic and fry for a further minute.
- Add the oregano and paprika and stir to combine.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, rinse the tin with half a cup of water and add the resulting tomatoey water to the pan.
- Simmer with a lid on for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until reduced by about a third and the sauce is thick.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.