Gluten Free Vegetarian Meatballs (with Red Lentils & Mushrooms)

Gluten Free Vegetarian Meatballs (with Red Lentils & Mushrooms)

Gluten free vegetarian meatballs may sound like an oxymoron to you. But once you taste how rich and meaty lentils and mushrooms can be, you’ll be rooting around your pantry for these simple ingredients and serving up Meatless Monday on a Wednesday.

Gluten Free Vegetarian Meatballs (made with Red Lentils & Mushrooms)

It’s easy to run up a steep grocery bill in the warmer weather, since I make my kids wait all year for the abundance of summer fruits. Once strawberries, blueberries and avocados are in season, my children call in all those promises I’d been making during the winter.

‘No, you can’t have strawberries in January. They taste terrible plus they cost a million bucks.’ To keep things Shoestring Friendly, I try to make some meals that are almost straight from the pantry. Like these vegetarian meatballs.

Gluten Free Vegetarian Meatballs (made with Red Lentils & Mushrooms)

If you can swing it, don’t forsake the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The depth of flavor can’t be beat, and if I sprinkle it on things my children are always willing to give it a try. Oh, and my 1 child who swears up and down that she hates mushrooms? She ate these happily, unaware. My other child who declares an aversion to lentils? Same deal.

Gluten Free Vegetarian Meatballs (made with Red Lentils & Mushrooms)

Lentils and mushrooms are always willing to fill in for beef, and at a much, much lower price. Add some fresh herbs (one of the few things we always grow successfully each spring and summer), and you’ve got some big flavor there. Plus, lentils are easy. No soaking, and they cook in no time. They’re like the un-bean bean.

Gluten Free Vegetarian Meatballs (made with Red Lentils & Mushrooms)

These meatballs are soft enough that a 2-inch ice cream scoop makes quick work of portioning them, but stable enough that they won’t fall apart easily. They’re not altogether unlike those gluten free quinoa burgers we made a while back, but they’re even easier to make plus they go bun-less (not being burgers and all).

Gluten Free Vegetarian Meatballs (made with Red Lentils & Mushrooms)

I like to give them a spin under the broiler after they’re done baking, which helps them brown a bit on top. But really that part is optional. I tried tossing them in some gluten free flour and sauteing them for about 8 minutes (turning them from side the side), but I found it to be more trouble than it was worth.

If you really don’t want to turn on your oven, though, go for it. You could also bake them in a toaster oven (which I did successfully with a few, just to see). And if you’re looking for another vegetarian meal, try this Creamy Chickpea Curry from Food Faith Fitness. It looks so satisfying, and no meat in sight!

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 24 meatballs


1 pound red lentil beans, rinsed (any lentil will do, though – red just makes gives them a meat-like blush)

3 cups vegetable stock

1 medium onion, peeled and diced

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling)

20 ounces sliced white or baby portabella mushrooms

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup fresh gluten free bread crumbs

1/2 cup tomato marinara sauce

2 teaspoons gluten free Worcestershire sauce (both Lea & Perrins and Heinz brands are gluten free)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

3 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated

2 eggs at room temperature, beaten


  • Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper and set it aside.

  • Place the lentils and the stock in a medium heavy-bottom saucepan, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, cover and allow to simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed.

  • While the lentils are cooking, in another medium heavy-bottom saucepan, saute the onion in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil until the onions are beginning to soften (about 4 minutes). Add the sliced mushrooms and salt, and mix to combine. Cover and cook until the mushrooms have reduced in size by about half and have softened (about 5 minutes more). Drain the mushrooms of any excess liquid, and allow them to cool briefly.

  • In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, place the drained mushrooms and onions and the bread crumbs, and pulse until the mixture begins to clump. It will be chunky, not completely smooth, but you should not see any recognizable pieces of mushroom. Transfer to a large, wide bowl. Place half of the cooked lentil beans in the food processor, and pulse until mostly smooth. Transfer both the processed and the whole lentils to the bowl with the mushroom mixture. Add the marinara sauce, Worcestershire, basil, parsley, grated cheese and the eggs, and mix gently to combine fully.

  • With a medium (approximately 2-inch) ice cream scoop, scoop the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet each about 1 inch apart from the other. Drizzle the tops lightly with olive oil, and bake until mostly firm to the touch (about 20 minutes). Broil for 5 minutes, rotating once during broiling, to brown the tops slightly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool briefly before serving. The meatballs will firm up as they cool. Serve over gluten free pasta.



P.S. Don’t forget to get your copy of Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Quick & Easy! I can’t keep the blog going without your support!

Comments are closed.

  • […] Vegetarian meatballs with red lentils and mushrooms. […]

  • Kalinda
    June 13, 2013 at 9:57 PM

    Worcestershire sauce has anchovies in it. Not a big deal for omnivores eating meatless, but probably an issue for actual vegetarians.

  • Linda
    June 13, 2013 at 9:46 AM

    I too am curious about using egg replacer–maybe flax or chia? I am assuming the eggs are used as a binder. What might be another substitute?

    • gfshoestring
      June 13, 2013 at 9:50 AM

      Yes, the eggs are mostly used as a binder, but also for expansion/volume, Linda. As I told Melissa, though, I haven’t tested the recipe with any substitutions, so feel free to experiment.

  • Melissa Klimo
    June 12, 2013 at 8:45 AM

    can I use egg replacer with these and would goat cheese work please?

    • gfshoestring
      June 13, 2013 at 8:47 AM

      I haven’t tried this recipe with any substitutions, Melissa, so you’ll have to experiment. I can tell you that goat cheese is a very soft cheese, and Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard cheese, so I don’t think that would be a good substitute.

      • Melissa Klimo
        June 13, 2013 at 9:39 AM

        Thanks for your reply. I can get three grades of goat cheese – soft like a fetta, medium like mozarella and hard like parmesan. Would the hard do? Or there is pecorino which is a parmesan like sheep cheese.

      • gfshoestring
        June 13, 2013 at 9:45 AM

        That’s pretty cool. I’d go for the cheese that you think is the most similar in texture to the dairy Parm-Reg, then! It’s mostly the texture and moisture content that matter in this recipe. Good luck!

      • Melissa Klimo
        June 13, 2013 at 9:46 AM

        I am in Australia and have never heard of dairy Parm-reg. Sounds like this one is a bit too hit and miss. Thanks anyway

      • gfshoestring
        June 13, 2013 at 9:49 AM

        Just to clarify for others, by “dairy Parm-Reg,” I am referring to Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese made from cow’s milk, as called for in the recipe.

      • Michelle
        June 13, 2013 at 10:43 AM

        I have had the hard goat cheese, (the goat rescue place around here also makes cheese) and it is very similar in flavor and texture to Parm. I think it would substitute very well.

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