Lentil Quinoa No-Meat Balls

“Quin-what?” they say. It’s a protein-packed grain that now is mimicking a meatball. Toasty, nutty, and a little greasy… this meat alternative is the perfect dish for all your non-veg friends. Or if “meatless Mondays” are your thing, consider it sorted. Vegan? You’ll love this too! Onions and fresh basil, along with quality olive oil, and stone ground sunflower seeds bring this main course together.

After planning my meals and grocery budget for the week, based upon what pantry staples I already had, my grandparents arrive in town sending me for a one-eighty. I decided to have them over for a Saturday afternoon lunch. Considering they live in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, we rarely see much of one another, so I wanted to prepared something special. My grandmother is what you might call, a “picky eater” so I had to adjust my plan around her palate and nutritional needs. I wanted to take a classic favourite they served me as a kid, and “veganize” it.

The Menu:

Roasted Spaghetti Squash – Although pasta is typically served with meatballs, I did not want to over indulge on the grains. The squash was an amazing choice and kept the meal feeling light. Also added some color to the plate. DIRECTIONS: Cut lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Brush with olive oil, and season with salt, and pepper. Baked at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Let cool about 10 minutes. Using a fork, scrape the flesh away from the shell into a serving dish. I topped it with seasoned stewed tomatoes (straight out of the can). Gluten-free friends, I’m looking at you.

Green Beans – Nothing fancy here. I simply wanted to prepare my grandmother’s favorite vegetable. DIRECTIONS: Boiled 3-5 minutes until tender. Served warm with butter.

Cranberry Key-Lime Pie – From Bon Appétit … this was the hardest recipe I think I have every attempted. Delicious! But try at your own risk. Plus ONE serving is a whopping 690 calories (yikes!). I’ll be writing a recipe for that once the weekend is up.

Lentil Quinoa No-Meat Balls – The recipe you can find here is by Stacey at staceyhomemaker.com OR follow along below to see how I prepared the dairy-free, meat-free comfort food.


What’s different in my recipe? I used a food processor to mash the lentils super quickly. This also meant I didn’t have to overcook them and sacrifice their hearty texture. Secondly, I used a mortar and pestle to grind the sunflower seeds. I almost broke a sweat grinding a 1/4 c. of the seeds, but it was worth it. I measured them, then ground them. It is unclear if the original recipe was measuring after grinding the seeds or before. There was also some discrepancy surrounding whether the grains were cooked then measured or measured then cooked – I made the latter choice. Although I am rating this recipe as moderately hard, I encourage you to try it out. It is no more difficult than making beef or turkey meatballs, but it is harder than meat sauce I suppose. Last, I used traditional color quinoa, but I am fairly certain any variety will do. I’d love to see how pretty these look with tri-color quinoa. Try it out and send me pictures of your meals 🙂

Roll up your sleeves for this one and let’s get going.

Lentil Quinoa No-Meat Balls

File_002 (5).jpegTime: 45 minutes

Prep: 35 minutes

Cook: 8-10 minutes

Yield: 12-16 balls

Level: Moderate


1 c. dry green lentils, rinsed & drained

¼ c. dry quinoa, rinsed and drained

1 yellow onion, minced

¼ cup sunflower kernels

¼ cup fresh basil, chiffonade

1 tsp garlic powder

1½ TBSP Italian seasoning

salt and pepper to taste


Rinse off lentils before cooking, and prepare according to the package. For me, that meant bringing the lentils to a boil, cooking for 5 minutes, and letting stand, covered, for an additional 5 minutes. Drain the excess water, as it will not evaporate, and transfer to a food processor. Pulse repeatedly until you don’t see any more whole beans. Processed lentils in a large mixing bowl.

Rinse quinoa. Cook according to package directions. Again, I brought the grains to a boil, reduced the heat to low and let simmer until I could flake the quinoa with a fork. About 12 minutes. Add to the bowl with the mashed lentils.

Mince onion, saute in olive oil in a large NONSTICK pan, over medium heat for 8 minutes. Add onions to the bowl with lentils and quinoa. You’ll want to just set the dirty pan aside, because we will be cooking the no-meat balls in it later.

Use a mortar and pestle, working with about a spoonful at a time, grind 1/4 cup sunflower kernels into a fine powder. Add to the bowl.

Add basil, Italian seasonings, garlic powder, salt and pepper to lentil/quinoa mix. Using your hands, mix until everything is completely combined. If the mixture feels dry to you, add 1 tbsp olive oil to the mixture.

Form medium sized balls and shape with your hands. Once all balls are shaped, add a little olive oil to the pan you cooked the onions in earlier. Turn the heat on high. When the oil is hot arrange your lentil balls in the pan. Cook for 8-10 minutes, occasionally (carefully) turning the balls (using rubber tongs) to let all sides brown. Don’t move them around too much, as they may fall apart. Just move them enough so that outside of each ball makes contact with the pan at some point. Serve immediately over spaghetti squash with stewed tomatoes.



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