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Vegan and Gluten-Free Tempeh Meatballs

spaghetti and meatballs (3)


Sometimes simple is better. Recently, I was sharing our dinners with a friend and when I revealed that our food is vegan, he was shocked. Well, ok, first I had to explain what vegan meant but after I did, he was shocked. I told him that I could make anything vegan and that he should tell me what his favorite foods are and I would make him vegan versions of them. I was expecting him to tell me dishes that would be complicated or a challenge to veganize but he said “steak and spaghetti and meatballs.” Easy!

First I made him my Seitan Steak in Buerre Blanc Sauce and served it to him with a side of vegan leaflets and a copy of “Vegucated” for dessert.

seitansteak best

He loved the seitan steak, loved it!! He also was taken in by what he was learning from the leaflets and videos. He had all the usual reactions to what he read and saw: how could this happen, why do people allow this to happen, the realization that animal parts and products are in just about everything.

I continued to feed him vegan dinners and share other videos, magazines and reading material. He said it was unreal, that everything he ever knew was in question. And he continued to be amazed at just how diverse and delicious vegan food can be.

Then I made him his other favorite food – spaghetti and meatballs. I’ve made vegan meatballs before – Lentil Meatballs and Mozzarella-Stuffed Eggplant Meatballs – that are really amazing. Last month I also made Buffalo Tempeh Meatballs which are incredible. But for this meal, I had to keep it simple and give him his favorite meal veganized so I made a more simple recipe for Tempeh Meatballs.

tempeh meatballs (3)

Tempeh meatballs are really fast and easy to make – all you need is a food processor though you could definitely make them by hand too. They come together quickly, you just fry them up and then simmer them in your favorite sauce. Of course, I make my Mom’s Marinara Sauce. One block of tempeh gives you about 8 or 9 meatballs. They are delicious served over pasta or in a sandwich.

The tempeh meatballs taste rich and flavorful with a perfect soft yet firm meatball texture. They hold up well in the sauce and are filling and satisfying. I served them over a bed of brown rice spaghetti and my Mom’s Marinara Sauce. My friend loved them!

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The next day he told us that he gave his leather boots to a friend because he felt “creepy” wearing them. Yay! That’s the power of delicious vegan food. It also taught me that I didn’t need to make any complicated recipes to impress him. Sometimes simple is better. Enjoy!


Vegan and Gluten-Free Tempeh Meatballs

spaghetti and meatballs (2)

Makes 8-9 meatballs


My Mom’s Marinara Sauce

1 Tbs. flax seed

3 Tbs. warm water

1 block tempeh

2 shallots, chopped

2 garlic cloves

2 Tbs. gluten-free, vegan Worcestershire sauce

2 Tbs. vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast

2 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/3 + ¼ cup gluten-free bread crumbs

Vegetable oil, for frying


Prepare the marinara sauce. In a small mug, combine the flaxseed and warm water. Mix and let sit for about 10 minutes. This is your binder.

Break up the tempeh and add it to a food processor. Add the shallots, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and the parmesan or nutritional yeast to the food processor. Process until everything is combined.

Add the herbs and the salt to the food processor. Add the flax mixture and 1/3 cup of bread crumbs to the food processor and process until well combined.

Spread the remaining ¼ cup of bread crumbs on a plate. Using a spoon, scoop up some of the tempeh mix and roll it into a ball – about the size of a golf ball. Roll the tempeh meatball in the bread crumbs so that it’s completely covered and set it aside on a plate. Continue making meatballs until you use up all the tempeh mix.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tempeh meatballs to the skillet and fry them. Depending on the size of your skillet, you may need to fry them in batches. Make sure the meatballs brown on all sides. The way I do this is to pull the skillet back and forth by the handle which makes the tempeh meatballs roll around. I find this covers all the sides better than trying to turn them with a utensil. When they are browned, transfer the meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate.

Gently add the tempeh meatballs to the simmering marinara sauce. Let them cook about 10 minutes until they are heated through. Serve with pasta or in a sandwich.

spaghetti and meatballs (1)

The “V” Word: Say it. Eat it. Live it.





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8 Responses to Vegan and Gluten-Free Tempeh Meatballs

  1. Megan May 7, 2016 at 7:59 pm #

    Have you tried baking these before? Trying to live oil free but didn’t know if they would hold up or dry out with baking. Thanks!!

    • Rhea May 18, 2016 at 2:30 pm #

      I do bake meatballs Megan. AT 350 for about 30 minutes or so. They don’t dry out.

  2. Jessica September 8, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    Can you make them the day before and fry them up the next night?

    • Rhea September 8, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

      Hi Jessica, yes, you can. You can either roll them into balls first or just put the whole mix in the fridge, covered. Let it come to room temperature the next day before cooking. xoxo

  3. Christina April 28, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    Hi, I just made them, they were great, thanks! Love finding vegan recipes.

    • Rhea April 28, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

      Yay! I’m so glad. Thanks Christina. xoxo

  4. Jacqui February 24, 2014 at 6:10 pm #

    If I just saw the photo, I would swear they were made with ground beef! This is an amazing looking recipe that I might just have all the ingredients for. Yum! THANKS!

    • Rhea February 27, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

      I hope you love them Jacqui! xoxo

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