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How To Make Yummy No-Meat Balls (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

I enjoy sharing delicious traditional recipes that have been modified to meet the needs of those who are vegan or gluten-sensitive.

At one time, our Seventh-day Adventist church community hosted a monthly plant-based cooking drop-in. This healthy, delicious recipe for vegan and gluten-free No-Meat Balls was a big hit when we all sat down to sample it after the class. The recipe's originator and presenter was careful to choose a fair number of recipes that were gluten-free, because wheat-- and other gluten-containing grains-- has created an epidemic of related health issues.

No-Meat Balls -- vegan and gluten-free

No-Meat Balls -- vegan and gluten-free

Similarly, soy is a culprit in many people's digestive problems, and all of recipes in this series were also soy-free.

And because 'vegan' means that the vegetarian recipe also does not contain any animal products, this recipe is also egg-free and dairy-free (so, no cholesterol!)

I'm the lucky person who got to cook the recipe the No-Meat Ball at home, and, of course, pre-sample it. I can vouch for its lovely flavour and texture. I am guessing that there are some meat-eaters out there who would never guess that it is not meat!

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

30 min

30 min

1 hour

18-24 balls-- feeds 4-6


  • 1 T. Oil (Coconut or Olive), to sauté
  • 1/4 C. Leek (the White Stem Part), well-cleaned, chopped fine
  • 1/2 Red Onion, chopped fine
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 2 C. Brown Crimini Mushrooms, well-cleaned, chopped fine
  • 1 C. Brown Rice, cooked in broth or bouillon (see next)
  • 1 cube McCormick's Vegetable Flavoring, (or similar vegan bouillon or broth cube)
  • 1/2 C. Mashed Potatoes, no dairy used
  • 1/2 C. Walnuts or Pecans, chopped fine
  • 1/4 tsp. dried Rosemary, chopped fine
  • 1 T. fresh Parsley, chopped fine
  • Pinch dried Thyme
  • 1 T. Tomato Paste or Organic Ketchup
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse Kosher Salt or Sea Salt
  • 1/4 tsp. + fresh ground Pepper

Start with the Onions....

Sauté the Onions and Leeks until soft

Sauté the Onions and Leeks until soft

A Savoury Mix...

Mix the chopped mushrooms in with the Leeks, Onions, Garlic...

Mix the chopped mushrooms in with the Leeks, Onions, Garlic...

The Final Ingredients...

Mix all remaining ingredients together in a large bowl-- add in skillet items

Mix all remaining ingredients together in a large bowl-- add in skillet items


  1. Chop up all vegetables and herbs. I used a food processor for individual sets of items and found it really worked quickly and effectively to pulse up a finely-chopped ingredient... but knife chopping is also effective. Arrange in order of use as above.
  2. If you are planning to bake the no-meat balls (recommended), preheat the oven to 350 degrees F./180C
  3. Cook 1/2 cup brown rice in 1 cup broth or water with dissolved veggie bouillon cube. Set aside in pot with lid on.
  4. In a large skillet, heat the oil over Medium heat and add Leeks and Onions, cooking to soften (4-5 minutes)
  5. Add in Garlic, and cook for 1 minute more.
  6. Add in Mushrooms and cook until tender and soft.
  7. Stir cooked Rice, Mashed Potatoes, Pecans, Herbs, Tomato Paste, Salt and Pepper together in a large bowl. Add in the ingredients from the skillet and let them cool.
  8. Form tight little walnut-sized balls. (Press firmly so they will hold together... if too crumbly you might want to add a 'chia egg'-- 1 T. ground chia seed mixed with 3 T. water)
  9. If cooking in skillet with 1-2 T. Oil: Sauté balls on one side only on medium to high heat. Once browned, lower temperature to medium heat and cook until heated through (5 minutes).
  10. If baking: Place balls on large cookie sheet and bake at 350F until heated through, about 30 minutes. (I use parchment paper or a silicone sheet to avoid stickiness issues)
  11. Serve with a vegan gravy, if desired, and a fresh green salad. May be used in Spaghetti Sauce or in other casserole recipes calling for meat balls.

Advantages of Plant-Based Eating

Health Benefits of Going Plant-Based.

When eating fresh, organic, locally-grown fruits and vegetables people are able to get most of the nutrition they need for a healthy body and disease prevention. If, as the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine recommends, the plant-based diet also is low in fats (no animal fats, low in vegetable fats), there is significant indication that even diseases like diabetes and cancer can be prevented and reversed. A healthy plant-based diet (as promoted in the book/movie "Forks Over Knives" and in Dr. E. Colin Campbell's books "The China Study" and "Whole") also means that high blood cholesterol and hypertension are generally not present in individuals who stick with this way of eating-- because there is NO cholesterol in plants.

What about Protein?

I have met many people who say that they 'must' eat animal foods because they need the 'extra protein' or there is an implication that plant proteins are not as well digested or absorbed. While it is definitely true that proteins are the "building blocks" of the body and aid in maintaining proper organ function, it is NOT true that a balanced plant-based diet is inferior in sourcing protein. There are many super-athletes today who are themselves plant-based-- you might want to read about: Joe Namath (legendary quarterback), Martina Nvratilova (greatest tennis player of the 20th Century), Dave Scott (record for the most Iron Man World Championship victories) and many others.1

What about Vitamin B12?

Yep, this is the one big unarguable need to supplement if one is plant-based. Fortunately, B12 is included in many of today's cereals and non-dairy mylks. A few drops of a superior B12 (check with your preferred medical or health care professional) will suffice to keep you healthy over time-- a deficiency of B12 is bad news. You could deal with the potential of being B12 deficient by eating a lot of B12 rich meats, but "this decision puts you at a one-in-two chance of dying prematurely from a heart attack or stroke; a one-in-seven chance of breast cancer or a one-in-six chance of prostate cancer. The same thinking results in obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, constipation, indigestion, and arthritis."2

Different Diets for Different People.

There appears to be a school of thought that professes that there are different diets for every body-- implying again that some people do well with a heavy animal protein-fat diet and some do better with a vegan or plant-based diet. The evidence that I read (including what the oldest, largest professional nutrition association in the US stated in 2009 “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”3 It could be that cravings for meat and cheese, and other animal products, are the reason that many vegans bail, using the excuse that they need to eat meat.

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There is no large body of people who have been plant-based for long enough to prove that plant-based is healthier than a diet that is animal-based. Perhaps you have heard this as a rationale for those choosing the "hunter/gatherer" diet over veganism. Never heard of a large group of people thriving over time on a plant-based diet? One word to that: India. Too, although a number of world's longest-living people groups documented in the Dan Buettner's book Blue Zones ate some animal foods, their diets were certainly higher in plant products proportionate to the Standard American Diet. And one of the longest-living groups studied, the Seventh-day Adventist community in Loma Linda, California, mostly ate a vegan, or high plant-based diet, and lived productive lives into their 90s and even past 100. The proof is in.

19 Superstar Athletes Who Don't Eat Meat

2more information about B12 Deficiency in Dr. John McDougall's Newsletter


Vegan Myths Debunked


Cynthia Zirkwitz (author) from Vancouver Island, Canada on February 15, 2017:

Thanks Graham for the read and kind comments. This recipe is generally a big surprise for meat-lovers at vegetarian potlucks and we hear comments like, "I'm pretty sure this is real meat" and "these little balls are awesome, they don't even taste vegetarian." I'd love to hear back from your daughter if she tries them (and from you, again, if you do).

Graham Lee from Lancashire. England. on February 14, 2017:

Hi Cynthia. A really informative hub and so well presented. I shall pass this to my daughter who I know will find it of great personal interest.


Cynthia Zirkwitz (author) from Vancouver Island, Canada on November 09, 2014:

Hi Roberta... people who come to our lunches generally know in advance that the meal is vegetarian, and if they don't, they quite often don't comment. We have folks who don't come to the church service, just turn up for lunch, so I'm guessing the food is considered pretty good.

I'm quite sure you will enjoy these meat balls... the mushroom is a nice addition. The texture is quite meatball-like.

All the best, Cynthia

RTalloni on November 07, 2014:

Trying to convince folks that they were not eating meat must have been quite fun! :) I definitely want to explore this meatless meatball option soon.

Cynthia Zirkwitz (author) from Vancouver Island, Canada on September 28, 2014:

Hi there Roberta- yes, this is a very very tasty meatless recipe and I made it vegan, therefore, no dairy in the mashed potatoes! I agree with you that not announcing its vegan status and just serving it up to see what the responses would be, could be interesting. I actually have had the opportunity to tell meat eaters that a veggie dish definitely didn't have meat in it since I attend a church that serves up vegan/vegetarian fare every weekend and there are some cooks there who make "vegetarian" patties that taste very much like the animal foods they mimic. Thanks again for your helpful comments! ~Cynthia

RTalloni on September 26, 2014:

Looks so flavorful and perfect for those who must avoid cow milk as long as the mashed potatoes are made without it. Not announcing that the meal is meatless, but just serving this recipe up nicely would be a great way to introduce it to others.

Cynthia Zirkwitz (author) from Vancouver Island, Canada on August 02, 2012:

Hi Hypenbird-- we seem to be accruing quite a vegan community here on HP-- I appreciate your checking out the recipe and can assure you that these little no-meat balls are among the tastiest "analogues" I've eaten. All the best in helping your family and friends to eat more healthfully!

Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on August 01, 2012:

Yummy. As a vegan, I will certainly make these for the next function I attend. I like to have people eat healthy and be surprised to find it out. Hopefully it will make us all choose more healthful foods. Thanks for the great recipe.

Cynthia Zirkwitz (author) from Vancouver Island, Canada on June 21, 2012:

Om Parampoonya, thanks for dropping by and commenting! These no-meat balls are actually quite meaty-tasting and I wonder if your husband would even know they weren't meat if you didn't say? I think it has to do with the mushroom-nut combination.

Cynthia Zirkwitz (author) from Vancouver Island, Canada on June 21, 2012:

Thanks for your comments and rating Deb! I'm curious about what variations you would make? I rarely make a recipe the same way twice so am always open to new ideas/variations!

Om Paramapoonya on June 21, 2012:

This recipe sounds fantastic, techygran. Not sure if my meat-lover hubby would enjoy these vegan balls but I'm pretty sure I will! Rated up!

Deb Welch on June 21, 2012:

Great no-meat recipe for meat balls. Sounds really delicious and I will try it with a couple of variations. Thanks, voted up, useful, awesome and interesting.

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