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  • Prep-time: / Ready In:
  • Makes 8 cups pasta and sauce + 20 lentil balls

This whole-food vegan take on classic spaghetti and meatballs is as healthy as it is satisfying. The lentil “meatballs” take some time to make, but they’re well worth the effort. They also freeze beautifully for up to a month: After baking, freeze them in an airtight container. Reheat in a 350°F oven 20 to 30 minutes.

This recipe calls for store-bought marinara sauce, but if you’d rather make your own, try Mryna’s Marinara Sauce. Try more of our reader-favorite vegan recipes today!

 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry brown lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 8-oz. package button or cremini mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 3 small cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons no-salt-added tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb. dry whole grain spaghetti
  • 6 cups purchased oil-free marinara sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil

Instructions

  1. In a large saucepan combine lentils and 1 cup water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Add mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Cover and cook about 15 minutes more or until lentils are tender. Uncover and cook until any remaining liquid has evaporated.
  2. Stir in the next seven ingredients (through salt and pepper). Cook, uncovered, over low about 10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and pan is very dry, stirring occasionally. (Watch carefully so lentils do not scorch.) Spread mixture in a shallow baking pan; cool completely.
  3. Preheat oven to 250°F. Line a 15×10-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Scoop out 2 Tbsp. lentil mixture, shape into a ball, and place in prepared pan. Repeat to make about 20 lentil balls. Bake 45 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp.
  4. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to package directions. In a saucepan heat marinara sauce. Drain spaghetti, return to pot, and toss with 3 cups of the warm marinara sauce.
  5. To serve, top spaghetti with lentil balls and top with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with basil.
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Comments (50)

(4 from 25 votes)
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Elaine4 weeks ago
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This recipe was a lot of effort to make and everyone at my table was disappointed. The ingredients for the balls were chopped and not processed. This made them difficult to form, and after they were baked they were just a conglomerate of ingredients. They may as well have been just been spread out on the pan and baked. Forming them into a ball was useless and a waste of time. Complicated recipe. Bad outcome. Flavor wasn’t worth the effort.

Gabriele3 months ago
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I am going to make these within the next days as I like the ingredients and the balls really look delicious. After having read the comments I would suggest to double the quantity of the water (1 cup lentils, 2 cups water) and to use a mixer to get a dough. Don’t puree it, you will like to have the meatballs coarse.

Annette3 months ago
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i made these and wasn’t to impressed. The 250 temp is to low, i had to cook them at 350 after the 45 minute cook time at 250. They also need a better binder, Mine fell apart. Not sure what ill do with the left overs, maybe add them to some rice. Maybe some flaxseed binder? Love the idea but the recipe needs some tweaking to mae it more like a regular meatball.

Peggie JonesDargan3 months ago
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I used your book & made this, I’m not vegan & it was so delicious, I followed the recipe & the only thing my meatballs didn’t look like the picture but it was still yummy.

JC3 months ago
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Lentils need more water than the equal amount. The water was absorbed within 5 min and that was not enough liquid to cook the onions and mushrooms. Once the other ingredients were added, there still was not enough liquid to simmer the mixture without it burning. I would recommend a cup and a half of water.

Dennis Heck4 months ago
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I made this recipe exactly at written, but there does not seem to be anything to hold the balls together. The taste was OK, but none of my lentil ball held together very well. Should the mixture have been processed in a food processor before forming the balls?

Bodhitara5 months ago
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I made this recipe without forming lentil balls, keeping the mixture in the pot I cooked it. I also made Myrna’s marinara sauce with two cans of tomatoes, 3 dates, 3 garlic cloves and dried basil. Delicious!
The combination of the lentil/mushroom mixture and marinara is super tasty .

Tabitha A.7 months ago
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I had zero luck with one of the other FOK recipes with “wheatballs”, but these worked spectacularly! I would definitely add more spices and possibly nutritional yeast or vegan grated parm in place of, or in addition to, the wheat flour. I used Simple Truth Organics Marinara Sauce. I don’t know if it’s oil-free, I didn’t really care as the rest of the recipe is extremely healthy.

Debbie Bedard8 months ago
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Need gluten free option, can you help

Steffen Jurisch6 months ago
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Try buckwheat flour or polenta flour 😉

Rc8 months ago
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Yummy! I added a little more spices for my tastebuds.

Beth10 months ago
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Delicious but I did add a lot of flavor enhancers to the sauce. As others said, the balls did fall apart but so what! I will make this again.

Joe10 months ago
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6

D’Arcy11 months ago
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This recipe is a hit in our home. As other comments have mentioned, we were skeptical about the amount of onions and the use of mushrooms. Don’t be… the onions cook down nicely. And the mushrooms go through a vegan-voodoo process and add a nice meaty texture and flavor. Enjoy!

patricia12 months ago
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Yum! I thought it was delicious in flavor and I always appreciate recipes where I can make things a day or so in advance.

My only problem was in keeping the balls intact- like homemade veggie burgers, they fell apart. Ideas??

Tofu Cat12 months ago
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What can be used in place of the mushrooms? Mushrooms are gross.

Allyson10 months ago
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Delicious! I make these all of the time. We’re hooked!

D’Arcy11 months ago
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While untested in our home, you may consider chickpeas, zucchini or even sun dried tomatoes as substitutes for mushrooms.

Sherry Siddall1 year ago
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I love Forks Over Knives recipes. That said, it would be helpful if you included nutritional information. For this recipe I used a food processor to chop the onions and mushrooms and garlic, and it worked well. I did add an additional half cup of water to the lentil mixture about halfway. A tasty recipe.

Deb8 months ago
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The nutritional information is posted, but if you haven’t paid FOK, it won’t be available. For those who have upgraded, click on it i at the top on the right of the recipe name to view nutritional information.

Lydia1 year ago
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I’m actually pretty surprised at the negative reviews. I’ve made these half a dozen times and they’re always a hit. I make them exactly as the recipe instructs and I freeze the leftovers to enjoy for longer.

Susan FitzGibbon1 year ago
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One cup of water for one cup of lentils is insufficient to cook the lentils. Final taste of meatballs was just OK, nothing special.

E4 weeks ago
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FOK, please update this recipe to something more than 1 c of water; multiple people have noted this is impossible; I burnt a cup of lentils trusting in this guidance. Had it simmering on 1, covered. Or—don’t cover and constantly stir? Help us not waste food, please.

Chris G.1 year ago
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The meatball were pretty rough. Way too many onions (and then onion powder on top of it?). The texture is crunchy because the onions and garlic are almost raw testing, which is odd. And the flavor is just not good overall. It has potential though. Next time I’ll half or even quarter the amount of onions. Sauté the onions, garlic and mushrooms before adding to the lentils as well. Once the lentil mixture is done cooking in the pot, I’ll add them to a food processor to mince up. Then roll into balls and pop in the oven. Think this will be a step in the right direction.

Tina1 year ago
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Takes a bit of time but, WOW, delicious! Here are my tips:

1. I omitted the tomato paste for a more all-round flavor for use in other dishes (perhaps a veggie stir-fry or on top of a salad).
2. I added the frozen meatballs to a sauté pan to heat up with the pasta sauce and they broke apart, giving me more of a bolognese sauce than meatballs (still delicious). So keep separate if you like that ‘meatball’ look and feel.
3. They freeze incredibly well! Once baked and cooled, I froze them on the baking tray until solid, then transferred them to a silicone freezer bag… easy to pull out one or two as needed instead of a giant clump of meatballs.
4. Great use for mushrooms that are a bit past their prime but are still edible
5. It does take time… make this while you’re doing other meal prep and it’s a breeze.
6. Lastly, I was sorry I didn’t make two batches

Sandy N1 year ago
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I was very disappointed by this recipe. I’m a good cook and know how to follow a recipe — this recipe did not turn out well. I will not make it again. I will finish what I’ve made because I hate to throw out food but I won’t enjoy it.

Steffen Jurisch6 months ago
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Sandy, think twice… a good cook don’t need to follow a recipe, he follows only his own inspiration. 😉

Rebekah Welch11 months ago
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These lentil balls are delicious! I followed the recipe as written and they are yummy! One cup of water to one cup of lentils is truly all the water you you need. When you then add the mushrooms (along with onion and garlic) the mushrooms introduce more moisture. The only thing I did change was at 250 degrees for 45 minutes I found I wanted more cooking time, so I increased the temperature to 350 and baked them for an additional 20 minutes. I highly recommend this recipe and if you follow the recipe as-is they should turn out perfectly.

El1 year ago
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Will the recipe still work without the mushrooms or is there a good substitute?

Ella1 year ago
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I too am looking for advice on what to substitute for the mushrooms, as I don’t tolerate them well. I haven’t made this recipe yet, but I’m thinking of trying a combination of finely chopped zucchini and walnuts (1/2 cup of each) in place of the mushrooms. Walnuts are great in other veggie meatball recipes, adding yummy protein and fat (including Omega-3); they can go in at the end, no need to cook them. I decided on zucchini as well for some neutral tasting vegetable bulk, but it is very nutritious as well. Depending on your tastes, I’m sure other veggies could be used – cauliflower has a meaty texture; carrots and red cabbage would be really pretty, if not meat-like. But who says this has to be brown? 😉

I saw some people asking about what to sub for wheat flour to make it gluten free – GF oat flour would work great, or brown rice flour. You’re just making the mixture less sticky so it’s easier to work with.

Sandy1 year ago
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What gluten free flour can you use?

Shellie12 months ago
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I would use gluten free oatmeal in place of wheat flour

Denise Wallace1 year ago
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The flour is used to hold the lentils together. So badically you could use ground flax or chia instead. Those work wonders for anyone not wanting to use flour as a binder

Brenda1 year ago
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I’m allergic to mushrooms, what can I use instead?

Roberta Double11 months ago
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I would think some cooked brown rice would work in place of the mushrooms. I’d try 3/4 of a cup or six ounces. It would add the bulk, absorb the flavor and be sticky.

April1 year ago
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These meatballs were not worth all of the effort. If the result had been amazingly delicious then I wouldn’t mind all the work, but these are certainly NOT worth my time.

Rachel1 year ago
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This recipe is so good and it’s even husband-approved! 😉

Joan R1 year ago
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Made these meatballs today- yummy!

Karen B1 year ago
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I really like these lentil balls. Mostly because they really do freeze well and so make a tasty quick meal. I didn’t cook the lentils quite long enough so I imagine they will be even better next batch.

Heather1 year ago
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Not sure what I did wrong, but I only got 15 vs the 20 listed in the recipe. That’s totally OK though. They tasted great. It does take some time to make them, but I think it was worth the effort since I can freeze them for future use. Definitely recommend and I would make them again.

Dorothy powell1 year ago
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Wonderful meat ball recipe .I added red pepper flakes to recipe for spicer meatballs . They also freeze well.

Susan1 year ago
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What amount of red pepper flakes did you add? Thanks!

Lorie2 years ago
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One cup of water to 1 cup of dry lentils???

Debbie Ogata2 years ago
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Is 250 really the correct temperature?

Liz2 years ago
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You can make this even healthier by spiralizing zucchini for your noodles.

Pat2 years ago
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Can I sub Gluten free oat flour or almond flour to make them GF?

Sarah2 years ago
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I haven’t made this yet, what can I sub the mushrooms for? I’m allergic to mushrooms so I need an alternative

Connie Warner2 years ago
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Made this last night. It came out to 25 meatballs but maybe my measurements were slightly off. I loved this and so did my picky Italian husband! :-D. It does take some time, but I find joy in preparing meals w/ plants. Will make again. Thank you!

Evan2 years ago
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Yum!! Worth the effort. Freeze some for later.

Cindi M.2 years ago
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I need to be patient and not take the lentil mixture off the burner too soon next time. The “meat” balls were delicious in spite of me! Not hard to make, but it does take some time. And patience 😉

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about the author

Darshana Thacker Wendel

Darshana Thacker Wendel is a whole-food, plant-based chef and former culinary projects manager for Forks Over Knives. A graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute, she is the author of Forks Over Knives: Flavor! She created the recipes for Forks Over Knives Family and was a lead recipe contributor to the New York Times bestseller The Forks Over Knives Plan. Her recipes have been published in The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook, Forks Over Knives—The Cookbook, Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health, and LA Yoga magazine online. Visit DarshanasKitchen.com and follow her on Instagram for more.

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