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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!

 

Big plate of vegan spaghetti with vegan meatballs and red sauce served in gray-blue bowl and table

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 (43)

(4.17 from 23 votes)
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Bodhitara4 weeks 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.3 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 Bedard4 months ago
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Need gluten free option, can you help

Steffen Jurisch2 months ago
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Try buckwheat flour or polenta flour 😉

Rc4 months ago
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Yummy! I added a little more spices for my tastebuds.

Beth6 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.

Joe6 months ago
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6

D’Arcy7 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!

patricia8 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 Cat8 months ago
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What can be used in place of the mushrooms? Mushrooms are gross.

Allyson6 months ago
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Delicious! I make these all of the time. We’re hooked!

D’Arcy7 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 Siddall8 months 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.

Deb4 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.

Lydia9 months 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 FitzGibbon9 months 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.

Chris G.9 months 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.

Tina9 months 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 N9 months 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 Jurisch2 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 Welch7 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.

El9 months ago
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Will the recipe still work without the mushrooms or is there a good substitute?

Ella9 months 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.

Sandy9 months ago
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What gluten free flour can you use?

Shellie8 months ago
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I would use gluten free oatmeal in place of wheat flour

Denise Wallace9 months 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

Brenda9 months ago
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I’m allergic to mushrooms, what can I use instead?

Roberta Double7 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.

April9 months 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.

Rachel10 months ago
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This recipe is so good and it’s even husband-approved! 😉

Joan R9 months ago
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Made these meatballs today- yummy!

Karen B11 months 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.

Heather11 months 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.

Susan9 months ago
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What amount of red pepper flakes did you add? Thanks!

Lorie1 year ago
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One cup of water to 1 cup of dry lentils???

Debbie Ogata1 year ago
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Is 250 really the correct temperature?

Liz1 year ago
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You can make this even healthier by spiralizing zucchini for your noodles.

Pat1 year ago
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Can I sub Gluten free oat flour or almond flour to make them GF?

Sarah1 year 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 Warner1 year 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!

Evan1 year ago
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Yum!! Worth the effort. Freeze some for later.

Cindi M.1 year 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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