Baked tempeh meatballs are the “meatiest”, easiest, most delicious vegan meatballs you’ll ever make. Less than 40 minutes from start to finish. (This article has been updated from its original February 2020 version.)
In the realm of traditional-to-vegan recipe conversions, meatballs are one of the most challenging – right up there with mac and cheese. Between textural missteps and out-of-left-field ingredient additions like quinoa (why?), a truly satisfying vegan meatball is hard to come by. Luckily for us, Lisa Dawn Angerame, author of Wait, That’s Vegan?!, was up for the challenge.
Lisa’s debut cookbook is an approachable collection of vegan versions of classic comfort foods – from pancakes and lasagna, to burgers and cupcakes, and everything in between. I got intimately acquainted with Lisa and her recipes in the summer of 2019, when I had the privilege of photographing them. During a seven-day marathon, we shot all 75 recipes for the book in her Manhattan apartment. The tempeh meatballs were one of the best things I tasted during the shoot and I’m so psyched they made the cover!
These ‘balls have a chewy interior and a satisfying caramelized crust, just like traditional meatballs. The combo of miso, tomato paste, and nutritional yeast lends a rich salty-savory flavor, and parsley gives them an earthy freshness.
What’s In These Tempeh Meatballs
This recipe features some of the usual suspects you’d find in traditional meatballs – except instead of ground meat, you use crumbled tempeh. In the flavorings department, we’ve got miso, tomato paste (or ketchup!), nutritional yeast, dried oregano, garlic powder, and fennel seeds. Store-bought breadcrumbs bind it all together.
Tempeh Meatballs Step-by-Step
Simmer the Tempeh: First, crumble a block of tempeh with your fingers until it is roughly the size of chickpeas. Place in a pot, then add 1/2 cup water and a tablespoon of soy sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook until all the water’s evaporated, about 10 minutes. This step softens the tempeh, seasons it throughout, and eliminates its inherent bitterness.
Make the Meatball Mixture: Transfer the tempeh to a large bowl. Add all the seasonings and the breadcrumbs, and stir to incorporate everything evenly. Set aside for a few minutes – just until the mixture is cool enough to handle.
Form the ‘balls: Pour enough oil on a rimmed baking dish to generously coat the bottom (I recommend a quarter-sheet pan). Pinch off bits of the tempeh mixture and form into golf ball-sized balls with your hands. Place on the baking sheet, spacing the balls about an inch apart.
Bake the Meatballs: Place in a preheated oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Then rotate the balls – either by shaking the pan or using tongs to flip – and continue baking for another ~15 minutes, rotating the balls every 5-7 minutes, until they’re brown all over.
Notes on Ingredients + Substitutions
- Miso: This Japanese fermented soybean paste adds savoriness (“umami”). Look for it in the refrigerated section (next to tofu, kimchi, etc.) or in the international foods aisle. Don’t hesitate to buy it if it’s your first time! Miso lasts forever in the fridge (like, a whole year) and there’s hundreds of ways to use it in vegan cooking.
- Tomato Paste: Lisa’s recipe calls for it, but I almost never use this ingredient myself. I can never use up the whole can on time, so it always goes bad on me. The good news: you can sub with ketchup!
- Breadcrumbs: Plain store-bought ‘crumbs are best here. I recommend Whole Foods’ 365 brand – it’s vegan and has minimal ingredients.
- Nutritional Yeast: A “cheesy”-tasting seasoning sold in most supermarkets. Look for Bragg or Bob’s Red Mill brands. Also lasts forever [in the pantry].
- Fennel Seeds: You may recognize this unique flavor from traditional Italian sausage. Hence, adding the seeds to vegan meatballs gives them a “meatier” vibe.
- Oil: I know 1/4 cup oil seems like a lot, but it’s necessary for browning these ‘balls and preventing sticking. Don’t worry – most of it will stay behind in the pan.
Besides the obvious, tempeh meatballs are great with creamy polenta, roasted spaghetti squash, or zucchini noodles. You can also tuck them into a meatball sub with melty vegan cheese! They are ideal for meal prep since they last all week in the fridge. To freeze, underbake the meatballs slightly, let them cool, then freeze; thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat in a skillet to revive the crispy exteriors.
More ways with tempeh…
Let me know if you try this recipe! Give it a rating below and leave a comment, and don’t forget to tag your creation with @thenewbaguette on Instagram.Print
- Prep Time: 5 mins
- Cook Time: 30 mins
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 12–15 meatballs 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Italian
- Diet: Vegan
These baked tempeh meatballs are the “meatiest”, easiest, most delicious vegan meatballs you’ll ever make. Adapted from Wait, That’s Vegan?! by Lisa Dawn Angerame (Page Street Publishing, 2020).
- One 8-ounce package tempeh
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/2 cup plain store-bought breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons minced parsley
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning or dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 heaping teaspoon white miso
- 1 heaping teaspoon tomato paste or ketchup
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- About 1/4 cup avocado, refined coconut, or organic canola oil
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- Crumble tempeh into small bits and place in a medium pot, along with 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a simmer and cook until all the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
- Transfer to a large bowl and add all the remaining ingredients EXCEPT for the oil. Mix until everything is evenly incorporated, then set aside for a few minutes to cool.
- Pour enough oil into a rimmed baking dish (like a quarter-sheet pan) to generously coat the bottom – about 1/4 cup.
- Form the tempeh mixture into golf ball-sized balls with your hands, and place on the baking sheet, spacing them about an inch apart.
- Bake for about 10 minutes. Then rotate the balls – either by shaking the pan or flipping with tongs – and continue baking for another 15 minutes or so, rotating the balls every 5 to 7 minutes, until they’re brown all over.
- Serving Size: 3 meatballs
- Calories: 240 calories
- Carbohydrates: 18.9 g
- Fiber: 6.9 g
- Protein: 14.1 g
Keywords: tempeh, meatballs, vegan, italian