Cooking From Cookbooks is a series where I showcase innovative plant-based recipes from my favorite cookbooks. These are the easiest, most delicious, baked tempeh meatballs from Wait, That’s Vegan?!. Just 35 minutes from start to finish!
In the realm of traditional-to-vegan recipe conversions, meatballs are one of the most head-scratch-inducing (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 was up for the challenge.
Lisa’s book, Wait, That’s Vegan?! (out today!), is a handy collection of creative vegan versions of classic comfort foods – from pancakes, to lasagna and burgers, to strawberry shortcakes, and everything in between. I got intimately acquainted with both Lisa and her brilliant first cookbook last summer, when I had the privilege of photographing the recipes in her home in NYC. During a seven-day marathon, we shot all 75 recipes for the book.
As a long-time vegan, Lisa has a great sensibility for achieving the perfect texture and maximizing the flavor of any dish. Her tempeh meatballs were one of the best things I tasted during the shoot and I’m so psyched they made the cover!
These tempeh meatballs are one of the meatiest-tasting vegan foods I’ve tried. They’ve got a chewy, toothsome interior and a satisfying caramelized crust on the outside, just like a traditional meatball. The combo of miso, tomato paste, and nutritional yeast lends a rich salty-savory flavor, and plenty of parsley gives them an earthy freshness. Even Rene, a certified tempeh-hater, loved these meatballs. It’s safe to say we’ll be adding them to our dinner rotation.
You start the recipe by crumbling up a package of tempeh into a pot and quickly simmering it with soy sauce and water. This step softens the tempeh, seasons it throughout, and tones down its inherent slight bitterness. Next, you mix the steamed tempeh with the flavorings, as well as some breadcrumbs, which act as a binder.
Finally, you divvy up the mixture into little balls and bake them until they’re nicely caramelized.
How to Sear Tempeh Meatballs in the Oven
The recipe in the book instructs to first bake the ‘balls to cook them through and then finish them in a skillet to get the caramelization. I simplified this step by baking the meatballs at a higher temperature in a generous amount of oil (a technique we highlighted in The Complete Vegan Cookbook). During baking, I shake the sheet tray every five minutes to rotate the balls and re-coat them hot oil; the resulting sear is just as effective as cooking the ‘balls on the stove.
Besides the obvious, these tempeh meatballs are great over creamy polenta, roasted spaghetti squash in the winter, or zucchini noodles in the summer. You can also tuck them into a meatball sub!
These vegan tempeh meatballs are perfect with pasta, creamy polenta, spaghetti squash, or zucchini noodles. (This recipe is slightly adapted from Wait, That’s Vegan?! by Lisa Dawn Angerame [Page Street Publishing, 2020]).
- One 8-ounce package tempeh
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
- 1 heaping teaspoon white miso
- 1 heaping teaspoon tomato paste
- 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons minced parsley
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning or dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup avocado oil or organic canola oil
- Your favorite red sauce, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- Crumble up the tempeh into small bits and place in a medium pot, along with the soy sauce and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a simmer. Every few minutes, go in with a wooden spatula to break up the tempeh completely. Cook until all the liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes. Let the tempeh cool slightly.
- Combine the miso and tomato paste in a large bowl and mash them together using a fork. Add all the remaining ingredients (from breadcrumbs through black pepper) EXCEPT for the oil to the bowl, along with the tempeh. Using a fork or your hands, mix until everything is evenly incorporated.
- Pour the oil onto a quarter sheet pan.
- Form the tempeh mixture into about a dozen golf ball-sized balls and place on the sheet pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, shaking the pan about every 5 minutes to rotate the meatballs (use tongs to help flip the ‘balls, if needed), until they’re nicely browned on all sides.
- Serving Size: 3 meatballs
- Calories: 240 calories
- Carbohydrates: 18.9 g
- Fiber: 6.9 g
- Protein: 14.1 g
Keywords: tempeh, meatballs, vegan, cookbook