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Vegetarian Baked Meatballs - a non-soy recipe

Updated on December 1, 2008

If you want to make savory vegetarian meatballs, but don't want to use tofu or soy or any other type of "fake meat", here's a recipe that I like to use. The meatballs are robustly flavored, and hold up pretty well if you want to add them to spaghetti.

The non-vegetarians I've served this to have loved it, as well. The bean and bulgur texture, firmed up with egg and breadcrumbs, has the same savory taste and substantial texture of meatballs. 

This recipe will make about 20 large meatballs.


  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 2 cups vegetable or mushroom stock
  • 1 cup adzuki beans (small, dark red beans)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 egg, beaten (2 eggs, if you want a "tougher" meatball)
  • 1 cup (or more) breadcrumbs 
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro
  • salt & pepper to taste


  1. Cook the adzuki beans in plenty of water. (It will take about 40-50 at a slow boil). Rinse and set aside.
  2. Cook the bulgur wheat in the vegetable/mushroom stock. The resulting cooked bulgur should be fluffy. Set aside.
  3. Cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil; cook until the onion is translucent and the garlic fragrant but not browned. Add the cumin and coriander and cook for another minute or so. Let the mixture cool.
  4. Add the cooked beans, bulgur wheat, and onion/garlic/spice mixture to the beaten eggs.
  5. Mix in enough breadcrumbs to make the mixture semi-firm. Mix in chopped cilantro leaves. 
  6. Put in the refrigerator to firm more (about an hour).
  7. Turn on your broiler, and lightly oil a cookie sheet.
  8. Using wet hands, roll approximately 20 meatballs from the firmed-up mixture, and place on the cookie sheet.
  9. Broil for approximately 12-15 minutes.
  10. Enjoy!


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    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      These really look good and no soy which I am glad to see. I am going to book mark these little gems of meatballs.

    • profile image

      Michelle 6 years ago

      in place of the egg as a binder, you can use a couple of tablespoons of ground flax mixed with enough water to make it similar to the consistency of an egg...Although if yousing the ground flax as an alternative, you may want to add a couple of tablespoons of Olive Oil to your mixture to ensure that they don't dry out, but remain moist and tender.

    • profile image

      Joanna37 6 years ago

      This is the BEST non meat meatballs recipe I have ever found....and superb in curry to make a divine veggie kofta!

      Also good in Italian, with spagehetti...but instead of the cumin and coriander for this I use fresh basil, oregano and a little paprika. I have also substituted white haricot beans as I live in France and it can be hard to find all the ingredients on the list here...but I think there are plenty of possible substitutes ...well done and thanks for a wonderful recipe.

    • profile image

      Lucy 6 years ago

      I am eating these now. i used half the amounts, i used black eyed beans instead of adzuki, and quinoa instead of bulgar. it looked icky.... but actually it make fairly hard balls, cooked it for about 20 mins, and it tastes... not bad! haven't tried adding it to sauce yet. i reckon it needs more garlic and maybe some thyme or rosemary, i will add this to the rest of the batch and see if my friends like it! nice recipe, thanks!

    • tebo profile image

      tebo 6 years ago from New Zealand

      This sounds tasty. I shall try this and try to trick my meat eating son into eating it. Thanks

    • profile image

      rachellemunro 7 years ago

      I love this recipe--I had leftovers: cooked hard white wheat kernels (made in my electric pressure cooker) and pinto beans (also cooked in the electric pressure cooker). So, I substituted and added a little liquid smoke and it threw it in the Kitchenaid mixer for 10 minutes....and it tasted great!

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 7 years ago from San Francisco

      Chay: Try black-eyed peas. I think the texture is actually quite similar.

      Other beans might have skins that are a bit too tough (like lima, pinto, etc.)

    • profile image

      chay 7 years ago

      this sounds good! can i substitute other types of beans for adzuki beans?

    • profile image

      Irina 7 years ago

      Kirsty, try quinoa. It's a seed not a grain but cooks like rice. Rinse quinoa really well and cook 1 cup of it in 1 and 1/4 cup water for 15-20 min until dry and fluffy.

    • profile image

      kirsty  7 years ago

      Hi I was just looking for a veg meatball recipe and found this one unfortunately I am also a coeliac and don't think I can tolerate the bulgar wheat ...... any suggestions for a substitute ?

    • profile image

      Angelzero 8 years ago

      Thank you sooo much its just what I have been looking for. I try to avoid soy as much as possible and this recipe is perfect !

    • Coolmon2009 profile image

      Coolmon2009 8 years ago from Texas, USA

      I will have to try this recipe thanks for sharing

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 8 years ago from San Francisco

      ValinBC: I don't see why you couldn't swap out the herbs & spices and replace them with others. As long as they complement the flavor of the bulgur wheat & adzuki beans, there shouldn't be a problem. Bon appetit!

    • profile image

      valinbc 8 years ago

      I can't wait to try this, but I really don't like cumin, coriander, or cilantro. I'm a plain parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme sort of gal. I know I can replace cilantro (which is often used in Mexican dishes, which I don't like) with parsely, but what about the other spices?

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 8 years ago from San Francisco

      tansy: that sounds like a *great* substitute, although I'm worried it might get a little gummy...but then, that might bind the "meatballs" together nicely. Thanks for the suggestion!

    • profile image

      tansy 8 years ago

      Thank You Livelonger! I'm allergic to soy and this is just what I was trying to figure out how to make.

      maybe a substitute for bulgur could be steel cut oats?

    • Staci-Barbo7 profile image

      Staci-Barbo7 8 years ago from North Carolina

      Livelonger, I cannot wait to try this recipe. . . it sounds wonderful!! I am so glad you chose not to use soy as the source of protein. I am vegetarian, but have sworn off soy due to possible issues with it disrupting hormone balance. For that, I thank hubber SteveMark.

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 9 years ago from San Francisco

      Hi Shannon, maybe bread crumbs? Haven't tried it. Bulgur does give a satisfyingly chewy texture, though.

    • profile image

      Shannon 9 years ago

      Are there any substitutes for the bulgar wheat?

    • mandybeau profile image

      mandybeau 9 years ago

      Yae these are so delicious, you are right, my meat loving friends won't know the difference, a glass of red wine a piece of crusty bread, and I served with Kluski noodles.

      Thanks for solving My what to have for tea thing.

    • profile image

      Kristen 9 years ago

      Is there something that can be used in place of the egg to bind the meatballs?

    • Sufidreamer profile image

      Sufidreamer 9 years ago from Sparti, Greece

      Lovely job, livelonger - always on the lookout for nice veggie recipes. Will give this one a try!

    • laringo profile image

      laringo 9 years ago from From Berkeley, California.

      No, I won't use any type of meat substitute. I will go strictly with your recipe. Thanks for the info though.

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 9 years ago from San Francisco

      laringo - They'll definitely tell with this recipe, although if you make meatballs with bulgur wheat with a meat substitute like Gimme Lean, they probably won't. I have tried those and they are so meatlike, it's a turnoff for me.

      Thank you, everyone, for the comments!

    • laringo profile image

      laringo 9 years ago from From Berkeley, California.

      This meatball recipe is one that I'll have to try. I am not a vegetarian but have cut down on meat quite a bit. I make my meatballs and chili with turkey. This one I will have to try. My family may not be able to tell that there is no meat in them. Thanks for the recipe.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks, I'm going to try this useful idea, too.

      I have used bulgur wheat in recipes--(Italian and Mexican especially)-- that ask for ground meat. I have found that the wheat, with seasonings has a very similar taste and texture, plus the added benefits of fiber and low saturated fat. You can always add a little healthy oil.

      Never thought about using egg and beans to bind it into meatballs or patties.

      Thanks again.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      The recipe makes my mouth water - I have not enjoyed adzuki beans in quite a while and must find some!

    • viralmusicvideos profile image

      viralmusicvideos 9 years ago from Los Angeles

      I've got all that stuff in my kitchen already. In fact, I was just looking at the bulger thinking, "what am I gonna do with this?"

      Thanks for the great recipe. I'm trying it tonight!

    • DarleneMarie profile image

      DarleneMarie 9 years ago from USA

      They look really good and I am looking forward to trying them! I'm not a vegetarian; however, I'm always looking for ways to cut back on meat.

    • Tatjana-Mihaela profile image

      Tatjana-Mihaela 9 years ago from Zadar, CROATIA

      Great recipe! I am vegeterian as well, and I have never eaten better since then.

      Thanks for inspiration, you have made me hungry, he, he!

    • Athlyn Green profile image

      Athlyn Green 9 years ago from West Kootenays

      This recipe sounds yummy. The addition of the vegetable or mushroom stock would add a nice flavour.

    • Lgali profile image

      Lgali 9 years ago

      I love all vege stuff

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 9 years ago from San Francisco

      Chef Jeff: I also try to avoid eating too much soy, which, because of its estrogenic effects, is not good in excess.

      Moon Daisy: Yes, that's it! I just checked and realized you're in the UK. In that case, change "cilantro" above to "coriander". :-)

    • Moon Daisy profile image

      Moon Daisy 9 years ago from London

      Thanks livelonger.  I think it's the same as what we call grilling.  At the top of our ovens we normally have a grill, which cooks things with a strong flame from above.  I'm glad I've learnt this new term.

    • Chef Jeff profile image

      Chef Jeff 9 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

      I love this idea! I am worried that too much soy is not a good thing. Soy itself is OK but too much may not be in our best interest.

      Love it, love it, love it!


      Chef Jeff T.

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 9 years ago from San Francisco

      Moon Daisy: Broil is usually a setting on your oven. It just creates a source of heat at the top of the oven, instead of just from the bottom.

    • countrywomen profile image

      countrywomen 9 years ago from Washington, USA

      I will try to get that bulgur wheat/adzuki beans and try this recipe

    • SusanBonfiglio profile image

      SusanBonfiglio 9 years ago from Woodmere, NY

      I have to try this! They sound wonderful. Thanks


    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

      I gotta try this, sounds yummy, thanks.

    • Moon Daisy profile image

      Moon Daisy 9 years ago from London

      They look and sound lovely. I'm not a big fan of fake-meat burgers either! (I've got one question though, what is a broiler? Haven't come across one of these before)