Lentil Meatballs (Quick and Easy)

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These easy Lentil Meatballs are a drool-worthy plant-based protein source. Made simply with lentils, tomato paste, onions, garlic, and flour, you can serve these meatballs as a snack or add them to salads, grain bowls, or pasta.

213 CALORIES34g CARBS4g FAT13g PROTEIN
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I think it is safe to say that I am on a roll with meatballs. From these Baked Turkey Meatballs and Vegetarian Slow Cooker Asian Meatballs to my Quinoa Spinach Meatballs, I am slowly but surely trying just about every meatball recipe in the book. It was only a matter of time before I whipped up some lentil meatballs.

Packed with lentils, garlic, onion, tomato paste, all-purpose flour, and a handful of fresh herbs and spices, these vegan lentil meatballs are a delicious source of protein and fiber. Not to mention, they are packed with protein, dairy-free, and can be made gluten-free. (Talk about a holy grail.)

Perfect for Meatless Mondays and vegetarian diets alike, these easy lentil meatballs are bound to become a staple in your weekly routine. You can serve them on top of a grain bowl, salad, or with spaghetti for a classic pairing. These meatless meatballs also work wonderfully as a meal prep option! So, get your lentils ready, and let’s get into it. 

Ingredients for lentil meatballs including canned lentils, tomato paste, parsley, onion, flour, and spices.

Key Ingredients (And Easy Swaps!)

Easy Lentil Meatballs are a lot simpler to make than you might think. All you need are a few key ingredients:

  • Lentils: Lentils are a terrific source of protein that can help lower cholesterol and protect against both diabetes and colon cancer. They’re super easy to mash and mold, and therefore they have the ideal consistency for making into meatballs. To keep things easy, this recipe uses canned lentils but you can also use your own homemade cooked lentils.
  • Tomato paste: Tomato paste is used as a binder, meaning it helps to hold all the good stuff together. Not only that, but it also makes the meatballs extra moist.
  • Flour: The flour helps the meatballs hold their shape while they’re cooking. I use all-purpose flour in this recipe, but feel free to use 1:1 gluten-free flour or whole wheat flour.
  • Fresh herbs: A sprinkle of fresh thyme and parsley give these meatballs an Italian-inspired flavor that pairs perfectly with just about any pasta dish. You can use any combination of fresh herbs and spices you like.

Why You’ll Love Lentil Meatballs

Lentil meatballs are easy, nutritious, and incredibly tasty. Here are a few reasons why I know you’ll love this recipe:

  • Perfect for leftovers! Lentil meatballs are ideal for using up any leftover cooked lentils that you might have lying around in the fridge.
  • Vegan and (possibly!) gluten-free. These plant-based meatballs are dairy-free and perfect for vegan diets. They can also easily be made gluten-free if you use gluten-free flour.
  • Customizable. Fresh parsley and thyme are two delicious herbs that give these meatballs a boost of flavor. But of course, you can add additional herbs or spices. If you like things hot, chili powder or smoked paprika will surely give this dish a bit of extra heat. Oregano and basil are great for some Italian-inspired flavor.
  • Soft and golden-brown. The finished product is going to be delectably soft and golden brown. If you like your meatballs crispier, you can add more flour and finish cooking them in the oven. Baking will crisp up their outsides while keeping the insides nice and soft.
  • 15-minute meal. Lentil meatballs come together in just 15 minutes, making them the ideal weeknight entrée for those nights when you’re craving something hearty, yet aren’t necessarily in the mood to do a whole lot.
  • Ultra-versatile. These meatballs taste great with just about anything! You can use them to top off salads, sandwiches, pasta bowls, or whatever else your heart desires.

Vegetarian lentil meatballs served in a bowl with bell peppers, red cabbage, tomatoes, and greens served with a fork.

Serving Ideas for Vegetarian Meatballs

There are so many ways to serve these meatless lentil balls. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Go for the classic option and serve these meatballs with your favorite pasta or vegetable noodles. After frying the meatballs, simmer them in marinara sauce for even more flavor. Top with Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast.
  • These are delicious in sandwiches and wraps! Make anything from a homemade plant based meatball sub with sauce or cheese or go in a Middle Eastern direction by adding hummus, tzatziki, and lots of fresh vegetables. 
  • Serve these as an appetizer or on their own with a delicious dipping sauce like this Honey Mustard or Jalapeno Ranch.  These serve as a great replacement for chicken nuggets for kids.
  • Make a delicious grain bowl with lots of roasted vegetables, brown rice or quinoa, and these lentil meatballs. Drizzle with pesto, salad dressing, or peanut sauce. 
  • Make some yummy plant based tacos by adding chili powder, cilantro, cumin, and lime zest to these easy lentil meatballs. Serve in corn tortillas with slaw, avocado, and salsa.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this lentil meatballs recipe:

Lentil meatballs are great for topping off any lunch or dinner during any time of the year. I love tossing them into salads, wraps, pasta bowls, or with zucchini noodles and marinara sauce for a plant-packed meal.

Absolutely! All it takes is swapping the all-purpose flour with a gluten-free alternative or rolled oats (Bob’s Red Mill oats are my fave).

Yes! These meatballs are easy to freeze. All you have to do is let them cool entirely, then place them in the freezer on a baking sheet or plate in a single layer for 20-30 minutes. Then, you can transfer them to an airtight container or bag and freeze them for up to 1 month.

When it comes time to defrost the meatballs, let them thaw in the fridge overnight. Then, line a tray with parchment paper and place the lentil meatballs onto the paper, leaving space between each one. Reheat in the oven at 375°F until warm.

Yes! You can easily skip the skillet part and bake lentil meatballs in the oven. To do so, preheat the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper with a bit of oil, then place the lentil meatballs on the sheet. (Make sure to keep them separated from one another.) Bake for 30-35 minutes.

To store your leftovers, allow them to cool completely, then you can seal them up in an airtight storage container or bag. Then, you can refrigerate them for up to 5 days. Leftover lentil meatballs still taste yummy when they’re enjoyed cold. Or, you could reheat them using a microwave or oven. (See above!)

Luckily for you, there are plenty of fun and creative ways to use lentils. I love using mashed lentils to make veggie burger patties. In the summertime, mashed lentils are also perfect for making vegan Kofta (skewers of “meat” that are seasoned and served with pita, salads, dips, and sauces).

This recipe can work with other beans like chickpeas, black beans, white beans, or kidney beans. 

Plant based lentil balls with crispy edges served with fresh veggies in a bowl.
The Recipe
Lentil meatballs served in a bowl with cabbage, peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and limes.

Lentil Meatballs (Quick and Easy)

PREP TIME: 5 Min
COOK TIME: 15 Min
TOTAL TIME: 20 Min
10 Comments
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Ingredients

USMETRICS
  • 18 oz canned lentils, washed and drained
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 onion, minced (small, red, or white)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp all purpose flour (more as needed, or GF flour)
  • 1 Salt and black pepper to taste (sea salt or kosher)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

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Instructions

(Hide Photos)
1

In a large bowl, mix lentils, garlic, onion, tomato paste, parsley, thyme, flour, and season with salt, pepper. Use your hands or a fork to mash the lentils but not too much. Mix until combined.

Canned lentil, parsley, red onion, tomato paste, flour, and herbs in a glass bowl.
2

Heat a large nonstick skillet with oil on medium heat. Roll balls with your hands with the size you prefer. I, personally, prefer making bite-size.

Mashed lentil mixture being rolled into meatballs.
3

Lightly pan-fry balls by leaving a bit of space between them. Batch cook them if your skillet is not large enough. Cook until nicely brown all around the meatball. Prepare a plate with kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil when setting aside.

Lentil meatballs frying in a skillet with olive oil.
4

Assemble your bowl with lettuce or arugula, cucumber, tomato, red cabbage, bell pepper, onion, and lentil balls. Serve warm or cold.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 3-4 balls
Amount Per Serving
Calories 213
Calories from Fat 38
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 4g
7%
Saturated Fat 1g
3%
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 198mg
9%
Total Carbohydrate 34g
11%
Dietary Fiber 12g
50%
Sugars 5g
Protein 13g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the authorMeet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
10 Comments
On Lentil Meatballs (Quick and Easy)
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Laura Sergio
March 1, 2022 - 11:33
The taste of these were very good! I had trouble though holding them together. What do you think about adding an egg to help bind them together?
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March 1, 2022 - 13:28
You could definitely add an egg to help hold them together better or a touch more floour. My best guess is that the lentils were mashed enough and that caused them to fall apart.
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Chris F.
February 28, 2022 - 12:13
Add a Rating:
5
So good! Also loved the convenience of the canned lentils.
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Sarah
February 28, 2022 - 12:13
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5
Made these for a quick lunch for my family and we loved them. Served with ketchup and ranch. Kids gobbled them up. I served mine over salad and loved all the added protein.
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Diane
February 26, 2022 - 08:34
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3
they do not sell canned lentils where i live. how long to cook raw. thank you
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February 28, 2022 - 12:11
Here's an easy recipe for cooking lentils stovetop: https://www.slenderkitchen.com/recipe/simple-stovetop-lentils
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Diane
February 26, 2022 - 08:07
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4
This recipe has flour in it, which makes in NOT gluten free. Please change your labels. Otherwise, looks like a recipe to keep.
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February 28, 2022 - 12:10
Thanks! We added a note about gluten-free flour in the recipe.
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Laura Sergio
February 26, 2022 - 06:55
Hi, Kristen-
I think you mean 1/4tsp dried thyme!
Can’t wait to try this!
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February 28, 2022 - 12:11
Yes! Fixed it. Thanks!
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