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I’ve been making a version of these vegetarian meatballs for years. It started out as an Italian flavored meatball, but has since evolved to, well, pretty much whatever I want them to be. They take a little bit of prep — cooking the lentils and rice, then food processing them with tofu — but they are delicious.
I typically try to prepare as much in advance if I can, and if I’m already making lentils or brown rice for something else, I make extra and plan these in the next few days after.
While the meatballs are good, the sauce here is the star of the show. It’s creamy with a hint of sweet, a bit of spice, some turmeric, and lots of garlic and ginger. It has a sweet, nutty flavor from fenugreek leaves
, which is used a lot in Indian cooking. You may not be able to find it your local grocery store, but it’s easy to buy online. If you must, you can leave it out, but I highly recommend it.
If you don’t want to go to the trouble with the meatballs, the sauce is just as good with shrimp or whatever your favorite protein may be. Serve with rice if you want — although with the meatballs, I tend to skip that and serve with naan
Vegetarian Meatballs in Coconut Curry Sauce
- 2 cups cooked brown rice
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 small bunch cilantro
- 2 cups cooked brown or black lentils, divided
- 6 ounces firm tofu, cubed
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 2-inch piece ginger, grated
- 2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 diced tomatoes, about 2 cups (not canned!)
- 2 tablespoons fenugreek leaves
- 2 14-ounce cans coconut milk
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- To make the meatballs, put the rice, garlic, seasonings, cilantro, and half the lentils in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely ground.
- Add the tofu and coconut oil and process until smooth and transfer to a large bowl. Add remaining lentils and mix well.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment and scoop the mixture into rounds about 2 tablespoons using either a cooking scoop or your hands. Drop onto sheet about an inch apart. Bake for 25 minutes.
- While the meatballs are cooking, make the sauce.
- Het the coconut oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger, cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the cumin and curry and continue cooking for another 30 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes and cook for 5-10 minutes, until tomatoes are broken down and liquid is mostly evaporated.
- Add the fenugreek, coconut milk, lime, sugar, and cayenne. Bring to a simmer and simmer on low for 5 minutes; stir in chopped cilantro and season with salt and pepper.
- When the meatballs are done, put a few in a shallow bowl, and ladle the sauce overtop.