Chickpea Meatballs

4.98 from 68 votes
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Chickpea Meatballs are freezer-friendly, kid-approved, and come together in just 20 minutes. Enjoy these vegetarian meatballs with pasta, in a pita, or simply with your favorite dipping sauce!

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Chickpea meatballs styled over a plate of spaghetti. Fork twirling the noodles resting on the right side.

Why You’ll Love these Chickpea Meatballs:

  • Quick and Easy: Ready in just 20 minutes and blitzed in the food processor, there is very little legwork involved.
  • Versatile: Enjoy them with pasta, in a sandwich or pita, or simply with your favorite dipping sauce. (My personal favorites are BBQ and honey mustard.)
  • Make-Ahead Friendly: These chickpea meatballs are perfect for meal prep! They’re also freezer-friendly and all-around great make-ahead option.
  • Healthy: A great source of plant-based protein and fiber, with minimal added fat.

That’s right, these bean-based balls are every bit as savory and satisfying as their meaty counterparts. (I use a similar recipe in these Buffalo Chickpea Meatballs!)

And while the main component (chickpeas) may be uncommon, the binders and spices stay true to most classic meatball recipes.

If you’re looking to incorporate more vegetarian meals into your diet, this recipe is for you.

Or, if you’re simply looking to expand your cooking repertoire and try something new, you’re also in the right place!

For more vegetarian meatball inspiration, also check out my reader-favorite Eggplant Parmesan Meatballs and Lentil Meatballs.

The Ingredients:

Recipe ingredients in bowls arranged on a wooden tray with labels.

While vegetarian meatballs run the gamut in terms of ingredients, these call for many pantry staples:

  • Canned Chickpeas: The star of this recipe is the humble, yet oh-so-versatile, chickpea. It’s important to drain, rinse, and thoroughly dry the chickpeas prior to mixing with the other ingredients. You can either pat them with a towel or leave them out to dry for 20 minutes ahead of time.
  • Breadcrumbs: A classic binding and bulking agent in most meatball recipes, breadcrumbs are a necessity here. However if you’re allergic or sensitive to gluten, feel free to use almond meal instead.
  • Eggs: Another classic binder in most meatball/meatloaf recipes. However if you’re making these vegan, you can sub for two flax eggs.
  • Nutritional Yeast: All the “cheesy”, savory flavor without the dairy, nutritional yeast is a major flavor agent here. If you don’t have any on hand (or don’t need to make the recipe dairy-free), you can use grated Parmesan cheese instead.
  • Fresh Parsley: At least in most Italian meatballs, fresh parsley is a must!
  • Spices: It’s no secret that chickpeas are quite bland on their own. For this reason, this recipe leans HEAVILY on spices to deliver big, bold flavor. For these meatballs, you’ll need smoked paprika, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, black pepper, and salt.

For a complete list of recipe ingredients and quantities, see the recipe card below.

Substitutions and Additions:

  • Make Gluten Free: Swap the breadcrumbs for your favorite brand of gluten free breadcrumbs, or use ground oats or almonds.
  • Add Spice: Add a pinch of cayenne pepper for a spicier meatball.
  • Make Vegan: Swap the eggs for two flax eggs. To make, combine one tablespoon of flaxseed meal and three tablespoons of water and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.
  • Add Veggies: You can sneak some fresh veggies into these meatballs by adding 1/4 cup of chopped carrots, bell pepper, or zucchini to the food processor before blending. 

Step-by-Step Instructions:

These chickpea meatballs come together in right around 20 minutes. And as far as equipment, all you need is a food processor and a large skillet. From there, let the meatless magic begin!

Step 1: Combine all ingredients in a food processor. This includes the chickpeas, breadcrumbs, eggs, parsley, nutritional yeast (or Parmesan), and spices.

Step 2: Blend until mostly smooth. The mixture will be a little coarse, which is perfectly fine. You just want the mixture to be cohesive so you can roll it into balls.

All ingredients being added and blended in a food processor until mostly smooth.

Step 3: Roll into balls. The balls should be 1 to 2 Tablespoons, amounting to 14 to 16 total

Step 4: Sauté Chickpea Meatballs in olive oil over medium heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, turning to brown all sides, until golden.

Mixture being rolled into balls and sautéed in a black pan until golden and crisp.

Recipe FAQs

Can I Bake or Air-fry?

Yes, you can bake OR air-fry chickpea meatballs instead of pan-frying.
Oven: Bake at 375ºF for 18 to 20 minutes, turning the balls over once at the 10 minute mark.
Air-Fryer: Set the air fryer to 375ºF, arrange meatballs in the air fryer tray in a single layer, and lightly spritz with cooking spray. Air fry the meatballs for 11 to 14 minutes, until golden and crisp. (Note: you will need to air-fry in two separate batches.)

Can they be made Ahead?

You can blend and roll the mixture into balls up to 1 day ahead. Store covered on a small parchment-lined baking sheet in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

How to Enjoy Chickpea Meatballs:

I’ve included some of my favorite ways to serve these chickpea meatballs below, however they are just as (if not more) versatile than any classic meatball. For example:

  • Pasta. You can’t get more classic than spaghetti and meatballs, and the Italian flavor of these chickpeas meatballs make for the best alternative.
  • Sandwich. My all-time favorite sandwich growing up was a meatball sub. I mean, does a heartier, more satisfying sandwich exist?!
  • Pita. With a smear of hummus and some fresh veggies, these chickpea meatballs are a mighty fine substitute for falafel.
  • Salad. Add a punch of protein to your favorite salad by topping it with 3 to 4 chickpea meatballs.
  • Dipped in Sauce. Keep it simple and serve with your sides of choice and/or favorite dipping sauce. (I personally love BBQ and honey mustard!) And since they make a great finger food, toddlers should enjoy them, too!

Storage Tips:

Make-ahead friendly AND freezer-friendly, meal prep doesn’t get much better than this.

  • To Store: Let meatballs cool to room temperature before placing in an airtight storage container or bag. Refrigerate for 4 days.
  • To Reheat: Rewarm chickpea meatballs in the microwave or toaster oven. I prefer the oven (or toaster oven), which helps retain their crisp exterior. Simply bake at 325°F for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until heated through.
  • To Freeze. Transfer cooled meatballs to an airtight freezer bag and press down to release as much air as possible. Next, label and date the bag, and freeze up to 3 months!
    • Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before following reheating instructions.
Chickpea meatballs over a plate of spaghetti in red sauce. Styled on a grey surface.

If you give this recipe a try, be sure to snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth on Instagram so I can see your fun creations. Also, follow along on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest recipe updates!

4.98 from 68 votes

Chickpea Meatballs (Vegetarian)

Chickpea Meatballs are freezer-friendly, kid-approved, and come together in just 20 minutes. Enjoy these vegetarian "meatballs" with pasta, in a sandwich, or over a salad for a healthy vegetarian meal.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4 people

Equipment

  • Food processor
  • Large skillet

Ingredients  

  • 1 (15-oz.) can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs (sub almond meal or ground oats if making gluten-free)
  • 2 large eggs (sub flax eggs if making vegan)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast or grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
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Instructions 

  • Combine first 10 ingredients (chickpeas through salt) in a food processor. Blend until mixture is cohesive and mostly smooth.
  • Use a small cookie dough scoop or measuring spoon to gather one heaping Tablespoon amounts and roll into balls. You should have 14 golfball-sized meatballs. (If the mixture feels too wet to form, add 1 to 2 more Tbsp breadcrumbs.)
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Once hot, add chickpea meatballs and cook 6 to 8 minutes, turning to brown all sides, until golden.
  • Serve with pasta and sauce, in a sandwich or pita, over a salad, or simply with your favorite dipping sauce!

Video

Notes

  • To Store: Let meatballs cool to room temperature before placing in an airtight storage container or bag. Refrigerate for 4 days.
  • To Reheat: Rewarm chickpea meatballs in the microwave or toaster oven. I prefer the oven (or toaster oven), which helps retain their crisp exterior. Simply bake at 325°F for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until heated through.
  • To Freeze. Transfer cooled meatballs to an airtight freezer bag and press down to release as much air as possible. Next, label and date the bag, and freeze up to 3 months!
      • Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before following reheating instructions.
  • You can also bake OR air-fry chickpea meatballs instead of pan-frying.
    • Oven: Bake at 375ºF for 18 to 20 minutes, turning the balls over once at the 10 minute mark.
    • Air-Fryer: Set the air fryer to 375ºF, arrange meatballs in the air fryer tray in a single layer, and lightly spritz with cooking spray. Air fry the meatballs for 11 to 14 minutes, until golden and crisp. (Note: you will need to air-fry in two separate batches.)

Nutrition

Serving: 4meatballs | Calories: 217kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 430mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 2g

I calculate these values by hand to ensure accuracy, however expect up to a 10% variable depending on food brands.

If you love this recipe, please leave a star rating and review below!
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58 Comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    5 stars
    These are delish and I have made them several times. My fav way to have them is in a pita with tzatziki sauce, lettuce and tomato. I have significant joint pain and forming the meatballs is painful. So I decided to try putting the mixture in a square coated pyrex pan and baking for the 20 min. Perfection – lazy meatballs! I sliced them into strips and they were just as good. I’ll make a double batch next time as they freeze beautifully. Thanks Jamie!

  2. Diane says:

    Great recipe! Love these so much. They are really easy to make.

  3. Kim says:

    5 stars
    Delicious! The texture and taste remind me of turkey meatballs when they’re mixed with red pasta sauce. A great and easy way to add vegetarian protein to pasta.

  4. Joann says:

    5 stars
    We enjoyed these with spaghetti, and will make again! I’m wondering if it might work to chop them up or cook like ground beef to use in lasagna?

  5. Terri says:

    5 stars
    These meatballs are amazing! I’m searching for healthy vegetarian options for my daughter (she’s a picky one) and these came out perfect!! So flavorful too! I’ve tried so many recipes where they fall apart or too soggy or just taste like flour. These were none of those things. We love them! I’m on the hunt for a good nugget recipe and was thinking of just using this one and maybe coating them with breads crumbs!

  6. Brittany says:

    5 stars
    Just made these and the flavor is incredible. I didn’t have fresh parsley so I just put in some dried and they still turned out amazing. Super quick and easy and full of flavor!

  7. Maria says:

    5 stars
    Simple to follow and tasty! This was just what we were looking for

  8. Kelsey says:

    5 stars
    Will this work without a food processor?

    1. Jamie Vespa says:

      Hi Kelsey – I haven’t tried making them without a food processor, so I can’t say for sure. I do think you need some sort of blending mechanism, though, to get the right consistency.

  9. Alison M. says:

    5 stars
    So easy and fast. Tasted great! I originally was looking at the CHIMICHURRI CHICKEN MEATBALLS WITH FETA CREAM recipe and saw this vegetarian version. I will make it again, perhaps just as an appetizer. I also made a whipped feta which went great with it!

  10. S says:

    I see that almond meal is suggested as a substitute . Would almond flour work as well?