Kung Pao cauliflower meatballs combine cauliflower, quinoa, breadcrumbs, and spices to master the delight of a meatless “meatball”. Enjoy as an appetizer or serve over rice for a vegetarian meal. We’re giving the Chinese takeout standard a wholesome upgrade with nutrient and fiber-dense quinoa and cauliflower. And I know the concept of meatless meatballs may sound like an oxymoron, but when done well, they’re downright delicious and a great way to sneak in extra whole-grains and veggies.
These vegetarian balls are tossed in a sticky-sweet and deeply savory Kung Pao sauce that delivers spice and zing. I love serving these as a two-bite appetizer, but they also translate well to a meal when served over rice or study greens for an easily assembled lunch bowl.More times than not, plant-based balls contain beans (chickpeas, lentils, etc.) but these guys utilize the oh-so-versatile crucifer—cauliflower!—to reach hero status. Dried spices add flavor, eggs acts as a binder, and breadcrumbs help bind while adding heft.
The other star of this recipe is quinoa—a nutty-flavored pseudo-grain packed with fiber and protein. This nutrition powerhouse contributes to the light, bouncy texture of the balls. You can find beige, red, or tricolor quinoa in stores; they all taste the same, so use whichever color you prefer. Just be sure to seek the grains out in the bulk bin section to save up to $3.00 per pound! You can make these ahead of time and then bake when you’re ready to sauce them up. And in terms of sauce, they’re also well-suited for marinara for pasta night, or a creamy curry sauce for an Indian mashup. Their flavor profile is highly adaptable, so feel free to get creative and switch it up!
And as always, if you give this recipe a try, be sure to tag #dishingouthealth on Instagram so I can see your beautiful creations. And if you have a chance, come back and comment below and rate the recipe—it helps tremendously in terms of web searches! Cheers, friends.
- *Cauliflower Meatballs*
- 4 cups chopped cauliflower florets
- 1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa
- 1 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- ¾ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- *Kung Pao Sauce*
- 1 cup lower-sodium vegetable broth
- 2 Tbsp. corn starch
- 2 Tbsp. lower-sodium soy sauce or tamari
- 2 Tbsp. hoisin
- 1 Tbsp. Asian chili garlic sauce
- 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. neutral cooking oil (such as vegetable or canola)
- 1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
- ⅓ cup thinly sliced green onion, plus more for garnish (if desired)
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Steam cauliflower florets for 12 to 15 minutes, until fork-tender. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl. Add remaining meatball ingredients (quinoa, breadcrumbs, eggs, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper); mix until combined. Gently mold into golfball-sized balls (about 1½ Tbsp. each). Arrange on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until golden.
- Prepare sauce by whisking broth and corn starch in a bowl until combined. Stir in soy sauce, hoisin, chili garlic sauce, and vinegar. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add bell pepper; cook 5 minutes, until tender. Stir in green onions.
- Add Kung Pao sauce to pan; cook 2 minutes, until thickened. Add meatballs; gently toss to coat with sauce. Garnish with additional green onion, if desired.