Moroccan Lentil Meatballs with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce is made with simple ingredients and comes together in just 30 minutes. These veggie meatballs are kid-friendly and great for meal prep lunch or easy weeknight dinners.
Why You'll Love these Lentil Meatballs:
I honestly can't think of a reason why you wouldn't LOVE these vegetarian lentil meatballs. Firstly, they're made with pantry staples like canned lentils, breadcrumbs, tomato paste, and dried herbs and spices. Second, they couldn't be simpler to prepare with the help of a food processor.
These lentil meatballs are also budget friendly and can be adapted to a wide range of cuisines and styles. The lentils add a great source of plant protein and fiber, making them super satiating, too.
Enjoy them for a weekday meal with pasta, couscous, or simply dipped in your favorite sauce. Tender, hearty, and deliciously spiced, these veggie meatballs will be a family favorite!
Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions:
- Lentils: The star of these meatballs is protein-rich lentils, which add heft and meatiness. I use canned lentils for convenience, however you can certainly cook them from scratch. (Just make sure they are completely cooled before adding them to the food processor.) Alternatively, the vacuum-sealed bags of pre-cooked lentils are a great option.
- Breadcrumbs: Classic, unseasoned breadcrumbs help hold these bean balls together. If you only have seasoned breadcrumbs on hand, just leave out the dried oregano from the recipe. Alternatively, if you need a gluten-free option, oat flour also does the job here.
- Tomato Paste: This umami-booster lends savory depth of flavor to these veggie meatballs. It also adds moisture and helps bind them together. For more flavor and spice, you can use harissa instead (which you'll need for the red pepper sauce, anyway).
- Spices: I love a mix of smoked paprika, cumin, and oregano, which add wonderful earthiness and smoky spice. You can also add a pinch of coriander, saffron, fennel, and/or caraway, which are all staple moroccan spices.
- Egg: These bean balls hold together best with the use of an egg. However if you're making them vegan, a flax egg also works well. To make a flax egg, combine 1 tablespoon (7g) flaxseed meal with 2 ½ tablespoon (37 ml) water and let sit for 3 minutes.
- Aromatics: A mix of red onion and fresh garlic really level up the flavor. If you don't have red onion on hand, feel free to use yellow onion or shallots instead.
- Roasted Red Pepper Sauce: This sauce couldn't be simpler, and only calls for 4 ingredients. You need one jar of roasted red peppers, harissa, fresh garlic, and extra-virgin olive oil. You won't believe how bright and flavorful it is for such few ingredients. (Pro tip: prep a double batch and use leftovers for spooning over roasted veggies, fish, or chicken!)
Step 1: Blend Lentil Meatball Ingredients in a Food Processor
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the lentils, breadcrumbs, tomato paste, parsley, onion, garlic, herbs, and spices. Pulse, mixing until combined, but not puréed, leaving a little texture. (The texture should be similar to dough. If it feels too wet to roll, mix in extra breadcrumbs.)
Transfer mixture to a bowl and wipe the food processor clean.
Step 2: Prepare the Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Add roasted red peppers, harissa, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper to the food processor. Blend the mixture until smooth, and set aside.
Step 3: Sear Meatballs in a Skillet
Use a medium cookie dough scoop to scoop out Tablespoon amounts of dough and carefully roll into 18 balls.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoon olive oil. Once hot, add the lentil meatballs and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until golden-brown and slightly crisp. Shake the pan or use a wooden spoon to roll the balls around to cook evenly on all sides. (Note: if you're using a smaller pan, cook the meatballs in two batches.)
Step 4: Add Roasted Red Pepper Sauce to Skillet
Pour the roasted red pepper sauce into the skillet with the cooked lentil meatballs. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley, if desired, and serve with your sides of choice.
What to Serve with Lentil Meatballs:
These lentil meatballs are super versatile, and can pair up with just about any sides. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Pearl couscous: If you are not familiar, pearl couscous (also known as Israeli couscous) is a small, lightly toasted pasta. It’s quick-cooking, delightfully chewy, and makes a fantastic side dish. For more flavor, cook it in vegetable broth instead of water, and mix in fresh chopped parsley, lemon juice, and pine nuts before serving. I love this tri-color pearl couscous from Bob's Red Mill.
- Rice: Keep it simple with plain white or brown basmati rice, or go for a flavor home run with this Curried Rice Salad.
- Salad: Serve alongside this 10-minute Shaved Brussels and Pear Salad for a refreshing counter to the kicky red pepper sauce.
How to Make Lentil Meatballs Vegan:
To make this recipe vegan, you can use a flax egg in place of the egg called for in the recipe. Here's how to make a flax egg:
- Combine 1 tablespoon (7 g) flaxseed meal with 2 ½ tablespoon (37 ml) water in a small bowl.
- Let the mixture sit for 3 to 5 minutes, until it becomes thick and gelatinous.
- Add the flax egg to the food processor in lieu of a real egg to help bind the meatballs.
Make-Ahead, Store, and Reheat:
- Make-ahead: Unshaped lentil meatball mixture can be stored in the refrigerator up to 1 day in advance. Shaped (uncooked) lentil meatballs can also be stored 1 to 2 days ahead. You can also freeze the shaped balls (raw or cooked) for 2 months, then thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Either cook as directed (if raw) or rewarm in the toaster oven (if cooked). (Note: It's best to store the sauce separately so it doesn't turn the meatballs soggy.)
- Store: Keep leftovers in the refrigerator and enjoy for up to 4 days. Enjoy warm, chilled, or at room temperature.
Tools to Make Veggie Meatballs:
- Food Processor: To perfectly pulse the meatball mixture, you need a reliable food processor. This one is inexpensive, lightweight, and always gets the job done.
- Cookie Scoop: To scoop the veggie meatballs in uniform balls, I love using this medium cookie scoop.
- Large Skillet: A cast-iron skillet will help you achieve uniform golden, crisp goodness on the meatballs. This one is inexpensive and pre-seasoned.
More Lentil Recipes to Try:
Moroccan Lentil Meatballs with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
- Food processor
- Large skillet
- 1 (14.5-oz.) can lentils, rinsed and drained
- ¾ cup plain unseasoned breadcrumbs
- ½ cup roughly chopped red onion
- ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves (no need to chop)
- 1 egg *sub flax egg if making vegan
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 tsp. soy sauce or tamari (optional for added savoriness)
- 1 ½ tsp. minced fresh garlic
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- ½ tsp. each kosher salt and black pepper
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil for cooking
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
- 1 (12-oz.) jar roasted red peppers, drained
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. harissa (I use Mina brand)
- ½ Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
- ½ tsp. each kosher salt and black pepper
- Pearl couscous cooked in vegetable broth and served with fresh chopped parsley, pine nuts, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- Start by preparing the Lentil Meatballs: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the lentils, breadcrumbs, onion, parsley, egg, tomato paste, soy sauce, garlic, oregano, paprika, salt and pepper. Pulse, mixing until combined, but not puréed, leaving a little texture. (The texture should be similar to dough. If it feels too wet to roll, mix in extra breadcrumbs.) Transfer mixture to a bowl and wipe the food processor clean.
- Prepare the Roasted Red Pepper Sauce: Add roasted red peppers, olive oil, harissa, garlic, salt and pepper to the food processor. Blend the mixture until smooth; set aside.
- Use a medium cookie dough scoop to scoop out Tablespoon amounts of lentil meatball mixture and roll into 18 balls. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoon olive oil. Once hot, add the lentil meatballs and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until golden-brown and slightly crisp. Shake the pan or use a wooden spoon to roll the balls around to cook evenly on all sides. (Note: if you're using a smaller pan, cook the meatballs in two batches.)
- Pour the roasted red pepper sauce into the skillet with the cooked lentil meatballs. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley, if desired, and serve with your side(s) of choice.