Chef John's Meatless Meatballs

March 14, 2017

Chef John's Meatless Meatballs

For me, the true test of any alternative meatless recipe is whether I would eat it again. Based on taste and texture alone, and not just because it’s meatless.
In this case, I would. Oh yeah man, I definitely would!
It’s not like I’m giving up real meatballs or anything, but trust me when I say that these are without a shred of doubt the most delicious vegetarian-friendly meatballs ever.

Chef John's Meatless Meatballs

Despite being completely meatless these “meatballs” are tremendously solid, kind of amazing, and truly fantastic.
And I’m totally understating how incredible these meatballs are.
To be honest I was skeptical that these could be as good as the real deal, but I stand corrected.
Thanks to a thorough browning, the mushrooms provide more than enough savoriness and umami while the onion, garlic, parsley, Parmesan, and oregano do the rest.
The taste is awesome, but what really impresses me is how close the texture is to actual meatballs.
Just like a real meatball, they have a firm outside and a melt-in-your-mouth center.

Chef John's Meatless Meatballs

These meatless meatballs are delicious with spaghetti (or zoodles) and make a dynamite meatless meatball sub.
So, whether you're going to make these because you’re a vegetarian who has been searching for a meatless version, or you’re a hard-core meat eater who just can’t believe your ears and eyes, I hope you give these a try soon.

Chef John’s Meatless Meatballs                                                                                                        Print this recipe!
Barely adapted from AllRecipes

Note. This recipe is pretty easy and simple but prep takes a bit of time. I recommend doubling the batch and freezing half for a later dinner or lunch.

Makes 20 meatballs

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb / 453 gr white mushrooms, finely chopped (use the food processor to save time)
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup quick cooking oats
4 to 5 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup breadcrumbs (I used gluten-free breadcrumbs)
4 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
2 eggs, divided
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch cayenne pepper

3 cups of your favorite tomato sauce
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or any other cheese you prefer).


Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, sprinkle with one pinch of salt and cook, stirring every so often until the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the butter, and cook on medium for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown.
Add onions and sauté for 5 further minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for 1 further minute, until fragrant.
Transfer mushroom mixture to a large mixing bowl.
Stir in oats and mix until thoroughly combined. Add Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, 1 egg, salt, pepper, oregano, and cayenne pepper (if using).
Mix together with a fork until crumbly. Stir in remaining egg and mix to combine.
The mixture should hold together when pressed.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight best).
When ready to cook, preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Scoop 1 heaping tablespoon of mixture, and with dampened hands roll into meatballs.
Arrange on the lined baking sheet.
Bake until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
At this point you can refrigerate or freeze the meatballs until ready to use, or use immediately.
Bring tomato sauce to a boil in a large skillet (or saucepan), lower to a simmer, and gently stir meatballs into the sauce until coated.
Simmer meatballs in sauce for about 30 to 45 minutes. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, cover with a lid and let the cheese melt (about 4 to 5 minutes).
Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve over spaghetti, zoodles, spaghetti squash, use them as a hoagie filling or — just like I did — eat them on their own.

Nutrition facts

One naked meatball (i.e., sans tomato sauce and cheese) yields 48 calories, 2 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbs, and 3 grams of protein.


  1. I tried this meatballs recipe some weeks ago and I freezed a batch of it. They are soooo delicious!

  2. I love this recipe - as a vegetarian I am always looking for good ways to swap out meat!
    Izzy | Pinch of delight

  3. I can't believe these are meatless! I actually didn't even read the title of the post when I clicked over, I just thought, oh wow these meatballs look amazing. This is even more exciting that they are veggie based! I can't wait to try these out!

  4. These Meatless Meatballs look & sound amazing!! I can't wait to fix them; thanks for sharing this recipe :) I only have organic regular rolled Oats, do you think they'd work, or do I need to buy some instant Oats.

  5. Duuuuude - these meatless “meatballs” are freaking awesmazing! You made these for me didn't ya? Bookmarking this for sure!

  6. what can I substitute the oats for? rice flakes? My husband is celiac and does not eat oats

    1. Oats are used in this recipe as a thickener (and also for texture).

      You can use any kind of gluten free flour instead. I would recommend trying chickpea flour as a substitute although I've never made this recipe myself.

  7. These are amazing!!! I made a double batch this weekend and have proceeded to eat them at every single meal since. (That's Saturday dinner, and Sunday/Monday/Tuesday all three meals!) These will definitely be in my regular cooking rotation from here on out!

  8. How do you think these would be if I made them all vegan by using flax eggs and vegan parmesan?

  9. These were unbelievably delicious, and totally worth the work. I am going to make a double batch next time to freeze. They are tender, but not mushy and have so much flavour. Thanks for a great recipe!

  10. These are delicious, even my daughter who dislikes mushrooms, loves these. I highly recommend making a double batch, sooo yummy! Thank you Mike for sharing!

  11. Hello! These meatballs completely fell apart once I started to warm them in the sauce. Wondering what I did wrong? (The only thing I changed was used flax eggs due to an egg allergy.)

    1. Maybe next time use more oats since flaxseed eggs are probably have more liquid then an egg.

  12. I made these meatballs dozen of times … fantastic and not really that time consuming.

  13. I'll start by saying that I HATE mushrooms. But I'm always looking for vegetarian meatballs that have a good texture so I tried these. I haven't eaten them with sauce yet, or with anything - just tried right out of the oven. The texture is GREAT. Yay! I can still taste the mushroom flavor but suspect I won't be able to once they are in a sauce or some other dish. This may be a win! Thank you!

  14. So delicious!!!!!

  15. I made this today and they were delicious! Followed the recipe exactly and I wish I had doubled the recipe! Thank you so much for sharing this!

  16. I made these today and the texture is really good! I HATE mushrooms and could still taste them a tiny bit but I’m sure lots of cheese will fix that! I’m glad I made a double batch. I love having quick and easy options in the freezer.