Meatballs Are the Zero-Waste Answer to Veggie Leftovers

Vegan meatball recipes are the answer to zero-waste weeknight cooking, and they're also perfect as snackable lunch leftovers the next day.
Meatballs Are Our Zero-Waste Dinner
A rainbow compendium of ingredients work in a meatball, so use up your leftovers in these tiny flavor orbs.
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Let’s be real—few of us are endeavoring to whip up Michelin-worthy weeknight dinners. Instead, we’re trying to get something on the table that’s replicable, delicious, and makes use of what’s already in our fridge. That’s why we’re super open to the simple, zero-waste beauty of meatballs, which absorb leftover herbs and veggies like the little flavor orbs they were meant to be.

Have a bunch of leftover parsley, oregano, or sage wilting in a glass jar? Our vegan meatball sub has got you, with many herbs easily swapping in for basil. Need to use up half a giant can of white beans or pintos? Swap ’em in for the black beans in our vegan meatballs recipe. These recipes are that forgiving, meaning you can experiment and rest easy knowing that fewer food items are going into your waste bin.

And more than that, we find rolling up these vegan meatballs to be just plain fun. There’s something akin to a kindergarten art project about getting in there and shaping up these little mounds of goodness. Everyone loves a good old nostalgia-inspiring meatball, but these new-school meatballs show us how to flex our flexitarian muscles while rolling up tiny sustainable kitchen miracles.

Photo shows three plant-based meatball subs on Italian bread
An Italian-American classic made perfectly plant-based. | Amanda Castillo for LIVEKINDLY

Vegan meatball sub

This plant-based version of the classic Italian-American sando rolls up Impossible vegan ground beef, holding it all together with breadcrumbs and flavoring it with a slew of Italian seasonings. If you ever questioned sandwiches for dinner, make this one with some fresh Italian bread and a heaping of vegan parm. Cue the film Moonstruck, and you’ve got the perfect themed evening.

Vegan Meatball Sandwich

By Amanda Castillo

20 mins to prep
25 mins to cook
Vegan

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces Impossible meat
  • ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons vegan parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, unsalted
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 demi baguettes or hoagie buns
  • Vegan provolone, to taste
  • 1 18 ounce jar of marinara sauce

Preparation

  1. 1
    Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. 2
    In a medium bowl, gently mix the Impossible meat, bread crumbs, parsley, basil, parmesan, Italian seasoning, garlic clove, garlic salt, and black pepper. Shape into meatballs using a 2 tablespoons measure.
  3. 3
    Place the meatballs one inch apart on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Flip meatballs over and cook for another 2-5 minutes or until cooked through.
  4. 4
    Cut bread lengthwise and remove some of the bread from the inside to make a well for the meatballs. Brush with olive oil and season lightly with garlic salt. Slip bread into the oven during the last 5 minutes of the meatball’s time to get lightly toasted.
  5. 5
    While the bread toasts, warm the marinara sauce in a saucepan over medium heat.
  6. 6
    When the meatballs are done, transfer them to the sauce. Spoon some sauce onto each half of the bread. Top one half with provolone cheese and the other half with meatballs. Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes to melt the cheese.
  7. 7
    Let cool slightly before combining both halves. Slice and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

A 1 tablespoon or 2 tablespoon measuring spoon makes it easy to form evenly sized meatballs.

Photo shows a plate of vegan meatballs on top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese
Serve these with your favorite pasta. | Luce Hoser for LIVEKINDLY.

Vegan meatballs

You can be picky about beans when you’re eating them solo, but this recipe forgives you if you want to slide in a substitute for the black beans or chickpeas. Add walnuts and mushrooms to the mix, adjust the texture as needed with breadcrumbs, and you’ve got a proper meaty texture with just the right mix of umami-packed elements. Do these little wonders up with some pasta or go Swedish with mashed potatoes and whatever jam you have on hand.

Vegan Meatballs

By LIVEKINDLY

Vegan

Ingredients

  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 100 grams mushrooms, diced
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 30 grams breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of miso paste
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of tomato puree
  • 40 grams walnuts, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 3 tablespoons of oil of choice

Preparation

  1. 1
    Add all of the ingredients to a blender and pulse until large crumbs are formed and combined.
  2. 2
    Empty the mixture into a bowl and place in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight.
  3. 3
    When ready to cook roll the mixture into approximately 12 large balls. Preheat the grill function of your oven to 160c.
  4. 4
    Add the oil to a large pan and heat the pan on a medium heat. Once the oil is hot place the “meatballs” in the pan. Cook for a minute before turning them and repeat until all of the outer edges have been cooked.
  5. 5
    Next transfer the balls to a tray and place under the grill for 12-15 minutes.
  6. 6
    Serve with spaghetti, marinara sauce and dairy free cheese of choice. Enjoy!
Photo shows fried potato bowls served alongside a creamy dip
These dippable snacks are crispy on the outside with a creamy potato interior. | Ivy Miller for LIVEKINDLY

Potato balls

These potato balls are a little more work, but we’ve got a word to the wise for you. Add a little vegan ground beef to the center, and you’ve got a complete, protein-packed meal. Plus, if you’ve got a baby deep fryer, an air fryer, or a wok, these are easier to get cooking. Get out that potato ricer or masher and get going on these fragrant, hearty babies spiced with paprika, nutmeg, and pepper.

Deep-Fried Potato Balls

By LIVEKINDLY

20 mins to prep
30 mins to cook
Vegan

Ingredients

For the potato balls:

  • 2.2 pounds vegetable shortening
  • 2 pounds peeled floury potatoes, like russet
  • 1 tablespoon plant-based butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg powder
  • ⅓ cup potato flour
  • ¼ cup corn starch

For the coating:

  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax seeds + 2 tbsp water, mixed and set aside for 10 min)
  • 4 tablespoons plant-based milk
  • 2 tablespoons aquafaba
  • ½ teaspoon paprika powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 cups panko

Optional:

  • 1 spring onion, finely chopped
  • ⅓ cup smoked tofu or any other bacon substitute, diced

For garnishing:

  • Parsley, finely chopped
  • Plant-based sour cream, any brand

Preparation

    For the coating:

    • 1
      First make the flax egg in a bowl by mixing together water and ground flax seeds and setting it aside for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes add milk, 1 teaspoon paprika powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix and set aside.

    For the potatoes:

    • 1
      Completely submerge the potatoes in water and cook them without salt. Depending on their size, cooking them through until they are fork-tender takes about 20 to 25 minutes.
    • 2
      After they have cooked, drain them and then mash, adding 1 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg powder. Mix well and let cool.
    • 3
      Optional (If you want to add bacon flavour): Take a small pan and add 1 tablespoon of butter to it. When the butter has melted, add the spring onion and the smoked tofu. On medium-low heat, fry until the onions are tender. Take off the stove and set aside.
    • 4
      Add the panko to a bowl. Set aside.
    • 5
      When the mashed potatoes have cooled (they can still be warm but not hot), add the potato flour and corn starch. Mix well.
    • 6
      Melt the vegetable shortening in a medium deep-frying pot.
    • 7
      While the vegetable shortening is heating up, use your hands to form balls out of the potato mass. They should be 2 inches in diameter.
    • 8
      Dip the balls in the marinade, then roll them in the panko.
    • 9
      When the oil is hot enough, add the balls to the oil in batches. Do not add overcrowd the pan, as they should have space to float around.
    • 10
      Deep fry until golden brown, about 7 to 10 minutes. Serve hot with vegan sour cream or ketchup.
    • 11
      After cooling, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, where they will keep for three days. You can reheat the potato balls in a frying pan or in the microwave.
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