Vegan Greek Meatballs (Keftedakia)
Greek meatballs are delicious, savory meatballs, seasoned and traditionally made with fresh herbs, lean ground beef, garlic, and either pan fried or baked to juicy perfection. They are perfect for no-fuss weeknight dinners, excellent as a mezze or for including in your mezze platter and also for grab-n-go meals. They are a staple in Greek cuisine and are definitely one of my favorites.
I’ve partnered up with GoGo Quinoa to bring you one heck of a delicious quinoa recipe and I am beyond excited about this recipe. It’s very easy to make, super versatile, and of course – crazy delicious and as you have already guessed is a vegan version of Greek meatballs or keftedakia. Greek meatballs are perfect on their own with a squeeze of lemon juice and perfect dipped into some garlicky herbed yoghurt sauce otherwise known to us Greeks as tzatziki. But these little guys go wonderfully stuffed in a pita with veggies and more of that tzatziki sauce and I love them with my Greek spinach rice (spanakorizo) bowls that make the best lunch or dinner for that matter. They go wonderfully with saltsa or a red sauce/marinara served taverna style with a side of French fries or loaded Greek fries or homestyle with buttery rice. I also love them in an avgolemono meatball soup/stew called youverlakia. You can see just from that list how versatile they are. They are full of flavour from the fresh herbs and the onion and garlic and we just love them!!
Why make a vegan version? Well I’m not vegan but I have drastically reduced my meat intake in the last 6 years. So much so that I really can’t stomach a lot of it. My parents think I’m such a weirdo because, yes there are many realities to the movie My Big Fat Greek wedding - Greeks do love their meat and my dad is definitely one of those Greek men who doesn’t think a meal is a proper meal unless it’s served with meat. He doesn’t fuss but he just never feels full without meat. Needless to say he didn’t quite get this version of Greek meatballs but my mom loved them and she loves quinoa too and couldn’t believe these little guys were made with it. I also decided to make these as I love falafel and got to thinking how I could make Greek meatballs more like falafel (bean based) and came across Minimalist Baker’s Italian style meatballs and modeled this recipe off hers.
These meatballs are made of cooked and cooled (very important step - the cooling that is ) quinoa, black beans that have been baked a bit to completely dry them out which does wonders to their texture and helps the meatballs from getting overly mushy. Organic Tri-Color Royal Quinoa plus the beans make these meatballs rich in fiber and protein. They are packaged pre-washed and cleaned and cook in 15 minutes. The tri-colour quinoa gave these meatballs some extra colour. There is also gluten free flour in the meatballs to help with binding. In the original recipe the flour is substituted for vegan Parmesan cheese but Greek style meatballs don’t have cheese in them therefore the flour. The original recipe called for tomato paste as a binder but I thought tahini would be the perfect substitute because I love it and because it completely suits the flavours. Traditional Greek meatballs have neither tomato paste or tahini in them but eggs to bind - but these are vegan and that is why you must get creative with your binding agents.
These got a Greek mama’s approval - mind you my mom isn’t your typical Greek mom (her age) when it comes to food - she is extremely adventurous and loves her health foods and not afraid of or intimidated by “twists” to Greek classics. You will love them and be sure to make a few batches of them so you can freeze them for a quick snack or mezze or a quick midweek meal!
I have partnered up with GoGo Quinoa to bring you this fabulous recipe, but all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting Olive & Mango.
Makes 18-22 (1-1½ tbsp each)
- 1 cup cooked and cooled Organic Tri-Color Royal Quinoa (make sure it’s cooked and completely cooled before using)
- 1 15-oz can black beans (rinsed, drained, dried)
- 4 Tbsp olive oil divided
- 3 cloves garlic chopped finely
- ½ cup diced shallot or onion
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 ½ tsp fresh oregano (or sub half the amount of using dried oregano)
- ½ tsp red pepper flake (optional)
- ½ cup plus 1/4 cup of GoGo Quinoa All Purpose GF flour (plus more for dusting the meatballs before pan frying)
- 2 Tbsp tahini
- 3 Tbsp mixture of chopped fresh parsley, dill and mint (the fab trifecta of herbs in Greek meatballs)
- Preheat oven to 350 ° F. Place dried black beans on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until beans appear cracked and feel dry to the touch. Remove them from the oven and then increase oven heat to 375 ° F
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add 2 tbsp of the olive oil, garlic, and shallot. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until slightly softened and translucent, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and reserve pan for later use.
- Add black beans to a food processor along with garlic, shallots, salt and pepper, oregano, red pepper flake, and pulse a couple of times into a loose meal being careful not to over mix.
- Then add the quinoa, flour, tahini, fresh parsley, mint and dill, and pulse to combine until a textured dough forms and can be formed when pressed between your fingers. Test for salt and pepper and texture. If it’s too tacky or wet, add a little more flour and pulse to combine.
- Scoop out heaping 1-1½ Tbsp amounts (using a scoop or a tbsp measuring spoon - these ones shown are approx 1 tbsp) and gently form into small balls using your hands. First patting them and then rolling them. Add to a plate and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Chilling is optional but ensures the meatball stays together better during pan frying.
- Place the remaining 1/4 cup of flour in a small bowl and heat the pan up again and add the remaining olive oil. Dust the the meatballs with flour (roll them around in the flour and shake off excess) and add them to the pan and sauté for a few minutes, gently turning the meatballs to get a slight crust on either side. Then transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown on the edges and slightly dry to the touch.
- These meatballs are delicious as is served in a mezzo platter just like this one with hummus and tzatziki or you can add some herbed marinara to the pan to make them with saltsa or drop them in your youverlakia (Greek meatball stew/soup).
- Leftover meatballs keep for 4-5 days in the refrigerator or 1 month in the freezer. Reheat in the microwave or in a 375 ° F oven until warmed through. I like to make a few batches and freeze them because they are great in spanakorizo rice bowls or in pita with lots of tzatziki
Adapted from Minimalist Baker