Vegan Meatballs with Mushroom Miso Gravy
A delicious vegan main dish that’s sure to be a hit at your holiday table. These vegan meatballs are like Thanksgiving/Christmas in a single bite - loaded with fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage. Drizzle some mushroom miso gravy on top for an an epic plant-based feast. Vegan & Gluten Free. <jump to recipe>
Ironically, my obsession with meatballs started after I stopped eating meat. My very first boyfriend was Swedish, and stereotypically, the dude loved meatballs. Christmas dinners at his family home usually meant there’d be at least a few Swedish dishes on the table. Things like potatoes or pickled herring - but most definitely, meatballs. At the time, I can’t say I got the whole meatball thing. But now, I have to admit I’ve had a total change of heart.
It turns out that meatballs make for a great “main”, while still being small enough that you can eat a bit of this - and a bit of that. During the holidays, it really seems like the only way to survive when there’s so many delicious things to try from the table. So, I started toying with a holiday meatball recipe before Canadian Thanksgiving, and have been testing it consistently since. Which means that in the past month, Anguel and I have eaten upwards of 150 meatballs. Verdict? So worth it.
I like to call these holiday meatballs, because they literally taste like Thanksgiving/Christmas in a single bite. They’re loaded with the classic flavors of a bread-based stuffing (such as onion, celery, rosemary, sage, thyme, etc.), but without the glutens. And conveniently, these meatballs pair well with sides that you’re probably already planning on serving anyways.
Since cooking during the holidays can be a serious undertaking for some, I’m happy to say these meatballs are pretty fuss free. They mostly come together in the food processor, after a quick start in the saute pan to build some flavor. Chickpeas and mushrooms form the bulk of these meatballs, providing a combination of satisfying protein and umami flavor. And unlike many meat-based meatball recipes, you don’t need to let the dough rest before shaping it. The dough will be moist, but still mouldable with your hands. If for some reason your dough is sticking more than usual, I’d suggest wetting your hands to make them easier to handle.
And, before we get too carried away with the meatballs, we should definitely stop to talk about the mushroom miso gravy. After all, potatoes and meatballs aren’t quite the same without it. This gravy uses both mushrooms and miso for a double-hit of umami flavor. You’ll notice that the fresh herbs are almost identical across both the meatball and gravy recipes. In the vein of making your life easier, I doubled up on ingredients to not only make shopping easier - but to also help you use up more of those fresh herbs. I suspect I’m not the only one that often struggles to use up delicate herbs before they spoil.
There are a number of different gluten-free gravy thickeners out there, but I’ve opted for cornstarch here. Arrowroot can work to thicken, but I find it more unreliable when it comes to reheating, so have avoided it this time. In developing this recipe I opted for a smooth gravy that would hold it’s own at the dinner table. A high speed blender makes it smooth and creamy. However, if you like your gravy on the chunkier side, only blend half, or leave as is. To maintain as much of the health benefits of miso as possible, I recommend adding it at the end, which minimizes how long it gets cooked.
Pictured with Maple Sriracha Brussels Sprouts
VEGAN HOLIDAY MEATBALLS
MAKES 24-30 MEATBALLS (VEGAN, GLUTEN FREE)
1 tbsp neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed)
2 medium yellow onions (~2 cups)
8 oz / 225 g mushrooms, sliced
3 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 (packed) tablespoon fresh sage, chopped (~12 leaves)
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 can chickpeas (15 oz / 425 g)
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon tamari (gluten-free, if desired)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp black pepper
3/4 cup bread crumbs (gluten free, if desired)
Serve with: Mushroom Miso Gravy (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Heat a large skillet pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and swirl it across the pan. Then add onions and cook 3-5 minutes until browning on the edges. Add mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes, until water is released and mushrooms are starting to brown. Then, add chopped celery, minced garlic, thyme, sage, and rosemary. Stir often, cooking for 3-5 minutes until fragrant. Watch for the garlic - and reduce heat if necessary - to prevent it from burning. Remove from heat.
Open the can of chickpeas and strain. No need to rinse them after straining, just add them directly to the food processor. Then, add the sauteed vegetable mixture, as well as the tamari, nutritional yeast, and black pepper. Pulse in the food processor until the mixture is practically smooth. Add breadcrumbs and pulse until evenly distributed.
Scoop ~2 tablespoons of dough per ball. Use your hands to press the dough together and roll it together until it resembles a smooth golf ball. Place on baking sheet and repeat. Bake for 40 minutes, until the outside is just beginning to get golden brown. Serve hot, with mushroom miso gravy.
When shaping the meatballs, the dough will be moist, but moldable. If you are finding that your dough is too tacky, wet your hands and then shape the balls. This helps prevent dough from sticking. Alternatively, you could put the dough in the fridge to rest for one hour.
If using gluten-free breadcrumbs, take the time to press the dough together when shaping the meatballs. The moisture in the dough and the chickpeas are sufficient to bind the meatballs without gluten, but give it a hand by forming the dough into a tight, compact ball before baking.
Refrigerate extra meatballs in a sealed container. To reheat the next day, add some oil to a hot skillet pan and saute meatballs until warm. Shake the pan regularly to ensure even heating.
MUSHROOM MISO GRAVY
MAKES 2 1/4 CUPS (VEGAN, GLUTEN FREE)
1 tbsp neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed)
1 yellow onion, diced
8 oz / 225 g cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons cornstarch (ideally organic, non-GMO) + 1/4 cup cold water
2 tablespoons miso paste
1 tablespoon tamari (gluten free, if desired)
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and swirl it across the pan. Cook onions for 5 minutes until golden brown. Add mushrooms and saute for 5-10 minutes, until they release their water and start to develop a deep golden brown color. Add garlic, thyme, rosemary and cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
Pour in vegetable stock and bring the mixture to a simmer. Meanwhile, whisk together cornstarch and cold water until completely smooth (no clumps). When the vegetable stock is simmering, pour in the cornstarch mixture and whisk until smooth. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring regularly, until the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat.
Transfer the mixture into the blender. Add miso paste and tamari, and blend until smooth. If desired, season with extra tamari. You can thin the gravy with additional vegetable stock or water, if you wish. Serve hot, with vegan meatballs.
-If you like a chunkier gravy, you can withhold half of the gravy mixture prior to blending. Or, you can skip the blending process entirely.