mum mum’s meatballs ~vegan, gluten free~

Since becoming a vegetarian there aren’t many things I miss.  Except my Grandma Josie’s meatballs!  She was one of the most beautiful souls I have ever known.  In typical Italian Grandma fashion, she cooked with a lot of love!

Grandma Josie and Marie 1943

Grandma Josie and Marie 1943

I never thought I would be able to enjoy her meatballs again.

Until now….

Mum Mum's Vegan Meatballs ~gluten free option~

My mom (mum mum to Noah) created the most delicious vegan meatballs!  I almost spit out the first bite I took because I thought she was playing a horribly mean joke on me!  They tasted legit!

The original recipe uses eggs and parmesan cheese.  To veganize the recipe we used a “chia egg” instead and omitted the cheese.  I will give the recipe for both!  To make them gluten-free, use gluten-free breadcrumbs and gluten-free pasta.  You can use store-bought marinara sauce or make your own.  Here is one of my favorite sauce recipes from Giada.  It is packed with veggies and flavor!

This recipe is a bit involved as you need to prepare the ingredients and let them sit over night.  It’s worth the wait…trust me :)

Mum Mum's Vegan Meatballs ~gluten free option~

Ok, enough talking…here it is!

Mum Mum's Vegan Meatballs ~gluten free option~

mum mum’s meatballs ~vegan, gluten free~
Makes 14-16 meatballs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound fresh white mushrooms, very finely chopped (around 6 cups)
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup quick-cooking oats (GF if needed)
  • ½ cup bread crumbs (GF if needed)
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped
  • 2 “eggs” (2 tablespoons chia or ground flax seeds mixed with 6 tablespoons water, set aside for a few minutes so gel can form)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ⅛ – ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • (for a non-vegan option, use real eggs and add 1 ounce of shredded parmesan cheese)
  • 4 cups of marinara sauce
  • pasta of your choice
  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and season with salt. Cook until golden brown and all liquid has been evaporated.
  2. Add chopped onion and cook until onion is translucent. Add garlic, stir and cook until fragrant. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl.
  3. Mix in oats (cheese if desired), bread crumbs, parsley, “eggs,” sea salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and oregano. Mix well until combined. If pressed, mixture should hold together.
  4. Cover bowl and refrigerate overnight.
  5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  6. Measure out 2 tablespoons of mixture and roll into balls. Place on lined baking sheet.
  7. Bake until meatballs are lightly golden brown, around 20-25 minutes depending on your oven.
  8. Bring marinara sauce to a boil in a large saucepan; reduce heat to low. Gently stir meatballs into sauce until coated. Simmer meatballs in sauce until cooked through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. (this step is really important…don’t skip!)
  9. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package.
  10. Serve meatballs and sauce over cooked pasta.
  11. Enjoy!

Mum Mum's Vegan Meatballs ~gluten free option~

We’ve made these a few times and learned a few things along the way…

-Make sure you chop the mushrooms very, very fine.

-Don’t skip the cayenne pepper.  You don’t need to add much, just a hint!

-Bake them until a little crispy on the bottom for a more savory flavor.

-Make a double batch as they disappear quickly!

Mum Mum's Vegan Meatballs ~gluten free option~

This is a perfect way to introduce a plant-based meal to a meat-eating crew on meatless monday!


  1. Marie   •  

    Thanks Cris. Nice Mother’s Day tribute.

  2. Allison @ Clean Wellness   •  

    These look absolutely incredible! Very authentic. Definitely going to try these on my next pasta night, which will be soon! Mushrooms are the best! So “meaty.” Great recipe!

    • beginwithinnutrition   •     Author

      Hi! Thank you for checking out my blog, I am a HUGE fan of yours! I’m not going to lie…these take a little while to prepare/cook, but they are good! Hope you like them too :)

  3. Melissa   •  

    Hi there, I’ve been looking for an alternative meatball recipe! I have an Italian background and my nonnas meatballs are a family favourite, but now I’m trying to make more vegan recipes! My question is do they have to refrigerate over night? I’d like to add them to my cooking sauce so that they cook with the sauce. So if they need to refrigerate over night can I place in the sauce to cook the next day? Thanks can’t wait to try!

    • beginwithinnutrition   •     Author

      Hello! So…make the mushroom/oat mixture and put it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight!) so the flavors can blend. Then form the meatballs and bake in the oven until golden brown. Once baked, add them to your sauce and simmer for at least 45 minutes. Does that make more sense? I hope they come close to your nonna’s!!!

  4. Sandy Landry   •  

    You know Bubb has ‘gravy’ every Monday nite with his pals & one of the Pauls is a vegetarian. The others always accomodate him, its what you DO for best pals. BUT, on the nights he is absent they go for some meatballs cause they love it. So this is perfect middle road and I’m going to be sure to have some ready when Bubb’s turn to host comes around again. Thanks darling Crissy, as always!

  5. Rachel   •  

    I’ve just made these, followed the recipe religiously, and they completely fell apart in the sauce!! It’s like haggis in tomato sauce lol. Tastes quite yummy tho. Any ideas what went wrong?

    • beginwithinnutrition   •     Author

      I’m so sorry to hear that :( One batch of mine started to crumble as well…It was from not baking them long enough in the oven. Now I make sure they are crispy on the edges before adding them to the sauce. Maybe add more chia or flax “egg” to act as a “glue” as well.

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