Vegetarian “Meatballs” in Masala Sauce

This is the *best* recipe for vegetarian "meatballs"! They are crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, and incredibly tasty!

I never thought that vegetarian meatballs could be so delicious and satisfying! One of the best parts of this recipe is that the seasonings can be adapted depending on the application! I used these meatballs in a masala sauce, and seasoned them accordingly, but if you wanted (and you totally should want this) to use them in a pasta you would just use basil and oregano instead of cumin and cayenne.

One of my favorite things about making this dish is that everything comes together in the food processor pretty quickly and easily! 

This masala sauce. I can’t say enough good things about this! I adapted this recipe only very slightly from one of my all time favorite food bloggers Lindsay Ostrom at Pinch of Yum!  She had the genius idea to make a masala paste that will allow you to whip up a few batches of creamy masala sauce in no time! 

The “meatball” mixture is made of hearty tempeh and  eggplant for plenty of protein and other wholesome plant-based nutrients. 

This recipe makes a good quantity of meatballs. So this is a great opportunity to recruit assistants to help you roll these little balls of goodness and get them in the oven where they will bake to toasty perfection.  The most difficult part of this recipe is figuring out what to call this! “Meatballs” is a bit of a misnomer. I have mixed feelings about the term “veggieballs,” it’s a branding crisis! Luckily I have this fab healthy comfort food recipe to make me feel better about this. Let me know if you solve this while noshing on delightful vegetarian meatballs in masala sauce!

Vegetarian "Meatballs" in Masala Sauce

Course Main Course
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4


Masala Sauce

  • 2 onions
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger minced or grated
  • 3 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp tumeric
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 small hand full cilatro stems
  • 1 small hand full raw almonds
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 2 cups fresh tomatoes crushed
  • 1 14 oz can of full fat coconut milk

Vegetarian "Meatballs"

  • 1/2 white onion minced
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 8 oz tempeh
  • 10 oz grilled eggplant
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 egg may substitute flax egg to make this recipe vegan
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs plus extra for coating


Masala Sauce

  1. Add onions, garlic, cilantro stems, almonds, lime juice, and all spices to a food processor. Pulse until all ingredients are well combined and a paste forms. 

  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, add a generous 1/3 cup of the masala paste with a drizzle of olive oil. Toast the spices over medium heat stirring frequently for about 5 minutes.  Add the tomato puree and bring to a boil stirring frequently until thickened and the tomato mixture darkens to a deep orangey red. About 10 minutes. 

  3. Stir in the coconut milk and reduce heat. Simmer the sauce for about 20 minutes or until thick and creamy. 

Vegitarian "Meatballs"

  1. Preheat the oven to 400. 

  2. In a small skillet over medium heat saute onions and garlic until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant. Set aside. 

  3. Break up the tempeh with your hands. Pulse in a food processor until tempeh is broken down into small crumbs. Add the onions, garlic, eggplant, egg, and spices. Mix on low until well combined.  Working in small batches, slowly add the 1/2 cup bread crumbs to the mixture. Check the consistency of the mixture as you go. You want it to be dry enough to hold its shape when rolled into a ball, but not so dry that it crumbles and falls apart. 

  4. Place reserved breadcrumbs on a plate. Use your hands to shape "meatballs" to be a little smaller than a golf ball, then roll through the bread crumbs to coat.  Place finished meatballs on a well greased baking sheet. 

  5. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes. Once or twice during cooking, remove from oven and rotate the "meatballs" to ensure that they cook evenly. 

  6. Serve with basmati rice topped with the masala sauce and a drizzle of olive oil. Garnish with cilantro. Enjoy! 

Recipe Notes

To save time and sanity I use Woodstock Farms Organic Grilled Eggplant which can be found at your local Whole Foods! If you do not have access to that, or are feeling extra ambitious you can buy fresh eggplant and either grill it, or achieve a similar effect using a grill pan on your stove top or the broiler in your oven.  If you opt to use the broiler, keep a close eye on the eggplant! Under the broiler it can go from nicely browned to burned black right quick. 

The leftover masala paste will keep in the fridge for about a week, or in the freezer for 2-3 months! 

This "meatball recipe" can be adapted to be used in any situation where meatballs are appropriate! For example, if you wanted to make these for a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, you would simply replace the cilantro with parsley, and the cumin and chili powder with basil and oregano. 

Make this recipe cannabis infused:

  • Simply use your favorite cannabis infused oil as a finishing oil and drizzle each bowl with your desired serving.  
  • Of course I recommend you use my High Class Olive Oil, but other infused oils will also do the trick! 
  • To determine how much cannabis infused you should use, check out this article on dose and potency.