These vegan tofu meatballs are easy to make, high in protein and packed with amazing flavor. They are just as good as traditional meatballs, but made completely plant-based! Perfect over pasta with tomato sauce or for making meatball sub sandwiches. The ultimate comfort food dinner recipe!
A big bowl of pasta with Italian-style vegan tofu meatballs smothered in tomato sauce is the ultimate comfort food! Isn’t it?
It is so cold right now that I crave satisfying and cozy food every day. And these tofu meatballs are perfect for that!
I already have a meatball recipe on the blog: Swedish TVP meatballs served with gravy. We make them often during the holiday season or for Sunday dinner, they are such a must-try if you haven't made them already.
But I wanted to come up with another high-protein vegetarian meatball recipe that's flavored with Italian spices to serve with marinara sauce. You can serve them over pasta, but also perfect for Italian-style sub sandwiches. It also works work well paired with any kind of pasta sauce that you like, such as this roasted tomato and red pepper sauce.
These meatless meatballs also are so easy to whip up together, making them a great recipe to make during busy weeknights. All the ingredients go in the food processor, then shaped into balls and baked in the oven. That's it!
They are healthy, fully plant-based, high-in-protein and also, baking them in the oven as opposed to frying them in oil makes them lower in added fat.
Let me know if you gave them a try! ❤️
Why you should try this recipe
- Easy and quick to make
- Delicious Italian flavor with a nice "meaty" texture, thanks to the protein-packed tofu
- Made using simple pantry ingredients
- Versatile ways to serve them
- Healthy and filling
- Great for weeknight dinners
- Perfect to meal prep ahead
- Kid and family-friendly
- Fully vegan, egg-free and vegetarian.
Ingredients you will need
(See below in the recipe card for the measurements)
- Tofu: I recommend using extra-firm tofu for making these meatballs. If you use tofu that has a higher water content, this could make the balls harder to shape. I used the extra-firm tofu from the brand Heiwa.
- Onion: you will need half of a medium-sized yellow onion, which adds a ton of flavor to the meatballs. You won't taste a raw flavor at all once baked! Red onion would work too (use about ⅓-1/4 of the onion in this case).
- Garlic: also great for flavoring the meatballs. Add more if you like garlic flavor.
- Breadcrumbs: I used regular breadcrumbs from the brand 365, but use your favorite brand. You can use gluten-free breadcrumbs if you need to. Also, I ran out of regular breadcrumbs while testing the recipe, so I used panko breadcrumbs instead and it worked out well! Italian-flavored breadcrumbs would work well too, although you might want to add less of the spices and salt to compensate. You can also easily make your own breadcrumbs!
- Nutritional yeast: amazing to boost the flavor of these vegan meatballs! It adds an umami and almost cheesy taste, so try not to omit it!
- Soy sauce: for extra saltiness and a deeper umami flavor. Use gluten-free tamari sauce instead if necessary.
- Spices and herbs: I included dried oregano and basil, plus some garlic powder and onion powder. You can play around with the spices and add your favorite or what you have.
How to make vegan Italian tofu meatballs
(See below in the recipe card for the full recipe)
Preheat the oven to 400º and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Prepare the tofu
Drain the tofu package to remove the excess liquid and then, break the block in about 3-4 large chunks. Breaking it will help remove more of the moisture. Place them over a clean towel and gently press for about 30-60 seconds using your hands to remove the water. It is ok if the tofu breaks more as you do this, since you will process it anyway. You can also place something heavy over the tofu until ready to use. Feel free to use a tofu press if you have one!
Process the ingredients
Add the ½ onion and garlic to a food processor and pulse a few times until chopped into small pieces. Then, add the tofu, breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast, spices and herbs, soy sauce and salt.
Process until mostly uniform, about 20-30 seconds. Then, use a spatula to scrape the walls and bottom, then process or pulse again. A few small chunks of tofu are fine.
Use your hands to test the consistency: grab a small amount of the mixture and press it to see if it holds well together.
Shape the tofu mixture into small balls (about 2 tablespoons each). You will have to first press or squeeze the mixture in between your hands/fingers to get them to stick together, then shape them into balls. If you just roll the mixture like you would with regular meat, then the mixture might fall apart (check the quick video below in the recipe card).
Bake and serve
Place the tofu balls on the baking sheet, you should have about 16 balls.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then flip and bake for another 10 minutes. They are ready when crispy and golden brown. Serve with your favorite sauce!
Can I pan-fry the tofu balls?
Yes, you can! Use a non-stick pan and a little oil as needed, then fry them on medium heat for a few minutes on each side until golden brown. If you want to make sure the center cooks properly, you can also shape them into mini patties instead of balls.
- Make sure to use extra firm tofu so there is not too much moisture in the tofu mix.
- Be sure to check the consistency of the tofu mixture straight from the food processor before shaping it into balls, it should stick or hold well when you press some of it in your palm. 1- if the tofu has too much excess water, you might have to add a little more of the breadcrumbs and 2- if the tofu was pressed for longer, then it might be on the dry side and you might have to add moisture back to the food processor, about 1 tablespoon at a time.
- You can also taste the mixture to adjust the saltiness to your preference.
- Wet your hands slightly after shaping a few meatballs so the mixture doesn't stick to them.
- For a crispier result, you can also spray some olive oil over the balls before baking in the oven.
This recipe makes for the BEST vegan tofu meatballs and spaghetti meal your whole family will adore.
Once the sauce is done or warmed through, then transfer the balls into the sauce and stir them, then serve right away for the best texture. You can serve the tomato tofu balls over pasta or in a sub-style sandwich. Top it off with vegan parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
These Italian-flavored tofu balls also are great served with pesto. This quick cashew basil pesto or this roasted red pepper pesto would be amazing here. Toss the baked tofu balls in the pesto sauce and serve over pasta, add over a grain bowl or enjoy as the main dish with a side of vegetables.
They also make for a great appetizer or finger food! Place them on a beautiful plate with toothpicks to grab them individually, then serve with your favorite dipping sauce!
If you would prefer to serve them Asian-style, then omit the Italian-style herbs and add more fresh garlic, a little more soy sauce, extra fresh ginger (grated) and about 1 teaspoon of sesame oil to the food processor. Serve them over rice with steamed broccoli and with the sauce of your choice, such as teriyaki sauce, creamy coconut curry sauce or sweet and sour sauce. Delicious!
Variations to the recipe
You can easily play around with the spices and flavor them differently, if you prefer. See above for an Asian-style meatball recipe, plus here are a few variation ideas:
- Italian seasoning mix
- green onion
- red pepper flakes
- sesame seeds (they add a nice pop!)
- chopped olives or capers
- add other ground spices, such as cumin, curry, paprika, etc.
- swap the soy sauce for a vegan Worcestershire sauce
- a small handful of walnuts for a crunch and more omega-3 fats
- vegetarian Greek meatballs: add some fresh herbs (fresh parsley, mint, dill) and serve with tzatziki sauce.
These vegetarian meatballs are best when enjoyed right away. When they are just getting out of the oven, they are super crispy with a tender middle. They won't stay crispy after chilling in the fridge and they slowly soften while soaking in the sauce.
That being said, they still make for amazing leftovers! Simply keep the tofu balls in an airtight container in the fridge for about 3 days, then try to reheat them using the oven to revive their crispy nature (400º, about 10-15 minutes). The leftover tofu meatballs store better apart from the sauce.
You can also meal prep them ahead: make the tofu mixture, shape them and store them unbaked in the fridge (sealed) for 3-4 days. Then, simply bake when ready to eat.
How can I make them gluten-free?
To make them GF, then simply choose GF breadcrumbs and also, swap the soy sauce for a GF tamari sauce or coconut aminos (or skip it and add a little more salt).
Can I freeze them?
Yes, you can freeze the baked meatballs in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Reheat in the oven at 400º for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. Make a double batch and freeze the extra for later!
Can I make it without a food processor?
Yes! You will have to finely chop the onion, crush the garlic and manually mash the tofu very well (use a fork, your fingers or a potato masher) before combining everything in a large mixing bowl. That should work just the same!
Similar recipes to try
- Chickpea patties
- Swedish meatballs in gravy
- Jackfruit patties
- Chickpea and zucchini patties
- White bean broccoli burger patties
I hope you like this vegan tofu meatball recipe as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
Vegan Italian Tofu Meatballs
- 16 oz extra firm tofu
- ½ small onion
- 1 garlic clove
- ¾ cup breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- ½ tsp salt
- Preheat the oven to 400º and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Drain the package of tofu and break it into 3-4 large pieces. Wrap them in a towel and squeeze the excess water using your hands. Place something heavy over and set it aside.
- Add the onion and garlic to a food processor and process until finely chopped.
- Then, add the tofu, breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast, spices, soy sauce and salt and pulse until mostly combined. Take a break and scrape the walls and bottom of the food processor using a spatula, then process again. A few small chunks of tofu are fine. Check on consistency: it should hold well together when you press a small amount of the mixture in your palm.
- Shape into balls (you should have about 15-16 balls, 2 tablespoons each) and place on the prepared baking sheet. To shape them, you have to press or squeeze the mixture togeteher(as opposed to rolling it).
- Bake the balls for 15 minutes. Then, flip and bake for 10 minutes. Serve with your favortite sauce!
- Storage tips: the tofu balls are very crispy and soft in the middle when just baked and they get softer while storing. That being said, this recipe makes for amazing leftovers! Keep the extra tofu balls in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days, reheat using the oven if possible to revive the crispiness (400º, 10-15 minutes). The meatballs store better apart from the sauce. You can also freeze them!
- This recipe is versatile and you can easily tweak the flavoring ingredients, such as adding: more spices or herbs, olives, capers, sundried tomatoes, and more. Check out the blog post for more ideas!