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Best Vegan Meatball Subs

June 28, 2022
Shanika | Orchids + Sweet Tea

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These Vegan Meatball Subs are the epitome of a delicious, simple plant-based lunch or weeknight meal that comes jam-packed with umami flavor!

Best Vegan Meatball Subs

Indulge in the magic of this Vegan Meatball Subs recipe--- A delightful twist on the classic New York Marinara Sub. Bursting with savory, spicy, and sweet notes, these veggie-packed 'meatball subs' boast tender and flavorful bites. Nestled in a brioche hot dog bun and loaded with vegan meatballs, dairy-free cheese shreds, and succulent umami roasted herb tomatoes. They're a mouthwatering treat for any mealtime. Gluten-Free option.

Vegan Meatball Sub on a plate next to a pan of vegan meatball subs

I'm thrilled to share this Vegan Meatball Subs recipe with you all! It's a nod to a beloved NYC favorite, which makes it even more special. I've used these vegan meatballs in various dishes like Vegetarian BBQ Meatball Pizza, Vegan BBQ Meatballs with Creamy Polenta, and even Spicy Curry Vegan Meatballs + Orzo. So, putting them on a sub just felt like the right move!

I opted for chickpeas + quinoa to make these savory vegan 'meatballs'. It might sound unconventional, as many prefer ingredients like zucchini or mushrooms for better binding, but chickpeas and quinoa did the job perfectly. It's crucial to get the ingredient proportions right to avoid mushy or fragile meatballs.

While my family and I don't strictly stick to a vegan diet daily, we make an effort to incorporate it into our weekly meals whenever we can. For me, the key is to whip up tasty dishes, and trust me, this vegan meatball sub recipe is hearty, filling, and downright delicious—I promise even meat eaters will love it!

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If you're transitioning to a vegan or plant-based diet and need some guidance, don't worry—I've got you covered! Check out a few tips on How to Best Transition into a Plant-Based or Vegan Diet. Plus, I have tons of vegan and vegetarian recipes perfect for Meatless Monday or any day of the week.

Why You Will LOVE Vegan Meatball Subs

  • Bold flavors that will tantalize your taste buds.
  • Versatile and customizable
  • crowd-pleasing combination that will have everyone coming back for seconds.
  • It’s absolutely delicious---- Loaded with bold + rich flavors.
  • Great to make ahead of time. This is the perfect weeknight meal prep meal recipe because it can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
  • Family-friendly (Well, everyone in my family seems to love it, Haha.)
  • It’s meatless--but still works for any eater.
Vegan meatballs and sauce in a skillet

Vegan Meatball Sub Ingredients

First things first, let's get all the ingredients ready since there are a few components involved: the vegan meatballs, the simple marinara sauce, and the herb-roasted tomatoes. Here's everything you'll need for these mouthwatering meatball subs:

VEGAN MEATBALLS:

  • Chickpeas. Drained + rinsed
  • Cooked quinoa. (Cook according to packaging!)
  • Chopped pecans. You can use another soft nut like walnuts or cashews if you prefer. However, I find that pecans add a wonderfully buttery flavor to the dairy-free meatballs. 
  • Vegan bread crumbs. Either store-bought or homemade works fine. See my recipe for Seasoned Toasted Panko Bread Crumbs
  • Nutritional yeast. This is a key vegan ingredient for cheesy flavor. If you haven’t tried it yet, I strongly recommend it
  • Parsleyoregano + basil. These three Italian herbs make a great trio. But if you’re missing one, you can easily substitute it with more of the other two spices. 
  • Onion + garlic cloves. Roughly chopped.
  • Smoked paprika. Adds a hint of smokiness.
  • Red pepper flakes. For a little spice.
  • Sea salt + black pepper. Helps to balance all the flavors.
  • Extra virgin olive oil. Feel free to use your favorite high-quality EVOO. My fave tried and trusted brand is California Olive Ranch.

HOMEMADE MARINARA SAUCE:

  • Organic tomato sauce. This is the best when making your own marinara base.
  • Organic vegetable stock. This adds another level of umami flavor.
  • Herbs + spices. Dried oregano, smoked paprika, garlic powder + dried parsley
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes + cayenne pepper
  • Sea salt + black pepper.

TOPPINGS + OTHERS:

  • Herb Roasted Tomatoes. See below on how to make your own.
  • Vegan Mozzarella shreds. My favorite brands that seem to melt are the mozzarella by Follow Your Heart or Daiya (they have a new oat milk base that melts really well)
  • Fresh parsley or cilantro. Optional
  • Brioche hot dog buns. Feel free to use your favorite hot dog buns.

SHOP MY FAVORITE TOOLS FOR BAKING, ESPECIALLY FOR THESE VEGAN SUBS!

Here, I’ve curated a list of baking + cooking essentials that I use to achieve my favorite dishes, especially with this Vegan Meatball Sub recipe . Everything from my fave loaf pan, wooden spoons, parchment paper, and more. SEE THEM HERE!

Pan of Vegan Meatball Subs

How To Make A Vegan Meatball Sub

Start making this meatball sub recipe by roasting your tomatoes. This recipe for herb-roasted tomatoes produces the best-tasting, most concentrated roasted tomatoes. They have a thick, jammy texture that creates a sauce all on their own in addition to the delicious tomato filling/sauce. Next, make and cook the vegan meatballs. And you can make the simple tomato/marinara sauce on the stove.

How to Make Herb Roasted Tomatoes

Another component to this recipe is to start with great-quality tomatoes. Choose a mix of large and cherries, and several different colors if you can find them.

  • Tomatoes. You can add as many tomatoes as will fit on your baking sheet.
  • Olive oil. Don’t skimp on the oil! It helps concentrate the tomato flavor and makes a nice jammy texture. You can use these roasted tomatoes like a dressing or sauce. 
  • Dried herbs. I like a mixture of Italian herbs like oregano, basil and parsley. But you can mix up the seasonings with other fresh or dried herbs. Thyme, rosemary, marjoram and tarragon are all delicious with tomatoes.
  • Spices. Likewise, feel free to play with different spices in your roasted tomatoes. I like paprika, garlic powder and a pinch of red pepper flakes for a slight kick.

What to Serve with a Meatball Sub

Serving these vegan meatball subs is super easy. You can add any of the following sides to create a complete meal for the entire family:

Delicous Sub Add Ons

While this sub is already incredibly delicious as it is, if you're feeling adventurous and want to add some extra toppings, here are a few ideas that I absolutely adore:

Pan of Vegan Meatball Subs with a serving spatula

Vegan Meatball Subs Q + A's

How to Store + Reheat Vegan Meatball Subs

Store any leftover meatballs in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. You can also freeze the meatballs for up to three months. Defrost them overnight in the fridge and reheat them on the stove or in the oven. Make some fresh tomato/marinara sauce, add the vegan meatballs, and assemble the meatball subs and serve

Can i use regular cheese?

Yes, you can absolutely use non-vegan cheese if you prefer or if that's what you have on hand. Traditional cheese varieties like mozzarella, provolone, or cheddar can be used to top your meatball subs if you're not strictly adhering to a vegan diet.

Can I make this gluten-free?

To make this dish GF, simply use Gluten-Free hot dog buns and ensure that other ingredients are GF-friendly. 

Can I use another type of oil?

Absolutely. Instead of using Extra Virgin Olive Oil, you can substitute with Grapeseed Oil, Avocado Oil, or Coconut Oil. 

Other Vegan Recipes You’ll Love

If you are a fan of my Vegan Meatball Subs then you will love these recipes, too!

MADE OUR RECIPE(S)?

If you tried the Best Vegan Meatball Subs recipe or any other recipe on my website, please please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you go in the 📝 comments below. And don't forget to tag @orchidsnsweettea_ on Instagram  and hashtag it #orchidsandsweettea! I love hearing from you!

Pan of Vegan Meatball Subs

Best Vegan Meatball Subs

June 28, 2022
5 from 16 votes
Indulge in the magic of this Vegan Meatball Subs recipe--- A delightful twist on the classic New York Marinara Sub. Bursting with savory, spicy, and sweet notes, these veggie-packed 'meatball subs' boast tender and flavorful bites. Nestled in a brioche hot dog bun and loaded with vegan meatballs, dairy-free cheese shreds, and succulent umami roasted herb tomatoes. They're a mouthwatering treat for any mealtime. Gluten-Free option.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 4 servings

Ingredients

VEGAN MEATBALLS:

  • 1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained + rinsed
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (Cook according to packaging!)
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup vegan bread crumbs (See Notes for Homemade!)
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt + black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil, for cooking + 1 Tbsp!

HOMEMADE MARINARA SAUCE:

  • 2 cups organic tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup organic vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt + black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

TOPPINGS + OTHERS:

  • 2 cups Herb Roasted Tomatoes
  • Vegan Mozzarella shreds
  • Fresh parsley or cilantro, optional
  • Brioche hot dog buns

Instructions

TO MAKE THE HERB ROASTED TOMATOES:

TO MAKE THE VEGAN MEATBALLS:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease a standard baking dish. Set aside.
  • Start by adding onions and garlic cloves to a heated skillet (with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil) and sautéing them until they are fragrant and translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside skillet for later.
  • Add the cooked quinoa, pecans, and sautéed onions and garlic to a food processor and pulse for 1 minute or so. Add the chickpeas, nutritional yeast, olive oil, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, smoked paprika, dried parsley, black pepper, sea salt, and bread crumbs, processing everything until it grounds into a thick mixture.
  • Using an ice cream scoop (or spoon), shape mixture into individual balls (further rounding them with your hands). Repeat until all meatballs are created.
  • Reheat previous skillet over medium-high heat (with all the bits left in it) and add additional olive oil if needed. Add meatballs to pan and sear until nicely golden on all sides. Remove each meatball and set aside.

TO MAKE THE TOMATO/MARINARA SAUCE:

  • In a medium 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and let it heat.
  • Add the tomato sauce, veggie stock, salt, black pepper, oregano, smoked paprika, garlic powder, parsley, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper, stirring everything together until combined. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to low, adding in the meatballs and allowing them to simmer in the sauce for 3-4 minutes.
  • ASSEMBLE: slightly open each hot dog bun and line them (upward with opening faced up) and fill them with vegan meatballs with the marinara sauce. Top with vegan cheese shreds and bake for 10-15 minutes or until buns are crispy and shreds have become a bit stretchy. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
  • Bon Appétit!

Tips & Tricks

  • STORAGE: Store any leftover meatballs in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. You can also freeze the meatballs for up to three months. Defrost them overnight in the fridge and reheat them on the stove or in the oven. Make some fresh tomato/marinara sauce, add the vegan meatballs, and assemble the meatball subs and serve.
  • OILS: Instead of using Extra Virgin Olive Oil, you can substitute with Grapeseed Oil, Avocado Oil, or Coconut Oil. 
  • GLUTEN-FREE OPTION: To make this dish GF, simply use Gluten-Free hot dog buns and ensure that other ingredients are GF-friendly. 
  • HOMEMADE BREADCRUMBS: To make your own breadcrumbs, simply grind 1-2 cups of cubed bread into a food processor until finely chopped. Place crumbs onto a parchment lined baking sheet and spread out evenly. Bake for 5-6 minutes in the oven set at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring occasionally. Once brown + crisp, remove from oven and let cool. Continue recipe steps and store remaining breadcrumbs in a tightly sealed container. 

Nutrition

Calories: 340kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Sodium: 1477mg | Potassium: 517mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 1532IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 140mg | Iron: 4mg

DID YOU MAKE THIS recipe?

Tag @orchidsnsweettea_ on Instagram and hashtag it #orchidsandsweettea

Best Vegan Meatball Subs

Script text: Xx, Shanika

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  1. I make this all the time. One of my families favs. Love the meatballs so much but the sauce I have a question...a tablespoon of crushed red pepper? Seems like quite a bit. I found you on Food Monster and so glad I did.

    • Hi Kathy! I'm so happy to hear that you love this recipe and that it's a family favorite! I love spicy, therefore, I use 1 Tbsp of red pepper flakes, however, you can feel free to adjust it to less if you need to! 🙂

  2. WOOOOOOOW! These look like SERIOUSLY delicious meatballs! This recipe is definitely going on my Meatless Monday recipe list!

  3. OMG these look awesome! I love me a meatball sub but never made them at home, especially the vegan version!! Will try this this weekend! Cant wait!

  4. Oh my goodness! This looks awesome. I have tried making vegan meatballs, but I haven't found the perfect texture yet. How's the texture in this one?

    • Thanks so much, Aly! I totally understand! I've had the same issue in the past also. However, I found that adding more breadcrumbs and ensuring that your quinoa is more 'dried out' when cooked helps to make things less mushy! I enjoyed this one!

  5. i've never had a vegan meatball but they sound incredible! all the seasonings sound so wonderful.

    • Thanks so much, Danielle! I definitely recommend trying Vegan meatballs! They are so good!

  6. I love the savoury and spicy flavours in this dish! You are onto something. Yum, wish I was having it for dinner!!!!

    • Haha! Thanks so much, Adrianne! I'm so obsessed with savory and spicy flavors too! Hope that you get a chance to try this one!

  7. What a great way to make a vegan version of the classic meatball subs, such a perfect recipe to make when my vegan friends come over but that everyone will enjoy equally!

  8. These are so delicious! We try and have a vegan meal each week so these will be next on my list.
    Thanks for sharing
    Julie

  9. Although I'm not vegan, I do love quinoa, and these truly look delicious! Will look forward to trying these soon!

    • It's definitely worth trying whether you are Vegan or not! Such a great break from meat every once in awhile!

  10. I haven't had a good meatball sub in forever! I love how you have created a delicious meat free option that everyone can enjoy. I have never tried making meatballs with chickpeas and quinoa and I can't wait to try it.

    • Yes, I second that Vicky! I rarely eat the meat version, but this one is definitely a favorite in my house! I hope that you enjoy it!

  11. This is everything a gourmet sandwich should be, and then some! Looking forward to enjoying this tonight!

  12. Made this for dinner and it was nowhere near as complicated as I feared it would be. Turned out amazing, thank you!

    • I'm so glad that you had an easy time with this recipe, Ivana! It's definitely one to keep on your list for those Summer days ahead!

  13. I loved everything about this recipe. Not to mention the sandwiches were incredible! Will make these again, thanks!

  14. This has to be one of the most delicious vegan recipes i've ever seen! Meatball subs never looked so good!