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Vegan BBQ Meatballs + Polenta

September 29, 2022
Shanika | Orchids + Sweet Tea

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Treat your family to a hearty and filling dinner with our Vegan BBQ Meatballs and Creamy Polenta recipe. Its completely plant-based and bursting with flavor, making it a perfect choice for the whole family.

Vegan BBQ Meatballs + Polenta

Get ready to indulge in our Vegan BBQ Meatballs + Creamy Polenta recipe. Made with chickpeas, quinoa, pecans, and nutritional yeast, these tender meatballs boast a delightful blend of savory and sweet flavors. Paired with creamy polenta infused with garlic, it creates the perfect comforting base for this delicious plant-based dish. Completely Vegan + Gluten-free option.

Closeup of Vegan Chickpea Meatballs with Polenta

I've always loved meatballs. They're such an easy way to pack tons of flavor, spice, sweetness or whatever you like into a single perfect bite. And if you're eating less meat or no meat at all, you can have the same delicious experience with vegan ingredients too---especially with these Vegan BBQ Meatballs + Creamy Polenta.

If you're looking for more plant-based options, some of my top 'vegan meatball' recipes include BBQ Meatball Pizza and Vegan Meatball Subs. For those craving a spicy kick, dive into the flavors of my Spicy Curry Vegan Meatballs + Orzo.

But let's circle back to these vegan meatballs--- They're brimming with nutritious plant-based ingredients, boasting a medley of spices and dried herbs that lend them a hearty, satisfying, and subtly sweet flavor—a blend that never fails to please. Paired with creamy, smooth polenta, you've got yourself a balanced vegan dinner that's guaranteed to be a hit with the entire family, both adults and kids alike.

Jump to:

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.

What Is Polenta?

Polenta is a classic Italian dish crafted from coarsely ground cornmeal, simmered to a creamy texture. Once you master the art of making polenta, you'll likely find yourself cooking it more often than you'd expect. It's incredibly adaptable and pairs wonderfully with both meat + vegetable dishes, offering a comforting and satisfying addition to any meal.

Ingredients for Vegan BBQ Chickpea Meatballs

How to Make Vegan BBQ Meatballs + Polenta

To make the meatballs, you'll quickly sautéing onions and garlic. Then, you'll add the remaining ingredients until you have a nice thick dough. I like to use a scoop to shape evenly sized meatballs, but you can just as easily go by eyesight and use your hands to shape the cute little balls. 

Then sear them until you have a  beautiful golden-brown crust all over. Finally, top meatballs with BBQ sauce and bake for a few minutes. Serve with your dreamy cornmeal polenta, and dinner is ready!

Ingredients

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.

Creamy Vegan Polenta

This polenta is totally dairy-free but tastes just as creamy and decadent as dairy-full polenta. Plus, to reheat any leftover polenta is rather easy and is best done over the stovetop while adding a bit of water or milk until creamy and smooth again.

Here's what you'll need to make it:

  • Vegetable stock. You can also use water if you're out of stock, but you may need to season your polenta a bit more with salt. 
  • Almond milk. You can use any fave dairy-free milk you like. 
  • Polenta. Use organic corn for the best flavor. 
  • Vegan butter. I like Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks for cooking and baking. 
  • Dairy-free mozzarella. I love So Delicious Dairy-Free cheese, which is coconut based and tastes great. 
  • Garlic powder and salt. For a bit of flavor.

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

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

Vegan Chickpea Meatballs in a skillet with barbeque sauce

Why You Will LOVE Vegan Meatballs + Polenta

  • Bold flavors that will tantalize your taste buds.
  • crowd-pleasing creamy 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.
Whisk in a Dutch oven of Polenta

Homemade BBQ Sauce

To make your own BBQ sauce for these vegan meatballs is rather simple and doesn't require a lot. Here's my Homemade BBQ Sauce recipe with all the details!

Two plates of Vegan BBQ Chickpea Meatballs

Other Serving Suggestions for Vegan Meatballs

You can have fun experimenting with serving your vegan chickpea meatballs with other sauces and starches. Instead of polenta, try gluten-free or regular pasta--- They would go perfectly in Vegan Bolognese Pasta or atop Ultra Creamy Cheesy Garlic Vegan Mashed Potatoes, or even with Sweet Potato Mash.

Instead of BBQ sauce, try one of these other tasty sauce ideas:

Mostly-empty Dutch oven of polenta

What to Serve with Creamy Polenta

This creamy polenta is a complete meal on its own with just a simple topping. And you can serve it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. If you'd like to add more protein, you can swap the vegan meatballs for Jerk Chicken, Shredded Chicken, Pan Seared Steak or Spicy Shrimp ---if you aren't on a vegan diet.

Add On Ideas

For added veggies and additional vegan options, you could top your top your polenta with:

Is Polenta Healthy?

Polenta packs a healthy punch with complex carbs for lasting energy and fiber for digestion. It's low in fat and gluten-free, making it versatile for various diets. Plus, it's loaded with essential vitamins and minerals like B vitamins and iron. Whether creamy or sliced, polenta adds a nutritious boost to any meal!

Overhead shot of a plate of Vegan BBQ Chickpea Meatballs

Vegan Meatballs & Creamy Polenta Q + A's

How to Store + Reheat Vegan Meatballs

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.
Add some BBQ sauce along with the vegan meatballs, and assemble the dish to serve.

How to make ahead of time?

All ingredients can be made and individually stored as meal prep and assembled + heated when ready to serve.

Can I Make Gluten-Free Vegan BBQ Meatballs + Polenta?

Absolutely! To make this recipe entirely GF, simply ensure that the polenta is GF-friendly (Bob's Red Mill is one of my faves to use) as well as the breadcrumbs and BBQ sauce.

Can I use other oils?

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

Overhead shot of a two plates of Vegan BBQ Chickpea Meatballs with Polenta

More Healthy Chickpea Recipes To Try!

If you are a fan of my Vegan Meatballs + Polenta then you will love these hearty plant-based recipes, too!

MADE OUR RECIPE(S)?

If you make this Vegan BBQ Meatballs with Polenta 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!

Closeup of Vegan Chickpea Meatballs with Polenta

Vegan BBQ Meatballs + Polenta

September 29, 2022
4.88 from 8 votes
Get ready to indulge in our Vegan BBQ Meatballs + Creamy Polenta recipe. Made with chickpeas, quinoa, pecans, and nutritional yeast, these tender meatballs boast a delightful blend of savory and sweet flavors. Paired with creamy polenta infused with garlic, it creates the perfect comforting base for this delicious plant-based dish. Completely Vegan + Gluten-free option.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 4 servings

Ingredients

CREAMY POLENTA:

  • 1 cup organic polenta corn grits, yellow
  • 3 cups organic vegetable stock (You can use water instead, if preferred!)
  • 1 cup Almond milk, unsweetened (You can use your fave plant-based milk)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ cup vegan butter
  • 1 cup dairy-free cheese shreds, optional (I love So Delicious Dairy-Free)

HOMEMADE VEGAN MEATBALLS:

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

Instructions

TO MAKE THE HOMEMADE VEGAN MEATBALLS:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Start by adding onions and garlic cloves to a heated oven-safe 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. Spoon the BBQ sauce atop the vegan meatballs and add the skillet to the preheated oven, baking for 10-15 minutes or until the sauce becomes "baked on". Remove from the oven.

TO MAKE CREAMY POLENTA:

  • Bring 3 cups veggie stock, milk and salt to a low boil in a large-size pot or dutch oven. Once boiling, whisk in the polenta and cook 15-20 minutes until thickened and most of the liquid has "dried out". Stir in the butter, garlic powder, and dairy-free shreds (if using), until melted and the polenta becomes creamy.
  • In serving bowl(s), spoon the polenta into the bottom of the bowl(s) and top with BBQ vegan meatballs. Sprinkle dried parsley (optional) as garnish, if desired 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. Leftover polenta can be kept in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Re-heat over the stovetop when ready to serve, by adding a bit of milk (¼ cup or so) and stirring until creamy again.
  • MAKE AHEAD: All ingredients can be made and individually stored as meal prep and assembled + heated when ready to serve.
  • OILS: Instead of using Extra Virgin Olive Oil, you can substitute with Grapeseed Oil, Avocado Oil, or Coconut Oil. 
  • 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. 
  • GUTEN-FREE OPTION: To make this recipe entirely GF, simply ensure that the polenta is GF-friendly as well as the breadcrumbs and BBQ sauce.

Nutrition

Calories: 860kcal | Carbohydrates: 126g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 0.1mg | Sodium: 3712mg | Potassium: 683mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 52g | Vitamin A: 1226IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 213mg | Iron: 4mg

DID YOU MAKE THIS recipe?

Tag @orchidsnsweettea_ on Instagram and hashtag it #orchidsandsweettea

Vegan BBQ Meatballs + Polenta.

Script text: Xx, Shanika

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  1. In a metric country. What is a "can of chickpeas?" Cans come in all types of sizes, would be really helpful if we could get the universal gram measurement.

    • Hi Shaun! Thanks so much for your feedback! In the U.S., it's a 15 oz. can of chickpeas, therefore, converting it over into grams after googling it---it should be 425 grams. 🙂

  2. Hi,
    The flavor was delicious! I didn't get the consistency right, so my meatballs didn't firm up. I don't have a food processor, so I used a Vitamix instead. I had to add a little water to get the Vitamix moving and that's where I think things went wrong for me. Still, these are really good!

    • Hi Fannie! Thanks so much for giving this recipe a try! I'm so happy to hear that you loved the flavor. I completely understand and I know that the Vitamix is a bit powerful, therefore, pulsing it next time might be the best bet the next time that you try it. 🙂

  3. I never comment on recipes but these meatballs are SO good, I had to write a review. I made them to serve with pasta and vodka sauce. They are so filling and delicious. As someone who is trying to eat less meat for animal welfare reasons, I am totally thrilled to find a meatball substitute that is nutritious and satisfying. Thank you so much for the recipe!!

    • Hi Chris! Wow---that truly makes me so happy to hear that you enjoyed these meatballs! I definitely love them in vodka sauce too! 🙂 Cheers to a great an amazing meatball substitute!

  4. We made the "meatballs" for dinner tonight, and they were fabulous. Thank you for such a great recipe. They will be made again!

  5. it be awesome if nutritional facts were given to us. I want to try but fear the calories.

  6. Everything about this was soooooo good. Definitely my favorite vegan “meatball” recipe and will use it from here on out. Thanks!