This Vegan BBQ Meatballs + Creamy Polenta recipe is loaded with savory, sweet flavors. The tender meatballs are made with chickpeas, quinoa, pecans and nutritional yeast for tons of flavor in every bite. All vegan ingredients. Gluten-free option.
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.
These vegan meatballs are loaded with healthy plant-based ingredients, including spices and dried herbs, for a cheesy, savory and slightly sweet combination you'll love. Paired with creamy, smooth polenta, you have a well-rounded vegan dinner the whole family will enjoy----adults and kids alike.
If you have ever had Jamaican curry, you know it's spicy! Embrace the heat with my Spicy Curry Vegan Meatballs + Orzo, a tender vegan meatball mixture simmered in a sauce of hot peppers, veggie stock, garlic, and coconut milk. This is the meatiest vegan dish on Earth!
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!
Here are some notes to keep in mind about these vegan meatball ingredients:
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.
Nutritional yeast. This is a key vegan ingredient for cheesy flavor. If you haven't tried it yet, I strongly recommend it!
Parsley, oregano, and 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.
BBQ sauce. Look for a vegan bbq sauce if you like. Otherwise, see the notes below the recipe to make your own easy vegan bbq sauce to coat your meatballs.
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.
Homemade BBQ Sauce
To make your own BBQ sauce for these vegan meatballs is rather simple and doesn't require a lot. Here's what you'll need:
1 (15 oz.) can of tomato sauce
¾ cups water
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsps sriracha sauce
2 tsps ground mustard
⅓ cup agave syrup
2 Tbsps pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
DIRECTIONS: Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan on medium-high heat and whisk together until it begins to boil. Reduce heat to low-medium and let everything simmer for about 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Once thickened enough to desired consistency, remove from heat and let cool. Set aside until ready to use or store remainder in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
What You’ll Love About These Vegan BBQ Meatballs + Polenta
It’s easy to make.
Full of flavor.
Minimal ingredients required.
Easy to store leftovers and re-purpose.
The epitome of comfort food for ANY season.
Did I mention absolutely delicious?!
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.
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. Mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes are also delicious!
Instead of BBQ sauce, try one of these other tasty sauce ideas:
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 or Spicy Shrimp ---if you aren't on a vegan diet.
For added veggies and additional vegan options, top your polenta with roasted broccoli, cauliflower, other beans, or brussels sprouts.
If you want to add some greens to these vegan bbq meatballs + polenta, you certainly can. My article, Our Top 12 Favorite Healthy Green Leafy Vegetables shares a list of great greens! Off the top—-kale, spinach, or collard greens make great additions. Also, roasted broccolini is one of my faves to add.
Make-Ahead Vegan BBQ Meatballs + Polenta
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.
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.
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.
HOMEMADE BBQ SAUCE: 15 oz. can of tomato sauce, ¾ cups water, ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, 2 Tbsps sriracha sauce, 2 tsps ground mustard, ⅓ cup agave syrup, 2 Tbsps pure maple syrup, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon smoked paprika. DIRECTIONS: Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan on medium-high heat and whisk together until it begins to boil. Reduce heat to low-medium and let everything simmer for about 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Once thickened enough to desired consistency, remove from heat and let cool. Set aside until ready to use or store remainder in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
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.