When I first stopped eating meat 22 years ago (!!!), I relied a lot on “fake meat” products for protein. But lately, I’ve moved away from them.
I first noticed that any products containing soy protein isolate gave me major digestive issues. And too much processed soy is generally not a good idea for anyone with estrogen dominance. (1) Now that I’m off gluten, the gluten-based ones (like Tofurkey sausages, etc.) are out, too.
So, in order to have a decent meat substitute that is made with high quality ingredients that I can tolerate, I realized I would have to make one myself.
My mother “in-law” makes lentil meatballs using red lentils, bread crumbs, and flour. I decided to take them up a notch, nutritionally speaking, by substituting ground walnuts and ground flaxseed for the binding ingredients.
I used brown lentils, which are high in iron and fiber. I started with dry lentils and boiled them. If you want to do this, boil 1.5 cups of lentils in about 4.5 cups of water until soft (about 25 minutes). Pro tip: Do not add salt to beans until after cooking. Or you can just use the canned ones…2 cans would be the perfect amount to make these.
I also used chopped walnuts and ground flaxseeds (both great sources of Omega-3s), a shallot, an egg, an Italian herb mix I made myself (basil, parsley, oregano, marjoram, & garlic powder), and a dash of tomato paste—I love the kind in the tube, because you can use just a little and then keep it in the fridge till you need it again.
My plan was to throw everything into the food processor and hope for the best, but for some reason, mine wasn’t working. So I chopped the nuts and the shallots extra fine and mixed it the old school way—by hand. I felt like an Italian Nana making the meatballs this way…except way less gross, because I wasn’t handling raw meat, haha!
This recipe made about 18 medium sized balls (somewhere between 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter).
I baked them at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, then let them cool. They firmed up and held together much better than I expected!
You can serve these as an appetizer with a tomato sauce (a spicy Arrabiata sauce would be my pick!) Or serve on top of your favorite pasta or zoodles. I had these this week with spaghetti squash and a quick homemade tomato-basil sauce. Enjoy!
Note: These freeze really well, so make the whole batch and freeze what you don’t need for later use!
- 3 cups lentils (cooked)
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 cup ground flaxseed
- 1 tbsp Italian herbs
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor (or by hand) until well combined.
- Roll into balls approximately 1.5 to 2 inches.
- Place on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Let cool before handling.
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