Super Satisfying Swedish Vegan Balls

Swedish vegan meatballs with vegan cream sauce and chutney
  • Total recipe cost | R93.00
  • Servings | 12
  • Portion cost | R7.75

These Swedish Vegan Balls take some effort to make, following the steps to create a flavour similar to Swedish meatballs. But it’s worth it. 

Super Satisfying Swedish Vegan Balls

Swedish vegan meatballs

Recipe cost: R 69.64 | Portion cost: R 5.80

While these vegan lentil balls don’t taste like meat, they’re filled with flavour, thanks in part to following steps used to make Swedish meatballs. And the texture? They’re more like Dutch bitterballen than Italian meatballs, and decidedly crave-worthy after one bite.

Yields: 12 servings | makes roughly 112 lentil balls

  • 2 cups lentils | R 6.72
  • 3 cups water | R 0.00
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs | R 1.49
  • ½ cup soy milk | R 3.31
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided | R 2.62
  • 2 onions, diced | R 2.45
  • 250g mushrooms, finely diced | R 25.00 (seasonal)
  • 1 can (400 g) black beans, drained and mashed | R 16.49
  • 1 tablespoon miso paste | R 3.30
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped | R 5.50
  • 1 teaspoon salt | R 0.08
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder | R 1.48
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika | R 0.82
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper | R 0.40

Cook the lentils | Place the lentils and water in a pot over high heat, Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring as needed until the lentils are super soft (about 20-30 minutes). Remove from the heat and drain excess water. Mash the lentils until very sticky and mashed. If your lentils are mushy rather than sticky, return them to the pot over medium heat and cook for a few minutes to release the excess water.

Make a breadcrumb base | Add the breadcrumbs and soy milk to a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine and set aside.

Cook the onions | Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and toss to coat with the oil. Cook, stirring regularly, for 6-7 minutes, until the onions are soft and fragrant. Remove from the heat and add to the breadcrumb base. Stir to combine.

Cook the mushrooms | Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the same frying pan. Add the mushrooms and cook for 4-5 minutes until soft. Remove from the heat, drain all excess liquid (this is very important) and add the mushrooms to the breadcrumb base.

Create the lentil balls | When the lentils are ready, add them to the breadcrumb base along with the beans, miso, parsley and spices. Stir and mash to combine. When well-combined, begin rolling the mixture into small balls (about the size of table tennis balls). This takes time, and you don’t want to rush it, so put on some music or something to watch and try to enjoy the process. Continue rolling until you’ve used all of the lentil mixture.

Cook the lentil balls | Heat 1 tablespoon of oil the same frying pan over medium heat and gently place a few lentil balls in the oil. Use tongs or a spoon to roll balls around until they’re evenly coated with oil. Cook, turning lentil balls as necessary, for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned and just crisped on all sides. Remove to a baking sheet and keep warm. Continue this process until all the lentil balls are cooked.

Serve or store | Serve lentil balls in bowls with Swedish-style cream sauce or your favourite sauce and sides. To freeze lentil balls, allow them to cool to room temperature, place on trays (with a little space between balls) in the freezer for 30 minutes. When just frozen, you can transfer to your choice of freezer storage (bags, plastic containers, etc). Defrost and reheat as desired.

  • Preparation time: 2 hours
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Total time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Make the lentil balls and vegan cream sauce alongside some pasta or mashed potatoes for a super filling meal. Or serve with chutney for a snack with a South African twist. 

Keep in mind that you’ll need to double the sauce recipe if you plan to serve all your Swedish Vegan Balls at once.

Cream Sauce for Swedish Vegan Balls

vegan cream sauce for lentil balls

Recipe cost: R 11.68 | Portion cost: R 1.95

Once you give this cream sauce a try, you’re probably going to need it all the time. It’s that good.

Yields: 6 servings | roughly 2 cups

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil | R 0.87
  • 2 tablespoons cornflour | R 0.96
  • 2 cups beef-flavoured stock | R 1.89
  • 1 cup soy milk | R 6.61
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper | R 0.20

Make a roux | Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the cornflour and whisk to combine.

Start the sauce | Slowly add the stock while continuing to whisk to keep the sauce smooth as the ingredients combine. Add the soy milk and soy sauce and stir to combine. Maintain the heat at a rolling boil to allow the mixture to thicken and reduce. Stir, as needed, to prevent the bottom from burning.

Season and serve | When reduced to the desired consistency, season to taste with black pepper and serve.

  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Total time: 15 minutes

Recipe tips

lentil vegan meatballs cooking

If you believe it’s taking forever | Listen, this vegan lentil balls recipe takes time. You can rush it, but you’re not going to get the same results. The good news is that this makes a lot of lentil balls.

If your lentil mix is too wet | Perhaps the most important element is to make sure the lentil mixture is sticky, not mushy. If you get all the way to the rolling step to find the mix isn’t holding together, dump the whole thing into a pot over medium heat and allow the excess moisture to steam off. You’ll need to keep stirring to ensure the bottom doesn’t burn.

If your lentil mix is too dry | A splash of soy milk will loosen your Swedish vegan meatball mixture quickly.

Ina Paarmans vegan beef stock

I strongly recommend this beef-flavoured vegan stock, found at most of the large grocers in South Africa. It really does offer a meaty flavour without the cruelty. And, it doesn’t break the budget.

Nobody is paying me to say that; it’s just the straight-up truth. 

Swedish vegan meatballs in cream sauce

How to make vegan lentil balls even cheaper

  • Use dried black beans rather than canned. This is especially helpful if you have black beans planned for another meal during the week. Cooking and freezing dried beans is another option. 
  • Make your own plant-based milk. Both oat and almond milk are fairly easy to make – and worth the effort if you want to eat plant-based on a budget. 
  • Check with your green grocer to see when mushrooms are at their cheapest.
  • Keep a container of bread and cracker crumbs in the fridge, so you never need to blitz fresh bread for this (or any) recipe that calls for crumbs.
  • Use whatever herbs or spices you already have on hand, in roughly the same quantities provided here.

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