Vegan Lentil Meatballs in Spiced Pumpkin Tomato Sauce

My favorite childhood dish was the marinated meatballs in flavored tomato sauce that my grandmother was waiting for me with, when I was returning home from school. I remember having them hot, bathed in that amazing sauce and always responding with “marinated meatballs” when asked about the dish I wanted for the next day.

Then my grandmother passed away and as an adult I tried to reproduce her dish, but never got close. And then I quit eating meat and totally forgot about the meatballs.

This was just until a couple of years ago, when I got myself craving for the comforting dish of my childhood and started the experiments, this time using veggies, legumes and spices.

And no, these vegan lentil meatballs are nothing like my grandma’s, but they definitely fit better in my actual diet and in what the adult me would call “comfort food”.

You can pretty much use any legume as a base for vegan meatballs, as they are all starchy and keep the ball together. However, I think lentils are the best choice since:

  • 1. they’re incredibly easy to prepare from scratch (think chickpeas – soak overnight, boil, process)
  • 2. they have a mild flavor that perfectly pairs with the Oriental spices that I tend to add to every dish
  • 3. they come with an excellent nutritional load

Think fibers, lots of minerals,  B vitamins and protein. I value a lot the fiber-rich ingredients lately. My boyfriend takes a medicine that affects the cholesterol levels so we decided to focus our diet on eating soluble fiber rich foods, especially oats, legumes and fresh fruits. And with a 56 percent of fiber, the humble lentils are definitely among our favorites!

Higher consumption of fiber-rich foods also prevents the development of cardiovascular diseases. Lentils are not only rich in fiber, but also contribute to a healthy cardiovascular system given their high concentrations of magnesium and folate.

Folate (vitamin B9) alongside vitamin B6, also found in lentils,  helps with the proper metabolism of homocysteine, an amino-acid that tends to accumulate and damage the artery walls. Magnesium relaxes the veins and arteries and improves the flow of oxygen and nutrients within our bodies, while also reducing free radical injuries to a poor functioning heart.

To make sure you get the benefits from the all nutrients in lentils, cook them according to the package instructions. This way you’ll avoid the nutrient leak into the excess cooking water, which you will actually throw away.


Bathing the lentil meatballs into a spiced sauce will turn them into a real comfort food, while serving them with rice will provide you all the amino-acids your body needs to build complete proteins.

Baking the balls into the oven is easier for digestion, while frying them into coconut oil will make them crispier and more appealing for other family members ;).

If you enjoy this recipe and love vegetarian meatballs, patties and burgers as much as I do, make sure not to miss out my Gluten-Free Vegetarian Meatballs, the Monster Vegan Burger by Jamie Oliver, or The Ultimate Veggie Burger with Beets and Quinoa.

ALSO YUMMY:  Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Mustard Roasted Chickpeas

As always, I love to see your take on my recipes so If you make any of these don’t forget to tag me on Instagram @theawesomegreen so I can see them and share with the community!

Print Recipe
4.75 from 4 votes

Vegan Lentil Meatballs in Spiced Pumpkin Tomato Sauce

Crispy vegan lentil meatballs, bathed in spiced tomato sauce and served with brown rice to provide your body complete protein, fiber and minerals.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Vegan
Keyword: lentil meatballs, vegan meatballs
Servings: 3
Calories: 398kcal
Author: The Awesome Green


  • For the meatballs
  • 2 cups cooked lentils
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 large bunch fresh parsley roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp whole wheat breadcrumbs replace with ground flax for a gluten-free variation
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • For the sauce
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup pumpkin or butternut squash peeled and cubed (or 3-4 tbsp pumpkin puree)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth or purified water
  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp coconut sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • To serve: cooked brown rice or quinoa lime wedges
  • To garnish: coconut milk or yogurt fresh parsley


  • Preheat the oven to 175 C/346 F.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In the food processor add the walnuts and pulse to obtain a crumble.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse four or five times to obtain a mixture with some crumbles for texture (don't over-process to avoid a mushy mixture).
  • Shape the mixture into little balls using your hands or a scoop and line them onto the baking sheet. You will get 10 - 12 balls.
  • Drizzle with coconut oil and bake for 30 minutes.
  • While the balls are baking prepare the tomato sauce.
  • Add the onion and butternut cubes into a large cast iron skillet together with a tablespoon water and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the tomato sauce, broth/water, coconut milk, spices and sugar, mix and bring to boil over medium heat.
  • Simmer for 10 minutes, season with salt and pepper and use a hand blender to turn the sauce into a creamy liquid.
  • Remove the lentil balls from the oven and add them one by one into the sauce pan.
  • Garnish with coconut milk and fresh parsley and serve with brown rice and lime wedges.



Serving: 513g | Calories: 398kcal
  • 2pots2cook
    October 23, 2018

    5 stars
    Perfect for my office lunch ! Thank you !

    • Ana
      November 8, 2018

      Wow, thanks so much, happy you enjoy it for your office lunch!

  • Isadora Guidoni
    November 7, 2018

    5 stars
    Sounds brilliant, everyone’s coming out with their favorite pumpkin recipes this season.

    • Ana
      November 8, 2018

      Oh yes, there’s so much inspo out there for cooking with this gorgeous fall superstar!

  • Barb
    November 16, 2018

    I just made your lentil meatball w pumpkin tomato sauce recipe. Delicious! The “meatballs” did not hold their shape at all. Any suggestions for me?

    • Ana
      November 16, 2018

      Hi Barb, not really sure what happened – did you process them too long and lost their texture? Or you boiled them into the sauce? I tried baking and frying them, and kept their shape every time.

      • Barb
        November 16, 2018

        Are you supporting pulse the cooked lentils with the rest of the meatball ingredients?

        • Barb
          November 17, 2018

          Sorry typo- are you supposed to pulse…

        • Ana
          November 20, 2018

          Yes, after you pulse the nuts, you add all the ingredients including the lentils and pulse a few times, just to combine, but not over-process, because the balls need some texture.

  • Amit
    November 21, 2018

    4 stars
    I love the recipe but can’t digest coconut milk. What can I sub it with? Can’t do milk cream either. Sorry for being difficult.


    • Ana
      November 21, 2018

      You can try to sub it with a cashew cream (made of cashew, water and nutritional yeast) or simply add a dollop vegan yogurt when serving the dish. I really hope this helps!

  • Rachel
    December 5, 2018

    I’m a bit confused because the title says pumpkin sauce, but butternut squash is used in the recipe? can this recipe be done using pumpkin puree? if so how much should be used?

    • Ana
      December 11, 2018

      We use mostly butternut squash over here for cooking, sorry for the confusion. You can definitely use the pumpkin puree, keeping the same quantities. You’ll love the taste!

  • Rosie
    January 31, 2019

    These look incredible – my mouth is watering looking at these pictures. I’ve got exactly half a tin of coconut milk I wasn’t sure what to do with and I think this recipe is the BEST thing to do with it. Like you, my Nan also used to make things like this all the time, with heaps of spaghetti. Not sure I’ve ever eaten actual meat meatballs, but she would use the veggie ones you can buy in stores – most of those aren’t vegan, though. This is definitely going to be my dinner tomorrow night.

    • Ana
      February 5, 2019

      Lovely to read your memories about your Nan, my grandmother also left me many “cozy” food memories. I really hope you enjoy the lentil meatballs, they become a favourite in our house!

  • Patrícia
    February 18, 2019

    Do these freeze well? Would love to make them ahead.

    • Ana
      February 19, 2019

      Hi Patricia, I didn’t try to freeze them as I make them for meal prep and eat them throughout the week – I will try the next time I make them and let you know!

  • Jessica
    April 1, 2019

    Do you used canned or fresh diced tomatoes? Thanks!

    • Ana
      April 23, 2019

      I usually use canned, but fresh, ripe tomatoes, especially if they are in season, work as well. I would add some tomato paste too in this case. I hope you liked it!

  • Danielle Crail
    November 11, 2019

    Kitchen Hack: In lieu of making the meatball recipe provided, since the flavor profile was extremely similar to falafel, I went ahead and made falafel balls using the falafel blend I already had on hand. It’s vegan, gluten free and cuts back immensely on prep. I still baked them in the oven. (The rest of the recipe was original using pumpkin.)

  • Sara
    March 28, 2020

    5 stars
    I loved the herbs and spices in the sauce. The sauce is good enough to be a soup by itself. My balls had a bit too much water and turned out shaggy, but they were still delicious. I’d make this again.

    • Ana
      March 30, 2020

      Great to read that you liked them! Never thought about the sauce as a soup, but what a good idea 🙂

  • Yael
    October 15, 2020

    What kind of lentils would you recommend using in this recipe?

    • Ana
      October 15, 2020

      Green lentils work best, as they keep as some of their texture when cooked.

    January 31, 2021

    Does the fibre content [17g per serving] include the brown rice or is this for the meatballs alone? This looks a lovely dish especially as I need to increase my fibre intake.

    • Ana
      January 31, 2021

      The fibre value is for a serving of lentils and sauce, without the rice. Eating them with cooked brown rice will definitely up the fibre intake. Let me know how they turn out!

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