These vegan meatballs are made with wholesome chickpeas, seared mushrooms and lots of flavor from sesame, ginger and Thai curry. Serve them with velvety coconut Thai curry sauce, rice noodles and fresh veggies for a delicious Asian-inspired plant-based meal.
If you love Thai flavors, you’re going to love this Thai meatball bowl. The veggie balls are filled with simple, nutritious ingredients and lots of aromatics. These flavor bombs are seasoned with yellow Thai curry paste, fresh ginger, cilantro, toasted sesame oil and tahini. The yellow curry sauce gets its creaminess from canned coconut milk, and is perfect for slathering all over chewy rice noodles.
How to Make Thai Chickpea Meatballs & Coconut Curry Sauce Bowls
The preparation for this easy vegan dinner looks like this:
- Make the vegan meatballs:
- Pan fry the onions and garlic
- Puree the onions and garlic with few other ingredients
- Sear the mushrooms
- Pulse all of the vegan meatball ingredients together
- Form balls and bake. Meanwhile:
- Have your noodles soaking
- Prep your fresh veggies
- Make the quick curry sauce
While these Thai vegan meatball bowls aren’t complicated, you can speed things up making the veggie balls a day or two before you need them. The veggie meatballs keep well in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.
The Thai coconut curry sauce is intensely flavored so a little goes a long way. Spoon the curry sauce over the meatballs as you serve them but keep extras separate. This prevents the meatballs from becoming soggy and falling apart in the fridge. The meatballs are great cold or gently reheated.
What’s in Vegan Meatballs?
While these “meatballs” are delicious, they don’t have the texture of meat. “Beanball” just doesn’t have the same ring to it, right? The balls are tender, not chewy. They have a great texture though, with bits of crunch from toasted nuts (I use peanuts or cashews), and some meatiness from the chickpeas and seared mushrooms. The key is to pulse the mixture in the food processor, not blitz it into a paste!
If you’re looking for a “meatier” meatball, you’ll enjoy my Vegan Swedish Meatballs and Gravy. They have store-bought veggie ground in them and gluten flour which gives them that denser texture and are really umami rich. Clearly they aren’t for anyone avoiding gluten, unlike this these Thai meatballs which are gluten-free. Just make sure you use gluten-free soy sauce!
Unlike vegetarian meatballs which often use eggs for the “glue”, these vegan meatballs rely on a few other more flavorful ingredients for binding: puréed onion, tahini and rice.
I have tested this recipe using long grain white rice like Jasmine, and with sushi rice. Both work really well, although the sushi rice creates a firmer meatball once baked and cooled. That said sushi rice is stickier, so oil your hands well when rolling the balls to make things much easier.
How to Cook Rice Noodles
In the process of testing this recipe, I came to realize that following package directions doesn’t necessarily give you perfect results. I’ve always struggled with rice noodles – I’d follow the package instructions to a T and yet they always ended up gluey and overcooked. Then I noticed at one of our local fusion restaurants they didn’t seem to boil their rice noodles, but instead soaked their noodles in steaming hot water. And it turns out they’re onto something!
I did a bit of reading on cooking rice noodles by soaking and then did some testing. I found that bringing a pot of water to a boil, adding the noodles, turning the heat off and allowing the rice noodles to soak for 3-8 minutes (depending on the width of the noodles) resulted in perfectly done chewy rice noodles! Give them a stir every once in a while to prevent clumping. Once the noodles are softened and still a bit chewy, drain, rinse and toss them with a bit of sesame oil until serving. Perfect every time!
Can Vegan Meatballs be Made into Burgers?
This recipe actually started out as testing for a vegan Thai burger. On my second test batch, I decided to form the chickpea mixture into balls or nuggets rather than patties because I was craving a Thai bowl. That said, I tested this recipe as burgers, too and they’re just as good!
Unless you have a really well seasoned pan or non-stick skillet, I recommend baking the Thai chickpea patties on a parchment lined baking tray. Bake them for about 12 minutes on each side. Just like the veggie balls, the veggie burger patties will be delicate when they first come out of the oven so let them sit for 5 minutes to firm up and then serve them as desired!
If you make these Thai Chickpea Meatball and Coconut Curry Bowls, please give it a rating in the recipe card or let me know in the comments! I love connecting on Instagram where you can tag me in your creations using my recipes. You can also follow me on Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for reading along!
Thai Chickpea Meatballs and Coconut Curry Bowls – Vegan & GF
For the Thai Chickpea Meatballs:
- 3 tbsp toasted sesame oil, divided
- 1/2 large red onion, diced small
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 thumb ginger, minced or micro-planed 30g
- 1 tbsp Thai yellow curry paste
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 8 oz crimini mushrooms, trimmed and diced
- 1 1/2 cups chickpeas, cooked, drained and patted dry
- 1 cup cooked long-grain white rice (or sushi rice)
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1/2 cup peanuts or cashews, toasted and chopped
Thai Yellow Curry Sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1/2 cup shallot, chopped
- 1 tbsp ginger, minced or micro-planed
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp Thai yellow curry paste
- 14 oz can coconut milk, full fat, no gums
- 3 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
- 2 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
For the Rice Noodles and Fresh Veggies:
- 8 oz medium width rice noodles
- 2 cups shredded purple cabbage
- 2 cups shredded carrots
- 2 cups sliced cucumbers
- sliced green onion for serving, optional
- lime wedges for serving, optional
- sesame seeds for serving, optional
For the Vegan Meatballs:
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large heavy skillet, add 1 tbsp of sesame oil over medium heat. Pan fry onions for 2-3 minutes or until softened and translucent, stirring occasionally. Add in the garlic and ginger and cook another 30 seconds.
- Scoop the onion mixture into a food processor. Add in the curry paste, lime juice and tahini. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Leave mixture in food processor.
- In the skillet, heat 2 tbsp of sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add in the mushrooms, cooking for 5-8 minutes or until browned. Allow them to sear and stir occasionally to prevent burning,
- Add the mushrooms, chickpeas, rice, cilantro and nuts to the food processor. Pulse a few times to combine but not so much that the mixture becomes a paste. You should see pieces of mushroom and chickpeas.
- With a small bowl of sesame oil on your work surface to oil your hands, roll the mixture into balls. Using a cookie scoop helps control the size – each one should be about 2-3 tbsp. If they are too big, they will be more fragile. Oil your hands as needed, and place the balls on the baking sheet leaving about an inch between each meatball. You should get about 36 meatballs. Bake for 25-30 minutes, gently turning the balls half way through for more even cooking. Don't worry if they are flatter on one side. Let cool for 5 minutes on the baking tray before moving them.
For the Rice Noodles:
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the rice noodles. Turn of the heat. Stir the noodles oaccssiionlly to break them up. Let them soak for 3-8 minutes depending on how wide the noodles are. Taste them to be sure. When done, drain them, rinse with running water, then toss with sesame to prevent sticking. Toss again before serving to loosen them up.
For the Coconut Curry Sauce:
- In a medium-sized pot or skillet, heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Sauté the shallot for 2 minutes or until sftened. Add in the ginger and garlic, cooking for another 30 seconds. Whisk in the curry paste, then pour in the canned coconut milk. Whisk until the curry paste is blended in, bringing to a simmer. Add in the soy sauce, rice vingar and maple syrup. Remove from heat.
- Serve rice noodles topped with vegan chickpea meatballs, shredded cabbage, carrots and cucumber. Drizzle the curry sauce over the top. Alternatively, toss the rice noodles with the sauce and serve immediately with the meatballs and veggies in top. The rice noodles will become stickier as they sit in the sauce. Garnish with lime wedges, green onions and sesame seeds , if desired. Enjoy!