Mushroom Quinoa Meatballs with Cashew Cream Sauce
Mushroom Quinoa Meatballs- made with whole food ingredients, these vegan ‘meatballs’ have a surprisingly meaty texture. Served with a tangy cashew cream sauce, it makes for a decadent plant-based meal! (vegan + gluten-free)
If you’ve been following my blog for a while then you know I’m not a fan of complicated recipes. But there are times when I will make an exception.
- When the amount of work I put in pays off with large batches that I can freeze for later.
- When it’s for a special occasion like the holidays or a birthday.
This meal checks both of those boxes. It makes 26 meatballs which equates to around 6 or 7 servings, depending on how many you eat, and it freezes well. Paired with pasta, the cream sauce and a crusty loaf of bread, it’s fancy enough to serve for a special occasion and the payoff is well worth it the time spent making it.
Mushroom Quinoa Meatball Ingredients
- Russet Potato- Cooked potato helps bind the meatballs and add texture. Leaving the skin on is optional but I like to cut around it when I’m chopping it up for the recipe. Russet is usually the easiest to find but you can also get away with using a yukon gold here.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil– We just need three tablespoons of oil to sauté our vegetables and lightly coat the meatballs when they bake in the oven. Any neutral flavored oil will work if you don’t have olive oil.
- Onion, Carrot and Celery– This trio creates the flavor base for the meatballs and I consider all of them essential.
- Mushrooms and Garlic- Cremini mushrooms are my favorite but any kind of button mushroom is adequate. Be sure to remove the stems prior to chopping them. Garlic is also a must for flavor.
- Walnuts– If you really want to get fancy you can toast the walnuts before using them in the recipe. I tested it this way and found it didn’t make a big enough difference in flavor for the effort but I’ll leave that decision up to you. I haven’t tested the recipe without the walnuts but sunflower seeds would be a good alternative for a nut-free option.
- Quinoa Flakes– I feel like this is an ingredient a lot people might have trouble finding or will be averse to using because the flavor of quinoa isn’t everybody’s bag. I get it. If either of those apply to you, you can use equal amounts rolled oats in place of the quinoa flakes. You’ll just need to pulse the oats to a fine crumb before using in the recipe.
- Nutritional Yeast– This ingredient helps add depth and flavor. I personally love it but if you’ve tried it and insist on leaving it out then it shouldn’t make a huge difference.
- Tamari– I love tamari because it adds a hint of umami flavor and pairs super well with mushrooms. Don’t forget this one unless you want bland balls.
- Dried Thyme and Oregano– Such a great combo for savory dishes. If you have fresh herbs, they would be even better.
- Celery Salt– This seems like an unnecessary ingredient but it really adds so much flavor to this dish. I recommend getting some if you can because you will want to throw it on everything savory.
- Raw Cashews- If you had a cashew based cream sauce then you know how magical it is. Now if only we could figure out how to make them cheaper. :/
- Shallot and Garlic– Sautéing a little bit of shallot and garlic really amps up the flavor of the cashew cream sauce. If you can’t find shallots, just reserve a few tablespoons of the onion instead.
- Dijon Mustard– Even if you’re not a big mustard fan, I still suggest you include it in the sauce. It adds a certain je ne sais quoi.
- Vegetable Broth– To help blend the sauce and to incorporate a little more flavor, we’re using vegetable broth in the sauce. Better than Bouillon is the best, in my humble opinion.
How to Make Mushroom Quinoa Meatballs
- First you’ll need to cook the potato. I microwave mine to save time (just prick it a few times with a fork then microwave for about 5 minutes, or until tender when cut) but you can also bake it at 400°F for 45 minutes to an hour.
- Sauté the vegetables until browned.
- Pulse everything together in a food processor until a dough-like consistency forms. Unfortunately a food processor is a necessity for this recipe. I have a love-hate relationship with mine.
- Chill the dough for an hour then roll into balls and bake for about 25 minutes.
- If you want to serve them with the cashew cream sauce then you’ll need to soak the cashews while the meatball dough chills (or before). Lightly sauté shallot and garlic then add them to a blender with the cashews, vegetable broth, tamari, and dijon mustard. I recommend using a Vitamix or a NutriBullet for a nice smooth consistency. The food processor doesn’t quite do the trick when it comes to breaking down cashews, even if they’ve been soaked.
- Warm the sauce then serve with the meatballs and enjoy the fruits of your labor. :)
Want more Romantic or Special Occasion Meal Ideas?
- The Best Vegetable Bolognese
- Butternut Squash Risotto
- Cashew ‘Ricotta’ Stuffed Shells
- Vegan Mushroom Bourguignon
- Mushroom Asparagus Farro Rissoto
Vegan Mushroom Quinoa Meatballs with Cashew Cream Sauce
For the Mushroom Quinoa 'Meatballs'
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 cup cooked russet potato , roughly chopped (about 1 medium russet potato)(see notes)
- 1½ cup yellow onion, roughly chopped (about 1 medium onion)
- ½ cup carrot, roughly chopped (about 1-2 medium-size carrots)
- ½ cup celery, roughly chopped (about 2-3 ribs celery)
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic, about 2-3 cloves
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 cup quinoa flakes, or 1 cup oats pulsed to a crumb in the food processor
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon celery salt
- salt & pepper, to taste
Prepare the 'Meatballs'
- You'll need to start by cooking the russet potato first. Prick it a few times with a fork and then you can either bake it in the oven at 400°F for 45-60 minutes or microwave it for about 5 minutes. *Actual time may vary depending on the size of your potato. Set aside and allow to cool before chopping to use in the recipe.
- Meanwhile, prep the remaining vegetables for the meatballs. In a large skillet, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot. Sauté, while stirring, for about 5 minutes, until onion is translucent. Next add the mushrooms and the garlic. Continue to cook while stirring for about 10-12 minutes, or until vegetables are browned and tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- In a food processor, add the walnuts and pulse until close to a crumb-like texture. Add the cooked potato and the quinoa flakes and pulse until potato is finely chopped. Lastly, add the browned vegetables, tamari, nutritional yeast, oregano, thyme, celery salt and a pinch of salt & pepper. Pulse until everything is evenly combined and dough-like texture forms. You may need to scrape down the sides of the processor and pulse again to help it blend everything together.
- Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. This will make it easier to work with when you shape it into balls. While the dough chills, skip ahead to preparing the cream sauce (if using).
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Once the mixture is firm, scoop out about 1½ tablespoons at a time and roll into individual balls, arranging on the baking sheet about an inch apart. You should get about 26 balls total.
- Lightly coat with remaining tablespoon of oil then bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until firm and brown.
Prepare the Cashew Cream Sauce
- In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups water to a boil. Remove from the heat then add the cashews. Allow to soak for 30 minutes. Strain and rinse then transfer to a blender.
- In the same saucepan, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil over low heat. Add the shallot and garlic then cook until fragrant, no more than 5 minutes. Set aside.
- To the blender, add the cooked shallot/garlic, vegetable broth, dijon mustard and tamari. Blend until smooth. Add back to the saucepan to warm for a few minutes before serving with meatballs, and enjoy!