Vegan Swedish meatballs and gravy recreate a favorite classic saucy meatballs recipe with oil-free, baked chickpea balls and luscious sour cream gravy. Serve this dish over pasta or mashed potatoes. It transcends traditional comfort food.
This recipe is all about healthy decadence made easy. I don’t like dealing with excessive pots, pans, or hours in the kitchen, so I tried to keep both to a minimum. Get your game on and get this done in an hour.
The time you need for prep will depend on how you approach the ingredients. Let's check them out so that you're ready to make a plan.
Bulgur – We aren’t even going to boil it, just soak it for 15 minutes in boiling water. If you end up with excess liquid, just drain that off before combining it with the rest of the ingredients.
Flax egg – 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons of water. The result is one of the best plant-based 'setters,' also known as a flax egg.
Mushroom powder – I made mushroom powder by adding ½ a cup of dried porcini mushrooms to my spice grinder and breaking them down. You need 3 tablespoons. Depending on how finely you grind them, you may need more than ½ a cup.
If you don’t want to grind the dried mushrooms, chop them as finely as you can. That should do it.
I did not use fresh mushrooms because they have a high moisture content. If you really want to use fresh, be sure that you only wipe them, don’t wash them in water. Fresh mushrooms soak up moisture, and excess moisture will make the meatballs challenging to hold together and bake evenly.
Vegan sour cream – Making your own vegan sour cream using cashews is super easy. I have a favorite recipe that only requires apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and a dash of salt. Grind the cashews for a quick recipe or soak the cashews in boiling water (my favorite method) for 20 minutes.
You need ½ a cup of sour cream – half for the meatballs and half for the gravy. So keep that in mind in you buy it or decide to make it. If you’re making it, soak ½ a cup of cashews and use a tablespoon each of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar.
If you want to save on calories, you use your favorite vegan sour cream recipe - homemade or purchased.
Chickpeas – A 15 ounce (400 gram) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or 1 ½ cups of cooked chickpeas will yield 12-13 meatballs.
Breadcrumbs – Never one to keep breadcrumbs, and unable to find whole wheat panko, I make my own. You know that spice grinder you just used on the mushrooms? Add a piece of whole wheat bread. It should be about ⅓ of a cup which is what you need.
The spices – Nutmeg, allspice, black pepper, and salt created the flavors of the Swedish meatballs I had in the past, and they were equally delicious here.
A note about the salt: I usually make salt optional, but in testing this recipe, I highly recommend ½ a teaspoon.
How to make meatballs
Once you have all the ingredients prepped, you’ll simply add everything to your food processor. Blend them until the chickpeas are broken down. Because the bulgur isn’t cooked, you shouldn’t expect the consistency to be perfectly smooth. You want a bit of texture.
You can use an ice cream scoop or 1 ½ heaping tablespoons of the mixture. That yields about 12-13 meatballs. If you make them smaller, adjust the baking time down by 10 minutes. I don’t recommend making them any larger as they may not cook in the middle without browning too much.
Set the temperature to 3750 F. (1900 C.) and place the meatballs on parchment paper or a silicone baking mat on your baking tray. You shouldn’t need to flip them.
The meatballs will take about 30 minutes which is plenty of time to make this velvety, addictive gravy. It’s also an opportunity to make pasta, rice, or mashed potatoes. Pass the gravy, please!
Mushroom stock – If you have mushroom stock, this is the time to fetch it from the back of the cupboard. It isn’t a requirement. You can also use vegetable broth, but if you really want a great-tasting gravy, go for mushroom.
I used those handy cubes because I never buy ready-made broth anymore. I simply don’t have the room or capacity for the extra cans or cartons.
If you want to use a mix of veggie and mushroom broths, go for it. They play well together.
A note about broth and cubes: Be sure to check that the broth is vegan if this is important. I’ve also noticed veggie cubes extra ingredients, including oil, that I try to avoid. Label reading – it’s critical. Once you find a brand that suits your needs, my advice – stock up!
Sour cream – This is where we’ll use the rest of the sour cream. I ended up using ¼ of a cup, but you may want to adjust this depending on how tangy your sour cream is. Start by adding 2 tablespoons. You can always add more later.
Dijon mustard – Just a smidge, 1 tablespoon, and maybe another teaspoon, depending on how you like the flavor.
If you experiment with another kind of mustard, no problem. Just start with a little and build it up.
I didn’t end up using any salt for the gravy because the mustard is quite salty. I’ll leave the added salt decision to you and your taste buds.
Cornstarch – Cornstarch is a vegan thickener that is perfect for gravies. With 4 cups of veggie broth, you will want to use 2-3 tablespoons.
To avoid lumps, combine 3 tablespoons of cornstarch in ½ a cup of cold water. Mix it until the cornstarch is completely dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Then start adding it a little at a time.
Another option for thickening gravy is arrowroot powder. Both cornstarch and arrowroot are plant-based thickeners, and both can be used in baking. There are, however, a few differences.
Cornstarch versus arrowroot powder:
Processed from the endosperm of corn kernels cornstarch, is more highly processed than arrowroot. It’s also a consideration that some cornstarch will be derived from corn that has been genetically modified.
You know what I’m going to suggest – read the label!
Arrowroot comes from tubers and has been used for centuries as a thickener that can actually form a clear gel. It’s also used for medicinal purposes. Arrowroot powder is less processed than cornstarch, and it is naturally gluten-free, so many people prefer it.
In my experience, it’s best to be cautious as you add arrowroot. If it gets over-cooked, or you add too much, it can start to form balls. They are very stubborn, making a smooth gravy a challenge. It can also add a slick texture to crispy baked tofu once you add it to sauces.
Parsley – Don't ignore the parsley. Add it! I find that flat-leaf (Italian) parsley has a mellower flavor which I prefer to curly parsley. Either can be used and if you are a parsley fan, save a little to garnish those gorgeous plates you'll soon be serving up.
Black pepper – A few turns of the pepper grinder, up to ½ a teaspoon of gravy, and you're set.
Gravy is easy to make, but it needs to be nurtured a little. Take your time. Allow the mushroom stock, sour cream, and mustard to simmer slowly for about 5 minutes. Then add the cornstarch and water.
As previously recommended, mix cornstarch or arrowroot powder with water in a small cup before adding it to the gravy. Once either thickener hits the simmering ingredients, it will try to lump up. Use your whisk as you add the starch/water mixture. Keep it moving until it decides that lumps are a futile effort.
Bulgur is derived from wheat and therefore is glutenous. If you want a gluten-free option for this recipe, quinoa would be your best option. You can soak quinoa for 15 minutes in boiling water in the same way you would the bulgur.
Ground chia seeds are the best substitute for flax seeds in making a vegan egg substitute. Grind the chia seeds before combining them with water. Allow them to sit for 15-20 minutes to activate their thickening properties.
Corn flour is made by grinding the entire corn kernel and has a subtle corn flavor. Cornstarch is made from only the starchy endosperm (center) of the corn kernel. The starch makes it a superior and flavorless, thickening agent.
Yes! You can make the meatball mixture a day ahead. Store it in a covered bowl until you are ready to form balls and bake them.
It’s always pleasing to serve up a beautiful meal that didn’t take all your energy to cook. You get to sit down and enjoy it!
In addition to making the meatball mixture a day before, you can make the gravy. Once you reheat it, add the freshly chopped parsley. You may need to thin it out with a few tablespoons of broth or water. Heat it first as that will thin it out.
While you wait, perhaps you want to whip up a tasty side. Here are a few that will compliment this meal:
vegan Swedish meatballs and gravy
Vegan Swedish meatballs and gravy recreate a classic saucy meatballs recipe with oil-free, baked chickpea balls and luscious sour cream gravy.
- Prep Time: 30 min
- Cook Time: 30 min
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: classics
- Cuisine: Swedish
- Diet: Vegan
- 2 Tbsp. bulgur
- 1 flax egg (1 Tbsp. ground flax seed + 3 Tbsp. water)
- 3 Tbsp. mushroom powder
- ¼ cup of vegan sour cream
- 1 - 15 oz. (400 gm.) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed (1 ½ cups)
- ⅓ cup of wholewheat breadcrumbs or panko
- ¾ tsp. of ground allspice
- ½ tsp. of ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. salt
- 4 cups of mushroom or vegetable broth
- ¼ cup of vegan sour cream
- 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 3 Tbsp. of cornstarch (or arrowroot) mixed with ½ cup of water
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper
- 3 Tbsp. chopped parsley (flat-leaf or curly)
- Salt if desired
3 ½ oz. (400 gm.) of dry pasta (if using)
- If you are making sour cream with cashews, soak the cashews in boiling water for 20 minutes.
- Add the bulgur to a small bowl with ¼ of a cup of boiling water. Cover it and set it aside for at least 15 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine 1 Tbsp. of ground flaxseeds with 3 Tbsp. of water. Set aside for at least 15 minutes.
- If you do not have mushroom power, grind ½ a cup of dried porcini mushrooms using a spice or coffee grinder. Adjust the amount until you have 3 Tbsp. of mushroom power.
- If the bulgur has not absorbed all the water, drain it before combining it with the rest of the ingredients.
- Preheat the oven to 3750 F. (1900 C.). Line a baking tray with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients for the meatballs. Pulse until the ingredients are blended.
- Use an ice cream scoop or 1 ½ heaping tablespoons of the mixture to form 12 – 13 balls. Place them on the baking tray, not touching. Bake them in the middle rack in the oven for 30 minutes or until they are brown and firm.
- If you are making pasta or mashed potatoes, you may want to start them before the gravy.
- To make the gravy, in a saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the mushroom broth, sour cream, and mustard. Bring the ingredients to a low simmer.
- In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch with ½ a cup of water until it is smooth. Slow add half of the mixture to the gravy and stir until it begins to thicken. Add more until the gravy has thickened to the desired consistency.
- Stir in the black pepper, then taste and adjust the mustard or sour cream.
- Stir in the parsley and add salt if desired.
- Serve the meatballs over pasta or alongside mashed potatoes and top with the gravy.
- Garnish with additional chopped parsley if desired.
- The nutritional information is calculated for meatballs, gravy, and pasta. It also includes making ½ a cup of cashew sour cream.
- Ground chia seeds can be substituted for ground flax seeds for making the egg.
- For a gluten-free option, use quinoa instead of bulgur. Soak the quinoa the same way. You will also want to use arrowroot powder if you need this meal to be gluten-free.
- The meatballs mixture can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator before making them into balls and baking them. If you make the gravy ahead of time, add the chopped parsley after you reheat it.
- The meatballs and gravy will keep for 5 days in the refrigerator. If you are reheating a combined plate of meatballs, pasta, and gravy, it’s easiest to reheat in the microwave. To reheat just the meatballs, wrap them in foil and reheat them in the oven.
Keywords: vegan Swedish meatballs and gravy