Add a spicy kick to meatless meatballs with these vegan Buffalo Cauliflower Quinoa Meatballs. With simple ingredients, like cauliflower, quinoa, garlic, and breadcrumbs, they’re sure to be a hit for the whole family!
I’m going to say it up front: these buffalo cauliflower quinoa meatballs DO take longer than 30 minutes to make, but they’re so, so worth it and you'll have plenty of leftovers.
I got the inspiration from my Cauliflower Quinoa Meatballs and wanted to add a fun twist to it, aka buffalo sauce.
I do want to talk about this recipe in detail. I’ve received a couple comments on my original recipe about these not turning out, and I want to make sure we’re all on the same page here. I’ve made this recipe twice, and my original recipe at least four times and they’ve never not turned out, so let’s walk through it.
HOW TO MAKE QUINOA MEATBALLS
Step 1: Start by preheating the oven to 375° and cooking the quinoa and cauliflower over the stovetop in two separate saucepans. Note: you can absolutely use bagged cauliflower rice; however, you'll have to use 2 bags and you'll have to squeeze the moisture out of it by pouring the cooked rice into a cheesecloth and squeezing the water out completely. While the the quinoa and cauliflower are cooking, you can prepare the buffalo sauce by whisking vegan hot sauce, melted vegan butter, garlic powder, and chili powder together in a bowl and setting it aside.
Step 2: Once the quinoa and cauliflower are cooked, you’ll remove them from the stovetop and place HALF of the cauliflower in the food processor, along with the garlic cloves, and pulse for 5-10 seconds, allowing it to crush up. Next, remove it from the processor and place it into a large bowl. Repeat this process with the second half of the cauliflower. Once all of the crushed up cauliflower is in the large bowl, stir in the quinoa.
Step 3: Stir in the oregano and breadcrumbs. EDITOR'S NOTE: I've since made these three more times and I've found it best to add HALF of the buffalo sauce into the mix at this point. So, while stirring in the oregano and breadcrumbs, also stir in half of the buffalo sauce. Once everything is good and mixed, place the bowl in the refrigerator for about 25 minutes, allowing the mixture to cool down and be a bit more manageable. While you’re waiting for the mixture to cool, you can do the dishes, or if you’re like me, you can check social media for the 45th time that day and leave the dishes for later when dishes are the last possible thing you feel like doing. Tip: don’t be like me.
Ok great! Now the mixture isn’t as hot and we can start to work with it.
Step 4: Grab a large skillet to place the meatballs on. You can use a spoon to scoop the mixture up, but truthfully I just used my hands. I’m not going to lie and say this isn’t a bit messy, but it’s not too bad and I imagine kiddos would make excellent helpers. Essentially, you’ll want to grab a handful and start shaping it into a meatball, pressing back and forth on the mixture and then gently rolling it to finish, placing it on the skillet when you’re done. The size of the meatball shouldn’t matter, though mine were a bit bigger than golf ball size.
TIP: If the mixture seems too wet, add flour (whole wheat, all purpose or oat) 1 tablespoon at a time. This should help hold everything together. If for some reason the mixture is too dry, add water 1 tablespoon at a time to moisten it up a bit.
Step 5: Place the skillet over the stovetop and cook the meatballs so that they’re slightly golden brown; this will assure they stay together during the baking process (I tried skipping this step once and it didn’t work—the meatballs turned out mushy). This step is crucial.
TIP: Be careful when turning over the meatballs. They need to be browned on all sides, but gently turn them or some of the quinoa may slip out.
Step 6: Last, after the meatballs are browned, spoon a small amount of buffalo sauce overtop of each meatballs while the meatballs are still in the skillet, carefully turning the meatballs to make sure they are covered in the rest of the sauce.
Step 7: Once all of the meatballs look good, transfer them to a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until the meatballs are firm.
This recipe takes a little longer, but it makes almost two dozen meatballs so you should have leftovers!
If you make them, be sure to tag @thealmondeater on Instagram—I love to see your creations!
MORE VEGAN DINNER IDEAS:
Finally, these cauliflower quinoa meatballs are great on their own, on salad, with a side of brussels sprouts. The possibilities are endless!
Buffalo Cauliflower Quinoa Meatballs
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 2 cups water
- 1 cauliflower head
- 2 garlic cloves
- ¾ cup breadcrumbs
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- Optional: 1-2 tablespoon flour whole wheat, all purpose or oat
- For the sauce:
- ½ cup hot sauce
- ¼ cup dairy free butter
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Cook quinoa according to instructions on the package (with water over stovetop); at the same time, cook cauliflower in a separate pot over stovetop.
- While those are cooking, prepare the buffalo sauce: melt butter either in microwave or over stove and then stir in hot sauce, garlic powder and chili powder; set aside.
- Once the quinoa is done cooking, set aside; once the cauliflower is done cooking, drain and place HALF the cauliflower, along with the garlic, into the food processor and pulse for 5-10 seconds.
- Remove and pour cauliflower into a bowl before adding the second half of cauliflower to the food processor and repeating the process, removing and placing into the bowl.
- Stir quinoa, breadcrumbs, oregano, and HALF of the buffalo sauce together with the cauliflower and then place the bowl in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes, allowing everything to cool off a bit.
- After 15 minutes, remove from refrigerator and, using your hands, form mixture into golf ball-sized meatballs, placing the meatballs directly onto a large skillet. If the mixture is too wet, add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil on the skillet and then cook meatballs on medium-high heat, making sure to be careful when flipping them over, until they're golden brown on all sides.
- Pour a small amount of the rest of the buffalo sauce overtop of each meatball, making sure they all get covered with the sauce but you don't want them to be soaked with sauce or else they will get soggy.
- Remove meatballs from skillet and place on a baking sheet; bake for approximately 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven and enjoy!
These are so delicious! Love this recipe. Easy to follow. I did use frozen riced cauliflower (2 bags) instead of a fresh head of cauliflower and they worked well. Thank you for the wonderful recipe!
Thanks for the comment, Kim -- so happy you liked them!
Kelly Greene says
Okay - here are my notes.
1) You don't need to turn on the oven UNTIL you take the mash out of the fridge when you form the "meatballs" (otherwise you've wasted an hour of gas or electric to heat the oven...
2) Wet your hands to roll the balls so they don't stick to your fingers
3) roll the finished balls in a bit of breadcrumbs (and it CERTAINLY looks like the blogger rolled hers in breadcrumbs before the skillet cook.)
4) we tried the skillet fry - nope. Fail. Heated up the deep fry oil - OMG - yes! home run! perfection!
then - yeah - baked them with the drizzle of wing sauce.
While they baked - we prepped salad beds with sliced celery, diced bell pepper & (cheated on vegan) bleu cheese dressing (because - um - wing sauce. hello!)
Thanks for these notes Kelly -- admittedly, this is an old recipe, so I really need to go back and improve the recipe notes. I appreciate you providing these tips for others who want to make these!
Kelly Greene says
Why oh WHY would you turn on the oven in step 1 when you don't need to use it for AN HOUR LATER???
What kind of oven do you have???
Easy to make, delicious and nutritious!
Marya Oberfrank says
Just found this recipe. I roasted The cauliflower instead of boiling and it was great!!!
Mine came out super mushy. They turned into perfect balls but when I started to fry them up a bit they started to fall apart. Then after I got them into the oven for 15 min, there wasn’t much of a difference. Still super fragile and they were mushy on the inside.
The flavors were great but just balls of mush. Confused 🤷🏼♀️
Christine Barban says
What is the reason for preheating the Oven to 375 when these are cooked on the stovetop, what am I missing?
Yes! So you'll want to cook over the stovetop and then bake them in the oven (it says that in the second to last step in the recipe instructions) to assure these meatballs stay together. Hope that helps!
Katie W. says
Would love to try to make these, but i have a alergic reaction to anything spicy, 🙁 Is there any other sauce i could substitute for the buffalo sauce?