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Vegetarian meatballs for the win! These Cauliflower Quinoa Meatballs are protein-packed, vegan and gluten free and perfect for meal prepping for the week ahead.
Who needs more meatless meals in their life? ME, and I’m guessing you too?! These Cauliflower Quinoa Meatballs are just the thing to prepare on the weekend and enjoy throughout the week for lunch or dinner.
Quinoa is so versatile, and one cup packs 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Pretty impressive if you ask me. And of course, cauliflower is versatile. So much so, that I've even used it as the main ingredient in my favorite cauliflower smoothie.
While the meatballs have a slight Italian flavor to them thanks to the Italian seasoning, you could technically omit that and customize them to your liking, then pair them with your choice of sauce.
- Vegan and gluten free
- The recipe makes 20-24 meatballs, so you can easily make them for a larger group or freeze them and enjoy them at a later date
- Packed with quinoa and cauliflower, so you’re getting protein and veggies at the same time!
- Cauliflower - I like using frozen cauliflower rice instead of a head of cauliflower because it’s less messy and easier to measure in this recipe. But, make sure to squeeze all of the liquid out of it before using it.
- Quinoa - Always rinse it first to remove any starch from the outer layer. I like to cook the quinoa in advance so it’s ready to go when I want to make these meatballs. You can read more about why you should always rinse quinoa.
- Breadcrumbs - Regular or gluten free; can omit and only use flour if you prefer.
- Flour - For gluten free options, I recommend using buckwheat flour, chickpea flour or gluten free all purpose flour. If you’re not gluten free, regular all purpose flour will work.
- Milk - I used almond milk, but any milk will work.
- Spices - A combination of Italian seasoning, parsley and oregano gives these a mild Italian flavor, lending them to pair really well with marinara sauce or pesto. If you don’t want to go the Italian route, either omit the spices or use your own combination.
Step 1: Cook the quinoa and cauliflower. It helps to do this step ahead of time – a day or two in advance, even. But, essentially you’ll cook the quinoa over the stove according to the package instructions, and cook the cauliflower rice as well, squeezing out any excess moisture.
Step 2: Create the meatballs mixture. Transfer the cooked quinoa and cauliflower to a large mixing bowl, then add all of the remaining ingredients to that same bowl and use a fork to mix everything together.
Step 3: Form into meatballs. Use your hands to press the mixture into meatballs, about golf-ball size or a little larger. TIP: the mixture will be a little wet, so to avoid it sticking to your hands, wet your hands beforehand.
Step 4: Pan-sear. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet, then add the meatballs and pan-sear them for 5-8 minutes over medium heat until they’re golden brown on the outside. You can either pour your choice of sauce into the skillet or add it separately.
Expert tips and FAQs
- Frozen cauliflower rice will inevitably leave some moisture; to squeeze it out, transfer the rice to a cheesecloth or nut milk bag, then squeeze the moisture out over the kitchen sink. Alternatively, you can pour it on top of a few paper towels and do the same thing.
- If the mixture feels too wet, add 1-2 tablespoons more flour.
- Don’t want to use breadcrumbs? Simply use ¾ cup flour instead.
- Make sure to wet your hands before forming the mixture into meatballs so it doesn't stick to your hands.
- Serve the quinoa meatballs alongside mashed red potatoes, eggplant pasta or even this vegan mushroom pasta.
What kind of breadcrumbs should I use?
You can use regular or gluten free breadcrumbs, and either plain or seasoned. I do not recommend using Panko breadcrumbs in this recipe because they won’t hold the mixture together as well.
Can I use a head of cauliflower instead of cauliflower rice?
Of course. If you want to use a whole head of cauliflower, simply chop it into florets, then cook the cauliflower over the stove as you normally would. Drain, then transfer the cooked cauliflower to your food processor and pulse for a few seconds to create cauliflower rice.
You want the cauliflower to be cooked, not raw, so even if you use a whole head of cauliflower you’ll essentially be creating cauliflower rice.
Can you make these ahead of time?
Absolutely! I definitely recommend cooking the cauliflower and quinoa up to 1-2 days in advance so they’re ready to go when you want to make the meatballs. Then, the whole recipe can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
More meatless meals
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Cauliflower Quinoa Meatballs
- 2 cups quinoa cooked
- 2 cups cauliflower rice cooked, moisture squeezed out
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- ½ cup breadcrumbs regular or gluten free
- ¼ cup gluten free all purpose flour see notes
- ⅓ cup almond milk or milk of choice
- 2 flax eggs (2 tablespoon flaxseed meal + 5 tablespoon water)
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon parsley
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- If you haven't already, cook the quinoa and cauliflower rice according to the package instructions, squeezing any excess moisture out of the cauliflower rice using a cheese cloth or nut milk bag (or a few paper towels); place them into a large mixing bowl.
- Make the flax eggs: stir 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal and 5 tablespoons water together in a small bowl, then let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes until the flaxseed absorbs the water.
- Next, add the garlic, breadcrumbs, flour, milk, flax eggs, Italian seasoning, parsley, salt, and oregano to that same bowl.
- Use a fork to stir and mash everything together.
- Wet your hands, then use your hands to form the mixture into 20-24 meatballs; place them on a plate or platter. The mixture will be a little wet, so you'll have to press it together in your hands to form it into meatballs.
- Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, then add the meatballs and pan-sear them for 5-8 minutes until they're golden brown on the outside. Be careful when turning them because they're a little fragile! You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your skillet.
- Optional: pour marinara sauce (or sauce of choice) into the skillet and heat it for 1-2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and enjoy!
UPDATE NOTE: This post was originally published in April 2015. It was updated with new text and photos in November 2021.