So here’s our big reveal, as many of you have probably been wondering what we served as our main dish at a plant-based, all vegan Friendsgiving. We made vegetarian meatballs with a delicious cranberry sauce!
As we were planning the menu this year, I was thinking about how last year I hosted my family for Christmas Eve dinner at my house and made traditional meatballs (like, with meat).
And that went over really well, even though meatballs might be something you don’t normally associate with the holidays as most people think about serving turkey or ham.
So, I started dreaming of making some kind of vegetarian-friendly meatball for this year’s Friendsgiving.
Cranberries provide such a bright pop of flavor to any dish, so we had a blast using them in Elsie’s Cranberry Mojito as well as the sauce for these meatballs. Such a fun and festive ingredient!
Truly, we have the best of friends who come to our Friendsgiving events. One example of this is that this year I actually created two different versions of this recipe and had everyone taste test both during our event. And they were game!
One version was a lentil-based meatball while the other was tempeh based. The verdict? It was pretty much split. Go figure! The general consensus was the tempeh meatballs had a more meat-like texture while the lentil meatballs were a little more flavorful.
Personally, I liked both but probably preferred the lentil meatballs paired with this sauce. I’ll share how to make either though, since there really wasn’t a clear winner among my crowd-sourced taste testing experiment.
15 oz. can of cooked lentils, drained OR 8 oz. package of tempeh
1/2 cup TVP (textured vegetable protein)
2 tablespoons soy sauce or 3 tablespoons if using tempeh
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons chopped onion
3 cloves of minced garlic
2/3 cup plus 2-3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup soy milk
1 cup bread crumbs (I love Panko here but any fine breadcrumbs are great.)
In a bowl combine the TVP, soy sauce, molasses, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Allow to sit for a couple minutes so the TVP will soften some.
Then add the lentils or chopped tempeh to the bowl, depending which you are using. In a food processor, process 2/3 of this mixture until it’s a thick paste. Add that back to the bowl with the remaining 1/3 of the mixture and stir to combine.
Now add a couple tablespoons of flour and stir. If you have decided to use the lentils, you may need an extra tablespoon of flour here. The mixture should easily press into a ball and stay stuck together.
Then roll each ball in the remaining flour, then in the soy milk, and finally in the bread crumbs. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a baking mat. Repeat until you have used all the batter to make fourteen or fifteen meatballs.
Bake at 400°F for 10 minutes. Then flip each meatball over and bake for another 10 minutes.
6 oz. fresh cranberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup red wine
2 big slices of orange peel
1/2 cup chili sauce
In a small pot, combine the cranberries, sugar, wine, and orange peel. Bring to a low boil, stirring so all the ingredients are well combined.
Then, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10-12 minutes until the cranberries have softened enough that you can easily smash them with the side of a wooden spoon.
Uncover and cook for another 2-3 minutes so the liquid reduces just a little more. Remove the orange peels and mash with a spoon so a thick, rustic jam consistency is achieved.
Above is what your cranberry sauce will look like so far. If you are serving a traditional turkey or roasted chicken and you want a delicious and easy cranberry sauce recipe, then feel free to stop here and serve.
As I sort of alluded to above, this has a thick, jam-like consistency and is great on roasted meat. As I was testing recipes before our big day, I tried this one out before this way and loved it.
But if you are serving over meatballs (lentil, tempeh, or otherwise), then add the 1/2 cup chili sauce to the pot and stir so everything gets heated well. If the mixture is too thick to pour easily (like sauce rather than jam), then add a few tablespoons of water to the mix.
Coat the meatballs in the sauce and serve with a dried cranberry and toothpick over each, so it’s easy for guests to grab a couple from the plate without making a huge mess. This is very much a vegetarian-inspired take on cocktail meatballs.
You can see I used two different toothpick sizes and that was simply so friends would know which ones were lentil and which were tempeh, so we could vote. 🙂
P.S. Looking for more ideas? Check out 20 Easy Thanksgiving Side Dishes!