Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lentil Chicken Meatballs Recipe- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Egg Free

My kids have pretty much told me that they will not eat lentils. They might eat them occasionally in a soup, or when I surreptitiously put them in another recipe, and on a rare occasion will eat something with obvious lentils in it, if all the rest of the ingredients combine to form something delicious, but... on the whole, my kids have nixed lentils.

But I haven't. They're easy and quick to cook, and one of the cheapest forms of protein I can get my hands on. And I don't want to write off something cheap just because my kids are being picky.

The solution to that, I've discovered, is sneaking the lentils in together with meat. I did it with my sneaky spaghetti bolognese- half lentil and they didn't even realize, and now I did it again with my lentil chicken balls.

At first, I was looking for a recipe today that made vegan lentil "meatballs" but all the recipes contain walnuts, some other nuts, and/or mushrooms, to help the lentils taste more meaty.
Now I don't know about the prices where you live, but in my neck of the woods, walnuts ain't cheap. Mixing lentils with walnuts to make something meaty tasting might work, but is it really frugal? Wouldn't it be cheaper simply to mix ground chicken with the lentils to stretch them, and make them taste more meaty, giving the nutritional benefits meat instead of walnuts, and cheaper to boot? Because, yes, chicken (not on sale) is about 1/3 the price of walnuts per pound locally, so it's actually cheaper to make it this way. (Especially because I got my chicken on sale, so its even cheaper than how much it usually would cost.) I just take de-boned chicken (chicken breast in this case) and grind it up in my food processor instead of buying ground chicken, since it works out to be cheaper than buying it pre-ground and the texture works just fine.

No, it's not vegan, but I am not vegan (and have no qualms about my eating meat), I just like cheap food. And this is much cheaper than regular meatballs. So I'll probably take this over a lentil walnut mock meatball any day.

My husband and baby both tried it and loved it- my husband couldn't taste the lentils in it, and said they tasted just like regular meatballs to him, and my baby enjoyed it too. I really liked it as well, and as soon as my kids come back from the park (thank you Mike for taking them!) we'll see how well they like them. But I'm sure the answer will be "Mommy, this is delicious! Make it all the time!" knowing how they've reacted in the past.
If you're not a chicken fan, or for whatever reason you want to use a different type of meat, you can use ground beef, turkey, pork, lamb, venison or whatever else instead of the chicken, just keep in mind that it will change the price and taste somewhat.
This recipe is egg free, grain free, paleo/primal, allergy friendly, and GAPS diet friendly.

And unlike most of the lentil balls I've seen, these are cooked on the stove top, inside a pot of tomato sauce, which I like much better in terms of ease, efficiency, texture, and flavor.

Lentil Chicken Meatballs Recipe- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Egg Free

1 cup ground chicken
2 1/2 cups cooked green/brown lentils
1/2 cup ground flax seeds
1/2 cup onion flakes
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried/ground sage
1 batch of homemade tomato sauce (you can make a sweet and sour tomato sauce instead, adding vinegar or lemon juice and some sweetener to taste to the linked recipe)

1. Make your tomato sauce and heat it up on the stove until it is bubbling away, then put it on a low heat.

2. Grind up your lentils in a food processor, but if you don't have one, you can just mash them with your hands/a potato masher very well, just note you might not be able to get away with sneaking the lentils in if it isn't ground up, because it'll look like lentils...

3. Add in the rest of the ingredients. You can probably leave out the sage if you don't have it, I just added it because sage makes things taste more meaty, for some reason.

4. Wet your hands, and make little balls out of the mixture, then drop them in to the tomato sauce.

5. Cook the meatballs for 10 minutes on a low heat once all the balls are made. To check if they're ready, remove one and see if it is completely solid.

6. Serve however you would meatballs- either over pasta (I used corn pasta), spaghetti squash, rice, polenta, mashed potatoes, in a sub type sandwich, etc... I sprinkled mine with my homemade vegan parmesan cheese.

Dig in!

Will your family agree to eat lentils? Do you ever try to sneak them in to keep down costs? Does this look like a recipe you or your family would enjoy? Do you have a good lentil "meatball" recipe that doesn't call for cheese, nuts, or mushrooms that tastes good, and passable and meat?

Linking up to Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways


  1. My family hates lentils. Well, they hate the thought of lentils. And...well...yup, I've snuck them in with various meals. (I have better sneaking luck with dal-type small lentils.) Usually they go in meatloaf or veggie burgers, but with those I use nuts too and somehow the family misses the lentil part.

    I'm going to give these a try. We have a favorite Italian-type homemade tomato sauce (no cheese) and it's strongly-flavored, bet that would work.

  2. penny, have you tried making Mujadarra for them? I make it with red lentils and put carmilized onions on the side, with plain yogurt and pitas, and my family loves them! (The cumin is key to they taste, and i also add some curry powder). Those meatballs look good- except I have 8lbs of red lentils and no brown ones in sight! I have found red lentils take on the texture of refried beans.

  3. Made this for supper last night with one major variation - instead of using ground chicken (which we didn't have), I used ground alpaca - which is only economical if you raise your own, which we do. I didn't get any complaints, which is the closest I get to approval with anything I make :) In fact, I think leftovers went in to 5 lunches for today...
    I baked some in the oven as well as doing some in the sauce. The ones in the oven seemed to hold together better. I have some mixture left over that I plan to make into balls and freeze uncooked to see how they hold up (and maybe be an easy meal after my baby comes!)

  4. This would be an excellent meal to make extras just for freezing. Its wouldn't take much more work to double the recipe and form the meatballs to freeze a premade meal for the occasion you need something ready right them. And I have found that fennel and cumin make a great meaty flavor as well. Thanks for this delicious dollar stretching recipe Penny! YOU ROCK!!!


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