Heart healthy meatballs! It's not too good to be true! These Italian Style Black Bean Meatballs are easy, and take about the same amount of time to make as traditional meatballs. They are crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and they'll stand up to your sauce without turning into a mushy mess. And delicious? Ohhhh yea!
How do you keep meatballs from falling apart?
There are a variety of ways to keep meatballs from falling apart. In traditional meatballs, there are usually eggs added that help bind the whole mixture together.
In many meatless meatball recipes, flax or chia "eggs" are often used. That is a great egg substitute in baking, and helps bind all the ingredients together. These are made by combining one tablespoon of ground flax or chia seeds with two to three tablespoons of water. After a few minutes, the consistency of this mixture resembles that of an egg, and can be used accordingly.
In this recipe, I'm using vital wheat gluten. This not only holds the meatballs together like an egg would do, but it also adds more protein and makes the consistency of the meatballs a bit firmer; more reminiscent of meat, and helps them stand up to the sauce better.
How is this recipe heart healthier than regular meatballs?
I've made a few (ok a lot) of changes to regular meatballs to make this version better for your heart!
The first, and most obvious, is that I've replaced the beef with black beans. Beef is high in protein, but also high in saturated fat. Black beans maintain the expected color of meatballs, while being high in protein, high in fiber, and low in saturated fat - a known contributor to heart disease.
I've also added nutritional yeast. This is optional, but I recommend using it if you have it. It adds a delicious cheesy flavor and some vitamin B12 - something that most plant based proteins don't have.
I have kept the seasonings mostly the same, since herbs and spices are so healthy, and full of antioxidants. If it's not broken, don't fix it!
As I mentioned above, I'm using vital wheat gluten as a binder, and instead of eggs and bread crumbs. I like the texture it gives to the meatballs, and that it adds some additional protein. Eggs are high in cholesterol, which is problematic for some people (read more here).
FAQs about this recipe
Do I have to pan fry AND bake these? No, if you want to simply bake them, roll the meatballs into balls and place them on a lined baking sheet. Spray with a bit of cooking spray, and bake them for 25-30 minutes. They won't have a crunchy crust on the outside, but it will reduce your cooking time.
Can I use any bean I like? Yep. I chose black beans for their color that is similar to cooked beef. Any bean will work though.
What can I use instead of vital wheat gluten? You can use regular bread crumbs, or a gluten free flour, like almond flour. If you don't use the gluten, you'll want to add a tablespoon of ground flax or chia seeds in with the dry ingredients to help hold the meatballs together.
This recipe goes great with my Low Sodium Marinara Sauce! If you make Italian Style Black Bean Meatballs, tell me in the comments.
Read about the Best Diets for Heart Health here.
Need more high protein, heart healthy recipe ideas? Check out our High Protein recipe archive!
Italian Style Black Bean Meatballs
- 1 can (1 ½ cups) No Added Salt Black Beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 tablespoon No Added Salt Tomato Paste
- 2 tablespoon Nutritional Yeast (optional)
- 1 tablespoon Minced Fresh Parsley
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce (vegan if needed) or Soy Sauce
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
- 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
- ½ - 1 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper (optional)
- ¼ cup Vital Wheat Gluten
- 2 tablespoon Oil for cooking
- Preheat oven to 400° F.
- Add all ingredients except wheat gluten and oil to food processor.
- Pulse until well mixed and mostly smooth. You want a little texture, but no large chunks. Scrape the sides of the food processor down a few times.
- Scoop the bean mixture into a large bowl, and add the vital wheat gluten. Mix well, using your hands to “knead” the mixture if needed. It will form a ball.
- Use a tablespoon to scoop spoonfuls of the mixture, and roll into balls. You will get about 16-18 meatballs.
- Heat the oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium heat.
- Add the meatballs, and pan fry, a few minutes before rolling to another side.
- Continue until the meatballs are crispy all the way around.
- Move the skillet to the oven, and bake for 25 minutes.