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The Best Lentil Meatball Subs

three meatball subs on a white plate

You’ve got to try these Lentil Meatball Subs! Homemade vegan “meatballs” made with veggies, lentils and Italian herbs, sandwiched inside of a warm ‘n toasty hoagie roll with vegan mozzarella cheese.

three meatball subs on a white plate

I love making vegan Italian food for dinner, and since you all seemed to enjoy my Tuscan Ribtollita, Vegan Baked Ziti and Creamy Truffle Parmesan Polenta I thought it would be fun to share another one of my favorites.

And good news! While these hearty Italian subs taste like comfort food, they also happen to be pretty nutrient dense thanks these 100% plant-based meatballs made from a blend of onions, carrots, mushrooms and walnuts. I mix in lentils for fiber, protein and iron and then add loads of classic Italian flavor with garlic, fresh basil and tomato sauce.

lentil meatballs with tomato sauce
100% plant-based “meatballs” made with veggies, lentils and Italian herbs.

Ingredients to Make Vegan Meatball Subs

All of the measurements and instructions to make this tasty dinner recipe are located below and you can even print it out for your convenience!

  • Onions and Carrots  – An aromatic base that adds a touch of sweetness to this savory dish.
  • Mushrooms and Walnuts – adds body and texture to the meatless meatballs.
  • Cooked Lentils – black or brown lentils work best, avoid using split yellow or red lentils.
  • Vegan Worcestershire Sauce – the secret ingredient! Vegan Worcestershire sauce is made without anchovies and it adds a nice depth of flavor and umami quality to these veggie balls.
  • Garlic, Italian Herbs, and Dried Fennel – Powerful flavor boosters!
  • Chickpea Flour + Baking Soda – Binds and lifts the meatballs the way a chicken’s egg would so the meatballs stay together and keep their shape. This combo also prevents the meatballs from being mushy in the center.
  • Fresh Basil – Gives the meatballs classic Italian flavor and I sometimes tuck a few more fresh basil leaves into the sandwich too or sprinkle it on top.
  • Tomato Sauce – store-bought marinara sauce works well here.
  • Vegan Mozzarella Cheese – shredded vegan mozzarella is ideal for these subs.
  • Hoagie Rolls – I like to get fresh hoagie rolls from the bakery section of my grocery store. Hot dog buns also work well.
lentil meatball subs on a baking tray

What Kind of Lentils?

Quick answer: black or brown work best for this recipe. Avoid using split red or yellow lentils or the meatballs will be very soft and mushy. If you’re using pre-cooked lentils from a can, make sure to rinse and drain very well to remove any excess salt.

How to Make Vegan Lentil Meatball Subs

There’s just 8 easy steps to make perfect vegan subs! The full recipe and directions are on the printable recipe card below.

  1. Start by preheating the oven to 375 degrees then add 2 tbsp of olive oil to a large frying pan and set to medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and carrots and cook for 5 minutes. Then add mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Then add the garlic and walnuts and cook for 2-3 minutes, and remove from the heat.
  4. Next, add the lentils and Worcestershire sauce and mix well.
  5. Then transfer 1/3 of the mixture into a food processor with the basil leaves and remaining tbsp of olive oil. Blend + then transfer it back to the pan. Add the chickpea flour + baking soda, mix well and then form into 12 meatballs. Brush with 1 tbsp of olive oil and bake for 13- 15 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow the meatballs to rest for 5-10 minutes and then coat each meatball in marinara sauce.
  7. Assemble each sub by spooning some warm marinara sauce onto each roll. Add 3 meatballs and a generous sprinkle of vegan mozzarella. Bake for 3-5 minutes to melt the cheese and enjoy!
lentil meatballs in a frying pan

How to Serve

These lentil meatballs subs are great on their own or served warm on a zesty chopped salad with a homemade dressing like this one. Alternatively, roasted broccoli or my Restaurant Style Brussel Sprouts would also pair nicely.

Tips for Making Perfect Lentil Meatballs:

Keep everything nice and small! The smaller you chop the onions, veggies and walnuts, the more cohesive and enjoyable the meatball texture will be. I use a little veggie chopper like this one from Ninja. It’s less than $20 and it makes it really easy to make recipes like this in a flash.

Use a non-stick baking mat like this one to prevent sticking. This helps keeps the meatballs in tact when you remove them from the tray!

The trick is to use good bread. Like with any sandwich or sub, good bread can make all the difference. I like to use hoagie rolls from the bakery section of my grocery store but toasted hot dog buns work well too.

I often pulse shredded vegan cheese in the mini veggie chopper I linked above for a few seconds to make smaller pieces of cheese and then sprinkle it on top of the meatballs. This helps the cheese melt and creates a sub that is easier to eat.

These vegan meatballs are great for meal prep because you can make them ahead of time. I like to bake them off, let them cool, toss them in thin layer of marinara and then place in a container until ready to serve. Then simply reheat and use as desired.

Keep in mind that these meatballs can be used for more than just subs. Toss them with sauce and serve on spaghetti, serve warm on a chopped salad or slice onto homemade pizza!

meatball subs on a white plate

FAQS

CAN I USE ALL PURPOSE FLOUR INSTEAD OF CHICKPEA FLOUR?

Yes! I like using chickpea flour because it adds some protein (aka structure) to the meatballs and a subtle nutty flavor that provides a bit of depth, but regular all purpose flour works too.

WHAT’S A GOOD SUBSTITUE FOR MUSHROOMS?

A viewer commented on this recipe video and suggested using crumbled tempeh in place of the mushrooms. I haven’t tried it yet but ti sounds like a great solution!

WHAT’S A GOOD SUBSTITUE FOR WALNUTS?

Sunflower seeds, almonds or pistachios would be great!

More Vegan Dinner Recipes To Try!

three meatball subs on a white plate

The Best Lentil Meatball Subs

Nicole Vranjican
Italian meatball subs made with homemade lentil meatballs, zesty marinara and melty vegan cheese!
5 from 1 vote
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients
  

Italian Lentil Meatballs

  • 4 tbsp olive oil divided
  • 1/2 large yellow onion
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 6 medium button or cremini mushrooms
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 tsp dried Italian herbs
  • 1 tsp dried fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp kosher salt I use Morton's
  • ¼ tsp black pepper and/or red pepper flakes
  • cup cooked lentils black or brown
  • 1.5 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 5 fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup chickpea flour I use Bob's Red Mill
  • ½ tsp baking soda

For Serving

  • 4 hoagie rolls
  • 1.5 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded vegan mozzarella

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees then add 2 tbsp of olive oil to a large frying pan and set to medium heat.
  • Add the onions and carrots and cook for 5 minutes. Then add mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  • Next, add the garlic, walnuts, Italian herbs and dried fennel cook for 3 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.
  • Add the cooked lentils and Worcestershire sauce and mix well to combine. Then transfer 1/3 of the mixture into a food processor with the basil leaves and 1 tbsp of olive oil. Blend until the mixture resembles a chunky hummus consistency and then transfer back to the pan.
  • Add chickpea flour + baking soda to the pan, mix well and then form into 12 meatballs. Place the meatballs on a lined cookie sheet and brush each meatball with the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil.
  • Bake for 13-15 minutes, then remove the oven and allow to cool slightly for 5-10 minutes.
  • In the meantime, warm up the marinara sauce and coat each meatball in a thin layer of sauce.

Assemble

  • Assemble each sub by spooning some warm marinara sauce onto each roll. Add 3 meatballs and a generous sprinkle of vegan mozzarella. Bake for 3-5 minutes to melt the cheese and enjoy! 
Keyword dinner,, italian food, lentils, meatballs
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Nicole Vranjican

Hey! I’m Nicole and I make practical vegan recipes for REAL life. I cook with simple, easy to find ingredients and I’m passionate about creating delicious plant-based meals that everyone will love!

I hope you enjoy my recipes and videos :) Happy Cooking!

Find me on: Instagram

2 Comments

  1. Molly
    October 5, 2022 / 12:08 am

    5 stars
    I just made these and they were fantastic. The meatballs are so flavorful and delicious! I would definitely make this again but I think I would bake the meatballs for a little longer in the oven. They were just a little soft for my preference but still so good. I also used all purpose flour because I was out of chickpea flour. I served my sandwich with broccoli rabe sauteed with garlic.

    • Nicole Vranjican
      Author
      October 13, 2022 / 5:46 am

      Yum! I love that pairing with the garlicky broccoli rabe! Sounds delicious. And I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe, that honestly makes me so happy 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to let me know!

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