Tofu meatballs are a quick, tasty, and nutritious alternative to meat-based meatballs, as they are packed with flavor, protein, and nutrition.

You can make them with pantry staples in 3 easy steps in a food processor and bake them in 20 minutes. They are excellent for a weeknight dinner and meal prep as they keep well for days.

Have tofu meatballs with spaghetti or in a sub with your favorite marinara or arrabbiata sauce.

vegan meatballs in a blue casserole

Dietary Note: this recipe is suitable for a vegetarian and vegan diet. For gluten-free, use gluten-free breadcrumbs and pasta.

Don’t have time to read the full blog post? JUMP TO RECIPE HERE!

What are Tofu Meatballs?

Vegan meatballs on spaghetti with a silver fork

Our tofu meatballs are an excellent high-protein vegetarian meal for a weeknight dinner as they are easy to put together and cook in 20 minutes in the oven.

Like many of our other tofu recipes, such as baked tofu, air fryer tofu, pan-fried tofu, and BBQ tofu, these vegan meatballs are satisfying and versatile.

Our favorite way of serving this tofu meatball recipe is with spaghetti and homemade marinara sauce. Your whole family will love them this way!

You can also add them to rigatoni arrabbiata or spaghetti pomodoro, dip them in tzatziki sauce, or have them for lunch in a sub with your favorite tomato-based sauce.

vegan meatballs marinara sub

Our tofu meatballs are inspired by Italian home cooking, so you’ll be familiar with the ingredients and flavor of this dish.

As we’ve shown you in our other Italian-inspired recipes like our tofu cacciatore, tofu pasta, lemon tofu, mushroom tofu, and tofu in pizzaiola sauce, tofu’s neutral taste works beautifully with Italian flavors.

With pasta e fagioli, pasta e ceci, and eggplant parmigiana, tofu meatballs are part of our rotation when we feel like delicious plant-based Italian comfort food.

Tofu meatballs video

Ingredients and Substitutions for Tofu Meatballs

ingredients for tofu meatballs

Quantities are in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.

Tofu

Use firm tofu or extra-firm tofu for the best texture.

Avoid silken and soft tofu as they won’t stay together when forming the meatballs.

Olives

We recommend black or green pitted olives. They add a rich, savory flavor to the tofu meatballs.

Walnuts

Walnuts add healthy fats, protein, and flavor.

Substitute almonds or cashews for walnuts.

Breadcrumbs

We recommend Italian breadcrumbs. They absorb the extra moisture from the tofu and help the meatballs stay together.

Onion and Garlic

You can flavor the meatballs by using white, yellow, and red onion or shallots and fresh garlic.

Substitute one teaspoon of garlic powder and one teaspoon of onion powder for fresh garlic and onion.

Dried oregano

Substitute dried thyme or an Italian herb mix for dried oregano.

Fresh parsley

We like to add fresh parsley for freshness. Substitute another fresh herb like fresh basil or chives for parsley.

Salt and Black pepper

Sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Red pepper flakes are optional.

Cornstarch

Cornstarch helps the tofu meatballs bind together, so we recommend it. Substitute tapioca starch for cornstarch.

Nutritional yeast (optional)

Nutritional yeast is optional, but if you already have it in your pantry, add a tablespoon or two to infuse the tofu meatballs with a pleasant cheesy flavor.

Serve well with

Tofu meatballs are excellent for dipping, in a sub, or with pasta. We recommend them with the following:

Vegan meatballs covered in marinara sauce

How to Make Tofu Meatballs

US cups + grams measurements in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.

Preheat the oven to 400°F or 200°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Take the firm tofu from the package and squeeze it over a sink to remove excess moisture.

To a food processor, add the tofu, breadcrumbs, pitted olives, walnuts, chopped onion, garlic, dried oregano, fresh parsley, cornstarch, nutritional yeast, salt, and black pepper.

ingredients in a food processor

Blend until combined. Stop and scrape down the sides of the food processor once or twice.

spice mix and tofu after blending

Shape the tofu mixture into small balls of 0.7 ounces or 20 grams each by rolling them between the palms of your hands. You should be able to get 24 tofu meatballs.

Tip: We recommend using a scale to measure the first couple of meatballs and make sure they are the right size so they cook fast and get warm to the core.

Tip: If the mixture sticks, grease your hands with a few drops of olive oil. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, you can shape the meatballs with two spoons, but they won’t get as round.

hand holding a small vegan meatball

Arrange the meatballs on your prepared baking tray.

Vegan meatballs before baking

Bake at 400°F or 200°C for 20 minutes.

Tip: For extra flavor, brush the meatballs with olive oil before baking them.

hands holding a tofu vegan meatball after baking

This is what they should look like after baking for 20 minutes. They are soft but stay together well and don’t fall apart.

Vegan meatballs after baking

Serving Suggestions

Tofu meatballs with marinara sauce

These tofu meatballs are delicious with a store-bought or homemade marinara sauce or other Italian tomato-based sauce.

Vegan meatballs in a rich marinara sauce and a wooden spoon

Heat the sauce in a large skillet, then add your baked tofu meatballs.

Stir them in and simmer for 5 minutes, then add fresh parsley or basil and serve them with warm bread, rosemary focaccia, in a sandwich, with pasta or rice.

Vegan meatballs in a blue skillet with fresh parsley

Tofu meatballs with pasta

Have them for lunch or dinner with your favorite pasta cooked al dente.

Any Italian tomato-based pasta dish is excellent with tofu meatballs.

You have many choices, from marinara sauce to rigatoni arrabbiata and spaghetti pomodoro. Or you can pick from one of our 40+ Easy Pasta Recipes.

Vegan meatballs with marinara sauce and spaghetti in a bowl

Tofu meatballs in a sub

Have them as a snack or quick lunch in a delicious sub sandwich with plenty of marinara sauce and fresh parsley.

vegan meatballs marinara sub

Dip them in tzatziki sauce

You can even serve the meatballs on a plate and dip them in various sauces. Our favorite is tzatziki sauce with yogurt, garlic, and cucumber.

Tzatziki with hand and fresh herbs

Tofu meatballs with sweet and sour sauce

Cook the meatballs in the oven as described above, then serve them with a sweet and sour sauce dip.

To make it, in a small saucepan, mix 1 cup canned pineapple juice, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup rice vinegar, 3 tablespoons of ketchup, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch, and 2 tablespoons of water.

Bring to a simmer while whisking for a minute till the sauce thickens. Turn the heat off, stirring for another minute to cool it down, and serve.

Variations

Pan-fried tofu meatballs

Warm up 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet, then add the meatballs. Fry gently for 12 to 15 minutes, turning them around often to get cooked on all sides.


pan-frying the meatballs in a large non-stick skillet

Air fryer tofu meatballs

Arrange the meatballs in your air fryer without overlapping and air fry at 350°F or 180°C for 10 minutes.

Storage & Make Ahead

Make ahead: Tofu meatballs are an excellent recipe for meal prep as they keep well for days in the fridge.

Refrigerator: Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Freezer: You can freeze the meatballs for up to 3 months. Let them cool down completely and freeze in a freezer-friendly container without the sauce.

Thaw & Reheat: Defrost in the refrigerator overnight. Warm them in the microwave for 1 minute or in a saucepan with sauce for 5 minutes. Frozen and thawed vegan balls can fall apart as you reheat them.

Questions

Which one is best? Pan-fried or oven-baked?

Pan-fried meatballs are softer and juicier but a little less healthy as they are cooked in oil.

Oven-baked ones are a little dryer but healthier and still delicious.

However, if you put them in marinara sauce, it’s very hard to tell which ones are fried and which are oven-baked.

Can I make them gluten-free?

Yes. Use gluten-free breadcrumbs. Also, serve them with gluten-free pasta or gluten-free bread.

Can I make tofu meatballs without breadcrumbs?

Yes, absolutely. Just leave the breadcrumbs out or substitute rolled oats for breadcrumbs.

The meatballs will still be delicious, although a little denser. The tofu flavor will be more recognizable.

More High-Protein Vegetarian Meals

More Tofu Recipes

Find more easy and delicious tofu recipes with these quick meals:

For many more tofu ideas, check out our tofu category page.

tofu meatballs in marinara sauce

Tofu Meatballs

By: Nico Pallotta
4.80 from 35 votes
Tofu meatballs are a quick, tasty, and nutritious alternative to meat-based meatballs, as they are packed with flavor, protein, and nutrition.
We rewrote this recipe in January 2024 to address some issues that some of our readers were having with the previous recipe.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Course: Main
Cuisine: American Italian

Equipment

  • Food processor

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces firm tofu or extra-firm.
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • cup pitted olives black or green.
  • cup walnuts
  • ½ onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 handful fresh parsley
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 twists black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch optional, to help binding.
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast optional, for flavor.

Serve well with

  • 12 ounces spaghetti cooked in salted boiling water.
  • our homemade marinara sauce or a store-bought one.

Instructions 

BLEND

  • Heat oven to 400°F or 200°C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
    Squeeze 8 ounces firm tofu over your sink to remove excess moisture.
    To a food processor, add tofu, ½ cup breadcrumbs, ⅓ cup pitted olives, ⅓ cup walnuts, ½ onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 handful fresh parsley, ¾ teaspoon salt, 2 twists black pepper, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast.
    ingredients in a food processor
  • Blend until combined. Stop and scrape down the sides of the food processor once or twice.
    spice mix and tofu after blending

SHAPE

  • Shape the tofu mixture into small balls of 0.7 ounces or 20 grams each by rolling them between the palms of your hands. You should be able to get 24 tofu meatballs.
    Tip: We recommend using a scale to measure the first couple of meatballs and make sure they are the right size so they cook fast and get warm to the core.
    hand holding a small tofu meatball
  • Arrange the meatballs on your prepared baking tray.
    Tip: If the mixture sticks, grease your hands with a few drops of olive oil.
    tofu meatballs before baking

BAKE

  • Bake at 400°F or 200°C for 20-25 minutes or until browned on top and bottom.
    tofu meatballs after baking

MAKE THIS A MEAL

  • Heat our homemade marinara sauce or a store-bought one in a large skillet. Add the meatballs and simmer for 5 minutes.
    tofu meatballs in a rich marinara sauce and a wooden spoon
  • Serve with 12 ounces spaghetti, focaccia bread, or in a sub sandwich.
    tofu meatballs on spaghetti with a silver fork

Video

Tofu Meatballs with Marinara Sauce

Notes

Nutrition information is an estimate for 1 serving of tofu meatballs out of 4 servings without pasta or sauce.
STORAGE & MAKE AHEAD
Make ahead: Tofu meatballs are an excellent recipe for meal prep as they keep well for days in the fridge.
Refrigerator: Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Freezer: You can freeze the meatballs for up to 3 months. Let them cool down completely and freeze in a freezer-friendly container without the sauce.
Thaw & Reheat: Defrost in the refrigerator overnight. Warm them in the microwave for 1 minute or in a saucepan with sauce for 5 minutes. Frozen and thawed vegan balls can fall apart as you reheat them.
ALSO ON THIS PAGE

Nutrition

Calories: 213kcal, Carbohydrates: 19g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Potassium: 194mg, Dietary Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 142IU, Vitamin B6: 0.1mg, Vitamin C: 3mg, Vitamin E: 1mg, Vitamin K: 22µg, Calcium: 129mg, Folate: 30µg, Iron: 2mg, Manganese: 1mg, Magnesium: 27mg, Zinc: 1mg
Tried this recipe? Leave a comment below or mention @theplantbasedschool on Instagram. We are also on Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and TikTok.

If you liked these tofu meatballs, you might also enjoy:


Nico and Louise in the kitchen

Hi! We are Nico & Louise

Welcome to The Plant-Based School, a food blog with easy, tasty, and wholesome recipes.

Our aim is to help you and your family eat more veggies through delicious recipes with simple ingredients.

Easy right?

4.80 from 35 votes (23 ratings without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




34 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Made them and even my carnivorous husband liked them! Recipe is super easy, I cooked the tofu balls in the air fryer. I added a pinch of Worcestershire sauce and Siracha (that wasn’t on the original recipe). Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Hi Virginia,
      Wonderful news, I smiled as I read about your husband 🙂 I’m very happy you were able to share this as a family. Thank you for your comment 🎉

  2. 5 stars
    These were great! I served them on pasta with marinara sauce and my husband and I both enjoyed it. My toddlers ate the meatballs plain.

    I made a few amendments: I accidentally used a 14oz block of tofu because I wasn’t paying attention. I ended up getting a lot more meatballs out of this recipe but the flavor was still very good. We don’t usually eat olives, but I happened to have some green olives in the pantry so I used those and we were pleasantly surprised. The olives really did add great flavor and I’m glad I used them. I didn’t use nutritional yeast.

    I made mini meatballs and baked for 25-30 minutes. The insides were super soft and the outsides were crispy. I put them in a Tupperware and the residual steam made them soft again which was just fine for us since I like them softer for the kids. I added them to marinara sauce and served. We’ll definitely be making them again! I’d like to try it falafal style with tzatziki sauce next time.

    Yes, they were soft and maybe you can call them mushy, but not in a bad way. They were soft and moist. Mine were probably extra moist because I used more tofu than the recipe called for, but I just baked them until the outsides were crispy and all was well.

    To the haters out there: These aren’t supposed to taste like meat. These are tofu meatballs! And they taste great! Open up your minds, broaden your palate, and try more plant-based foods.

    Thank you, Nico and Louise, for this new and tasty recipe!

    1. Leanna, that is wonderful – I’m so happy you and your family enjoyed these tofu meatballs!!

      Great tips on storage and omitting ingredients, your suggestions are very helpful 🎉

      Thank you for your kind support and the motivational words. We are very grateful to have you here as a reader and fellow home-cook ❤️

      All the best, Nico & Louise

  3. 5 stars
    Was craving meatballs and had some tofu I needed to use…these more than met the craving! Cannot wait to make them again, reheat great and my husband also enjoyed them!

  4. 5 stars
    I had to leave out the olives as my husband is on a restricted sodium diet and I had to use pecans instead of the walnuts because I had no walnuts in the house, but was surprised how great they tasted. Just learning to make things with tofu as we have to have two meatless days per week.

  5. I’ve made these meatballs several times for my daughter who is vegetarian. First time I made them they were great but became to mushy in the sauce and I didn’t care for the texture. Second time making them I made them with pumpkin tofu and the taste was good but not like with regular tofu. I made them a few more times then yesterday I made them with a food processor and used my hand like you would with ground beef and found that was the key to make these meatballs exceptional. I did chop the walnuts and olives before adding them and I sauteed the onions and garlic as well. What a huge difference in flavor and texture. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

  6. 5 stars
    The recipe is amazing, I’ve been vegan for 4 years and it’s the first time I’ve enjoyed meatballs so much. thank you very much for your recipe.

    1. Andrina, so happy you enjoyed them. Thank you for taking the time to leave your feedback here ❤️

      Kindest, Louise

    1. Hi Pat, it depends on the type of salt, tofu, and canned tomatoes you use.
      It’s impossible for us to calculate accurately so we prefer not to write that in the recipe.
      I hope this helps 🙂
      Nico

  7. 5 stars
    They taste like the turkey meatball I used to enjoy before switching to plant based diet. I modified by using chickpea flour and Chia egg. I didn’t use walnuts out of fear the mixture will break apart. Thank you for sharing!

    1. That’s fantastic news, Joan – I’m really happy you enjoyed these!

      Thank you for sharing your ingredient substitutions and for taking the time to leave a comment here 🙂

      All the best,

      Louise

  8. I mean no disrespect just being honest. I am used to GOOD food. This is OK at very best. Not that tasty & same comment as others in that these were mushy, even after cooking an additional 10 minutes. They are pretty bland and I wouldn’t make them again. Taste C, texture C-. I’m going to continue searching. I do appreciate your efforts though! This veggie thing isn’t as easy as I had hoped it would be.