Lentil Meatballs with Indian Fenugreek Sauce

vegan meatballs, fenugreek sauce, coconut sauce
As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.
John Steinbeck
These savory Indian-spiced lentil “meatballs”, both vegan and gluten free are served over a fragrant fenugreek-coconut sauce. The aroma will drench your kitchen in goodness.  The lentil meatballs are baked, rather than fried- so they remain relatively low in fat. Served with a salad, this meal is hearty, healthy and delicious.  If you are feeling the need to break away from meat and dairy for a night, give this a try!
It’s official- our “slow” season has come to screeching halt. Back to reality. The last few weeks have been filled with furious menu planning, last minute wedding details and final meetings with brides and grooms- readying ourselves for the weddings to come. 

Often when I’m prepping food for a wedding, I like to imagine the soon-to-be newlyweds further down the road…  happy, blossoming and thriving in their new married lives. Sometimes I place silent “wishes” in the food. No, I’m not saying that I think this necessarily does anything, but it’s a fun little thing I do in my head, to get through some of the more mundane tasks in the kitchen- and when I’m in that state of mind, my food usually ends up tasting better.  I like to envision them growing old together and learning the delicate art of loving. I picture them spending time together, in their own kitchens making meals and reconnecting after a busy day’s work- hoping these simple daily acts, will keep them connected, through whatever comes. Because inevitably, it will come.

The other day, as Brian and I stood side by side, chopping a mountain of vegetables, a feeling of joy swelled up inside me. It didn’t matter that the sun wasn’t shining, or the sink was full of dirty dishes, or even that everything wasn’t exactly perfect. Somehow in that moment, all was right.

Most of all, I wish for these new couples, a generous sprinkling of these simple joyful moments throughout their lives.

I adore these little Black Caviar lentils from Pacific Northwest Farmers Co-op, because of their petite size, their dark color and rich earthy flavor. They are meaty little guys, who hold their shape after cooking, and take only 20 -25 minutes to cook. The best thing about these are the fact that they are grown right here in our backyard, in the Palouse. You can find them here.

Whole fennel seeds are cooked with the lentils.

Fresh ginger and turmeric are added to the sauce. If you can’t find fresh turmeric, ground will do just fine. But make sure to use fresh ginger.

The ingredient that gives the sauce its unique flavor is fenugreek leaves. I found them locally at the Oriental Market on Trent. If you can’t find them, don’t sweat it, the sauce will still taste good.

Cooked Lentils and quinoa are mixed with cilantro, garlic and whipped tofu.

The tofu acts as the binder, and is undetectable once they are cooked.

Roll into ping pong sized balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, or greased cookie sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes. While they are in the oven make the summer sauce.

Place lentil meatballs over the sauce and sprinkle with cilantro.


Thanks for reading! For more Feasting at Home … 

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Lentil Meatballs with Fenugreek Sauce
by March-27-2014
Vegan and Gluten free Lentil Meatballs with a savory fenugreek coconut sauce

Lentil meatballs:
1 C black caviar lentils (uncooked)
½ C quinoa ( uncooked)
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp granulated garlic
⅓ C chopped cilantro
6 oz firm tofu
1 T olive oil

Coconut Fenugreek Sauce:
6 cloves garlic- minced
1 T fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp fresh turmeric, grated (or ½ teaspoon ground turmeric is )
1- 2 T olive oil
1 large tomato, finely diced
1 T dried fenugreek leaves ( optional)
1 13.5 oz coconut milk (not lite)
1 T lime juice,
1 tsp brown sugar
½ tsp salt, more to taste
¼ tsp cayenne, more to taste
fresh cracked pepper

1. On high heat, bring lentils and fennel seed to a boil in a small pot with 3 cups water. Cover, turn heat to low and simmer 25 minutes. Drain well.

2. On high heat, bring quinoa to boil in a small pot with 1 cup water. Cover, turn heat to low, simmer 15 minutes, turn heat off, leave covered.

3. Make sauce. In a skillet or medium pot, saute garlic and ginger in olive oil, on medium until just golden, stirring often to prevent scorching. Add turmeric ( root, or spice) sauté 1 more minute. Add diced tomato, sauté until most of the juices evaporate, about 5-8 minutes. Stir in coconut milk, fenugreek, lime, brown sugar, salt, cayenne and pepper. Taste for salt. Bring to a simmer, then turn off heat until ready to serve.

Make meat balls. Pre-heat oven to 400F. In a food processor, place the quinoa, and half the lentils, and pulse until texture of coarse sand. Place in a large bowl. Add the remaining lentils, chopped cilantro, salt, granulated garlic to the bowl and mix well. In the same food processor, add tofu and 1-2 T oil. (The tofu will bind the mixture and oil will keep tim from drying out.) Pulse tofu ad oil until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Scoop it into the lentil mixture and mix it in well. Prepare a parchment lined baking sheet. With your hands, kneed lentil mixture briefly it’s thoroughly mixed and salt and spices are evenly distributed. Form small ping pong sized balls. Place on baking sheet and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Warm the sauce and place lentil meatballs over the sauce, and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve immediately.

 Yield: 14-16 meatballs
thanks for sharing!
thanks for sharing!


  1. says

    Oh my goodness that sauce looks divine! I’m actually eating lentil-quinoa “meatballs” right now – they fell apart hence the quotations. Smart idea with the tofu, I’ll try that next time!

  2. says

    What a beautiful post! I love that you instill secret wishes of happiness and joy in the weddings you cater! That’s so lovely :) This dish looks amazing too, though I’ve never before seen fenugreek leaves. I wonder if some fenugreek seeds could be ground up and added, maybe?

  3. says

    Just came across your site via foodgawker as your photo caught my eye. Love your site, recipes and photography! Excited to try these.

  4. Lesley says

    I made this today and the flavor is amazing! I will definitely be making this again. I’m not a tofu fan either but you can’t even tell it’s in there. The meatballs took longer than 20 minutes to bake but they may have been larger than called for perhaps that’s why. Thanks for a great vegan recipe. I’m on the hunt for more of them.

    • says

      Thanks for the heads up. Just curious, what kind of salt did you use? I use kosher salt, which is less “salty” than sea salt or table salt. I do like things a bit on the the salty side though :)

  5. Anonymous says

    1. for a non-vegan binding agent, can you use eggs? and if so, how many?
    2. what kind of lentil can you use as a replacement for caviar lentils?

    • says

      I am sure you can use eggs, but have not personally tried it. If I were to guess, 1-2 eggs, and you may need add some soft bread crumbs. I would start with one beaten egg, and check the consistency, and see if it sticks together. Add more if necessary. Another idea would be to puree some of the cooked lentils into a think paste. ( perhaps cook an extra cup) I bet the pureed lentils would act as a binder. Any Lentil would work, green, puy, brown as long as the husks are not removed. Remember cooking times will vary from lentil to lentil. Please let me know what you do and how it turns out! I’m curious! Thanks for the questions.

  6. Anonymous says

    Plantains!!! or bananas!!! are an excellent binder to use as sub for the tofu. they mesh in with the theme and taste very well!! and most defiantly still vegan! 😉

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