Vegan Moroccan Meatballs

Vegan Moroccan Meatballs with Couscous // The Laidback VeganThis recipe is part of the Yours & Mine series, providing recipes that let you eat a vegan version while serving up the same meal to your beloved carnivore.. complete with, well, meat!

These Moroccan meatballs are the veganization of one of our absolute favorite meals–the kind that you try on a whim, maybe the ingredients sound good or whatever, and when you take that first bite, you both look at each other and simultaneously groan.

Vegan Moroccan Meatballs with Couscous // The Laidback Vegan

“It’s soooo good”, you mutter to one another, amid forkfuls of the tender meatballs, fortified with grassy cilantro, in a beautifully spiced tomato sauce, dotted with kalamata olives, over fluffy couscous and plumped dates. “So.. soo.. so good.”

“Is there more?” O asks, just curious, of course. But no, there’s not. Because we’re already portions for giants, as I anticipated this situation after a spy taste in the kitchen, standing over an aromatic pot of simmering meatballs, hints of a Moroccan market wafting up from the stove.

Vegan Moroccan Meatballs with Couscous // The Laidback Vegan
Naturally, there was no way I could let this recipe go to waste once we decided to go vegan. Instead, I gave it a 5-star veganization treatment and blew myself away with the results. I had a bag of dried TVP (textured vegetable protein, which even sounds terrifyingly processed) in the pantry I planned on turning into meatballs, but upon a bit of research, threw away those creepy pellets and whipped up a batch of exceptionally tender seitan, which I then ground in the food processor. I found the resulting texture to be very similar to that of ground beef, and the flavor even better! Unlike ground meat, seitan retains its tender texture and nutty flavor throughout the cooking process, still allowing the cilantro and ginger to shine through the meatballs.

Vegan Moroccan Meatballs with Couscous // The Laidback VeganI actually created this recipe as a solution to O’s general meat-nagging (you know, the nagging to eat meat) and pretty consistent demands for this dish. I essentially created the sauce for two of us, then split it up to simmer the meatballs after they’d finished baking. I prepared the meatball ingredients for the two of us (except for his meatballs’ egg) and split them up to make two different little “batches”. It worked quite well for us, and the results were just positively delicious. For just a bit more work, you can satisfy the meat-eater in your life, whilst serving yourself a healthy, plant-based meal that’ll help lengthen your life, lessen your environmental impact on the planet, and give you more energy!

Vegan Moroccan Meatballs
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Tender, flavorful vegan meatballs in a Moroccan-spiced sauce with kalamata olives over a bed of fluffy couscous with dates. What's not to love?
Recipe type: Main Course
Cuisine: Moroccan
Serves: 2
  • Sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • ½ cup pitted and chopped briny olives, like kalamata
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup veggie stock or broth
  • 1 (14-ounce) can crushed or diced tomatoes, preferably crushed
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar, or sweetener such as agave or maple for unprocessed eating
  • ½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For the Meatballs:
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed meal
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • 2 scant cups ground seitan
  • ⅓ cup finely ground rolled oats or fine bread crumbs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • chopped freshly parsley, for garnish
  • Couscous:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup veggie stock or broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup finely chopped dried dates
  • 1 cup quick-cooking couscous, preferably whole wheat
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  2. Stir together 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal and 3 tablespoons water and let sit about 10 minutes, or until gelly and gooey. This is your "egg" -- if you're shorter on time, use slightly warm water, as this speeds up the process.
  3. Next, in a medium bowl, combine your flaxseed-water "egg" and tomato paste and stir until smooth. Add the cilantro, ginger, cumin, and cinnamon and mix until well blended. Stir in the ground seitan and ground oats, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and combine gently after each addition. Do not overmix. Rolling with your hands, make about 32 meatballs, about 1-inch in diameter. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake the meatballs about 15-20 minutes, or until almost browning. Meanwhile, make your sauce.
  5. Now, to make the sauce! In a large saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic until soft but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest and olives and cook for 1 more minute. Add the white wine, deglaze the pan, and let it reduce for a 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, canned tomatoes, sugar, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon, and simmer to blend flavors, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Once the meatballs are finished cooking, transfer them gently to the saucepan with the sauce and let simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make your couscous!
  7. Bring the water, stock, and oil to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the dates followed by the couscous. Cover the pan tightly with a lid, remove from the heat, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  8. Divide up your couscous into individual bowls, spoon meatballs and sauce over couscous, and garnish with fresh parsley. Nom nom!
Adapted from Melissa d'Arabian



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  1. says

    Looks and sounds phenomenal! Awesome flavors. I live with a meat-eater too, and I like the idea of having him cook his own meatballs but still sharing a meal together.

    • Cheryl Hurley says

      It worked really well for us! They taste remarkably similar to the MEATballs. They actually might have been even more tender! O definitely stole a few of mine :)

    • Cheryl Hurley says

      I bet you could just drain store bought seitan and then grind it. I get it would work very well! :)

  2. Sara says

    I made this last night and added my own touch. I used green onions, crushed tomatoes, I also added chickpeas to the mix after the onion and tomato cooked for about 6 minutes. Also added more spices since this recipe seems like it did not have enough Moroccan spices. I added Ras el Hanout, some ground ginger and a bay leaf. The Bay leaf I added until about the end with some cinnamon sticks.

    I also did not have time to make the veggie meatballs, so I used store veggie meatballs and it worked just fine. At the very end I splashed the mix with some rose water instead of red wine.

    The couscous I made according to directions but instead of dates (which i could not find) I added dried apricots.
    Everyone loved it!!

    • Cheryl Malik says

      That sounds great! I’ve used chickpeas before and really enjoyed it, as well. Glad the store bought meatballs worked well for you – what a time-saver! I’d recommend trying the homemade ones when you get a chance, though; their flavors are simply amazing! Rose water sounds so interesting – what a lovely aromatic quality to add. So glad you liked it!

  3. says

    Hi there! These sound so incredibly amazing. I reaaaaally want to try them, but it seems like I can’t find the recipe. Am I slightly blind or is the recipe hidden somewhere?

    • Cheryl Malik says

      I can confirm you are not slightly blind! That’s always good news, right? When we merged blogs, about half the recipes stayed behind in Neverland, and it’s taken a while to replace all the missing ones. But I just fixed this one, so try again. I apologize for the annoyance but really hope you make these! We had them again recently and they are so good. Don’t hold my blogging ineptitude against the meatballs :)

    • Cheryl Malik says

      Absolutely not, I am! When we merged blogs, about half the recipes stayed behind.. which has made for a fun few scrambling months trying to replace everything! I fixed it though now, so try again :) I do hope you try the recipe – these meatballs are really so good! :)

    • Cheryl Malik says

      Now that’s a good question, isn’t it? Urgh! When I merged blogs, about half of the recipes stayed behind, and it’s been a process replacing them. Just fixed this one, try again! We actually made this last week and were reminded of how ridiculously good it is. I hope you try it, Alice!

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