This is destined to become an oft-repeated family favourite. It popped up once in a Twitter Party (yup - there is such a thing - will explain below). They looked yummy, I love lentils, and it is, after all, the International Year of Pulses (2016) - so I tried them - and will make them again! The recipe comes from Lentils Canada - a site loaded with ideas and information that I encourage you to visit. Their recipe, however, had a few tiny glitches, so I modified. I also offer a link to a vegetarian version. (BTW - The Cooking Badge blog post explains why I was inspired to share this recipe. Check it out!)

Lentil meatballs with sauce from this recipe

Lentil meatballs with sauce from this recipe

Same meatballs with Honey Garlic Sauce

Same meatballs with Honey Garlic Sauce

I wondered why the meatballs had to be browned first, but then realized the recipe ends with a cream sauce made in the same pan, so the browning helps to build the flavour profile. Clearly I have not eaten Swedish meatballs (or dined at IKEA) enough to remember the sauce! Have to say that the sauce did not knock it out of the park for me, so the next day I did a Honey Garlic sauce. Corey Mintz had written about his experience butchering at Sanagan’s Meat Locker (great little shop, BTW on Baldwin Street in Kensington Market). The butchers often make meatballs for their break. Corey shared that recipe as well as the honey garlic sauce. It was a terrific coincidence - reading the article on the day I faced a batch of leftover lentil meatballs - worked out great!

Meatball methods and variations. (and... under "The Sauce", below, I share links to a few other sites/blogs with similar recipes - that I have not yet tried).

  • Some recipes, like this one, brown the meatballs first in a pan and finish them in the oven.
  • Others cook them through in a fry pan. Given the quantity of meatballs, that could take longer since they will fill the fry pan twice.
  • If you plan to make the cream sauce, you must at least brown the meatballs in the pan before the oven step; the "fond" left in the fry-pan enhances the flavour of the sauce. 
  • If you decide to use the Honey Garlic Sauce, you could cook the meatballs in the oven and skip the fry-pan browning step. Assuming you have made  1 TB sized balls, these can be baked on a baking sheet (greased or lined with non-stick foil) in a 400 F oven, until a digital thermometer inserted in the centre of several reads 165 F (74 C). In my oven, this takes about 15 minutes - though I often leave them a bit longer if I want them to be even more brown and crispy on the outside.
  • I had not realized that "lentil meatballs" would also contain some meat - ground turkey. If you want to make these totally vegetarian, try this recipe (which I have not tested yet). She includes a mushroom thyme gravy.

Getting ready:

  • lentils - are you going to buy them in a can? or cook them? (in which case you need to plan for cooling time) (See Tips, below, on cooking lentils)
  • onions and mushrooms - chop or pulse in a food processor
  • fresh breadcrumbs - ditto the food processor
  • turkey - if not buying ground turkey, ditto the food processor
  • green onions - slice
  • line a large sheet pan with non-stick aluminum foil
  • preheat oven to 300 F

1 TB unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic minced
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
salt and pepper

Meatballs Step 1. In a large sauté pan, melt 1 TB of butter. Add the onions and garlic and cook until golden. Add the mushrooms and cook until golden as well. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

You'll be needing your food processor in step 2 - so you might as well use it to mince the onions and then chop the mushrooms. No need to clean it afterward since all ingredients are being combined anyhow.

1 cup cooked green lentils
1 TB (15 mL) water

1 ½ lb (750 g) ground turkey
1 large egg
1 slice (white) bread, processed into fresh bread crumbs

2 TB fresh parsley, chopped fine

1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground fennel seed
pinch of ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt

Meatballs Step 2. You'll be using the food processor to create a lentil paste, but before the food processor bowl gets mucky, pulse a slice of bread to create fresh bread crumbs - and set these aside. If you also plan to make your own "ground" turkey (see Notes below) then you can do that after making the lentil paste.

Using a food processor, pulse lentils with water until they turn into a thick paste. You will need to scrape down the sides at least once when doing this.

In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, cooled onion/mushroom mixture, lentil paste, egg, fresh bread crumbs, chopped parsley and spices (see Notes below). Mix for 1-2 minutes making sure everything is incorporated.

Cover and set aside in the fridge for 10 minutes. This is a somewhat soft mixture, and chilling it for a bit makes it easier to roll into balls.

After 10 minutes, roll the meat mixture into 1 oz (30g) balls. You can use a 20 ml disher / portion scoop to make this easier.

Heat the large sauté pan and melt 1 TB butter and 1 TB oil. Add the meatballs in batches browning on all sides. Have a large baking tray (lined with foil or non-stick foil) ready on the side to hold the meatballs. I found I had to brown the meatballs in two batches and so had to wipe out the "burned) butter and add another 1 TB butter / 1 TB oil. Once all meatballs are browned, bake in a 300 F oven on the tray until fully cooked (165˚F/ 75˚C internal temperature). That might take about 15 minutes. While the meatballs are cooking, prepare the sauce - in the same fry-pan. (Or... skip the white sauce and make the Honey-Garlic Sauce outlined below.)

3 TB unsalted butter, divided
2 TB all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups (175 mL) chicken broth
2 Tbsp (30 mL) heavy cream

2 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¾ tsp kosher salt

¼ cup (60 mL) finely sliced green onions (reserve some for garnish)
¼ tsp (1 mL) paprika

The Sauce. Use the sauce pan that was used for the browning of the meatballs and add enough additional butter to the pan to equal 3 TB.

Whisk in 2 TB of flour creating a thick roux. Whisk until the roux becomes a rich brown, but not burnt. Slowly add the stock, whisking continuously, and bring this to a simmer until it thickens. Add cream and continue to cook on low.

Add lemon juice and season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Toss in sliced green onions.

Place hot meatballs on a serving platter and cover with sauce. Garnish with green onions and paprika as desired. Serve these meatballs as a main dish, or an appetizer topped with sauce and served on skewers.

As mentioned above, I was not "over the moon" about this sauce, so here are links to some recipes that I have not tested, but look promising. The Damn Delicious Blog uses beef broth in the sauce. Saveur also uses beef stock and lots of cream.

3 TB honey
4 TB soy sauce
1 cup water
1/2 TB ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup room temperature water

Honey Garlic Sauce - from Corey Mintz. In a medium pot, bring honey, soy, 1 cup water, ginger and garlic to boil.

In a large bowl, whisk cornstarch and 1/4 cup water to make slurry. Stir into sauce, which will thicken.

Set aside to cool.

Notes and Tips...

  • Mushrooms - the type of mushroom was not specified, but some say that creminis are more flavourful than white button miushrroms.
  • Lentils - regular green lentils are fine -  no need for the fancy de Puy type. Take a short cut and buy them in a can - in which case they need to be drained and rinsed. If you have a bag of dry green lentils you can cook these up quickly. For one cup of cooked lentils, rinse 1/2 cup of dry, and cook in 1 1/2 cups of water (NO salt) for 15-20 minutes. See full cooking instructions at Unless done the day before, cool slightly before using them in step 2 above.
  • Turkey - I had not realized that the recipe included a meat. Nothing wrong with turkey (check out Tasty Turkey Canada), but am not a big fan of buying ground poultry. In this case, I did - but next time I might buy turkey meat and pulse it in my food processor.
  • Fresh bread crumbs - I don't often have bread on hand - and never white bread. I do always have bread in the freezer - it may be sprouted grain rye, or sesame. I just pulsed a slice of that to make the fresh crumbs.
  • Spices for meatballs - the original recipe did NOT list what spices to add to the meatballs. I did a bit of research and suggest that a combo of any/all of the spices I list above be added.
  • Flour - an ideal flour for making sauces with no lumps is Easy Blend Flour.
  • Heavy cream - the original recipe listed this as optional. Actually I think you could add a wee bit more, and/or use a lighter cream.
  • Nutmeg - nothing beats freshly ground nutmeg. Whole nutmegs can be bought in Bulk stores and it's great if you can get your hands on a nice little nutmeg grater.
  • Paprika - have you read my tips on this Hungarian spice?
  • Twitter Party - ok... almost forgot the promised explanation. This is a live chat using Twitter. Who you're following and hashtags keep participants in the chat connected. I have only done these when sponsored by Food Bloggers of Canada and there is always an organizational co-host / sponsor. There are questions, answers, information and recipe sharing. If I wasn't retired, I'd try this with students! The nice thing is that sponsored hosts offer prizes! (Yes, I won once!)
  • For KB Recipe Attribution Practices please click here.

<== Questions or Comments about this recipe? Visit the Recipe Q. C. page - looking forward to hearing from you!

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