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Friday, October 3, 2014

Vegan, Gluten Free Tofu Meatballs with Crabapple Sauce - Cheaper than Meat! + Meatless Monday

Free of dairy, eggs, gluten, nuts, corn

Crabapple or Crab Apple? I'm never really sure. Either way, this crabapple sauce and these vegan, GF meatballs are surprisingly amaze-balls. (The only thing cheesy here is that sentence).

These vegan, gluten free tofu meatballs in Crab Apple Sauce were really born  out of desperation. Since we moved back home to BC, we've been entertaining people in our new apartment a couple of times a week. It's been great to finally invite family and friends to our place after 3 years of living elsewhere. 

But entertaining can be expensive. Tofu, on the other hand, is relatively cheap.
I was facing several challenges, vegetarians, food allergies, my unwillingness to make yet another trip to the grocery store... Necessity is the mother of invention, and man did this invention turn out surprisingly AWESOME! So awesome that I made it three times in two weeks for three different sets of dinner guests.

The first time I made these I used an egg and tomato sauce for vegetarian (not vegan) dinner guests. But I figured the second time I could do one better and make them vegan.

Also, the second time, I had to make a meatball sauce for someone who was allergic to tomatoes, onions, and chicken. I'd asked some of you on Facebook for ideas, and you came up with great suggestions! Gravy, bar-b-que sauces, cream sauce, etc. But none of these were going to work given the restrictions I was facing with the onions and my aversion to another shopping trip.

Luckily, I had several jars of crabapple jelly that didn't set and were sitting in the closet, waiting for me to remake it. So I thought, crabapple sauce could be kind of like plum sauce, right??

So these vegan, gluten free faux meatballs in crabapple sauce was born.Thank goodness I made a double batch, because by the time dinner was over there were hardly any meatballs left!

As for the cost - organic tofu is about $2-3 per package (this recipe calls for 2, so $4-6 for the main ingredient here). Organic chicken, turkey, or beef on the other hand is like $8, and you won't get as many meatballs. Plus, if you're only cooking for a couple of people, you can definitely half this recipe, and it'll only cost a couple of bucks!

Ingredients for Gluten Free, Vegan Tofu Meatballs (makes about 60 balls)

  • 2 packages (349g / 12.3 oz) firm or extra firm organic tofu
  • optional - ¼ cup diced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp ground flax mixed with 5 Tbsp warm water
  • ¼ cup gluten free bread crumbs or 2 pieces of GF bread, toasted well and crumbled
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1/2 cup white rice flour (plus 1/2 - 1 cup more for dusting)
  • Oil for frying


1. Drain tofu by wrapping in a clean dish towel on a plate. Place a heavy plate on top and let sit 20-30 minutes to drain.

2. In a food processor, blend all ingredients until smooth. This will look like a smooth paste, and will be goopier than regular meatballs. Don't worry. See the photos below.

3. To shape tofu balls, add 1/2 c white rice flour to a bowl. Scoop up about 1 Tablespoon worth with a spoon, then slide off with the back of another spoon. Using the spoons, roll the batter through the flour and form into a ball. Set aside on a plate. Continue to finish all the batter (I have to fry these in two batches. It's a bit time consuming, but I prep the 2nd batch while the first one is frying)

4. Heat a large pan with a Tablespoon or two in an electric skillet over medium heat. Add balls, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and fry on one side until browned. Turn balls, cover, and fry until the other side is browned. 

You may want to turn these around a couple of times to brown along the sides. (See below images). Continue until all the balls are cooked.

Top with sauce of choice, or follow directions below for Crab Apple Sauce! If you have crabapple jelly, or any other type of jelly, this recipe works great.

Goopy looking batter. Don't worry. 

Shaping goopy balls. Coat with rice flour.

They look white. Don't worry. That will change.

Fried tofu balls turn golden brown in the pan!

Ingredients for Crabapple Sauce:

  • 1 x 250mL jar crabapple jelly (or in my case, crabapple "juice" from unset jelly) or about 1 1/2 cup fruit jelly
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger


1. In a medium-sized pot over low heat, heat all ingredients. Simmer for 10 minutes. Pour over meatballs and heat together.

Serve over rice or as a side dish.

Do you have an unusual meatball (or faux meatball) sauce? 

Have you checked out my new historical romance novel, In the Court of Kemet?  It's full of historical details about Ancient Egypt and court intrigue, and is inspired by Egypt's first female ruler. Available right now for Kindle, and next week in print.

This post was shared on the following great link parties: Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, Gluten-Free Wednesdays, Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party,


  1. Thanks for posting this. Eating healthy with dietary restrictions can be sooo $$$ its sort of backwards. I'm going to give this a shot. Where would one find crabapples? I'm in Ontario

    1. I got my crabapples from a tree in my in-laws yard ;) Otherwise you don't often see them in stores. Depending on your weather, they're probably just at the very end of their season. You could substitute just about any type of fruit jelly, though, instead of the crabapples (it will just be less tart, as crabapples have a very tart flavour).

      The sauce I made is essentially a recipe for plum sauce that I tweaked, so if you have plums they'd work nicely. Alternatively, you could cook down a few apples with a fair amount of sugar to make about 1.5 cups, then follow the rest of the sauce recipe.

      I hope that helps!

    2. Thanks!
      Also I noticed your gluten and meat free book. My little one has an intolerance to both gluten AND DAIRY. Seems to find good recipes without both. What about your book?

    3. Hi, yes, my Oral Allergy Syndrome Cookbook has many recipes that are gluten and dairy free (or have dairy free alternatives)! My other cookbook, Recipes for Unusual Gluten Free Pasta, also has tons of recipes with vegan/dairy free options :) My husband doesn't do well with dairy and he's one of my testers, so I have to provide options for him, too!

  2. Delicious, thanks fro sharing a wonderful a great recipe of tofu meat balls with Hearth and Soul blog hop. pinning.

  3. Hi Danielle,
    This sounds a little bit like our family's favorite sweet and sour chinese chicken vegan style of my childhood--a dish I used to adore before I transitioned to a plant-based diet. What a creative recipe! Thank you for sharing this delectable dish with us at the Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural Party Blog Hop!

  4. Interesting! Sometimes the best recipes come from inspirations based on what you happen to have. I've never tried making tofu balls, but I was never a big fan of meatballs either.

    For frugal entertaining, I want to make sure you're aware of the amazing Honey Baked Lentils. Made with GF soy sauce, I think this would suit your requirements. It's vegetarian, and for strict vegans who don't eat honey, you can make it with maple syrup. It's a main dish for 6 people for about $3!

    1. Lol, I make a lot of lentils, and my husband and I often debate whether it's ok to serve lentils to guests because of the stigma of them being "poor" food. (Heck I wouldn't mind if someone served me lentils! When I was traveling in the Middle East people did it every day when I visited) And your lentil dish looks great, and somewhat similar to a vegan sweet and sour lentil dish I posted a while back that you might also like -


I'd love to hear from you so go ahead, leave a comment!

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