These gluten-free vegan IKEA meatballs are brought to you in partnership with my friends Little Northern Bakehouse. As always opinions are 100 percent my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make this site and my Swedish meatball cravings possible!
When I think of IKEA, my most familiar association is not a trembling, near-collapse bureau drawer, nor the panic attack involved in building it. It’s not even the blue bags that were responsible for single handedly moving Charlie and I from our old apartment to our current home. Rather, when I think of Ikea, I think of Swedish meatballs. And then I think of my dad’s old assistant Darren.
Darren loved Ikea meatballs and used to brave the swollen throngs of college-bound cheap bookshelf seekers just to get his fix. This should not surprise me, since Darren also used to brave other horrors of dorm set-up without any promise of a creamy gravy sauce as compensation.
I used to call him “big brother Darren” because his responsibilities as my dad’s minion included moving me in and out of multiple dorm rooms, and chauffeuring me, my duffel bags, and mini fridge the 3-hour drive to and from. Needless to say, even though he never assembled furniture, Darren was an angel. And I only wish I had my cooking prowess back then to make him imitation Swedish IKEA meatballs as a thank you for all the schlepping.
My memories of what these meatballs actually taste like is a little fuzzy, but my hunch is that even if they weren’t packed with gluten, I wouldn’t be crazy about the mystery meat concoction today. For the die-hard fans amongst us though (and big brother Darren, I know you’re out there somewhere), I thought it would be fun to craft a plant-based, gluten-free version of this Swedish delicacy.
These amaze-balls are made from a combination of mushrooms and lentils. They are lightened up by a heaping cup of fresh pillowy breadcrumbs made from a few slices of Little Northern Bakehouse White Wide Slice bread. Their loaves are not only gluten-free but egg-free as well–which is a hard thing to find in the grocery aisle–and certified as Glyphosate Residue Free by third-party testing so consumers don’t have to worry about this cancer-causing substance. I love using their breads to add bulk and goodness to ordinarily trashy foods (like these nuggets, and, well, these meatballs right here).
Though the balls themselves are usually the main ground zero for gluten, with Swedish meatballs you also have to worry about the gravy sauce. In this version, I’m borrowing from my buddy Jessica Murnane’s fabulous mushroom-based vegan gravy from her book One Part Plant. Instead of pureed cashews I take a short cut here by using cashew butter and coconut cream, thereby avoiding dirtying another appliance. These two ingredients make the gravy sauce extra creamy and thick without the use of any flours or a blender.
The only thing to beware of is the crispy Swedish veggie balls becoming soggy in the gravy. I would recommend tossing them together right before your serve and eating immediately. The faux IKEA meatballs would be a fantastic main course over mashed potatoes or a saucy finger food that can be eaten with toothpicks.
Read on for this vegan Swedish meatballs recipe!
With health and hedonism,
IKEA-Style Vegan Swedish Meatballs
- 1 cup dry brown lentils
- Sea salt
- 2 large eggs or two flax eggs (2 tablespoons flax meal + 1/4 cup water)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Olive oil
- 2 slices Little Northern Bakehouse wide loaf bread
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms roughly chopped
- 1 large shallot thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (or 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar + 1/2 cup vegetable broth)
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 5.4 ounces 1/2 cup coconut cream
- 2 tablespoons gluten-free tamari
- 2 tablespoons cashew butter see note
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a medium pot, cover the lentils with 2 inches of water. Salt generously and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and rapidly simmer for 15 minutes, or until the lentils are al dente. Drain in a fine mesh sieve and shake out any excess water.
Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs or flax eggs, paprika, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt until combined.
Add the bread to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until crumbs form. Transfer the crumbs to the mixing bowl with the egg mixture. You should have approx. 1 1/2 cups of fluffy crumbs.
In a medium skillet or saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and shallots. Sauté until the veggies are tender and beginning to brown, 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and remove from the heat.
Transfer the mushroom mixture to the food processor (it’s ok if some scraps stay behind in the pan). Pulse until the mushrooms are finely chopped. Remove 3 tablespoons of the mushrooms mixture and return to the pan.
Add the cooked lentils to the food processor bowl with the remaining mushrooms. Pulse until a coarse paste forms. Transfer to the bowl with the breadcrumbs and mix until well combined.
With clean, greased hands, form the lentil mixture into 1-inch balls (you can use a cookie scoop to portion, about 2 tablespoons in each). You will need to squeeze and roll the balls to make sure they are tightly packed. Arrange the balls on two parchment-lined baking sheets ½ inch apart. You should get about 16 meatballs. Bake for 25 minutes or until nicely browned.
While the meatballs bake, make the gravy: return the mushroom pan to medium-high heat. Once sizzling, add the wine and scrape up any brown bits that may have formed on the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wine until half has evaporated, then pour in the vegetable stock, coconut cream, tamari, and cashew butter, whisking to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 10 minutes, whisking throughout, until the gravy can coat the back of a spoon.
Taste for seasoning and add more salt and black pepper as necessary.
When the meatballs are finished baking, toss them with the gravy and serve immediately as an appetizer with toothpicks or over mashed potatoes as a main course.
Note: If you don’t have cashew butter, you can soak 1/4 cup cashews overnight. Puree with the 1 cup vegetable broth in a high-speed blender until creamy and proceed with the recipe.