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This recipe for Italian meatless meatballs is a great alternative to the typical Italian meatball.   I created this recipe based off of my mother in laws recipe for breadbased polpetti.  

She would talk about how growing up they didn’t have meat like we do today and sometimes they would use bread as a filler, or just bread alone and make meatless meatballs.

So I took a modern healthy twist by adding bulgur as a key ingredient.  Bulgur is super healthy and has lots of nutritional benefits.  You can go here to Amazon and purchase online if you’d like.

Helpful Cooking Hints

There are however a few things you need to be aware of in order to make this recipe rock.  

First, the taste will be different than a real meatball. Sounds obvious I know, but I’m not trying to pass these off as something that people won’t ever know the difference.  The difference is there, but it’s a good difference.

It still uses cheese and breadcrumbs and egg, so therefore it is not vegan.  It also uses fresh basil which you can omit if you don’t have any.

You will need to cook the bulgur first and let cool a bit.  Therefore, this is not a real quick dish because of that prep time.  If you cook it and then try to use it you will end up burning your hands cause the bulgur is hot, and I find the consistency changes due to the steam.

All that is explained in my instructions below.

How to Eat the Meatballs

Unlike regular meatballs, you don’t cook these in pasta sauce.   If you try, it will crumble, fall apart, and just isn’t good.  

Trust me, I tried it!

So you’ll cook these as a stand alone and then you can serve them on the side in a bowl and let people dip them in the sauce.

I’ve made these meatless meatballs for my husband and he’ll just eat them as a snack with some sauce ontop.   In addition, you can freeze these for later which come in super handy.

Do They have to be Meatless?

No, they don’t.  I’ve made them 100% meatless, and I’ve made them with meat where the bulgur just helps bulk it up to extend the quantity. I still wouldn’t cook them with the sauce, because it can still break apart and then you have a sauce with bits and pieces of bulgur.  Not great.

Let me know what you think!


Meatless meatballs

This recipe uses bulgur to replace the meat and it tastes great.
Course Side Dish
Servings 4 people


  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup cooled cooked bulgur you can prepare this the previous day
  • 1/4 cup grated romano cheese
  • handful chopped fresh basil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 egg
  • extra virgin olive oil


  1. In large bowl, mix all ingredients until moist.
  2. Form into meatball size balls.
  3. Heat 2 or 3 swirls (about 2-3 Tablespoons) oil in frying pan over medium heat
  4. When hot, add meatballs and gently move around for about 3 minutes so no burning occurs.
  5. Remove from pan and place in lightly oiled baking dish.
  6. Bake at 360F for 30 minutes.
  7. Serve warm with sauce on the side.

Recipe Notes

TIP #1: Do not cook these in sauce because the breadcrumbs will absorb all the sauce and then fall apart.

Tip #2: You do not have to use bulgur, but it is a great way to get the family to eat more healthy fiber!

Kitchenware, Gadgets, and Tools Recommended for Use in this Recipe:



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