Lentil meatballs with mushrooms and macadamia nuts

by Paula Casimiro
The United Nations declared 2016, the year that has just ended, the International Year of Pulses. Legumes are an excellent food from the nutritional point of view and I have been trying to introduce them more frequently in our diet at home, looking for them to be present in at least one meal a week. It has been a gradual process of adaptation that will continue now in 2017, since my daughters are not big fans. One loves beans, the other prefers chickpeas and none of them even want to hear about fava beans or peas.

Legumes are grains / seeds that grow in pods and are part of our diet since there is agriculture. They can be presented in different formats: dried, fresh, frozen or canned and ready to eat. They are very complete from the nutritional point of view and provide an important amount of vegetable protein. They are also excellent sources of complex carbohydrates, fiber, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and zinc, and B vitamins. Last but not least, they are relatively cheap and therefore a healthy and economical alternative to meat and fish, foods that we abuse a lot of.

The Mediterranean Diet promotes the consumption of at least two portions of legumes per week. The Portuguese Food Balance Wheel states that the recommended daily amount of legumes is 1 to 2 servings, one serving being: 1 tablespoon of raw dried legumes (25g) or 3 tablespoons of raw fresh legumes – peas and fava beans (80g) or 3 tablespoons of cooked dried/fresh legumes (80g).

Ana Rita Lopes, Nutritionist

I had no particular concern with the consumption of legumes. Although I quite like all the varieties, they are not very consensual here at home, as you might have realized. From time to time I would make a red bean soup or a spinach and chickpea soup or cod with chickpeas (which is a Portuguese traditional meal), but little else. Now I have tried to be more consistent and every week there are legumes on the table, either in the soup, or accompanying a meat or fish dish or even as a main element in a vegetarian dish like a chickpea curry or these lentil meatballs.

To make the lentil meatballs I researched a lot of recipes and shuffled a few of them until I came up with a result we all liked. I think lentil meatballs are different from beef meatballs and it’s not worth saying they taste the same. Meat is meat, lentils are lentils and each has its own flavor. They are different foods but both make excellent and tasty meatballs.

And you, do you like legumes? You can leave some suggestions in the comment box below. If you want to try another recipe, check out these sweet potatoes stuffed with beef and black bean chilli, which you can easily turn into a vegetarian meal by making the chilli only with beans (for example, a mixture of red and black beans), or this red lentils soup with sweet potato, spinach and coconut milk.

See you soon.
Lentil meatballs with mushrooms and macadamia nuts
Lentil meatballs with mushrooms and macadamia nuts
Lentil meatballs with mushrooms and macadamia nuts

Lentil meatballs with mushrooms and macadamia nuts

These lentil meatballs are an alternative to traditional meatballs that is at the same time tasty, healthy and nutritious.

makes 12 meatballs

Prep time:

Cook time:


    For the meatballs:

  • 100g (1/2 cup) brown lentils
  • 210ml (1 1/4 cups) vegetable stock
  • 1 small onion (75g), cut into quarters
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 125g fresh mushrooms (paris, cremini or Portobello), cut into quarters
  • 80g (1/2 cup) macadamia nuts (you can also use walnuts or hazelnuts)
  • 25g (1/4 cup) breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    For the tomato sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) white wine
  • 1 large can (780g) canned tomato, roughly crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 springs of fresh thyme (you can also use fresh oregano)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste



  1. In a small saucepan, put the lentils and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and let cook for 15 to 20 minutes (the lentils should be cooked but hold their shape).
  2. In the food processor, put the cooked lentils, the onion, the garlic clove, the mushrooms, the macadamina nuts, the breadcrumbs and the dried herbs. Press a few times to chop and mix. Add the egg and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Press a few more times to mix.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200º C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and brush with olive oil.
  4. Take small portions of the lentil mixture and shape them into balls (this amount makes about 12 balls the size of a golf ball). Place them on the lined tray and brush each with olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  5. While the lentil meatballs are in the oven, make the tomato sauce. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and the garlic, until they are translucent. Add the white wine and let evaporate. Add the tomatoes and their juices, bay leaf and thyme and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and cook for 20 minutes on low heat.
  6. Cook the spaghetti, or any other pasta that you want to use, according to the instructions on the package. Serve the lentil meatballs with the tomato sauce and the spaghetti.



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