Time to get out the slow cooker and satisfy your summer vegan meatball cravings.

As if tofu-pecan meatball sandwiches weren't lovable enough, today's version mixes in blissfully savory and sweet bits of onions cooked with balsamic vinegar. It's a breezy shortcut to seriously satisfying flavor. Keep those big flavors coming by topping it all with spicy mustard and tangy sauerkraut.

Balsamic Onion Tofu-Pecan Meatball Sandwiches

Print the recipe

see [Note] on yield , meatballs adapted from here

For the meatballs

1 small yellow onion, finely diced

2 TBSP olive oil

generous pinch fine sea or kosher salt

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 cup water

1 cup TVP (textured vegetable protein) 

1 lb Twin Oaks brand extra-firm tofu [see note on tofu]

1/2 cup unsalted pecans

3 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, roughly chopped

2 TBSP reduced-sodium tamari

1/2 tsp liquid smoke

1 cup oat bran

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

1/4 tsp celery seed

To serve

sandwich/burger buns

stone-ground mustard


Heat oil over medium heat. When hot, add diced onion and generous pinch salt. Cook until onions have released their liquid and begin to turn translucent, about five minutes. Add balsamic vinegar and continue to cook, stirring/scraping the pan frequently, until onions are deep in color, another five to seven minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Boil one cup water in a small sauce pan. Remove from heat, stir in TVP, and let sit 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, roughly crumble the tofu into a food processor. Add pecans, sun-dried tomatoes, tamari, and liquid smoke. Process well, until uniform with no large chunks of pecans. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine oat bran, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Stir to combine, add the tofu-pecan mixture, and mix thoroughly (hands are best). Add reconstituted TVP and onions when cool enough to handle and mix until incorporated.

Form meatballs, place them in a lightly oiled slow cooker and cook on low 4-5 hours (you may need 5-6 hours for golf-ball size). Alternately, bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes, until warmed through and golden.

Note on yield: recipe yields 36-40 ping-pong size meatballs or 26-30 golf-ball size. Sandwiches will require 3-4 meatballs per bun, depending on bun size.

Note on tofu: Twin Oaks extra-firm is exceptionally dense. If you use a different brand, look for super-firm, or press your extra-firm tofu for 20-30 minutes, then weigh it out for the recipe.