This recipe for quinoa balls with pine nuts and raisins is a vegetarian adaptation of my favorite Mediterranean-inspired lamb meatballs with pine nuts and raisins. It was created for a pescatarian friend who exclaimed that all I made was meaty dishes. Personally, I think the “all the meat” complaint was hyperbole, but here we are.
These quinoa balls are packed with protein. And the raisins and cinnamon provide a touch of sweetness that even your picky kids will love.
Quinoa is the seed of a plant that originated in the Andes. Although some varietals of quinoa are now grown in high altitude regions worldwide, the vast majority of quinoa is still grown in Peru and Bolivia.
Quinoa is high in protein and fiber. It can be served in place of rice or other whole grains. Or it works well as a binder like in these veggie balls or in this BBQ quinoa and pinto bean burger.
Tip from the wise quacker: quinoa can be a challenge if you have a young child who’s messy or who likes to throw food. I think of it like edible glitter.
Recipe tips and tricks
Meatballs and meatloaves are really easy meals that come together quickly. These vegetarian quinoa balls have all the same tips and tricks for how to make meatballs.
First, lightly toast and mash a can of white beans (Panel #1 below). Toasting the beans decreases the moisture in the quinoa balls, which could make them mushy. This is a trick that I learned when I perfected my Southwestern black bean burgers.
Add the rest of the ingredients (Panel #2) and stir them together (Panel #3). Adding two lightly beaten eggs further helps bind together the quinoa balls.
If you have the time, let the mixture sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to firm up. Use a medium-sized (about #40) cookie scoop or a spoon to scoop about a tablespoon and a half of the mixture and shape into golf ball-sized balls.
Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes until the quinoa balls have browned. Serve hot , warm, or at room temperature.
How to serve these quinoa balls
- In a pita with spicy pickled onions, lemon herb tahini sauce, and some feta.
- In a veggie meatball wrap.
- In a vegetarian version of this Mediterranean meatball bowl.
- With rice or a pasta salad like pumpkin couscous or orzo pesto salad.
- Don’t forget the homemade pita!
Do you love meatball and veggie meatball dinners? Check out more options for meatballs and what to serve with meatballs for dinner.
Some people say you have to rinse quinoa in order to remove the bitter coating. Others say that the quinoa we buy is pre-rinsed, and rinsing is a waste of water. Some online taste testers say they can taste the difference, while others don’t. I’ve never rinsed quinoa. Do with all of this information what you will.
Yes, once they’ve been baked and cooled, pop the quinoa balls into the freezer bag and squeeze out all the air. They’ll keep for three to six months.
Serve as a side, in a salad, or part of a grain bowl. Or add quinoa to other meatballs or burgers.
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Quinoa Balls with Pine Nuts and Raisins
- 1 can (15 ounces) white beans rinsed and drained
- 2 cups cooked quinoa from about 1 cup uncooked
- ½ cup raisins coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup pine nuts toasted and cooled
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- Turn on the oven to 375°F. Put the drained white beans on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and bake for about 15 minutes until lightly toasted and dried. Let cool and then partially mash in a large bowl, leaving some pieces of bean. You can use this baking sheet for baking the quinoa balls.1 can (15 ounces) white beans
- Add all of the remaining ingredients except for the eggs in into the bowl with the beans. Stir to mix.2 cups cooked quinoa, ½ cup raisins, ¼ cup pine nuts, ¼ cup chopped cilantro, 1 clove garlic, minced, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon cumin powder, ½ teaspoon coriander, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves, ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Add the lightly beaten eggs to the bowl and stir in completely.2 eggs
- If you have time, let the mixture rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or more.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and then use a medium cookie scoop or your hands to shape about 24 firmly-packed, golf ball-sized balls. Cook them on the parchment paper for about 20 minutes until lightly browned.
Are you an adventurous home cook looking for inspiration in your weeknight meals and weekend baking?