Quinoa Balls with Pine Nuts and Raisins
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.
Make it a meal. Serve these quinoa balls with my lemon herb tahini sauce, homemade pita, and a pumpkin couscous salad on the side.
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.
Tips and tricks
Meatballs and meatloaves are really easy meals that come together quickly. These vegetarian quinoa balls are no exception.
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.
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 or at to salad. Or add quinoa to other meatballs or burgers.
If you don’t eat meat, check out my recipe for fawaffles (falafel waffles). If you do eat meat and love meatballs, try my braised BBQ chicken meatballs or chicken and apple meatballs.
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-heart 💜💜💜💜💜 rating in the recipe card below. Let me know how much you loved it, or any problems you had, in the comments section further down.
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.
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I had accidentally opened a can of white beans when I was in a hurry reaching for chickpeas and then I’d remembered seeing this recipe. I’d had most of the other ingredients on hand, so I made these last night. I wasn’t sure how they’d turn out or what they’d taste like but it surprised me. A little difficult to roll into balls but I made it work (probably made them slightly bigger than called for) and they baked up very well. Ate them with some vegan chili and chickpea burgers and I thought they fit nicely with this meal. The nutty flavor and slight sweetness of the raisins was a great mix and I will definitely be making more again soon.
Hi there! Thanks for sharing that you made these quinoa balls and liked them! Can you tell me what your challenge was in shaping them? Joanne
I rolled them by hand, so just getting them to stay together more than sticking to my hands. After the first few I dampend my hands a little which seemed to help some.
Great solution – that’s what I would have done too. The other thing that can help, if your quinoa and/or beans aren’t totally dry and you have the time, is giving the mixture a 30 minute rest to let it set up a bit more. It’s still going to be a bit sticky.
We made them! And they were very good. Because my cooking style is more jugaad than Julia, I didn’t let the mixture rest in the fridge, and I subbed cashews for the pine nuts*, but they still came out well–a bit squashy, but that was due to my own impatience, and they baked up beautifully.
*Yeah, so, pine nuts. They’re just ungodly expensive, and they’re being overharvested, and–the clincher–many years ago Brian gave himself a ripsnorting case of pine mouth by keeping some pesto around too long and eating it. So there hasn’t been a pine nut in this house for at least a decade. But the cashews worked out fine.
Thank you, Catherine, for making these quinoa balls, for teaching us two new words/phrases (jugaad, pine mouth), and for writing such a poetic comment. Your brother suggested that I should respond in kind with whatever poetry I could muster. However, after he made a martini AND poured a glass of wine, I was destined to pass out at 9p and respond only now while he is lightly snoring. Is the need for improvement because they were squashy, because I suggested pine nuts (and agree with your comments, though I love pine nuts so), because the flavor didn’t knock your socks off, or some other reason n.o.s.?
I too love pine nuts, and I was kind of sorry to give them up…but so goes this world.
On the balls, I’d say they were good but not socks-knocking in flavor. The squashiness was clearly my own impatient fault. Flavor-wise, though, I think I just prefer falafels (or, you know, fa-waffles.) But if the 4-star rating gums up your stats in any way, I can change it to five with a clear conscience. It’s not like the recipe’s in any way bad, and it is relatively quick and easy, as well as being protein-packed and something a little different. 🙂
We also made meatballs recently, though not with your recipe. Like you, I feel as though it’s hard to have too many. So compact and tidy! So responsive to sauces! So easy to nab out of the fridge for a quick protein bite!
No, please don’t change the rating – it’s always helpful to know when things aren’t perfect. I’m sure I’ll make them again (and again), so I’ll keep playing with flavor.