Quinoa Boulettes vs Ikea Swedish Meatballs

by | Aug 10, 2017

Mom would make Swedish meatballs for parties yet we weren’t Swedish, didn’t know anyone who was and Ikea was a two-day plane trip. Several decades later, braving my first trip to the hip-mega-everything store in search of kitchen doodads, I got overwhelmed and lost, but ended up following an aroma to the food court. I knew the source. I had rediscovered Swedish meatballs and memories of meatball platters, gravy and happy eaters.

Quinoa Boulettes Green Sauc


With this recipe, I’ve kept the appetizer angle of my childhood Swedish meatballs yet nixed the meat. However, calling them quinoa “meatballs” without using meat smells of “bait and switch” tactics. Instead, I embraced a European makeover by turning them into boulettes, a French culinary term, for small ball-shaped foods.

As a plant-based omnivore, I recognize meatballs have their own special textures and flavors. The chewy Swedish ones of my childhood oozed buttery-fat flavors but, I’ve served these multiple times to meat-centric eaters who enjoyed the crispy exterior and moist, flavorful interior. I just didn’t promise “hey they taste just like meat”.

Serve these quinoa boulettes as a complete meal with noodles and marinara or as a crunchy, healthy nibble to dip into an herby Greek yogurt, spicy marinara or garlicky vegan walnut pesto.

Quinoa Boulettes

Yield: Makes 35

Quinoa Ingredients  (makes about 2 ¾ cups cooked. Can be done up to two days in advance)

1 cup dry red quinoa (white or black works but red looks “meatier”)
2 cups liquid (water or low-salt vegetable stock)
½ teaspoon salt

Boulette Ingredients 

¾ cup bread crumbs (not panko)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sumac or other spice (see notes)
½ teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika or other spice (see notes)
¼ teaspoon of cayenne
3 garlic cloves, minced very fine (about 1½ teaspoon)
3 large eggs
¼ small yellow onion, minced very fine (about ⅓ cup)
1 teaspoon canola or vegetable oil (for high smoke point)

Prepping Quinoa 

  1. To a pot over medium-high heat, add quinoa, water and salt.
  2. When boiling, stir quinoa, reduce heat to low and cover with a lid.
  3. Cook 18-20 minutes or until no water remains in the pan.
  4. Remove quinoa from heat, leave covered 5 minutes, then uncover, use a fork to fluff it.

Making Quinoa Boulettes:

  1. Turn oven to 475˚F. Place one rack at middle position and one at the top position. Lightly oil a baking sheet. To a mixing bowl, add bread crumbs, salt and spices and mix. Add cooled quinoa, garlic, eggs and onion and mix with a spoon.
  2. If you have time to let the quinoa cool, place in refrigerator for 30 minutes to let breadcrumbs soften and make shaping easier.
  3. With a 1 tablespoon measure, scoop slightly heaping amounts of quinoa, pressing into the measuring spoon with your palm to compact it, then push it into your palm to form a 1 ¼”-1 ½” size ball (smaller than a golf ball). Place on baking sheet.
  4. On the middle rack, cook 8-12 minutes or until exterior firms up and base browns. Move to top rack, cook 6-8 minutes or until crispy and dark brown. Broil for 2-3 minutes if not dark enough.
  5. Remove from oven and baking sheet to serve warm or store in refrigerator for later use.

Quinoa Boulettes Green Sauce F

Spice and Serving options:

  • Savory spice options: sumac, Hungarian or California paprika (sweet pepper flavor, not smoked), zatar spice or different powdered chilies instead of cayenne are possibilities.
  • These are popular with spiced Greek yogurt dips or the walnut herb sauce I make that is like a pesto without cheese.


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    The pleasure of food, good health and well-being through simple habits for eating well and flexitarian low-key cooking.

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    Michele Redmond

    Michele Redmond

    French-trained Chef, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Food Enjoyment Activist

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