These Saucy Beef and Lentil Meatballs are a protein-and fiber-rich recipe that comes together in one skillet for an easy and healthful weeknight dinner. Flavorful meatballs cook to tender perfection in a dairy-free creamy tomato sauce that will leave you licking your plate! Spoon them over rice, Israeli couscous, or quinoa for dinner, and enjoy those leftovers, too (if you have any!)

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Recipe Highlights: Beef and Lentil Meatballs

Flavorful and healthful dinner featuring nutritious ingredients
The meatballs cook in a dreamy and creamy dairy-free tomato sauce
Use the same spices in the meatballs and the sauce for fewer ingredients
These beef and lentil meatballs cook right on the stovetop, making them juicy and tender
Have this dinner on the table in just 40 minutes, start to finish, and with just 20 minutes of prep time

Tender Beef Meatballs made with lentils

This saucy meatball recipe features ground beef AND lentils, not either-or. You get a double-whammy of great nutrition when you combine these two ingredients, including essential amino acids, iron, fiber, B vitamins, and key minerals, such as potassium and magnesium. The delicious and healthy lentil and beef meatballs cook in a simple Madras-style simmer sauce that features coconut milk, tomato sauce, and everyday spices. Grab the ingredients below and prep these protein-rich lentil meatballs for dinner tonight.

Ingredients To Make Beef and Lentil Meatballs

Here are the ingredients to gather to make these protein-rich meatballs for an appetizer, healthful meal-prepped lunch, or an easy dinner.

Ground beef – may sub ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground pork insteadCooked lentils – pre-cook the lentil using our method shown below, or use a microwaveable pouch of lentils or even canned and drained lentils Yellow onionEgg Garlic clovesPantry spices – you will need ground cumin, dried ginger, chili powder, salt, and black pepper in both the meatballs and the sauceAvocado oil or olive oilTomato sauceCoconut milkArrowroot starch or cornstarch

Find the ingredient list with exact measurements in the recipe card below.

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How to make meatballs with ground beef and Lentils

Just five simple steps can get you on your way to enjoying these saucy meatballs for dinner tonight.

Form the meatballs: Combine the beef, lentils, onion, egg, and spices. Form mixture into 20 meatballs approximately 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons each. Brown the meatballs: Heat oil in a large skillet or saucepan. Add the meatballs to the pan and cook until browned on one side. Make the sauce: Combine the tomato sauce, coconut milk, cumin, ginger, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Add the sauce to the pan: Gently turn the meatballs over in the pan to brown the other side. Pour the sauce mixture over the meatballs. Cover the pan and let the meatballs and sauce cook. Remove the lid and thicken the sauce: In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of the liquid from the pan; stir together to make a thick slurry. Stir into the sauce in the pan and return to a low simmer to thicken.

For the complete directions and ingredient amounts, scroll down to the recipe card below. All of our recipes include the nutrition analysis, listing calories, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, sugar, sodium, and more per serving.

Ingredient Spotlight: Lentils

You’ve probably heard that lentils are one of the healthiest foods on the planet. It’s true! But what makes them so good for you? Lentils are a legume (also known as a pulse), similar to beans and peas. Lentils are an excellent source of fiber and a good source of plant-based protein, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Studies show that diets high in lentils and other pulses can reduce your risk of chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

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Tip!

How To Cook Lentils

In a saucepan filled halfway with water, add ½ cup dry lentils to a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer for 20 minutes, or until lentils are cooked to your desired texture. Drain lentils and store in the refrigerator until ready to use, up to 5 days.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a protein other than ground beef?

Certainly! You could use ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground pork in place of the ground beef.

Can I make this recipe ahead? What can I prep ahead?

You can either fully or partially prep this recipe ahead. Store the fully made recipe in airtight container(s) in the refrigerator up to 5 days. To partially prep this recipe ahead, form the meatballs in advance and store them in a covered container in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before cooking. You can also mix the sauce ingredients together up to 2 days in advance. When it’s time to cook the meatballs, all you would have left to do is the 20 minutes of stovetop cooking.

How should I store leftovers?

Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

How should I reheat leftovers of these beef and lentil meatballs?

Our preferred method to reheat the meatballs and sauce is in a saucepan on the stovetop over low heat. You may want to add 2-4 tablespoons water to loosen up the sauce when reheating. You could also reheat leftovers in the microwave.

Can I make the saucy meatballs with dry lentils?

Because of the short cooking time, your should use pre-cooked lentils in the meatballs. See the Notes section of the recipe card below for our quick method for cooking dry lentils. OR, you can also use canned lentils or a pouch of microwaveable lentils, too.

Perfect for Meal Prep: Beef and Lentil Meatballs

These saucy Madras-style beef meatballs with lentils are a delicious meal-prep recipe. The saucy meatballs can be fully prepared on the weekend and then divided into refrigerated portions for easy grab-and-go lunches to enjoy throughout the week. Pair these meatballs with some Instant Pot Jasmine Rice, cooked quinoa, or Israeli couscous (shown in the photos), and you’ll have plenty of meal-prepped lunches or dinners to look forward to!

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Recipe

Saucy Beef and Lentil Meatballs

Make tender and delicious saucy meatballs in one pan right on your stovetop. These meatballs feature both ground beef and lentils, as well as a flavorful and creamy dairy-free Madras-style simmer sauce. Serve them as an appetizer or meal-prepped lunch or dinner that you’ll look forward to. 

Prep: 20 minsCook: 20 minsTotal: 40 mins

Servings: 4–6 servings 1x

Ingredients

For the Meatballs

1 lb ground beef 
3/4 cup cooked lentils*
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 egg 
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried ginger
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon avocado oil or olive oil

For the Sauce

1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 15-ounce can coconut milk**
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried ginger
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon arrowroot starch or cornstarch

Instructions

In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, cooked lentils, onion, egg, garlic, cumin ginger, chili powder, salt, and black pepper. Use your hands to mix it together until well combined. Form mixture into 20 meatballs (approximately 1 1/2- to 2-tablespoons each) and place them on a plate. 
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat and swirl the pan around to distribute the oil. Add the meatballs to the pan and cook until browned on one side, 5-6 minutes. 
While the meatballs are heating, in a bowl, combine the tomato sauce, coconut milk, ground cumin, ginger, chili powder, salt, and pepper. 
Gently turn the meatballs over in the pan to brown the other side. Pour the sauce mixture over the meatballs. 
Turn the heat to low or medium-low to hold a very low simmer. Cover the pan and let the meatballs and sauce cook for 15 minutes. 
Remove the lid and thicken the sauce: In a small bowl, combine the 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of the liquid from the pan; stir together to make a thick slurry. Stir the slurry back into the sauce in the pan and allow it to return to a low simmer to thicken. Then, remove the pan from the heat and allow it to sit, it will thicken more as it cools slightly. 
If desired, serve the saucy meatballs with Israeli couscous or rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

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Notes

* Use canned cooked lentils, or a microwaveable pouch of lentils, or cook dry lentils (see directions below)

To cook dry lentils: In a saucepan filled halfway with water, add ½ cup lentils to a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer for 20 minutes, or until lentils are cooked to your desired texture. Drain lentils and store in the refrigerator until ready to use, up to 5 days.

**May use full-fat or light coconut milk, depending on your preference. The nutrition analysis below is for this recipe made with light coconut milk. The nutrition analysis with full-fat coconut milk is as follows. For 1/6 of the meatballs with sauce: 312 calories, 19 g total fat (12 g sat fat), 700 mg sodium, 14 g carb (4 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 71 mg cholesterol, 21 g protein

Nutrition Information

Serving Size: 1/6 of the meatballs and sauceCalories: 241Fat: 12 g(Sat Fat: 6 g)Sodium: 655 mgCarbohydrate: 14 g(Fiber: 4 gSugar: 4 g)Protein: 21 gCholesterol: 71 mg

Dietary


Dairy-FreeGluten-freeNut-free

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Photo Credit: The photos in this blog post were taken by Rachel of Half Acre House

For ultimate success, we highly recommend reading the tips in the full blog post above. All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish a recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words. Link back to the source recipe here on The Real Food Dietitians. Thank you!

For ultimate success, we highly recommend reading the tips in the full blog post above. All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish a recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words. Link back to the source recipe here on The Real Food Dietitians. Thank you!