Vegetarian Meatballs in Indian Butter Curry
with cauliflower / spinach / basmati rice
Indian butter chicken is a takeout favorite, but this fun vegetarian version that was first featured in a meal plan in early 2020 uses homemade bean meatballs made with beans and oats instead of chicken.
Smarts #1: The sauce really benefits from some heat, so be sure to taste it at the end and add some more red pepper flakes or hot sauce if you'd like it spicier.
Smarts #2: This recipe makes a large batch of butter curry sauce so that you can set aside a portion to use on Thursday’s Indian Naan Pizza.
- Water - 1 3/4 cups
- Rice, uncooked basmati - 1 cup
- Garam masala - 2 1/2 tsp
- Coriander, ground - 2 tsp
- Curry powder, mild - 2 tsp
- Red pepper flakes (opt) - 1/2 tsp
- Garlic - 4 cloves , chopped
- Ginger, fresh - 1 Tbsp , grated
- Butter - 3 Tbsp (sub ghee)
- Tomatoes, crushed (14 oz / 397 g) - 2 cans
- Stock, any type - 1/2 cup
- Half and half - 1/2 cup
- Rolled oats - 3/4 cup + 3/4 cup
- Beans, kidney (14 oz / 397 g) - 1 can , drained and rinsed
- Eggs - 1
- Panko breadcrumbs - 1/3 cup
- Garam masala - 1 tsp
- Salt - 1/2 tsp
- Black pepper - 1/4 tsp
- Oil, cooking - 1 Tbsp
- Cauliflower - 1 lb , florets
- Indian Butter Curry Sauce (ingredients listed separately) - ~2 1/2 cups
- Indian-Spiced Vegetarian Meatballs (ingredients listed separately) - ~20
- Baby spinach - 5 oz
- Cilantro leaves - 1/4 cup
- Yogurt, plain or Greek (opt) - 1/4 cup
Make rice - Fill a saucepan with water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and then add rice. Bring to a simmer, cover, turn heat down to low, and cook until rice has absorbed all the liquid, 15 to 18 minutes. (Can be done up to 5 days ahead)
Make Indian spice blend - Combine garam masala (portion for sauce), ground coriander, curry powder, and red pepper flakes. (Can be done up to 5 days ahead)
Make vegetarian 'meat'balls - Place first portion of oats in a food processor. Pulse until the oats are finely ground and resemble flour. Drain and rinse beans. Add beans to ground oats and pulse a few times just to break beans into small pieces. Transfer ground oats and beans to a mixing bowl. Add second portion of oats, eggs, breadcrumbs, garam masala (portion for meatballs), salt, and black pepper. Gently mix together with a spoon or with your hands. If the mixture is too wet to roll into balls, stir in more panko 1 Tbsp / 15 mL at a time. Form into 1” / 2.5 cm balls. (Can be done up to 3 days ahead)
Pre-cook cauliflower - Place cauliflower florets in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with a damp paper towel and steam until nearly tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
Heat a Dutch oven or large saute pan over medium heat. Add oil and then vegetarian meatballs to heated oil. Cook meatballs on all sides until light golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Set meatballs aside and return pan to heat.
To heated pan add butter. When butter melts, stir in spice blend, garlic, and ginger and cook until fragrant, ~1 minute.
Pour tomatoes and stock over aromatics, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cover and simmer sauce for 10 minutes to develop flavor.
Taste sauce and season with some salt if needed. Add some extra red pepper flakes or some hot sauce if you'd like more heat. Remove 1 1/2 cups / 400 mL of sauce and reserve for Thursday’s pizza (for 4 servings; adjust if customizing).
To remaining sauce, stir in half and half. Add vegetarian meatballs and cover. Simmer meatballs in sauce until heated all the way through, 5 to 6 minutes.
Gently stir cauliflower and spinach into sauce. Cover and cook until spinach is fully wilted, ~2 minutes more.
If rice was made ahead, reheat in the microwave.
Serve 'meat'balls and sauce over rice. Tear cilantro leaves to serve on top. Enjoy with yogurt.