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Vegan Chickpea Meatball Subs with Basil Pesto Cream

Vegan Chickpea Meatball Subs with Basil Pesto Cream

  • Author: Allison
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings, with leftover meatballs 1x


Vegan Chickpea Meatball Subs with Basil Pesto Cream are the ultimate summer comfort food. Chickpea meatballs are layered atop a crispy baguette along with marinara, basil pesto cream, and fresh baby greens.



Chickpea Meatballs

  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1 cup homemade bread crumbs*
  • Heaping 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp ground flax
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Pesto Cream

  • 3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours and drained
  • 1 cup fresh basil 
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 large lemons)
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup filtered water

For assembly:

  • 2 cups chunky marinara sauce
  • 2 mini/demi baguettes
  • Extra virgin olive oil 
  • 2 cups baby arugula or other baby greens


  1. Make the chickpea meatballs: Pulse the chickpeas a few times in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the ‘S’ blade. Be careful not to over-pulse: you want the chickpeas to have some texture. 
  2. Transfer the chickpeas into a large bowl. Add the bread crumbs, onion, garlic, ground flax, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and oil, and stir to combine. 
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  4. Roll the chickpea mixture into 12-16 equal balls (12 for large meatballs; 16 for medium-sized meatballs). 
  5. Bake meatballs for 30 minutes, or until browned and crispy on the outside.
  6. While the chickpea meatballs are baking, make the pesto cream: Place drained cashews, basil, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, garlic, salt, pepper, maple syrup, and water in the jar of an upright blender (preferably a high speed blender, but if a regular blender is what you have, that’s fine, too). Blend until very smooth and creamy. Transfer to an airtight jar or container until ready to serve. 
  7. Warm up 2 cups marinara sauce in a medium saucepan over medium heat. 
  8. When about 5 minutes remain on the meatballs, cut the baguettes in half lengthwise, place face-up on a baking sheet, and brush each half with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil. Place in the oven for about 4 minutes, or until lightly toasted. 
  9. To assemble the sandwiches, spoon desired amount of marinara sauce onto one half of each baguette. Top with 3-4 meatballs (or as many as will fit). Drizzle on desired amount of pesto cream, followed by a handful of mixed greens. Top with the other half of the baguette. 
  10. Each demi baguette sandwich serves 2 people, so this recipe as written serves 4. Feel free to scale up or down depending on the number of people you are serving or the size of everyone’s appetites!


As written, the sandwiches only require you to use 6-8 meatballs. I’ve intentionally made more meatballs and pesto cream than you will need for the sandwiches so that you can enjoy leftovers in different formats, like on top of zucchini noodles, cooked grains, or greens! Chickpea meatball salad, anyone?! 

*To make 1 cup of homemade bread crumbs, cube about 4 thick slices of whole grain sourdough/sprouted grain bread and toast in a 350 degree F oven for 5 minutes. Cool briefly, then transfer to a food processor fitted with the ‘S’ blade and blend until crumbs form. Measure to ensure that you have 1 cup before adding to the recipe. If you are short on time, you can use store-bought bread crumbs- just check the ingredients to make sure that they are simple and natural, as some can have some nasty additives and preservatives! 

Make it nut-free: Replace the cashews in the pesto cream with hemp hearts! 

  • Category: Dinner, Lunch, Sandwich
  • Cuisine: Vegan, Italian

Keywords: Vegan meatball sandwich, pesto cream, chickpea meatballs, Italian vegan