Vegan sweet and sour tempeh meatballs from scratch are easier than you think! These make the perfect dinner when served over rice with some steamed broccoli on the side.
There was only one way that my mom could force me to eat meat when I was a kid, and that was when she served meatballs smothered in her famous sweet and sour sauce. A couple of months ago, while going through old recipe cards, I came upon her recipe. I knew that making an inspired vegan version was well within reach, and I am very excited to share it with you today!
I used my original tempeh meatballs recipe as a base, but added some Asian flair with ginger, tamari, toasted sesame oil, sriracha, and rice vinegar. The sweet and sour sauce is very similar to my mom’s recipe, but I swapped out the brown sugar for coconut sugar and the cornstarch for arrowroot, since I know many folks are sensitive to corn. When served on a bed of rice with some steamed broccoli on the side, these sweet and sour tempeh meatballs make a complete and very satisfying vegan meal!
to make these sweet and sour tempeh meatballs, you’ll:
- Make the meatballs: Pulse together tempeh, cilantro, garlic, ginger, chili flakes, salt, pepper, flax “eggs,” toasted sesame oil, tamari, vegan Worcestershire sauce, sriracha (or any hot sauce you like), rice vinegar, and sesame seeds in a food processor.
- Form the mixture into 16 meatballs and bake at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes.
- While the meatballs are baking, make the sweet and sour sauce: In a skillet, saute onion and garlic. In a medium saucepan, whisk together water, rice vinegar, coconut sugar, tamari, ketchup, ground ginger, and ½ cup of pineapple juice (from the canned pineapple that you’ll be adding at the end) over medium heat.
- In a small dish, whisk together arrowroot starch and ¼ cup of water to form a slurry.
- Pour the sauce over the sauteed onion and garlic and whisk in the arrowroot slurry. The sauce will start to thicken. Add the reserved canned pineapple chunks.
- You can either add the meatballs to the sauce or simply spoon the sauce over individual portions as desired.
I hope you love this recipe! It’s the perfect warming meal for a rainy spring day. 🙂 If you make it, let me know how you liked it by leaving a comment and rating below the recipe. And if you remember to snap a picture before you eat, tag @upbeet.kitchen and #upbeetkitchen on Instagram! I love re-gramming your creations in my stories.
Sweet and Sour Tempeh Meatballs
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Diet: Vegan
Asian-inspired tempeh meatballs topped with addictive homemade sweet and sour sauce! The perfect hearty and high-protein vegan main dish.
- 2 tbsp ground flax plus 5 tablespoon water
- 500 grams organic tempeh (1 standard block is 250 grams, so you will need 2 blocks of tempeh)
- 1 cup finely chopped cilantro
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
- Pinch of chili flakes
- Pinch each fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 tbsp tamari (I used reduced sodium tamari)
- ½ tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce (I recommend Wizard’s brand or Whole Foods 365 brand)
- 1 tbsp sriracha (regular hot sauce such as Frank’s also works)
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- ¼ cup sesame seeds
Sweet and Sour Sauce
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- Pinch each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup water, divided
- ¼ cup rice vinegar (can sub apple cider vinegar)
- 3 tbsp coconut sugar
- 2 tbsp tamari
- 6 tbsp ketchup
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- 1 10-oz can pineapple chunks, juice reserved
- 2 tbsp arrowroot starch
- Cooked rice (enough to serve 4)
- Steamed broccoli or kale (enough to serve 4)
- Make the tempeh meatballs: First, make the flax egg. In a small bowl, whisk together the flax and water and set aside for a couple minutes to thicken. Place all of the remaining meatball ingredients in a food processor fitted with the S blade and add the flax egg. Pulse until everything is nicely minced and the mixture holds together when rolled into a ball.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the tempeh mixture into 16 evenly sized balls and place on the baking sheet as you go. Bake for 25 minutes.
- Make the sweet and sour sauce: Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute until nicely browned, 8-10 minutes.
- Add ¾ cup of water, the rice vinegar, coconut sugar, tamari, ketchup, ginger, and ½ cup of the reserved pineapple juice to a medium saucepan. Bring to a low simmer over medium heat.
- In a small dish, whisk together the remaining ¼ cup of water and arrowroot starch to form a slurry.
- Add the contents of the medium saucepan to the onions and garlic in the skillet. Whisk in the arrowroot starch slurry, followed by the pineapple chunks. Shortly after adding the arrowroot, the sauce should thicken. (At this point, keep the sauce warm, but be careful not to overheat it, as this could cause the arrowroot to break down and lose its thickening power.)
- For serving, you have a couple of options. You can either add the meatballs to the sauce, as pictured, or you can plate the meatballs and spoon the sauce over individual portions. Either way, I recommend serving these meatballs on a bed of rice, with some steamed broccoli or kale on the side. 🙂
I have not tried swapping out the tempeh for any other protein, but if you are intolerant to soy, I have a feeling that 3 cups of cooked black beans, chickpeas, or kidney beans could be substituted. You can also swap out the tamari for coconut aminos, but you will have to add more salt, since coconut aminos are much lower in sodium than tamari.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: Supper
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: Chinese American
Keywords: vegan sweet and sour meatballs, tempeh meatballs, healthy sweet and sour sauce
I love meatballs but since I became vegan two years ago I have missing them. Finally I came across here – WOW, totally amazing and very satisfying!
Yay, I’m so happy to hear that, Dave!
Allison, these meatballs are fantastic! A terrific recipe for my tempeh-resistant family. :). Thank you.
That’s wonderful to hear!! Thank you so much, Sue! 🙂