Healthy Black Bean Meatballs

 

 
Black beans and other legumes are great alternatives to meat.

 

Short of taking vitamins, supplements or statins, what’s the best option to lower your cholesterol? Start by supplementing your diet with natural foods like beans and other legumes and whole grains. One of the easiest ways to do that is find recipes that aim to eliminate meat, especially red meat from your diet. That’s why I like this easy recipe for black bean meatballs. Not only do I get all the benefits that come from eating beans, but these meatless meatballs taste so good I don’t even notice I’m skipping beef.

 

A bite of my black bean meatballs.

I never expected these meatless meatballs to taste so good.

Truth be told, I ate meat nearly every day for years and years. Then I woke up to middle age and the fact my cholesterol was spiking. When my doctor suggested I go on statins to counteract it, I wanted to know my options. It turns out exercise and diet are the best ways to counteract high cholesterol (not to mention weight loss, diabetes, etc.) Naturally, I went right out and started looking for meat alternatives.

 

This can of black beans has plenty of good dietary fiber.

Got beans? Black beans are high in protein and fiber and low in fat.

One of the startling facts I uncovered was just how good black beans are for my health. A half-cup of black beans contains less than a gram of fat, no cholesterol, a single gram of sugar and 6 grams of dietary fiber! It’s all that fiber and low sugar content that help maintain my overall cholesterol and keep my blood sugar from spiking. If none of that makes sense to you, all you need to remember is black beans are good for you. And there’s even better news, since you can substitute them for meat in recipes or add them to all kinds of foods like casseroles, salads or even desserts.

 

 

To be fair, no strictly vegan or vegetarian recipe may satisfy those who feel they must have meat at every meal. And in spite of the fact these “meatballs” were a hit at our house, no doubt some will say they don’t have the right consistency, or the taste just can’t compare to real beef. We found them filling, but without the fat overload you get eating hamburger. They were also surprisingly delicious. One note: The interior texture can get a little mushy if the onions or other ingredients you use contain too much liquid.

 

Let’s start cooking. If you want a basic print copy of today’s recipe click here. Otherwise follow along below.

 

Ingredients

 

Gathering the ingredients for my cholesterol fighting meatless meatballs.

There's no meat in these meatballs. Just heart-healthy goodness.

1 can (or 2 cups cooked black beans) chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 cup finely chopped mushrooms (about 3 or 4 medium sized caps)
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan or other cheese
1 teaspoon no-salt seasoning
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 tablespoon Dijon or other mustard
Olive oil for sautéing

 

Preparation

 

Cutting up my black beans.

If you use a food processor to to cut up your beans don't overdo it.

If you have a food processor you can use it to chop up the onions, mushrooms and beans. However, do each separately and don’t just set it on puree. I found it’s very easy to turn it all to paste. You only want to pulse a few times so you still have small chunks of everything.

 

Rinsing my black beans.

I usually use canned beans for the convenience and then rinse them with water.

If you cook your beans yourself, allow adequate time and follow the instructions on the package. Otherwise, if you use a can of beans, start by rinsing them in a strainer. Give them a few minutes to drip dry. Then use your food processor or a knife to chunk them up.

 

I sauted these with heart-healthy olive oil.

Lightly saute the mushrooms and onions to reduce the water content.

 

 

After cutting them up, I lightly sautéed my onions and mushrooms in a little olive oil before adding them in. This helps cook off some of the excess moisture.

 

 

Once the onions and mushrooms are ready, combine all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl.

 

Making up my meatballs.

With the onions and mushrooms ready, it's time to put it all together.

 

I used the Costco brand of No-Salt seasoning, but something like Mrs. Dash should work just as well. I like the no-salt seasoning as there’s already salt in the beans (if canned) not to mention the ketchup and soy sauce. If you’re uncertain your mix has the right flavoring, try cooking one or two meatballs and do a taste test before committing the rest to the pan. You can always add salt or other spice as needed.

 

Use no-salt seasoning. Cut extra salt from your diet.

I bought a big jar of no-salt seasoning at Costco. It was hard to beat the price and I like the combination of spices.

Stir the ingredients with a wooden or plastic spoon or just dive in with clean hands. The mix may seem a little wet at first. Let it sit a few minutes to allow the oatmeal and bread crumbs to absorb some of the moisture. Alternatively, you can mix this up ahead of time and put it in the refrigerator for an hour or two. If you do refrigerate, you’ll need to allow the mix to warm back up before cooking or the center of your meatballs may not heat sufficiently.

 

It only takes a few minutes per side to cook these up. It goes quick.

Put a little oil in the pan with your meatballs. Use olive oil. It's better for you.

Shape balls so they end up to be an inch or so in diameter. If they’re too thick they cook unevenly. Heat a little olive oil in a pan and then drop them carefully in one at a time. Turn them every few minutes to brown on all sides. I used a set of metal tongs for this. If making lots of meatballs sounds like too much work, just form the mix into patties about a half-inch thick instead. These do make excellent burgers! Avoid excessive flipping—less is better as it avoids breaking the patties into pieces.

 

You get no bread with only one meatball.

This baby's ready to eat. It's a good thing. I'm hungry. Mmm...delicious!

These meatballs were great with a green salad, but you could always make up a little gravy and serve them with brown rice or whole grain pasta.

 

Once you try this, you may decide to add other spices or ingredients. If you want a crunchier texture, try adding nuts, pine nuts or sunflower seeds. And as far as spices go there’s really no limit—everything from cumin, to chili powder, garlic—whatever appeals to your palette.

 

For additional information on the health benefits of black beans check out this link at World’s Healthiest foods. And for a good article on statins and whether they might be right for your fight against cholesterol check out this article from the Mayo Clinic.

 

Enjoy!

 

You can even use black beans in dessert.

Try these easy black bean brownies.

Do you love brownies? Worried they aren’t good for you? You can make them healthier by using black beans. Check out our super Easy Black Bean Brownie recipe by clicking here.

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