Meatballs Are the Zero-Waste Answer to Veggie Leftovers

Meatballs Are Our Zero-Waste Dinner

Let’s be real—few of us are endeavoring to whip up Michelin-worthy weeknight dinners. Instead, we’re trying to get something on the table that’s replicable, delicious, and makes use of what’s already in our fridge. That’s why we’re super open to the simple, zero-waste beauty of meatballs, which absorb leftover herbs and veggies like the little flavor orbs they were meant to be.

Have a bunch of leftover parsley, oregano, or sage wilting in a glass jar? Our vegan meatball sub has got you, with many herbs easily swapping in for basil. Need to use up half a giant can of white beans or pintos? Swap ’em in for the black beans in our vegan meatballs recipe. These recipes are that forgiving, meaning you can experiment and rest easy knowing that fewer food items are going into your waste bin.

And more than that, we find rolling up these vegan meatballs to be just plain fun. There’s something akin to a kindergarten art project about getting in there and shaping up these little mounds of goodness. Everyone loves a good old nostalgia-inspiring meatball, but these new-school meatballs show us how to flex our flexitarian muscles while rolling up tiny sustainable kitchen miracles.

Photo shows three plant-based meatball subs on Italian bread
An Italian-American classic made perfectly plant-based. | Amanda Castillo for LIVEKINDLY

Vegan meatball sub

This plant-based version of the classic Italian-American sando rolls up Impossible vegan ground beef, holding it all together with breadcrumbs and flavoring it with a slew of Italian seasonings. If you ever questioned sandwiches for dinner, make this one with some fresh Italian bread and a heaping of vegan parm. Cue the film Moonstruck, and you’ve got the perfect themed evening.

Photo shows a plate of vegan meatballs on top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese
Serve these with your favorite pasta. | Luce Hoser for LIVEKINDLY.

Vegan meatballs

You can be picky about beans when you’re eating them solo, but this recipe forgives you if you want to slide in a substitute for the black beans or chickpeas. Add walnuts and mushrooms to the mix, adjust the texture as needed with breadcrumbs, and you’ve got a proper meaty texture with just the right mix of umami-packed elements. Do these little wonders up with some pasta or go Swedish with mashed potatoes and whatever jam you have on hand.

Photo shows fried potato bowls served alongside a creamy dip
These dippable snacks are crispy on the outside with a creamy potato interior. | Ivy Miller for LIVEKINDLY

Potato balls

These potato balls are a little more work, but we’ve got a word to the wise for you. Add a little vegan ground beef to the center, and you’ve got a complete, protein-packed meal. Plus, if you’ve got a baby deep fryer, an air fryer, or a wok, these are easier to get cooking. Get out that potato ricer or masher and get going on these fragrant, hearty babies spiced with paprika, nutmeg, and pepper.