These chickpea meatballs pack a mighty flavor punch! Smothered in sweet and spicy firecracker sauce and served with a sprinkling of fresh chives, they’re perfect in a sandwich or for party snacking.
It’s totally a coincidence that I’m posting these meatballs the week before July 4th. But a happy coincidence, because these suckers are kind of perfect for Independence day. What better way to celebrate a holiday that involves pyrotechnics than with pyrotechnic-themed food? And they just happen to make a great alternative to veggie burgers!
What are Firecracker Meatballs?
I didn’t invent the concept of firecracker meatballs. They seem to be a big thing in the world of non-vegan food, and I just decided it was time for a vegan version.
Usually firecracker meatballs are made with chicken and smothered in super spicy sauce. There’s really no specific recipe for the sauce — some versions are similar to Buffalo sauce, some are Asian-inspired, and some are barbecue-ish.
How to Make Chickpea Meatballs
I went with one of my favorite chicken substitutes for my firecracker meatballs: chickpeas. “Chickpeas” sounds like “chicken” and that’s what makes them one of my favorite chicken substitutes. Brilliant, I know.
Chickpeas also happen to make great vegan meatballs.
Start by placing your chickpeas into a food processor bowl, along with some panko breadcrumbs, onion, garlic, and a handful of seasonings.
Pulse everything until the ingredients are finely chopped and well-mixed. Don’t overdo it or your meatballs will be mushy in the middle!
Roll your chickpea balls and place them on a baking sheet or in an oven-safe skillet. Lightly oil them so they brown, then bake them up!
While the balls bake you can heat up your sauce on the stove.
When the meatballs are done baking, pour the sauce over them.
Sprinkle with chives and serve!
FAQ & Firecracker Chickpea Meatball Tips
- Are these meatballs spicy? They sure are! Normally I offer tips for toning down the heat in spicy recipes, but spicy is kind of the whole point of these. Try one of my other vegan meatball recipes if you’d prefer something milder.
- Can these be made gluten-free? Try using gluten-free panko breadcrumbs and gluten-free tamari in place of soy sauce. You could also probably use certified gluten-free oat flour in place of the breadcrumbs, but I haven’t tested it with this recipe. My guess is that you’ll need to use a bit less.
- Make ahead options! Both the meatballs and sauce can be made ahead and stored together or separate (separate is better)! You can also blend up the chickpea mixture in advance and chill until you’re ready to use. Then on the day of serving, roll, bake, sauce, and serve!
- How should I serve my firecracker meatballs? They work great as an appetizer. I also love them on a sandwich with some vegan mayo (which helps dull the heat a bit).
- Why did my meatballs come out mushy? Usually that means you overblended the chickpea mixture. Go a little easier next time so that the mix retains some texture.
Firecracker Chickpea Meatballs
These chickpea meatballs pack a mighty flavor punch! Smothered in sweet and spicy firecracker sauce and served with a sprinkling of fresh chives, they're perfect in a sandwich or for party snacking.
For the Chickpea Meatballs
- 1 (14 ounce or 400 gram) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Black pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon canola oil, or high-heat oil of choice
For the Firecracker Sauce
- 2 tablespoons chilled water
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/2 cup vinegar-based hot sauce (preferably Frank's brand)
- 1/3 cup organic brown sugar
- 1/4 cup water (this is in addition to the chilled water listed above)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- Fresh chives
To Make the Chickpea Meatballs
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Place the chickpeas, breadcrumbs, onion, garlic, soy sauce, paprika, cumin and black pepper into the bowl of a food processor fitted with an s-blade.
Pulse the food processor until the ingredients are finely chopped and well mixed. Don't overblend or your meatballs will be mushy.
Lightly oil a baking sheet or oven safe skillet with about half of the oil.
Roll the chickpea mixture into 1 1/2 inch balls (you should get about 16 of them).
Arrange the balls on the baking sheet and lightly brush the tops with the remaining oil.
Bake the meatballs for about 30 minutes, turning them halfway through, until lightly browned.
To Make the Firecracker Sauce
Whisk the cornstarch and chilled water together in a small dish or bowl.
Stir the remaining ingredients together in a small saucepan.
Set the pan over medium heat.
Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat and allow it to simmer for about 10 minutes.
Stir in the cornstarch mixture and continue simmering until the mixture thickens up slightly, about 1 minute.
Pour the sauce over the meatballs and gently stir until the meatballs are evenly coated.
Sprinkle with chives and serve.