Blog, Cooking, Mediterranean Diet, Vegetarian

Red Lentil Balls (aka Meatless Meatballs)

This is a recipe I learned while living on the island of Aphrodite (aka Cyprus). We typically eat these handheld, flavorful balls in the summertime alongside watermelon and lounging by the pool or beach. Sounds like a hard life, right?

Red lentils and all forms of legumes are a wonderful part of the plant-based Mediterranean diet. In the West, we think of lentils in the form of soup or salad. I’m most familiar with green or black/brown (sometimes also called French) Lentils. But in actuality, there are a variety of different lentils that are consumed in various dishes. They include green lentils, red lentils, yellow  (chana dal) lentils, brown lentils, mung beans, and even related to kidney beans, soy beans and black eyed peas. They each have an important place in a natural, healthy Mediterranean diet.

Red lentils are probably the easiest to prepare, as they are the smallest, thinnest and quickest to cook. Unlike other legumes, red lentils do not need to be soaked overnight. However, like all beans/legumes, lentils should be rinsed and quickly inspected  for foreign particles or natural stones that may have slipped through the manufacturing process.

So, why replace typical meatballs with red lentil balls? Lentils are a high protein, low fat and calorie, cheap source of protein. They are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals and will not clog up your arteries like typical animal-based proteins. For more information on the health benefits of lentils and other legumes, take a look at Organic Fact’s site:

Red Lentil Balls 

Red Lentil Balls are a great meatless substitute for those looking for a hand-held, flavorful and protein-rich dinner. They are also colorful, aromatic and versatile. Pack these in picnic basket for an option to a traditional meal.


  • ½ cup of red lentils, rinsed
  • ½ cup of fine bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Handful of fresh or dried mint
  • Handful of fresh or dried Italian parsley
  • Seasonings to taste include: salt, black pepper and cumin, as desired


  1. Boil the lentils in a bit of salt until cooked, approximately 15 minutes
  2. When the lentils are still hot, place the bulgur, and leave to absorb the remaining water.
  3. Meanwhile, sauté the onions in olive oil. When translucent, add to the bulgur/lentils.
  4. Transfer all to a bowl and add yogurt, parsley, mint and spices. While still warm, begin to knead until well mixed.
  5. Shape the balls into flattened, handheld “sausage” shapes

Dipping Sauce

A nice dipping sauce for the Lentil Balls includes adding sliced parsley, dried chili flakes (for a bit of heat), lemon juice, salt and olive oil. Mix well and dip the lentil balls into them. Enjoy!

Another awesome dipping sauce that I love to use with these simple lentil balls is a Thai red sweet chili paste.

Go ahead and give it a try! I just delivered a course in my Mediterranean cooking class at James Madison University on these red lentil balls. The students LOVED them. I promise!

Got any other great legume recipes? I’d love to hear from you! Drop me a comment below or shoot me an email at

Unleash your Inner Aphrodite. . .


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