Flavours of India: Dhal Aloo Kofta (vegan ‘meat’balls)

For more on the flavors of India series, check out: Aloo Palak, Payasam Pudding, Gluten-free naan and Malai Kofta.

A dish called malai kofta was one of the 6 meals we chose to make during our Indian cooking class. I’d never heard of it, but the name sounded cool so I shrugged it off and just went along for the ride.

The recipe started with dicing 2 slices of wonder bread, followed by boiling a potato and cutting a bunch of cheese (hehe not that kinda cheese). I was instructed to pinch the dough together and add a bit of water to the mix until it stuck together easily.

Then we pressed the mixture into two cones and deep fried them. At this point I still wasn’t really sure what we were making.

After the balls were finished frying, I was instructed to drop them in a turmeric sauce.

It was then that I clued in… did we just make vegetable ‘meat’balls in sauce? Why did we have to fry them? Where can a girl get a darn oven around these parts? Can we make them again and replace the bread with a potato to make gluten-free ‘meat’balls? Oh, and remove the cheese, too so they’ll be gluten-free vegan ‘meat’balls?

The instructor wasn’t too keen on the suggestions I was making on how we could update the authentic recipe to something a little healthier. Little did he know that that’s what I do for a living, but I decided to keep that part to myself and just dream up all the things I was going to do with the recipe when I got home.

The end result; malai kofta (veggie balls in sauce), looks like this:

The sauce is sooooo good. We’ll get to the full recipe tomorrow, complete with my first attempt at gluten-free naan. Ya, I said it, NAAN! But today we talk about the kofta which in English translates to meatballs and in the case of this recipe, vegan ‘meat’balls.

You generally won’t see kofta all by itself but rather in a sauce like the picture above. I just felt like they were so versatile and really deserved a post of their own. You can eat as is, make an Indian inspired vegan ‘meat’ball sub, add to your favorite rice dish, or stay tuned for tomorrow’s malai kofta recipe!

Dhal Aloo Kofta (Vegan ‘Meat’balls)

Vegan, Gluten free, Dairy free, Sugar free, Yeast free, Corn free, Grain free

The word kofta is derived from Persian kūfta which means “to beat” or “to grind” or meatball. The kofta in India is generally made vegetarian by replacing the ground meat with a variety of vegetables and cheeses. In my homemade rendition I chose to use lentils (aka dhal) and potato (aloo).

Koftas can be grilled, fried, steamed, poached, baked or marinated, and are usually served with a creamy spicy sauce; otherwise known as malai.

Yield: 20 golf ball-size gluten-free vegan ‘meat’balls

Servings: 4

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups diced potatoes (do not peel), boiled for 10-12 minutes
  • 1 cup cooked green lentils or peas
  • 1 cup diced cauliflower, boiled for 5 minutes
  • 1 cup diced carrots, boiled for 5 minutes
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon fresh garlic, diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, diced
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon Himalayan rock salt
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon chaat masala
  • 2 teaspoon grapeseed oil + 2 tablespoon for rolling
  • 1 tablespoon chickpea flour

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon baking mat.
  2. Place 2 tablespoons of the grapeseed oil on a small plate and set aside.
  3. Add all ingredients to a large bowl and mash with a potato masher until incorporated. There can be large pieces of vegetables left intact, just make sure the mixture squeezes together nicely.
  4. Work dough into golf ball-size balls, rolling each in the plate with oil, just until coated. This will help the balls stay moist on the inside and crisp on the outside without having to deep fry them. Place each ball on the prepared baking sheet.
  5. Cook for 22-25 minutes, or until golden.

View nutrition info

I’ve had my fair share of store-bought veggie burgers, tofu patties, and faux meatballs in my lifetime. As a vegan, I remember thinking that eating faux meat was what vegans did. For years I enjoyed my veggie tacos, dogs, chili, and pasta without ever caring to check the ingredients.

After a couple of years of eating like this I began to see the affects of my highly processed diet. Until that moment, I’d never considered the possibility that my diet could be connected to my overall health. A bit of researching on the topic lead me to a new plan: eat more veggies and polish off a jar of chunky almond butter per week to make sure I was getting enough protein. Yes, there were a lot of holes in the plan, but I suppose it was the lesser of the two evils!

If someone would have shared this recipe with me back then I’m sure it would have changed my life. If anything, it would have made that 230th jar of almond butter a bit more bearable.

What foods have you eaten in the past that you shifted away from when you learned that they weren’t good for you or didn’t work well for your body?

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  1. This looks so delicious! Indian food is one of my favorite types of cuisine, but I haven’t been successful at making it at home. I am going to give this recipe a shot though. It looks amazing; I can’t wait to see the sauce recipe. I really try to stay away from dairy and gluten. I can tolerate them in small doses, but when I eat too much of either, I don’t feel great. That is why I love all your vegan/ gluten-free recipes. :)

  2. Wow, very cool re-creation Leanne! I never really ate much kofta in Bahrain because I’m not a red meat eater, but I had no idea that you could sub in a ton of veggies and create (almost) the same thing! Can’t wait to try that sauce!! :)

  3. I know what you mean about the processed fake meats and other vegan products! It seems like eating such products negates any benefits one believes might come from eating vegan.
    I am definitely excited to try these, they look great and I am always on the hunt for a good meatless entree.

  4. Hi Leanne,
    Wonderful version of malai koftas. Restaurants make Malai Koftas with lots of paneer and potatoes, fry the koftas and dunk those balls in a sauce made with cream and spices. I love your version. When I make at home, I make koftas with just vegetables and no paneer. I steam these vege balls like dumpling and dunk them in a sauce without cream. This is my skinny version. I’ll surely try the baked version with dhal and aloo. Thanks for the recipe :) Glad you’re developing healthy versions of some not-so-healthy Indian recipes.

  5. The pic of the hands is gorgeous…at all the food/photography workshops I’ve taken, there is always focus on the hands; to tell a story, to give motion to an otherwise static picture, the details, etc…and you have it all in that shot. Beautiful!

    • That’s so interesting, Averie! It’s so great that you’ve gotten to take attend a various amount of workshops. I can see why hands would be such a focal point, they really do share a story! Takes me right back to that kitchen in India.

  6. It looks so good!! I’m guessing if I used peas, it would taste similar to samosa! or no? haha

    • hmm I don’t think so, the spices are a bit different in samosa. From what I’ve learned in Indian cooking (so far) is that even the slightest variation in spice and you have a completely different dish! It’d be pretty close though!

  7. Darn.. was hoping to make tonight. Have everything but cauliflower and chaat marsala. will pick up at Indian store tomorrow. And pinning this recipe to come back to. the sauce looks fairly easy to make, too. cool.

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