Good Food Good Vibes, Science-based Health.

No Thanks
Eat Well Oct. 6. 2015

Spaghetti Squash and Chickpea Meatballs

Oct. 6. 2015
McKel Hill, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Hill, MS, RDN, LDN


A hearty gluten-free chickpea meatball served in al dente spaghetti squash boats.

It’s fall and I feel like we’re all about comfort food right now. I know you can relate to getting back into routines of fall, but for me, life has been going a million miles a minute lately. I’m feeling like so much is going on, NS is growing, and my time is being stretched to the max leaving me wanting nutrient-dense food that’s fast, simple, and satisfying. I often talk about how food is far more than fuel in my book; it’s social, it’s comfort, it’s love, it’s fun, it’s all of those things if we manage from a place of balance. So naturally when things get a little crazy and all I want is a hearty, warming bowl of pasta with meatballs…I turn to this one. I thank my mom for inspiring this recipe because she makes a mean spaghetti and meatballs, yet I haven’t had them in like 10 years since being meat free. I hope you get the same enjoyment and nourishment from Spaghetti Squash and Chickpea Meatballs as I have lately!

What is spaghetti squash?

Depending on where you live, you might’ve never had this fun squash before. I hope that you can get your hands on it at least once, especially with this recipe since it highlights the whole “spaghetti thang”. You could guess that just like other squash, spaghetti squash is a great source of fiber (about 5g in 2 cups cooked) and is perfect for when you’re really craving a huge bowl of pasta yet don’t want to go overboard on carbohydrates, which is so easy to do with regular pasta. Spaghetti squash is yellow, which is a good indicator of which antioxidants and vitamins it has (think carrots) and contains vitamin A, C, B vitamins, manganese, copper, potassium, iron, and calcium. The seeds, just like a pumpkin, can also be roasted and used as a topping or garnish if you like. After the squash has been baked, you take a fork and scrape the flesh of the squash starting from the sides towards the middle. This breaks up the fibers (aka noodles) from the squash and gives it it’s famous texture! It’s that simple. Bake, scrape, eat.

The spaghetti squash is one thing…but these chickpea meatballs are on a whole NOTHA level. I first made this recipe, scratch that, I first attempted to make a chickpea meatball recipe in college and could never get the texture just right. It wasn’t until I started experimenting with putting eggs in the meatball (just like my mom does) that I found the perfect texture. You can make these completely vegan if you like by using a flax egg, or use the 1 egg I highly recommend here.

A couple of things to keep in mind with these chickpea meatballs: traditionally when my mom makes meatballs she’ll bake them for a bit and then pan fry them with a touch of olive oil until they’re crispy on the outside. Then she adds in the marinara sauce and lets them finish cooking and soak up more moisture from the sauce. Since these are completely meat free, you have to think about the loss of fat when cooking which means a loss of moisture without the naturally occurring fat from those animal proteins. No worries, though, since it’s super simple to add in healthy fat from olive oil, use eggs as a binder, and keep the herbs and spices relatively traditional. The chickpeas and nutritional yeast that I use in these meatballs also make these packed with protein!

You can also make this recipe into boats by using the “shell” of the baked squash as a serving bowl! I love making boats out of food… like stuffing sweet potatoes for dessert, filling fresh papaya with more fruit, loading up zucchini with pizza toppings, and now one of my fall favorites–the spaghetti squash!

Other ways to enjoy these Chickpea Meatballs…which I highly recommend you try out:

  • Make a meatball sub with bread or low carbohydrate using a lettuce wrap (best to serve the meatballs chilled in this example)
  • Ditch the marinara sauce and make them Indian style with my Mint Chutney (trust me it’s crazy good!)
  • Crumble on top of a hearty salad for a boost of protein
  • Serve as an appetizer with friends and a side of hot marinara sauce for dipping
  • Sliced in half for a meatball sandwich

Let me know what you think when you give this recipe a go! Leave a comment and rate it. I love seeing what you come up with so don’t forget to take a picture and tag it #nutritionstripped on Instagram!

xx McKel

The Recipe

Serves 18 meatballs (3-4 servings)



1 spaghetti squash

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup chopped sweet onion

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

1/4 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup hemp seeds

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

1/4 cup chopped dry sun-dried tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon sea salt, adjust to taste

Pinch of red pepper flakes, adjust to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, adjust to taste

1, 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and dried



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, poke holes all around the entire spaghetti squash. Place the squash directly on the rack of your preheated oven and cook for 45 minutes or until a knife easily goes through the skin. Take out of the oven and slice the squash in half, longways, be careful it’s hot! Scoop the seeds and center out, discard or roast the seeds as an option. Using a fork, gently scrape the sides of the squash until all the flesh is in ribbons. Set aside.

In a medium heated skillet, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and onion. Saute for 2-4 minutes until they start to soften; add minced garlic with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes until fragrant.

In a food processor or blender, combine the sauteed onions and garlic with nutritional yeast, hemp seeds, egg, chopped walnuts, oats, basil, sun dried tomatoes, oregano, sea salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, remaining olive oil (2 tablespoons), and chickpeas. Pulse together until the mixture comes.

Pour this mixture out into a large mixing bowl. Adjust seasonings to taste before you start rolling these into about 1 tablespoon balls. Use a little olive oil or water to coat your hands to prevent the chickpea meatballs from sticking, repeat until all of the batter are in balls.

Using the same skillet you sauteed onions in, add in 1 tablespoon olive oil just to cover the bottom of the pan, add chickpea meatballs to cover the bottom and cook on medium until the outside is golden brown, about 5 minutes each side. Be gentle when flipping over each chickpea meatball so it doesn’t lose form. Use a baking sheet with parchment and paper towels to drain any excess oil

To serve: Place chickpea meatballs into the center of the squash halves with the spaghetti squash noodles inside already, pour your favorite heated marinara sauce on top and garnish with fresh torn basil

Another option, to take out all the spaghetti squash noodles into 1 large serving bowl and mix all the chickpea meatballs and sauce on top. This is great for serving a large group at once. Otherwise, serve individually and reheat meatballs in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes or until warm.


Chickpeas: may use dried beans that have been soaked and cooked overnight. Organic canned beans are a quick, simple, and affordable option
Bake: You can bake the chickpea meatballs instead of pan searing them, bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until firm and golden brown.



NS Society

Simple Spirulina Smoothie | Nutrition Stripped #recipe

Seabreeze Spirulina Smoothie

The Best Black Bean Burger | Nutrition Stripped #recipe #glutenfree #vegetarian

The Best Black Bean Burger

Gluten-free lunch idea: Turkey Avocado Greens Wrap | Nutrition Stripped

Turkey Avocado Greens Wrap

Exclusive online nutrition resources and recipes — a $5.99 monthly subscription to know more about living well.

Join Now

Did you try it out?

Share Your Thoughts & Images

  • Beth E

    Yum! I’m going to try this tonight, using the chickpea brine (aquafaba) in place of the egg.

  • emily

    mmm !

    wondering if you could substitute ground flax seeds for the hemp seeds … ?

  • I really love this recipe! I’ve tried to make a vegan meatball for years now with no avail. I think my mistake was overlooking chick peas! I’ve made falafel before for 75 people! But when baked, they turned out really dry. I will definitely try this recipe as both meatballs, and with my own twist for falafel and let you know how it goes!

    • Yes! Chickpeas are so great for binding, same with the flax egg. I hope you love these Kathy! xx

  • This has my name written all over it! So delicious. And love the simplicity of the ingredients 🙂 xx

    p.s. love your plates – where do you find those?

  • Those meatballs look so yummy! Spaghetti squash is my favorite, but I’ve never tried to make meatballs to go with them!

  • Yum! I love spaghetti squash and cannot wait to try these chickpea meatballs!

  • Tasha

    This is amazing!! One of my new favorites!!!!

  • Love it! I made mine without the hemp seeds + extra oatmeal and it turned out great 🙂 Actually just finished up the leftovers for lunch today 😉 Thanks for the inspiration McKel!

  • Kaitlyn

    This was great! Just finished it, it smelled so delicious and had great flavor and texture. Two big thumbs up!

  • Adriane

    I used a big spoonful of canned pumpkin in place of the egg it worked fantastic!

    • Great tip for others looking for a vegan option! Thanks for sharing and trying it out 😉

  • Kelsey

    We made this last night and seriously it is amazing! We just had the leftovers tonight and I’m wishing there was more. I have been craving meat throughout my current pregnancy, normally a vegetarian, and these meatballs satisfy the meat craving so well! Even my very carnivorous husband loves them! Thank you thank you for an awesome recipe!!

    • Oh I’m so happy to hear that Kelsey! What a beautiful way to nourish your body and satisfy your cravings 😉

  • LeeAnn

    Do you think they would hold up ok without the oats? Or do you have a fully grain free alternative that would help bind it?

    • Great question, yes they hold up without the oats, they tend to get a bit more crumbly so just be careful when you flip them in the pan, but they still taste amazing! x

  • Nashville native currently living in LA! I found out about your site through Renee Hall! Absolutely LOVE your site! Diving right in to the Spaghetti squash and chickpea meatballs ASAP! Thanks for sharing your love of food, nutrition, and overall health and beauty!

    XO Khara

    • Thanks for the sweet words Khara! So glad you enjoy that recipe, it’s my new favorite! xx

  • GL

    We loved this recipe. I am going to make these again and double the recipe and freeze them while I still have fresh basil growing. I also reserved some of the mixture and made veggie burger patties (the equivalent for 3 meatballs was a perfect amount for each patty.) I served the burgers on whole wheat buns with marinara sauce, provolone cheese, sliced black olives and onion and bell pepper strips. Thank you so much for such a wonderful and healthy recipe.

    • That’s an awesome idea GL, freezing them is perfect for having ready made meals later 😉

  • Lucy Call

    Great recipe!! This was so satisfying and savory–and so much fun to make!! I wish I had read down to the bottom and baked them, though these meat(less) balls were still delicious on the stovetop! I replaced the egg with ground chia seed, and it still worked like a charm 😀

    • I’m so happy you liked it Lucy! It’s a new favorite of mine as well. Thanks for sharing how the chia egg worked! xx

  • Liza

    Hey! I tried this and pretty sure I used the wrong kind of nutritional yeast….can you share what brand/ where you buy? Is it the packets? How many packets? It smelled good but it rose like bread so it ended up being a fail. I think I may have grabbed a packet of the fast acting which is why it didn’t work 🙂 Thanks so much!!!

    • Oh goodness, yes you used yeast! Nutritional yeast is far different than yeast – it’s not active! Check out this page for more details on what nutritional yeast is, you’ll love it once you try it xx

  • Nancy

    This recipe sounds amazing! One question, what exactly is “nutritional” yeast & where would you buy it?

  • This was surprisingly delicious! I knew it would be, but I was still pleasantly surprised 🙂 A bit of a pain in the booty with the million ingredients, but it was worth it! I chose to bake them so they fell apart pretty quick in the bowl, but I didn’t mind- almost gave it a ground beef texture! (Which will be helpful when I make these again for my very meat-centric boyfriend).

    • Yes, this is one of those reasons why I’m a huge believe in properly stocking your kitchen with whole food ingredients! It makes it easier down the road. I’m happy you enjoyed these overall! They do start to crumble when you eat, not like a “meat”ball but it’s delicious 😉

  • KC

    Made these with the flax egg version and LOVED them!!!

  • Kriss Sargent

    I tried this last night and my partner and I loved it! We believe in eating whole and real time fresh food which made this recipe easy to make because our fridge and pantry had all the ingredients. i followed the recipe to the T, except I used coconut oil to pan cook the meat balls. The ingredient portions were spot on, which provided a very flavorful meatless ball. Your recipes keep me coming back. I can’t wait to share with my friends. Thank you McKel!

    • Thank you so much for sharing Kriss, happy you two enjoyed this recipe! It’s been a weekly staple for me for months now!

  • Rachael

    Pinned this recipe when you first posted it, and I finally made it last night! I made a double batch so that I could freeze some for later, but I only had one can of chickpeas on hand so I used that plus one can of cannellini beans. The substitution worked great! I baked them on a lightly oiled baking sheet, and they got brown and crispy on the bottom and did not stick very much at all. I did not have any issues with them crumbling, possibly because I processed the mixture quite a bit (it was like a thick paste). I served them as suggested, and they tasted wonderful. They were not too dry, either, even though I cut down on the oil a bit. For freezing, I formed half of the batch into balls and placed them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, which I then stuck in the freezer overnight. This morning, I popped the frozen balls off the sheet and into a storage container and back into the freezer. Already daydreaming of eating the next batch! 🙂

    • McKel Hill

      So happy that you enjoyed these Rachel and that you made a huge batch! You’re a meal prep pro- have you joined the Society yet!? We’re all about the prep.

  • Lynn

    This recipe knocked it out of the park. My carnivore husband said he will give up meat if meatballs can taste like this. It was great. Thank you!

    • McKel Hill

      Haha, that’s quite the compliment! Woo, you found a winner 😉 xM

  • Barbara

    I am staying away from the night shade plants as they are inflammatory for arthritis. Since I have given up eating tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplant and peppers, the arthritis in my hands has diminished. What could you use as a substitute for the sundries tomatoes in you chickpea meatball recipe? Barbara

    • McKel Hill

      If you don’t like sundried tomatoes or don’t eat them, you can simply leave them out. I don’t know how spaghetti will taste without tomatoes though- tomatoes are beautiful foods! : )

  • Amberly

    Can the oats be replaced with another gluten free option?

    • McKel Hill

      You can use brown rice flour!

  • Jessica

    This looks amazing. Do I flip the meatballs twice or four times?

    • McKel Hill

      Until each side is brown so a couple times!

  • Faith

    My daughter is allergic to wheat and corn (tomatoes as well) thank you for the recipe trying to come up with fun and tasty things for her to eat is a chore. Definitely going to try this out sometime this week minus the tomatoes.

    • McKel Hill

      Would love to hear how she likes it Faith! Thanks for sharing xxM

  • Kaitlyn

    I have to say, I’ve made this twice and it’s been AMAZING both times. It’s much easier if you have a big food processor – I used my Vitamix the second time and it was much harder to get an evenly pulsed mixture – but still totally delicious. Definitely don’t skimp on the basil and sundried tomatoes, because they add a big punch of flavor. Keep the recipes coming, McKel!

  • Cassidy

    These ‘meatballs’ are to.die.for. ! I had a few left over in the freezer from my first batch and was so excited to find them for lunch today! Will be making again. Xoxo!

    • McKel Hill

      So glad you enjoyed these Cassidy! They’re so good aren’t they- next time try them as a sandwich too! 😉

  • Michelle

    Looks interesting but I can’t have nuts, can the walnuts be left out? Or is there a substitute?

    • McKel Hill

      Try sunflower seeds!

  • Michelle

    This looks interesting but I am allergic to nuts. Can you omit the nuts or suggest an alternative?

    • McKel Hill

      You can use sunflower seeds!

  • Courtney

    This is my husband and i’s favorite. We bake the chickpea balls and rotate the sauce we use. It’s insanely good!! This will not disappoint.

    • McKel Hill

      So glad you two enjoy it Courtney! It’s one of my favorite recipes from the blog as well- something I make time and time again 😉

  • Jo Anna Kitchen

    What could I sub for the nutritional yeast, can’t have it so my MS doc says???

    • You don’t have to use it in this recipe if you can’t have it- it gives it a “cheesy” flavor and a boost of protein!

  • Divya Nivedita

    Thanks for sharing the recipe of “Spaghetti Squash and Chickpea Meatballs”.To make this recipe more delicious shop fresh meat online in hyderabad and prepare this wonderful recipe at home.Get more details at https://www.minzmeat.in

  • krscookin

    Could you do the meatballs grain-free? What would you substitute for the oats? Or would it work leaving them out?

    • Great question! You can try them with shredded coconut instead (sounds really weird) but that’s the only thing I can think of working! It’s such a small amount of oats– hope that helps!

  • Pingback: The Ultimate Gluten Free Biscuits | Nutrition Stripped()

  • Pingback: Blissed Out Black Bean Burger | Nutrition Stripped gluten-free veg burger()

  • Pingback: The Best Mini Gluten Free Bread Rolls | Nutrition Stripped()

  • Pingback: The Best Mini Gluten Free Bread Rolls | World Food Links()

  • Pingback: Beyond Hummus: 7 Nutritious Ways to Love Chickpeas | MyFitnessPal()

Submit Your Own