Afer remaking my favorite childhood sandwich into its plant-based version, the Hawaiian Sweet Potato Sandwich, I thought it was a good idea to continue this blast from the past. Let’s recreate my favorite childhood dinner. of. all. time: Sweet and Sour Meatballs.
Did you guys ever eat sweet and sour meatballs? Was this just another weird Cornwell Family concoction? I am really sad for your childhood if you never had the chance to eat this sweet and sour wonder.
I promise to leave cream of mushroom soup, my vast collection of beanie babies, and my Bop It back in the 90’s where they belong, but this recipe deserves to be dusted off and brought back from the hand written recipe Rolodex.
The whole concept is a little weird. Meatballs + pineapple + rice in a sticky sauce? Does this sound weird? Does it sound oddly delicious? My mouth is currently watering at the thought of these Sweet and Sour Tempeh Meatballs, but that is because I have been conditioned to do so. I have tastes this strange/weird fruit and meat combo and know the goodness that it creates when it comes together.
It is a little sweet, a little sour, a lot sticky, and super savory and filling.
Bless the person who thought of this crazy combo.
I promise that if you stick with it, you too will feel your stomach start to growl and your taste buds kick on when you think of this sweet and sour pineapple-laden dish.
Let’s chat about Sweet and Sour Tempeh meatball technique for a minute, because, after all, these meatballs are actually not meatballs. They are meatless meatballs. Are you following?
Instead of meat, we use tempeh to make our meatballs. Tempeh has a meaty texture when ground. Picture perfect for putting the meatball in our Sweet and Sour Tempeh Meatball situation.
To really add flavor to these balls, we sautee some onion, add in some garlic and ginger, then throw in some coconut aminos for a serious umami boost.
There is, however, one serious problem with tempeh. It does not stick together. But before you cry tears of sweet and sour sadness over a bowl of meatless un-meatball mush, let me assure you that we found a solution!
You know that coconut rice that we mentioned in the title – but have been shockingly quiet about since – this is its moment to shine. Not only is it coconut rice <—- hello delicious!, but it is our secret weapon to get our Sweet and Sour Tempeh Meatballs to hold together. The white rice, and yes, you must use white rice, is so sticky, that we process a cup of it into our tempeh meatballs. It holds the whole meatballs situation together, it adds the slightest bit of coconut fragrance, which in this tropical meal is 100, and it doubles as the bottom serving layer for our Sweet and Sour Tempeh Meatballs to mop up all the glorious sweet and sour sauce.
Saved by the coconut rice.
The 90s are back and I am loving it!
These Sweet and Sour Tempeh Meatballs are served on a bed of fragrant coconut rice and coated in a deliciously sticky sauce. This healthy vegan dish is jam packed with flavor.
For the tempeh meatballs:
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1 onion (chopped)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons coconut aminos OR liquid aminos OR tamari
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 12 oz. tempeh
For the coconut rice:
- 1 1/2 cups white basmati rice
- 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the sauce:
- 2 teaspoons avocado oil
- 1/2 onion (chopped)
- 1 clove garlic (minced)
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
- 3 tablespoons coconut aminos OR liquid aminos OR tamari
- 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
- 3 cups chopped pineapple
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot starch mixed with 2 tablespoons water
For the rice:
- Add all the ingredients into a saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Cover and simmer until the rice has absorbed all the water, about 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
For the meatballs:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prep a baking tray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Add the avocado oil to a skillet and heat over medium high heat. Once warm, add in the onion and sauté until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the garlic and ginger and sauté for another minute. Add in the coconut aminos and white pepper and cook until warmed through. Remove from the heat and add to a food processor.
- Break the tempeh into large pieces so that it can easily fit into the food processor. Add in one cup of the cooked rice and process until well the mixture forms a dough ball. Using a 2 tablespoon measure, form the mixture into balls. Place them onto the baking tray and bake for 15 minutes. Use a spatula to flip the meatballs and cook for another 15 minutes.
For the sweet and sour sauce:
- While the meatballs are baking, add the avocado oil to a skillet and heat over medium high heat. Once warm, add in the onion and sauté until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the garlic and ginger and sauté for another minute.
- Add in the pineapple juice, coconut aminos, rice vinegar, and coconut sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce it to a simmer. Cook until reduced by half, about 10-15 minutes. Add in the pineapple and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add in the arrowroot starch while stirring constantly. Return it to the heat and bring it back up to a simmer. Remove from the heat and add in the meatballs. Stir to coat them in the sauce. Serve with coconut rice.