Saucy Beef and Lentil Meatballs

Make tender and delicious saucy meatballs in one pan right on your stovetop. These meatballs feature both ground beef and lentils, as well as a flavorful and creamy dairy-free Madras-style simmer sauce. Serve them as an appetizer or meal-prepped lunch or dinner that you’ll look forward to. 

Prep: 20 minsCook: 20 minsTotal: 40 mins
Servings: 4-6 servings 1x


For the Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground beef 
  • 3/4 cup cooked lentils*
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 egg 
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil or olive oil

For the Sauce

  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 15-ounce can coconut milk**
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot starch or cornstarch


  1. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, cooked lentils, onion, egg, garlic, cumin ginger, chili powder, salt, and black pepper. Use your hands to mix it together until well combined. Form mixture into 20 meatballs (approximately 1 1/2- to 2-tablespoons each) and place them on a plate. 
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat and swirl the pan around to distribute the oil. Add the meatballs to the pan and cook until browned on one side, 5-6 minutes. 
  3. While the meatballs are heating, in a bowl, combine the tomato sauce, coconut milk, ground cumin, ginger, chili powder, salt, and pepper. 
  4. Gently turn the meatballs over in the pan to brown the other side. Pour the sauce mixture over the meatballs. 
  5. Turn the heat to low or medium-low to hold a very low simmer. Cover the pan and let the meatballs and sauce cook for 15 minutes. 
  6. Remove the lid and thicken the sauce: In a small bowl, combine the 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of the liquid from the pan; stir together to make a thick slurry. Stir the slurry back into the sauce in the pan and allow it to return to a low simmer to thicken. Then, remove the pan from the heat and allow it to sit, it will thicken more as it cools slightly. 
  7. If desired, serve the saucy meatballs with Israeli couscous or rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro.


* Use canned cooked lentils, or a microwaveable pouch of lentils, or cook dry lentils (see directions below)

To cook dry lentils: In a saucepan filled halfway with water, add ½ cup lentils to a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer for 20 minutes, or until lentils are cooked to your desired texture. Drain lentils and store in the refrigerator until ready to use, up to 5 days.

**May use full-fat or light coconut milk, depending on your preference. The nutrition analysis below is for this recipe made with light coconut milk. The nutrition analysis with full-fat coconut milk is as follows. For 1/6 of the meatballs with sauce: 312 calories, 19 g total fat (12 g sat fat), 700 mg sodium, 14 g carb (4 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 71 mg cholesterol, 21 g protein

Nutrition Information

  • Serving Size: 1/6 of the meatballs and sauce
  • Calories: 241
  • Fat: 12 g
  • (Sat Fat: 6 g)
  • Sodium: 655 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 14 g
  • (Fiber: 4 g
  • Sugar: 4 g)
  • Protein: 21 g
  • Cholesterol: 71 mg


© The Real Food Dietitians
Recipe By: Jessie Shafer
Overhead view of vegetable beef soup with a cheddar biscuit in the bowl.

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