In my husband’s parent’s house, they always buy Marks and Spencer’s gluten-free pork sausage stuffing balls. I stopped eating pork a few years ago, so I wanted to devise my own vegan stuffing balls to bring for a Sunday roast or at Christmas.
Since my husband and both his parents are coeliac, whatever I concocted had to be gluten-free to avoid any cross-contamination. I needed a gluten-free and vegan stuffing ball alternative, and here it is!
I haven’t tried many pre-made stuffings or stuffing mixes. My mum always makes her own. I have tried the Tesco Free From Sage and Onion Stuffing mix and I really didn’t like it. It was incredibly salty, to the point that I was struggling to eat it. My own vegan stuffing balls are perfectly balanced in flavour – and don’t need a ton of salt to make them edible!
These nut and cranberry stuffing balls are based off of this Waitrose recipe. I have gluten-free-ified and veganised it, and also made it more accessible to those who find it difficult to find chestnuts in their local supermarkets! I have hunted high and low around Glasgow and they are so elusive!
The main components of these vegan stuffing balls are: onion and celery, mixed nuts, herbs, dried cranberries, and gluten-free breadcrumbs.
I love this recipe because the stuffing balls are slightly crispy on the outside and deliciously moist on the inside, with a good crunch from the crushed up mixed nuts. They are just screaming out to be doused in some gluten-free vegetarian gravy!
As I said, I find locating chestnuts pretty difficult, even at Christmastime. In this recipe, I’ve subbed traditional chestnuts for a mixture of cashews, pecans, and walnuts. These three nuts are quite soft compared to nuts like peanuts, almonds and hazelnuts, which makes them super easy to grind down. You won’t end up with any break-your-teeth chunks of nuts breaking up the stuffing balls when you form and bake them.
I’m not normally a massive fan of dried fruit in savoury dishes but the dried cranberries in this add a lovely subtle sweetness that brings out the natural sweetness in the nuts. Plus, it makes them feel more Christmassy! You could use another dried fruit if you like (like apricot or prunes or dates), but I find the tartness of cranberries is best suited to a savoury side like this.
Prepping these vegan stuffing balls isn’t too time consuming but perfect if you’re looking for something that requires a bit more effort. To start off, you toast the nuts in a dry frying pan. This helps me to bring out their delicious nutty oils and gives them a good colour.
Then you prep your flax egg (or you can make a chia egg if you prefer) by mixing ground flaxseed (it needs to be ground, not whole) and water and setting aside. It forms a gel which mimics the gel-like egg white, which acts as a binder.
Grind down the toasted nuts in either a food processor or wrap them in a bag or tea towel and bash with a rolling pin. You’ll want the mixture to be fairly fine so it can be evenly distributed amongst the balls, but not pure powder.
Next, you’ll sautee diced onions and celery until they’re super soft. Toss in the dried herbs (I’ve gone for parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme as they scream Christmas to me).
When everything has cooled, grab a big ol’ mixing bowl and combine it all in a bowl. Chuck in your dried cranberries. If the mixture is too dry, add in a tablespoon of water at a time until it is a rollable texture. Roll into 32 equal sized balls and bake them in the oven for just under 20 minutes.
You could incorporate these into your weekly Sunday roast or simply have them for a treat at your family Christmas Day or Hogmanay (New Years to non-Scots!) gatherings. I have prepped these in advance and frozen them, ready to thaw and whack in the oven for Christmas in a few weeks time.
Try These Vegan Stuffing Balls At Your Next Roast!
Even if you aren’t vegetarian or vegan, these are a lovely (slightly lighter) addition to your Christmas spread, which will probably already be meat and dairy-heavy. Set aside some time at the weekend or an evening to prep these beauties and you’ve already eased the pressure of cooking on Christmas Day!
Let me know if you try these out! If you have any other family favourite gluten-free and vegan stuffing recipes, I’d love to know so I can trial them out myself too.
To complete your Sunday roast or Christmas spread, check out my crispy potatoes recipe – so simple yet so tasty!
Cranberry and Nut Vegan Stuffing Balls
- 2 tbsp ground flaxseed (with 5 tbsp water for flax eggs)
- 400 g mixed nuts (I used cashew, walnuts, and pecans)
- 2 tbsp dairy-free butter or vegetable oil
- 2 medium onions, finely diced
- 2-4 stalks of celery, finely diced
- 2 tsp dried parsley
- 2 tsp dried rosemary
- 2 tsp dried sage
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- 300 g gluten-free breadcrumbs or plain crackers (check if vegan)
- 100 g dried cranberries
- Water as needed (I used around 12 tbsp)
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C.
- In a dry pan on medium high heat, add the nuts and mix around until they become toasted on the outside. This should take a few minutes.
- Make your flax eggs by mixing ground flaxseed with 5 tbsp water in a small bowl or mug.
- Break up the nuts into small chunks (not quite a powder but not too big that they'll poke out the stuffing balls). You can do this in a food processor by pulsing it or bash in a bag/tea towel with a rolling pin.
- In the same pan, melt the dairy-free butter and fry off the onion and celery on medium high heat until softened. Add the herbs and seasoning and thoroughly combine. Set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, add the breadcrumbs, nuts, and dried cranberries. Mix together. Then add the onion and celery mixture and your flax eggs.
- The mixture should be quite dense and might still be a bit dry. Add in a tablespoon of water at a time until it is firm yet moist enough to form into balls.
- Set aside 2 baking sheets (lined if you wish). Scoop a tablespoon of the mixture at a time and, with wet hands, roll it into a ball and place on the baking sheet. You should get around 32 balls out of the mixture.
- When you've scooped all of the mixture into balls, pop it in the oven for 18-20 minutes until slightly crispy on the outside but moist and cooked through on the inside.