Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Criticism can be tough to stomach, even when it’s coming from a good place. This is especially true when it comes to food. As a labor of love, a passion meant to be shared, it can be heartbreaking when a lovingly prepared dish is rejected for any reason. Navigating through personal preferences and aversions can be tricky for a cook that has no such qualms. Mushrooms, for instance, are one of my favorite ingredients in pretty much any savory recipe, so it stops me cold when I realize that not everyone shares this perspective. For some, it’s the texture. For others, it’s the strange way they grow. Then there’s the erroneous assessment that their uniquely earthy flavor is more like plain dirt.

Logic and reason needn’t apply; innate distaste can’t always be explained away. It’s a shame, though, that these mushroom-hating people are missing out on a world of such rich depth of flavor. That said, there is a way for everyone to walk away from the table happy and satisfied.

Dried Sugimoto shiitake mushroom powder takes all the best umami elements of the mushroom and concentrates them into a potent seasoning, while leaving behind its conventional fungi form. Applied with a deft hand, it won’t dredge up any questionably earthy, funky, or overtly mushroomy notes. Rather, it seamlessly enhances the meaty flavors and aromas of a dish. For someone cooking alternative proteins, it should be an indispensable staple in the spice cabinet, right alongside salt and pepper.

Transforming a simple blend of vital wheat gluten and chickpea flour into downright umami bomb meatballs, shiitake powder is your secret ingredient that picky eaters don’t need to know about. They won’t realize the flavor boost and added nutrition is coming from mushrooms, but they will know that these are the best vegan meatballs they’ve ever smothered in red sauce and twirled their spaghetti around.

Coming together in a matter of minutes, this shortcut seitan formula is easy to master with one try. The mixture is first steamed to become plump and juicy, then quickly seared for a crisp, golden brown exterior. They’re incredibly hearty, substantial, and won’t fall apart under pressure. Try stacking them up on sub sandwiches or drop them into Italian wedding soup for a savory change of pace. Prep in advance for busy days; finished, cooked meatballs can be frozen almost indefinitely, so you’ll never be caught without a plan for dinner.

Even if you’re not a fan of mushrooms, I promise you’ll love these meatballs. Add a little pinch of Sugimoto shiitake mushroom powder into your life to unlock a bolder, more flavorful approach to meatless meals.

Yield: Makes 24 Meatballs; 4 Servings

Vegan Meatballs

Vegan Meatballs

Coming together in a matter of minutes, this shortcut seitan formula is easy to master. The mixture is first steamed to become plump and juicy, then quickly seared for a crisp, golden brown exterior. They're incredibly hearty, substantial, and won't fall apart under pressure.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes



  • 1 1/4 Cups Vital Wheat Gluten
  • 3/4 Cup Chickpea Flour
  • 2 Tablespoons Ground Flax Seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Shiitake Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Parsley
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Basil
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Fennel Seeds
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce

To Serve:

  • 1 Pound Pasta, Cooked Al Dente
  • 1 (24-Ounce) Jar Marinara Sauce
  • Shredded Vegan Cheese
  • Fresh Basil


  1. In a large bowl, combine the vital wheat gluten, chickpea flour, ground flax seeds, nutritional yeast, shiitake powder, parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, salt, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes. Stir thoroughly to combine.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, oil, tomato paste, and soy sauce. Once smooth, add the liquid ingredients into the bowl of dry, mixing vigorously until it forms a thick dough. Use your hands to knead it like you would bread dough for about 5 minutes.
  3. Pinch off 1-inch balls and roll them between your palms to make sure they're fairly well rounded, but don't worry if they're not perfectly smooth. Place them in a steamer basket and steam over boiling water for 10 - 12 minutes, until firm. Let cool for at least 10 minutes; the meatballs can be prepared up to this stage up to a day in advance if stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
  4. When you're ready to eat, heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Gently saute the meatballs until browned all over; about 10 - 15 minutes. Serve over cooked pasta with marinara sauce, vegan cheese, and fresh basil, as desired.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 708Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 720mgCarbohydrates: 64gFiber: 8gSugar: 7gProtein: 68g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.

This post was made possible as a collaboration with SUGIMOTO Co. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

8 thoughts on “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

  1. Those look great, thank you for the recipe Hannah. I am not sure if I can find here shiitake in powdered form, but do you think if I grind my whole dried shiitake mushrooms into powder, would it be fine in this recipe?

    1. Yes, I do think that would work! As long as the powder is not coarse or gritty, perhaps after being passed through a sieve, you should be able to make your own too. :)

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