Brown Baggin’ It: Meatball Subs Minus the Meat


I’ve eaten my fair share of Subway sandwiches over the years and although I’ve transition from the Deli Supreme (or whatever the hell it’s called) to the Veggie Delight, never have I ventured into the meatball sub territory. That’s right, I’ve never eaten a meatball sub. Being as I’m a total self-confessed klutz, the thought of eating a sub filled with drippy red sauce just seemed like a disaster waiting to happen, it’s kind of like the inevitable spill whenever you just so happen to be wearing a new white shirt; it’s gonna happen no matter what, so you best be getting over it. Well, to hell with it I say, I want in on the messy action!


I haven’t made any meatballs since the Reuben Meatball Sandwiches (which are awesome by the way), so I decided to take the same recipe and just put a more Italiany spin on them. They’re just as firm, fork-tender and delicious as I remember, plus they can hold their own in a pan of sauce, because nobody likes sad vegan meatballs that are mushy and fall apart, nobody. These take some time to make since you’ve got to fry them and then bake them for maximum texture awesomeness, but hey, you can always make a big ass batch of them when you’ve got some free time and then freeze them for whenever that craving for a hot and messy meatball sub kicks in. Or you could be boring and eat them with pasta, that’s cool too. For an even faster and easier throw together lunch you can also just run out and pick up of bag of pre-made ones, I know Yves brand sells meatless meatballs, and I know this because I’ve had a bag of them in the freezer for over 3 months…and I’ve never opened them…yes they were another new product I had to have, sigh.


Man do I wish I had discovered how rad these subs are earlier, they’re crazy stick to your ribs filling! All you need are some firm balls (he he, yes I’m a 12 year old), a hotdog bun or Italian sandwich roll, spinach, vegan cheese and sauce. Ya can’t forget the sauce. Use whatever marinara sauce you have on hand, thanks to Costco, we always have a ridiculous supply of the Newman’s Own stuff, what? It’s good! This makes for a great lunch but if you happen to be one of those lucky people who has access to an oven or toaster oven during lunchtime, remove the spinach and stick that bad girl under the boiler for a few minutes and wait for the magic to happen. This is why they invented vegan cheese people! For ooey gooey melty messes to consume.


Along with my sub I also packed a small side salad with some tomatoes and dressing, a plum and a big ass chunky peanut butter cookie for dessert. As it turns out, I can’t stand plums, but the salad and cookie were happily consumed 🙂

Lunch Lady Tips:

    • Pack your meatballs/sauce in a separate container so that you don’t wind up with a soggy mess by lunchtime. The bun, cheese and spinach can be all wrapped up together for easy assembly.
    • Prep a batch of meatballs, or double the recipe on one of your days off. You can freeze them after they’ve baked and store them in a freezer safe bag for whenever you’d like to use them. Just thaw and reheat.
    • Don’t forget to pack a spoon to help with assembly, unless you like grabbing hot saucey balls with your bare hands (god I’m dirty :P).


Cooked in a flavorful marinara sauce, these italian meat-less meatballs make for a hearty sandwich filling.

Author: The Vegan Cookbook Aficionado


  • 3 to 4 Italian Meat(less)balls (recipe below) or store bought
  • Homemade or store bought marinara sauce
  • 1 whole wheat hotdog bun, Italian sandwich roll or baguette
  • 2 slices of vegan provolone or mozzarella
  • Handful of spinach


  1. In a small pot or microwave safe bowl, mix together the meatballs and marinara sauce, cook over a stovetop or in a microwave until heated through. Make sure you stir from time to time so that they don’t stick.
  2. Take your bun and layer with provolone slices, top with spinach and warm meatballs, spoon some additional sauce on top for extra sauciness. If you have access to an oven, place the sub under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese melts and the bun is nice and crispy.


  • Servings: 17-18 balls
  • Print
Author: The Vegan Cookbook Aficionado


  • 1 8-oz pkg tempeh
  • water
  • 2 teaspoons no-beef bouillon
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon instant tapioca
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons basil
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons hp sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable broth or water
  • 1/4 cup parsley leaves, chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cut tempeh into 4 pieces and place in a sauce pan. Add enough water to cover the tempeh, along with the “beef” broth powder. Bring to bubbling then simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from water, drain and let cool.
  3. Grate tempeh and mix with onion, garlic, and the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well with your fingers and knead for 1 minute.
  4. With wet hands, form mixture into 17 or 18 balls about 1.15 ounces each. Let rest for 5 minutes to firm up.
  5. Heat a thin layer of oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-low heat. Add tempeh balls and cook, turning regularly, until browned all over. Remove from pan. Place in oven and continue baking for 15 minutes.


34 thoughts on “Brown Baggin’ It: Meatball Subs Minus the Meat

  1. veganinbrighton says:

    I’ve never eaten at Subway or had a meatball sub! I do love this packed lunch idea though and whilst I work from home I’ll be showing this to my dude so that he can make himself a lunch that’ll make his colleagues jealous!

  2. Mel says:

    They look awesome! I was never into the meatball subs but my husband used to eat them every time we went to Subway. I’ve made some tempeh balls to go in subs before but these ones sound a bit firmer with the gluten flour. I’ll be trying this recipe out when I have some time up my sleeve.

    • Maggie Muggins says:

      Ha ha, I know right?
      I really thought they’d be something I’d like but I just can’t get behind plums, there’s something about the texture that just ain’t right. I will happily send all my plums to you.

  3. luminousvegans says:

    That is a great tip to pack the sauce separately. Nobody likes soggy balls *snicker*.

    I have never had a meatball sub I don’t think. I’m not sure why. Yours looks absolutely delicious!

  4. Galen says:

    I’m sitting here at work dying as I read this post. Of course I have no lunch with me and I’m wishing this was here. The sub looks great and gorgeous photos. I’m loving your theme. It’s all drool worthy!

    • Maggie Muggins says:

      It’s a really delicious savory brown sauce that’s made out of malt vinegar, tomato, dates, spices and stuff. I think most people eat it on steak but it adds a really great flavor to the meatballs. Totally optional if you can’t find it!

  5. Leah Kotok says:

    I just made these, and they are fantastic!

    The only changes I made were that I used ground up oats (b/c I didn’t have any breadcrumbs) and I used Worcestershire Sauce instead of HP sauce, since I’ve never heard of HP sauce.

    They came out so tasty that even my meat-eating husband said they were “pretty good” (high praise from him!).

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