Vegan meatballs in a thick, creamy sauce flecked with veggies may be the most comforting meal ever. Every mouthful of this Vegan Meatball Fricassee, seasoned with Cajun spices and fresh garden herbs like rosemary and thyme, is a warm, cozy hug. It is soy-free, gluten-free and it can be nut-free.
Here in the Washington, D.C. area we are still not quite out of stew weather. The days have been a bit chilly, even with the sun out, and my sweaters are still at the front of the closet.
On days like these, a thick, comforting stew like this Cajun-Style Vegan Meatball Fricassee hits the exact spot.
I love Louisiana style food, especially plant-based dishes like this vegan gumbo and vegan etouffee, because it is soothing and comforting and yummy. This fricassee is all of that with chunky veggies like carrots, potatoes, mushrooms and celery and a creamy sauce seasoned with fresh herbs. Hefty vegan meatballs add texture, flavor and protein.
I hope you'll try this recipe when you're looking for food to satisfy the soul. When you do, be sure to come back and let me know, or take a photo and tag me @HolyCowVegan on Instagram.
What is a fricassee?
A fricassee is a French-style stew where meat is added to a pot, sometimes browned (classic versions did not require browning) and then simmered in a white sauce.
In the United States this is a much beloved dish, especially in Louisiana, a former French colony whose cuisine absorbed many distinctive French influences.
There are some distinct differences between the French and Louisiana versions of a fricassee, the most notable I could find being the roux, or the flour base that thickens the stew.
Louisianans take pride in their roux--it is darkened to different levels depending on what's being cooked, and plays a critical role in determining the final flavor of the prepared dish. In a Louisiana fricassee, you'd likely dredge the meat in the flour, brown it, then add more flour and make a medium-dark roux to which you'd add the remaining ingredients.
In a French fricassee, like the chicken fricassee recipe popularized by Julia Child, you wouldn't really brown anything--the meat or the roux. The flour would go into the pot after the meat and it would be cooked only until the ingredients had just absorbed it before the liquid was added to the pot.
My vegan fricassee is not claiming either pedigree. This is just a fricassee made my way, with some ideas borrowed from the French and some from the Americans. In other words it's a mutt, but then we love mutts around here.
How to make a delicious vegan meatball fricassee
- The "meat": Vegan meatballs are our choice of "meat" here. To make the fricassee, begin by browning the meatballs in a bit of oil in a dutch oven or large pot. You can use any kind of vegan meatballs for this fricassee, from storebought to homemade (try these vegan air-fryer meatballs or just the meatballs, minus the sauce, in this vegan barbecue meatballs recipe.) This time I used Beyond meatballs, which are also gluten-free, soy-free and nut-free, and make short work of this fricassee, taking it from scratch to the table in just about 30 minutes.
- The vegetables: Once the meatballs are done, remove them to a plate, set them aside, and begin adding veggies to the pots. You can add lots of veggies. Carrots, onions, celery and potatoes are the most obvious suspects, but mushrooms are great here as well. I swapped out leeks for the onions, adding more flavor and depth. Saute some garlic into the veggies.
- Deglaze the pot: Deglaze the pot and any of the "fond"--the brown bits of meatballs stuck to the bottom--with a bit of wine. If you don't want to use wine you can skip it, but it adds great flavor and the alcohol cooks out so you don't have to worry about getting your kids drunk.
- The herbs: Next add herbs to the pot. My herbs are beginning to thrive despite the on-again-off-again weather, and I harvested sage, rosemary and thyme to add to the stew. They add rich, smoky notes, elevating the level of deliciousness. You can use just one of these herbs, or a mix.
- The roux: Next add flour to the pot and stir until the veggies just absorb it. I used all purpose flour but a gf all purpose flour for a gf stew is perfectly fine and works just as well. You can also use rice flour.
- The creamy sauce: To create the signature white gravy of a fricassee, add vegetable stock to the pot, let everything simmer until the veggies are tender, then add cashew cream. If you can't eat nuts, use oat milk, which is thick and would give you a consistent flavor.
- The seasoning: To season the fricassee, I used a couple of teaspoons of cajun seasoning. It adds a bit of extra flavor, but you don't absolutely need it and can go without it as many of the flavors in a cajun seasoning, from the herbs to the garlic, are already present among the ingredients.
- Finishing up: To finish up the fricassee, return the meatballs to the pot and let everything warm through. Garnish with more fresh herbs and serve hot or warm. You can also stir in a tablespoon of tamari or soy sauce at this stage for more umami, although it's completely optional, especially if you're soy-free.
What to serve with the fricassee
I love a crusty bread with the fricassee, although a creamy mashed potato is Jay's favorite. This time I served it with my crusty, no-knead sourdough dinner rolls. These vegan Parker House rolls would be perfect too!
A fresh, green salad is awesome on the side although you don't strictly need it because you have so many veggies in this stew.
More vegan comfort food recipes
- Vegan Meatball Curry
- Vegan Meatballs in a Creamy Mushroom Sauce
- Vegan Jambalaya
- Grilled Tofu Steaks in a Creamy Vegan Cajun Sauce
- Vegan Muffaletta Casserole
- Vegan Red Beans and Rice
Vegan Meatball Fricassee
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil (divided)
- 24 vegan meatballs
- 2 leeks (or onions, finely chopped. If using leeks use both white and green parts)
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 3 stalks celery (chopped)
- 2 medium carrots (chopped or cut into coins)
- 2 medium yellow potatoes (or red potatoes, cut in a dice)
- 8 oz crimini mushrooms (or button mushrooms, sliced)
- ¼ cup white wine (optional)
- ¼ cup flour (all purpose, both regular and gluten-free, are fine)
- 2 tablespoon fresh herbs + more for garnish (use savory herbs like sage, rosemary, thyme or oregano)
- 2 teaspoon cajun seasoning (optional)
- 2 tablespoon tamari (or soy sauce, optional if soy-free)
- 3-4 cups vegetable stock
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoon raw cashews (if nut-free, use ½ cup oat milk or other creamy nondairy milk)
- Blend the cashews into a smooth paste with ½ cup water or vegetable stock and set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large dutch oven or pot. Add the meatballs, in batches if needed, and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside.
- Heat the remaining oil and add the leeks and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and saute until leeks are slightly soft. Add the celery, carrots and potatoes and continue to saute for another couple of minutes.
- Add the mushrooms to the pot, saute until they begin to express their moisture, then add the wine, if using. Allow most of the wine to cook out and once the moisture has evaporated, add the flour and herbs stir them in.
- Once the veggies have absorbed the flour, add 3 cups of vegetable stock to the pot and mix well. Season with more salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Let the stew simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are tender.
- Stir in the cajun seasoning and soy sauce, if using. Check for salt and pepper and add more if needed. Add the cashew cream or oat milk and bring back to a simmer.
- Add the reserved meatballs and warm through. Sprinkle on more herbs before serving.