Spicy Maple Meatballs (Vegan & GF)



Crockpot to the rescue! Assemble in the morning and it’s ready when YOU are. Vegan meatballs covered in a sweet & spicy pepper sauce. DK-0491

Things I’ve learned from dating a midwestern boy:

1. Cream of mushroom soup works in well, just about everything.

2. Jello is a perfectly acceptable dessert. Holiday worthy if it contains canned fruit.

3. A Hot Dish is a casserole.

4. A crockpot is an underappreciated appliance. Assemble in the morning before work and dinner comes together the moment you walk in the door.

alballs Vegan & Gluten Free

I’ll never forget the first time I asked BL’s mom what his favorite dish is. C’mon ladies,we know the way to a mans heart- make a meal he won’t forget.

Which was exactly my plan shortly after I met Bryan, all of which turned south once I received his favorite requests: tuna noodle casserole and tater-tot hot dish.

Really? Really. Not only did I have to wikipedia ‘hot dish’, I didn’t have the slightest clue on how to make either of those meals.  As an Italian girl who loves to spend any free time in the kitchen, I knew instantly we were never going to bond over my love of food. Thank god we have so many other things in common.

alballs Vegan & Gluten Free

Fast forward 5 years and all is right with the world. BL gets giddy when I mention the word lasagna and I try, on occasion, to recreate his favorite midwestern meals.

Try being the operative word. I’ve scrounged a few yard sales for old church cookbooks, the ones packed with Aunt Jo’s famous casserole hot dishes and enough crockpot recipes to satisfy. But, those recipes are harder for me to intuitively grasp. A sauce for pasta? I can improvise to my hearts content. One-pot meals have typically been more of a miss.

However, in trying to be open my culinary eyes and please BL’s stomach, I keep trying. So this meal was born. I admit, I kind of loved it. Throwing everything in last Sunday morning to enjoy an early afternoon feast on the couch. Have I mentioned how much we relished our lazy weekend?

Subtly sweet, thanks to the addition of pure canadian maple syrup, yet spicy and rich at the same time. The sauce was incredible on these vegan meatballs, but I bet just about any protein would taste great here. Have leftovers? Stuff extra meatballs and peppers into a hoagie roll for a tropical twist on a meatball sub!

Spicy Maple Mealballs Vegan & Gluten Free


Spicy Maple Meatballs (Vegan & GF)


  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed, sliced thin
  • 1 1/2 cups plain tomato sauce
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp. corn starch
  • 2 tsp. ground all spice
  • 1/8 tsp. liquid smoke (optional)
  • 1 can diced pineapple, drained, 1/3 cup liquid reserved
  • 1 bag frozen vegan, gluten free meatballs
  • Cooked rice for serving


  1. Place crockpot on high setting.
  2. Add 1 tbsp. olive oil and chopped onion. Stir and let cook until onion is slightly cooked, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add bell and jalapeno peppers, stir into the onion mixture and let sit for another 5 minutes.
  4. in a separate bowl, combine the cornstarch, maple syrup, pineapple juice, tomato sauce, all spice, and liquid smoke (if using). Stir together until blended and pour onto the pepper mixture.
  5. Stir in the frozen meatballs and diced pineapple.
  6. Cover and let cook on high for 2-3 hours or on low for 5-6 hours.
  7. Sauce should be reduced and thick, meatballs heated all the way through.
  8. Serve over cooked rice.
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  1. says

    I love spicy foods! Especially during the fall/winter because it’s great to warm up to on a cold brisk day.

    I’m not a vegan myself, but I do often cook meatless, and especially on Mondays for Meatless Mondays. I’m always on the search for new vegan recipes to try.

    I’ve never tried putting maple syrup in meatballs, but maple syrup is definitely delicious, so it should be good in just about anything! I also like the addition of pineapples. I really enjoy cooking with it, but I don’t see many recipes calling for it.

    What type of vegan meatballs did you use in this recipe?

    • DK says

      Thanks Elle! Me too, I love spicy foods and this recipe is definitely a comfort meal :) I used Trader Joe’s vegan meatballs for this recipe.

  2. says

    Your post cracks me up! My husband grew up in South Carolina eating exclusively southern food. When we first started dating, he didn’t even know what guacamole was. Seriously. Fast foward 8 years and the last meal he cooked for me was a quinoa, black bean and grilled vegetable salad!

    • DK says

      Ha! Sounds like a good transition for both of you :) I look back at some of our earlier meals together and just have to laugh! That salad sounds delicious!

  3. says

    Midwestern cuisine is entirely foreign to me, and just a little bit terrifying because I’ve only heard about it involving meat and potatoes, through and through. What an enlightening- and fun- read!

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