These quinoa balls are a delicious high-iron recipe for baby led weaning and toddlers. They are also vegan, gluten free, and a recipe that the whole family can enjoy!
If you know me, you know I love a good baby led weaning recipe. While my little boys are (sadly) not so little anymore, luckily they have not outgrown their love for mama’s BLW recipes and have become expert recipe testers in the process. These quinoa balls with marinara sauce are one of my new favourites to come out of my kitchen and I can confirm that they are toddler approved. Not only are they a handy make-ahead recipe for future snacks, but they’re especially delicious when paired with a homemade marinara sauce. And a little dietitian tip: pairing your iron sources with vitamin C can substantially increase absorption, which is why we have added spinach and tomato sauce to this these quinoa balls to give it a nutrition and flavour boost!
Why This Recipe Works
If you still need convincing to try these quinoa balls, here are some more reasons we love this recipe:
- BLW-friendly (practice that pincer grasp!)
- High in iron
- High in protein and fibre (2 g of each per ball)
- Easily made gluten-free
- Freezer and meal prep friendly
Quinoa – Unlike most grains, quinoa is a plant-based protein that contains all essential amino acids. In fact, one cup contains 8 grams of protein. They also bind really well making it easy to form BLW-sized balls.
Spinach – Spinach is very neutral in taste, making it an easy veg to add to these quinoa balls while also adding a bit of colour and iron.
Rolled oats – We use gluten-free rolled oats to bind the quinoa balls together and keep them gluten free. But if you don’t need to make these gluten free, you can use breadcrumbs instead.
Flax egg – To make a flax egg we combine 1 tbsp of ground flax and 3 tbsp of water, and let it sit in the fridge for a couple of minutes until it forms a gel. If you don’t need to make this vegan you can substitute the flax egg for a regular egg.
Dates – I love using dates as a natural sweetener and it also helps to lower the acidity of the marinara sauce.
Seasoning – To season these quinoa balls, we use nutritional yeast, garlic powder and Italian seasoning.
How to Make This Recipe
Step 1: In a small skillet sauté the spinach in a little oil until it is wilted, about 2 minutes.
Step 2: In a large bowl, combine quinoa, flax egg, wilted spinach, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, Italian seasoning and rolled oats.
Step 3: Shape into 12 balls, lightly coat with oil, and bake for 25 minutes at 400 F.
Step 4: While the quinoa balls are baking, make the marinara sauce. Bring a saucepan to medium heat and add oil and garlic. Sauté until garlic is fragrant, about thirty seconds.
Step 5: Add the tomato puree and dates and simmer for a few minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture.
Step 6: Add chopped basil and serve along with quinoa balls.
If you don’t have time to pulse your oats in the food processor, you can also use oat flour or quick oats instead! Quick oats are typically cut down a little more, allowing you to skip a step.
Another way I like to make this meal more exciting for my kiddos is by switching up the dip/sauce I serve! When they aren’t feeling the marinara, sometimes we go for my homemade ketchup or another one of my staple toddler dips.
Yes, these quinoa balls are super freezer-friendly. I like to batch-prep and freeze them on a cookie sheet. Then, I transfer into a freezer-safe bag and store for up to 3 months.
Both quinoa and oats are naturally gluten-free, however it is best to buy products labelled “gluten-free” to minimize the risk of cross-contamination.
They are the perfect size for your child to hold themselves. You can even try adjusting the size so they can practice their pincer grasp! The soft texture also lends itself to baby-led weaning.
Of course! They make a great appetizer, side, or snack. When I’m making them for the grown-ups, I like adding a pinch of salt and some parmesan cheese.
You bet. Store-bought marinara has saved me many times in a pinch. But when I have extra time, this homemade marinara sauce is so delicious.
More Recipes You Might Like
If you liked these quinoa balls, I have so many other great baby-led weaning recipes on the blog!
- Baby Meatballs for Baby-Led Weaning
- Fish Cakes with Quinoa (Gluten Free BLW Recipe)
- Salmon Fritters with Sweet Potato (Baby-Led Weaning Recipe)
- Protein Muffins for BLW with Chicken and Spinach
Parents, I want to know your favourites for baby-led weaning. Have you tried these quinoa balls yet with your kiddos? Leave me a comment below!
Quinoa Balls | Vegan BLW Recipe
- ½ cup tomato puree
- 1 – 2 dates chopped
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 garlic clove
- Chopped basil
- Preheat the oven to 400 F and line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a small skillet sauté the spinach in a little oil until it is wilted, about 2 minutes.
- In a large bowl combine quinoa, flax egg, wilted spinach, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, Italian seasoning and rolled oats.
- Shape into balls, lightly coat with oil and bake for 25 minutes
- While the quinoa balls are baking, prepare the marinara sauce.
- Bring saucepan to medium heat, add oil, garlic and sauté until garlic is fragrant, about thirty seconds.
- Add tomato puree and dates and simmer for a few minutes. Use an immersion blender and puree the mixture. Add chopped basil and serve along with quinoa balls.
Abbey Sharp is a Registered Dietitian (RD), regulated by the Ontario College of Dietitians. She is a mom, YouTuber, Blogger, award winning cookbook author, media coach specializing in food and nutrition influencers, and a frequent contributor to national publications like Healthline and on national broadcast TV shows.