Kitchn Love Letters

The Plant-Based IKEA Find I Wasn’t Expecting to Love (But Totally Do)

published Oct 4, 2021
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I’m not the type of cook who buys plant-based meat alternatives. But I’m not a meat-obsessive veggie-hater, either — far from it, actually. I just usually get my protein from plain-and-simple cuts of meat, or minimally processed veggies, like lentils and beans. So trust me when I say that I was not expecting to like IKEA’s HUVUDROLL plant balls. I tried them largely out of curiosity; in the spirit of “why not,” I picked up a bag of frozen plant balls. I planned to cook a batch, do a taste test, and mark them down as something I was glad to have tried but don’t plan on buying again.

Credit: Rochelle Bilow

Plot twist: The HUVUDROLL plant balls are good. Really good. 

Upon opening the package, I was hit with a super-savory scent — like my favorite diner hash browns. This makes sense; potatoes are the third ingredient on the list, and onions aren’t too far down from that. In terms of flavoring, there’s also mushroom concentrate, dried apple tomato powder, and allspice. There are plenty of “binder” ingredients, necessary to keep the balls from falling apart: rice flour, dextrose, pea starch, and oat bran, among a few others. Pea protein does the heavy nutritional lifting here, giving the balls a moderate 9 grams of protein per serving.

Credit: Rochelle Bilow

But do they taste as good as they smell? Only two ways to find out: I heated the balls in the oven and on the stovetop to compare methodology. (You can also microwave the HUVUDROLL, but that is not a small appliance that I own!). Both techniques worked great, and produced deeply browned, crispy-on-the-outside balls. I did prefer the oven, set to 400˚F, which is slightly higher than the package recommends. Sautéing resulted in oil splatter on my stovetop, and made the balls a little greasy. 

Credit: Rochelle Bilow

I cut open a cooked plant ball to check out the cross-section, and was duly impressed. It really looked like a tender meatball! The flavor and texture didn’t disappoint, either. These are rich and meaty. And I know this sounds wild, but if I hadn’t known they were plant-based, I wouldn’t have guessed. They’re perfect dipped into a blob of IKEA’s SENAP mild mustard, which is more delicious than any mustard has the right to be. I also ate them tossed into a grain bowl, chopped up in a salad, and straight out of the pan. 

Will these become an everyday food for me? It’s unlikely. I don’t live all that close to an IKEA (which is probably good for my wallet). I did also notice that I was pretty thirsty after eating them — there’s a not-small amount of sodium in these. But will I buy them again? Yes. Will I serve them to my friends and try to trick them into thinking they’re meatballs? Absolutely. Can I admit that I was wrong, and that this is one plant-based meat alternative I’ll happily eat? The proof is in my freezer.

Have you tried IKEA’s plant-based balls? What’d you think? Sound off in the comments below!