Gluten-Free, Allergy-Friendly Beetball Marinara Sub

Let’s completely renovate the traditional diner meatball sub! We’ve created this sub from allergy-friendly, meatless ingredients, which are packed with protein and nutrition. The red from the beets even bears a remarkable resemblance to ground beef. The balls are also versatile – they’re great in spaghetti or even served as an appetizer.

Makes: 4 subs
Free of: gluten and all top allergens


  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 cup yellow onions, finely diced
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup red beets, shredded
  • 1/2 cup carrots, shredded
  • 2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp crushed chili flakes
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed meal (see Recipe Note)
  • 6 tbsp lukewarm water
  • 1 15.5 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cups allergy-friendly marinara sauce, such as Rao’s
  • 4 allergy-friendly hoagies or mini baguettes
  • 1 cup mozzarella-style “cheeze” shreds, such as Daiya

Recipe Tips

If egg allergy is not an issue, use 2 eggs in place of the flaxseed meal and lukewarm water.


  1. Spoon 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil into a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onions and pinch of salt, and cook 5 minutes.
  2. Add beets and carrots and cook 5 minutes, while stirring. If mixture is too dry, add a tablespoon of water.
  3. Stir in garlic, chili flakes, cumin and paprika, and cook 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to a food processor.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together flaxseed meal and water. Let stand a few minutes and whisk again; it will be gelatinous. Set aside.
  5. Pour garbanzo beans into mixture in food processor and pulse several times. Do not over-process; the beans should be chunky. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
  6. Stir in rice, flaxseed mixture, teaspoon of salt, black pepper, and bread crumbs. Mix well. (Mixture should stick together when squeezed.)
  7. Scoop up a scant 1/4 cup of beet mixture and roll into a ball. Continue until all beetballs are formed. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350° F.
  8. Heat remaining vegetable oil in a medium-sized sauté pan over medium heat. Add beetballs and brown for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a baking dish. Bake in oven for 15 minutes.
  9. In a small saucepan, heat your favorite store-bought marinara sauce over medium heat.
  10. To finish dish: Preheat broiler. Slice allergy-friendly bun or roll in half lengthwise and place on baking sheet. Depending on the size of your bread, place 3-4 beetballs on bottom half of bun. Ladle 1/2 cup of marinara sauce over beetballs. Top with 1/4 cup of mozzarella or parmesan cheese alternative. Place baking pan with subs under broiler just until “cheeze” is melted. Serve and enjoy.

are the husband-and-wife culinary team behind Chef Joel is the former Special Dietary Manager at Walt Disney World who developed the food allergy program used across the Disney properties and cruise line.