These delicious Eggplant Meatballs are made with roasted eggplant, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and fresh herbs, topped with fresh cheese, and baked in your favorite marinara sauce. So tender and flavorful, you won’t even notice they’re completely meat-free.
Vegetarian Eggplant Meatballs Recipe
These meatless meatballs are so much more than just eggplant balls. I mean, yes, they are made with eggplant. Yes, they are in the shape of small balls (the shape, guys, bring your wandering mind back from the gutter). And, yes, they are meatless.
But these tasty eggplant-filled tiny balls are so much more than that. They’re super delicious and filled with amazing Italian flavors thanks to fresh herbs and parmesan cheese.
Just in case you’re wondering – no, they are not vegan. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be, making this recipe…versatile!
What are some other reasons to love these eggplant meatballs?
- You can make them ahead of time.
- Or, make extra and freeze the leftovers for later.
- They make an easy appetizer, snack, or main for all your meatless Monday needs.
- Kids love them.
RELATED: Baked Eggplant Parmesan Recipe
How to Make Eggplant Meatballs
1. Cook the eggplant. So you’re going to need to cook your eggplant until it’s soft, mushy, and the skin easily separates from the flesh. You will find that there are several different ways to do this each having their own list of pros and cons.
I always roast my eggplant in the oven. Sometimes I’ll roast mine whole (requires the longest cooking time), sometimes I’ll cut it in half down the middle, and other times I’ll cut my eggplant into rounds approximately 1-inch thick and roast them that way. The latter two take less time in the oven but do require some additional prep before baking to draw out excess water by sprinkling with kosher salt. After approximately 15 minutes of sweating your eggplant with salt, you are then free to wipe clean and bake.
Long story short? Cooking time is about equal no matter what. So if you’re short on time, pick a couple of smaller eggplants rather than one giant one.
You can also sauté your peeled and chopped eggplant over medium-high heat on the stovetop with a little extra virgin olive oil, a couple of minced garlic cloves, and a teaspoon salt, but this method is much more hands-on. If you can give your eggplant that attention, great. Otherwise, stick to roasting.
2. Peel the cooked eggplant. Fortunately, this part is easy (or will be if your eggplant is cooked long enough). All you want to do is gently peel away the skin from the flesh. Toss the eggplant skin (unless you want to eat it as a snack, it is totally edible) and transfer the soft and mushy eggplant flesh to a large bowl. Use to break apart the eggplant flesh into small bits and pieces.
3. Make your own breadcrumbs (optional). It’s totally optional to make your own breadcrumbs. If you have a few cups of crusty, dried out (not moldy) bread, why not? Otherwise storebought breadcrumbs or panko breadcrumbs (preferred) work just as well.
Simply transfer approximately 3 cups of cubed bread to the bowl of a large food processor. Pulse until pulverized into tiny bits of uniform breadcrumb-size pieces. Measure out 2 cups and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
4. Make your veggie meatballs. The rest is easy, simply add the Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, pepper, fresh parsley, fresh basil, and milk to the breadcrumbs. Mix well. Then add the whisked eggs, cooked eggplant, and parmesan cheese. Use your hands to mix everything together until fully combined.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Form the prepared eggplant mixture into approximately 24 meatballs (or as many as you’d like to make) rolling tightly between the palms of your hands, and transferring to the prepared baking sheet.
5. Bake and serve. Bake your eggplant meatballs at 375 degrees F for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and enjoy with your favorite store-bought or homemade marinara sauce, arrabbiata sauce, or spaghetti sauce. A side of soft, toasted bread (for dipping) is recommended.
To make gluten-free meatballs use one of the following in place of regular breadcrumbs:
- almond flour
- coconut flour
- rolled oats
For vegan meatballs:
- Instead of using eggs as a binder replace each egg with:
- 1 tablespoon flax or chia seeds whisked with 3 tablespoons boiling water.
- 1/4 cup avocado
- Omit the cheese or replace it with a plant-based cheese alternative.
- Use plant-based milk such as soy, almond, or coconut milk.
More Eggplant Recipes,
If you try making this Vegetarian Eggplant Meatballs Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
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Eggplant Meatballs Recipe with Marinara Sauce
For the Meatballs
- 1 large eggplant ((approx. 1½-2 pounds total))
- 2 cups breadcrumbs (homemade or (store-bought okay))
- 2 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley (minced)
- 2 tbsp fresh basil (minced)
- 1/2 cup milk ((cow or plant-based))
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese (grated)
- 2 large eggs (whisked)
For baking (optional)
- 1 (16 oz) jar marinara sauce ((see notes) )
- 1.5 cups fresh mozzarella (shredded)
- fresh basil leaves (to garnish)
- fresh parsley (chopped)
- Fresh bread or cook pasta (to serve)
For the Meatballs
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Wash and dry your eggplant(s), then use a knife to prick little holes in your eggplant. Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for approximately 45-60 minutes, or until very soft.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before gently peeling away the skin from the flesh. Discard the skin and transfer flesh to a large mixing bowl, using a large fork to break apart into small bits and pieces.
- Meanwhile, prepare the breadcrumbs (if making your own). Transfer approximately 3 cups of crusty day-old bread to a large food processor (fresh and fluffy bread will not work). Process until all of the bread has been chopped into tiny uniform little bits and pieces. Measure out 2 cups and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- In the same bowl as your breadcrumbs, add the Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, pepper, fresh parsley, fresh basil, and milk. Mix thoroughly to combine. Then add the whisked eggs, cooked eggplant, and parmesan cheese. Use your hands to mix everything together until fully combined.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Form the eggplant mixture into approximately 24 balls, rolling tightly between the palms of your hands, and transferring to the prepared baking sheet. Bake until firm and golden, approximately 20-25 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and enjoy as is, with pasta and pasta sauce, or baked in simmering marinara sauce and melted cheese (instructions below).
For Eggplant Meatballs with Marinara Sauce
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Add approximately 1 cup of prepared marinara sauce to a large oven-safe skillet followed by a single later of pre-cooked eggplant meatballs (depending on the size of your meatballs, all the meatballs may not fit in the same skillet). Spoon the remaining tomato sauce on and around your meatballs, top with freshly shredded mozzarella cheese, and freshly torn basil leaves.
- Transfer your skillet to the preheated oven and bake for 15-25 minutes, or until pasta sauce is hot and bubbly and the cheese is melted.
- Serve immediately with cooked pasta noodles or fresh, warm, buttery bread.
- If you love sauce or plan to serve this recipe with noodles or pasta, you may want to consider having an extra jar of pasta sauce on hand.
- Double the recipe and freeze extra meatballs in a ziplock bag after they have been cooked and cooled.
- Swap the pasta for spaghetti squash to help keep the carbs down.
- Leftovers are fantastic the next day. I recommend storing the meatballs and the sauce separately to prevent them from turning soggy.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)