Vegetarian eggplant meatballs are savory "meatballs" that can be served as a main course or appetizer. Whichever way you choose to serve these eggplant meatballs, you will not be disappointed because they are delicious!
These savory meatballs are a lighter, healthier alternative to beef or pork. Serve them at your next gathering with your favorite pasta and impress your guests with their flavor.
Serve these vegetarian meatballs covered in homemade marinara sauce for the perfect Italian flavor!
Why this Recipe Works
- This eggplant meatball recipe is vegetarian and gluten-free with a vegan option.
- Eggplant meatballs are easy to make with simple ingredients.
- They are easy to make ahead of time, perfect for meal prep!
How to make eggplant veggie meatballs
Get all of the ingredients ready: Roughly chop the eggplant into 1 to 1 ½ inch chunks, mince the onions and garlic, grate the cheese, and drain and rinse the chickpeas.
Step 1. Cook the eggplant
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the eggplant chunks and water; reduce to medium heat, cook until the eggplant becomes tender (about 15 minutes).
Step 2. Pulse the chickpeas
While the eggplant is cooking, pulse the chickpeas and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor until they become crumbly.
Step 3. Add the eggplant
Once the eggplant has cooked, transfer it to the food processor with the chickpeas and walnuts.
Step 4. Cook the Onions and garlic
Heat the remaining oil in the skillet over medium heat and add the onions and garlic. Cook them until they become translucent, and add them to the food processor bowl.
Step 5. Blend & refrigerate
Blend the ingredients in the food processor into a thick batter. Whisk an egg in a large bowl and stir in the eggplant mixture and the grated cheese. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for an hour to firm the mixture up.
Step 6. Form the meatballs
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the mixture from the refrigerator and roll the mixture into balls that are about 2 inches round.
Step 7. Bake the meatballs
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and place the eggplant meatballs in a single layer onto the pan. Bake the meatballs for about 20 minutes until they become golden brown.
Ingredient notes & substitutions
fresh garlic and onion can be replaced with ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder and 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon of onion powder.
Walnuts add fat and protein to this recipe; they can be substituted with an equal amount of cashews or almonds.
Chickpeas act as a binder and add protein, they can be substituted with white beans.
Storing and using leftovers
Store leftover cooked vegetarian eggplant meatballs in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days in an airtight container.
Reheat leftover eggplant meatballs on the stove, in the oven,or in the microwave.
Make ahead instructions
This is a great recipe to make ahead of time. Mix the ingredients a day or two ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator. Before serving, form the meatballs and bake them following the recipe instructions.
Eggplant meatballs can also be baked and frozen for later use. Once the meatballs have been baked, allow them to cool off and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and pop the pan into the freezer. Once frozen, place the meatballs into a freezer container or reusable bag and use them as needed.
Defrost frozen meatballs in the refrigerator overnight, or drop them into your favorite tomato sauce straight from the freezer. Cook them in the sauce until they are heated, which should take about 45 minutes, depending on the size of the meatballs.
Serve these delicious eggplant meatballs on a hoagie roll smothered with your favorite marinara sauce and topped with melted provolone cheese for a meatball sub.
Eggplant meatballs recipe variations
Meatless meatballs are so versatile, here are some suggestions to change them up.
Vegan eggplant balls - Replace the Parmesan cheese with ¼ cup nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan cheese. Swap the egg with a flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax seed combined with two tablespoons of water).
Eggplant parmesan meatballs - Once they are cooked, arrange them on a baking sheet, drizzle with pasta sauce and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese.
Eggplant veggie burgers - Instead of meatballs, turn them into patties; top with cheese and tomato sauce.
Meatball appetizers - Make mini eggplant meatballs and serve them with a side of marinara sauce for dipping.
Spicy eggplant meatballs - Add a little bit of red pepper flakes to taste to the meatballs mixture before baking.
- If you are in a hurry, you can speed up the chilling time by placing the mixture in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Try using a cookie scoop or ice cream scoop to shape the meatballs.
- Don't let the meatballs sit for long in sauce, they may fall apart!
Yes, they are. Eggplant meatballs are made with healthy eggplant and chickpeas. They are a good source of nutrients, fiber, and protein. There are no bread crumbs so they are gluten-free as well.
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- Prepare the ingredients: rough chop the eggplant into 1 to 1 ½ inch chunks, mince the onions and garlic, grate the cheese, drain and rinse the chickpeas - set everything aside.
- Add 1 tablespoon oil to a skillet and heat it over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the eggplant chunks and water.
- Whisk an egg in a large bowl, and stir in the eggplant mixture along with the cheese - mix until everything is combined.
- Place the meatball mixture in the refrigerator for at least an hour, making it easier to form the meatballs.
- Roll the mixture into balls about 2 inches in size
- For vegan/dairy-free eggplant meatballs, replace the Parmesan cheese with ¼ cup nutritional yeast and the egg with a flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flaxseed combined with 2 tablespoons water)
- Serve the meatballs on a hoagie roll topped with melted mozzarella cheese, on top of your favorite pasta or zoodles, or in sauce for an appetizer.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate and can vary based on cooking methods and ingredients used
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