Eggplant Meatballs

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5 from 30 votes
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Softened eggplant is transformed into juicy vegetarian meatballs in this eggplant meatballs recipe! Baked in the oven before being tossed in pasta sauce, each meatball is bursting with Italian flavors that pair perfectly with spaghetti, subs, and more.

eggplant meatballs.

I used to have a hard time coming up with dinner ideas for Meatless Monday, but not anymore! It’s now easier than ever to turn vegetables into new and exciting dishes, like plain cabbage into meaty cabbage steaks and raw cauliflower florets into General Tso’s cauliflower

Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables for this very reason. It’s fun to play with and can be used to make vegetarian-friendly pizza, low carb lasagna, and so much more.

In this eggplant meatballs recipe, sautéed eggplant is pureed with simple ingredients, then rolled into balls and baked to meaty, Italian-flavored perfection. The baked meatballs are tossed in pasta sauce and served over pasta, with salad, or however you like! It’s a richly flavored and deliciously meaty recipe that you’ll hardly notice is meat-free!

Table of Contents
  1. Why you’ll love this eggplant meatball recipe
  2. Ingredients needed
  3. Gluten free substitute
  4. How to make eggplant meatballs 
  5. Tips to make the best recipe
  6. What to serve with eggplant meatballs
  7. Storage instructions
  8. Recommended tools to make this recipe
  9. More eggplant recipes to try
  10. Frequently asked questions 
  11. Eggplant Meatballs (Recipe Card)

Why you’ll love this eggplant meatball recipe

  • Mouth-watering Italian flavors. A handful of ingredients, like garlic, basil, and parmesan, are used in the meatball filling to help every bite taste like classic Italian-style meatballs.
  • Vegetarian. You won’t be missing the meat in this recipe! A blend of pureed eggplant and Italian-inspired ingredients leaves you with savory vegetarian meatballs that are naturally meaty and tender.
  • Versatile. Serve the eggplant balls and pasta sauce over spaghetti for a classic meal, or take it over the top by stuffing them into subs, topping them on a salad or grain bowl, or make them the main dish. There are endless ways to serve eggplant meatballs!
vegan eggplant meatballs.

Ingredients needed

This recipe is made with almost all of the same ingredients as a traditional Italian meatball recipe but swaps the ground meat for softened and pureed eggplant. This is what you need:

  • Eggplant. You need 2 medium-sized eggplants to make this recipe.
  • Olive oil. To sauté the eggplant.
  • Water. Water helps the eggplant soften in the pan and prevents it from burning. Feel free to use vegetable stock instead to deepen the flavor.
  • Salt and pepper. For flavor.
  • Garlic. Fresh garlic cloves give the meatballs a distinct and mouthwatering savory flavor.
  • Basil. Fresh basil is best but dried will work in a pinch.
  • Italian breadcrumbs. Use pre-seasoned Italian breadcrumbs or regular breadcrumbs stirred together with an Italian seasoning blend.

Gluten free substitute

To make gluten free eggplant meatballs, use Italian-seasoned gluten free breadcrumbs instead.

  • Parmesan cheese. This gives the meatballs a savory, salty, and cheesy flavor. You can even add shredded mozzarella in addition to the parmesan for extra cheesy and gooey meatballs.
  • Eggs. To bind the meatball mixture together.
  • Pasta sauce. Any jarred or homemade pasta sauce (or sugo!) you love will work.
  • Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. For garnish.

How to make eggplant meatballs 

Making meatballs with eggplant is easier than you may think. They come together in just 6 simple steps:

Step 1 – Cook the eggplant

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the eggplant and sauté. Pour the water into the pan and continue cooking until the eggplant is soft.

roasted eggplants.

Step 2 – Puree

Transfer the softened eggplant to a food processor along with the garlic, salt, pepper, and basil. Process until smooth, then pour into a mixing bowl.

how to make eggplant meatballs mixture.

Step 3 – Finish the meatball mixture

Add the breadcrumbs, parmesan, and eggs to the bowl with the blended eggplant. Stir together, being careful not to over-mix.

eggplant meatball mix.

Step 4 – Shape and bake the meatballs

Use your hands to shape a scoop of the mixture at a time into round golf ball-sized meatballs. Place them on a baking sheet, then bake in the oven.

how to make eggplant meatballs.

Step 5 – Heat the tomato sauce

While the baked eggplant meatballs are cooling, heat the pasta sauce in the non-stick skillet. Place the meatballs in the skillet but do not toss them in the sauce.

baked eggplant meatballs.

Step 6 – Serve

Take the skillet off of the heat when the sauce is warmed through. Garnish with parmesan cheese and basil, then serve!

Tips to make the best recipe

  • Is the eggplant mixture too wet? Try stirring in more breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese until it isn’t soggy and is easier to work with.
  • Use clean and wet hands to shape the meatballs. A little water on your hands will prevent the mixture from sticking.
  • Roast the eggplant. To deepen the flavor of the meatballs, toss the eggplant pieces in olive oil, then roast them in a 450ºF oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until the pieces are soft and lightly browned.

What to serve with eggplant meatballs

Just like regular or vegan meatballs, you can top the eggplant meatballs and tomato sauce on a plate of spaghetti or your favorite pasta. For a lighter option, swap the pasta for gluten free pasta, leafy greens, or zucchini noodles instead.

The meatballs are also delicious as a main dish for dinner. Pair them with Italian-inspired side dishes, like stuffed tomatoes, garlic knots, and orzo salad for a flavorful Italian feast.

Make sure to save some leftovers to stuff into meatball subs for lunch the next day!

Storage instructions

To store: Once they’re cooked in the sauce and slightly cooled, you can store the leftover meatballs in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

To freeze: Eggplant meatballs can be frozen without the tomato sauce for up to 2 months. Thaw them on the kitchen counter before reheating.

To reheat: Reheat the meatballs with the tomato sauce in a non-stick skillet until they’re heated through.

eggplant meatball recipe.

More eggplant recipes to try

Frequently asked questions 

Do you need to peel the eggplant?

No, peeling the eggplant isn’t necessary. As it cooks, the skin softens and melts in your mouth, just like the flesh.

Can you make eggplant meatballs ahead of time? 

Sure! The meatballs can be prepared without the marinara sauce, then stored in the fridge or freezer for later.

eggplant meatballs recipe.

Eggplant Meatballs

5 from 30 votes
Softened eggplant is transformed into juicy vegetarian meatballs in this eggplant meatballs recipe! Baked in the oven before being tossed in pasta sauce, each meatball is bursting with Italian flavors that pair perfectly with spaghetti, subs, and more.
Servings: 4 servings
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Total: 40 minutes

Ingredients  

  • 2 medium eggplants cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup basil finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 large eggs lightly whisked
  • 20 ounces pasta sauce

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 190C/375F. Grease a large baking tray and set aside.
  • Add oil to a large non-stick pan and place over medium heat. Once hot, add the eggplant and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the water and cook for another 10 minutes or until the eggplant has softened.
  • Transfer the eggplant mixture to a food processor, along with the garlic, salt, pepper, and basil, and process until smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
  • Add the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and egg and mix well. If the mixture is too wet, add more bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.
  • Using your hands, shape the mixture into meatballs. Place the meatballs on the baking tray and bake for 20 minutes. 
  • Remove from the oven and let them cool slightly.
  • In a non-stick skillet, add the tomato pasta sauce. Add the meatballs to it but do not mix. Once the sauce is heated, remove from the heat and drop a little sauce on each one, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and some finely chopped basil. 

Notes

TO STORE: Once they’re cooked in the sauce and slightly cooled, you can store the leftover meatballs in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
TO FREEZE: Eggplant meatballs can be frozen without the tomato sauce for up to 2 months. Thaw them on the kitchen counter before reheating.
TO REHEAT: Reheat the meatballs with the tomato sauce in a non-stick skillet until they’re heated through.

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 379kcalCarbohydrates: 46gProtein: 16gFat: 16gSodium: 1425mgPotassium: 688mgFiber: 9gSugar: 11gVitamin A: 453IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 272mgIron: 3mgNET CARBS: 37g
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Author: Arman Liew
Tried this recipe?Give us a shout at @thebigmansworld or tag #thebigmansworld!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website.

Arman Liew

I’m a two time cookbook author, photographer, and writer, and passionate about creating easy and healthier recipes. I believe you don’t need to be experienced in the kitchen to make good food using simple ingredients that most importantly, taste delicious.

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