Vegetarian Eggplant Meatballs
Looking for a delicious vegetarian meatball option? Look no further than these eggplant meatballs! Full of flavor that is reminiscent of classic eggplant parmesan, these meatballs are made from sautéed eggplant, breadcrumbs, optional parmesan cheese, and tons of flavor. Perfect as a veggie-loaded alternative to traditional meatballs over pasta or just on their own!
TNNers, this one is for you. Well, all of our recipes are for you, but this one was a special reader request.
As an experienced home cook and veggie expert, I pride myself on all the delicious and healthy dinner recipes the TNN team creates each year. We have found so many ways for you to get more veggies on the table in a way that feels doable and that you all love! But, two requests come in year over year: the need for more delicious eggplant recipes and a vegetarian meatball recipe.
So, we combined those two requests into one incredibly delicious and veggie-loaded recipe: Eggplant Parmesan “Meatballs”.
These vegetarian meatballs are delicious and will totally scratch that meatball itch…without any meat involved! The eggplant is sautéed with garlic, onions, salt, and Italian seasoning to help give it the best texture and flavor. After the eggplant is cooked, we mash it up with a fork or potato masher, mix it with Panko breadcrumbs, an egg, and parmesan cheese, to create a texture that is similar to meatballs and that taste like eggplant parmesan. Using 2 pounds of eggplant, this recipe is great for when you find yourself with an abundance of the purple plant and is an out-of-the-box way to help even the iffiest of veggie-eaters to enjoy eggplant. While this recipe takes a little time to make (about 45 minutes start to finish), it is relatively easy and doesn’t require any special gear beyond patience.
How to make eggplant meatballs: visual guide
- For dairy free: You can omit the Parmesan cheese and add some extra seasoning to the eggplant mixture. The mozzarella melted on the top is totally optional.
- For gluten free adaptation, use gluten-free breadcrumbs, Panko-style, if possible, but any kind will work. Start by adding 1 cup to the eggplant then add ¼ to ½ cup more as needed to make the mixture easy to roll into balls.
Other vegetarian dinner ideas that get the veggies in…
- 30-Minute Creamy Carrot Red Lentil Soup
- 15-Minute Creamy Leek and Mushroom Pasta
- Veggie-Loaded Tortellini Soup (vegetarian)
- Vegetarian Stuffed Delicata Squash
- Tomato Arugula Pizza
- Hearty Slow Cooker Veggie Chili
- Lentil Vegan Shepherd’s Pie
Loving these eggplant meatballs and now you’re hungry for more?
Vegetarian Eggplant Meatballs
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup finely chopped onions
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1 packed cup baby spinach, finely chopped
- 1 large egg
- ⅓ cup grated vegetarian Parmesan cheese
- 1¼ cup Panko breadcrumbs
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 cups pasta sauce
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat the oven to 425℉. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or grease with oil.
- Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet oven medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened and lightly golden brown around the edges, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic and diced eggplant. If not all the eggplant fits in the pan, add half and then add the rest once the first batch has cooked down.
- Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and the 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning. Cook the eggplant, stirring every few minutes, until the eggplant has released all its liquid and is very soft. This should take about 15 minutes. If the bottom of the pan is starting to burn, turn the heat down to medium-low and continue to stir and cook.
- Once the eggplant is fully cooked, stir in the chopped spinach then transfer the eggplant mixture to a large bowl. Mash well with a potato masher and let cool for 10 minutes.
- Add the egg, parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, garlic powder, and remaining ½ tsp of salt to the bowl and mix until well combined.
- Form 2-tablespooon-sized balls of the eggplant mixture with a cookie scoop or your hands. The mixture should be soft and slightly sticky, but if it’s very sticky and hard to roll into balls, mix in another ¼ cup of breadcrumbs. Place the rolled eggplant balls onto the prepared baking sheet. You should get 24 to 26 meatballs.
- Bake the meatballs until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Heat the marinara sauce in the same pan you used to cook the eggplant. Once the meatballs are done, add them to the sauce and gently scoop the sauce over the meatballs to coat.
- Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top of the meatballs. To melt the cheese, either cover the pan until melted or set under the broiler until bubbly. Serve.