Eggplant Meatballs are a vegetarian version of an Italian favorite!
Are we cool with calling something a meatball when it doesn’t actually have meat in it?
You’re looking at meatless meatballs. Instead of meat I’m using a super savory combination of eggplant, mushrooms, breadcrumbs, and Italian seasoning.
This was actually a reader requested recipe, and I’m SO glad they did! These are the perfect texture and flavor to go with marinara sauce and spaghetti, stuffed in a hoagie bun, or anything else your hungry brain can dream up.
A lot of vegetarian meatballs I’ve tried fall apart easily, but not these! They’re also baked, which makes them perfectly cooked all the way around, not to mention you won’t need to stand over a splattering pan while you try to get all the sides evenly browned.
Just a heads up, I feel like eggplants spoil much quicker than other veggies I keep in the refrigerator. I generally only go to the grocery store once a week, and need to plan to cook my eggplant within three days max or it will have gone bad.
You’ll know your eggplant has gone bad if it is dark and squishy on the inside. A good eggplant will be firm with a light colored flesh and small seeds speckled throughout.
How do you make vegetarian meatballs?
I like cooking the eggplant and mushrooms on the stove top to release any moisture, then combining them with breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese (use a vegetarian parmesan if concerned about rennet), an egg, and seasonings.
Roll the mixture into balls, bake, and drop into your favorite marinara sauce. The balls hold together beautifully while offering a tender bite once cut into.
These eggplant meatballs can be customized! Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Serve on a hoagie bun with mozzarella or provolone cheese similar to these eggplant parmesan sandwiches
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes with the seasonings
- Add 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley to the meatball mixture before baking
- Use whatever kind of mushrooms you have on hand or prefer
- Use gluten-free breadcrumbs to make these gluten-free
- Toast the walnuts before chopping for extra flavor
If you make this recipe be sure to rate it, leave a comment, or tag #theliveinkitchen on Instagram!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more as needed
- 1 large eggplant, peeled and cubed (about 7-8 heaping cups)
- 1/4 cup water
- 4 ounces portobello mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- Coarse kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Marinara sauce
- Fresh chopped parsley, optional
- Cooked spaghetti, optional
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplant and 1/4 cup water. Cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant has softened, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a another large skillet, cook mushrooms over medium heat. Add a bit of oil as needed and stir frequently until the mushrooms have released most of their moisture and turned dark and soft, about 10 minutes. If you only have one skillet it’s ok to cook the eggplant, then the mushrooms in the same skillet, but cooking them together will overcrowd the pan.
- Add walnuts to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs. Add the cooked eggplant and mushrooms and process into a paste.
- Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic, beaten egg, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Stir completely to combine.
- Roll the mixture into small balls and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 20-25 minutes until the balls are firm and lightly browned.
- While the meatballs are baking, heat marinara sauce over medium low heat in the same skillet you cooked one of the vegetables in. Once the meatballs are done, carefully transfer them to the marinara sauce and gently spoon sauce over the meatballs to coat them completely.
- Serve eggplant meatballs over spaghetti with fresh parsley if desired.