Roasted Eggplant Meatballs

Jun 23, 2021 · By Bethany Kramer
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These delicious eggplant meatballs are the perfect “meatless” version of an Italian classic. Instead of meat, they are filled with roasted eggplant, parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, and fresh basil.

white bowl with spaghetti and eggplant meatballs with red sauce in it on brown wooden board.

This vegetarian meatball is a must for eggplant lovers! Throughout my blog, you’ll notice I use a lot of eggplants – especially in Italian dishes. It’s a very “meaty” tasting vegetable and is incredibly versatile to cook with!

To prepare the eggplant for this dish, I went with oven-roasting. This method is no-fuss and really helps draws out a lot of flavor from the eggplant itself.

When the meatballs are prepared and baked, the finished product is moist and full of fresh herbs and garlic-y flavor. When paired with rich marinara and pasta noodles, it’s oh-so-delicious – even for meat-lovers!

Ingredients – What You Need

For this recipe you’ll need just 7 simple ingredients (not including salt & pepper). See below for the full list.

ingredients for eggplant meatballs arranged on a dark gray background.

Eggplant: you’ll need around one pound of ripe purple eggplant.
Breadcrumbs: use homemade or your favorite store-bought. Use gluten-free breadcrumbs if needed.
Garlic: to add lots of flavor. Fresh garlic is best or you can swap for garlic powder.
Basil: you’ll need a handful of fresh basil – dried herbs won’t add as much flavor.
Parmesan: I recommend using freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano.
Egg: only one egg is used to help bind the ingredients together.
Oil: for roasting the eggplant.

Step by Step Recipe Instructions

Preheat oven to 400F and roast diced eggplant for 18-20 minutes or until edges are browned. Flip halfway through.

Then add diced roasted eggplant to a food processor or high-powered blender. Pulse together until smooth. Let pureed eggplant cool while you prepare additional ingredients.

Then add pureed eggplant and rest of ingredients into a large bowl. Stir together.

Then use a small cookie scoop to measure meatballs, gently form with hands, then arrange on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

Lower oven to 375F and bake meatballs for 20-25 minutes. Then when finished add to a sauce pan with marinara and heat in sauce for 5 minutes before serving.

Tips for Success

Use a cookie scoop to measure – this cookie scooper is a super-easy way to get the perfect meatball size. An ice cream scoop would be far too big, but this size is perfect!

Make it gluten-free – either use store-bought breadcrumbs or make them yourself with gluten-free bread! You can find my favorite homemade breadcrumb recipe in this post.

What to serve eggplant meatballs with – my favorite way to serve these up is with chickpea pasta, regular wheat pasta, or gluten-free noodles. You can also serve them with zucchini or vegetable noodles!

Add extra herbs – for more fresh flavor, you can also add chopped fresh oregano or parsley to these meatballs.

Do I need to peel the eggplant? You do not need to peel the eggplant before roasting. The skin will add meaty texture and flavor to the meatball!

How to Store Leftovers and Freeze

Refrigerate leftovers: store meatballs in an airtight container or ziplock bag, refrigerate for 3-4 days.

Freezing & reheating tips: bake meatballs, and skip simmering in the sauce. Add to a freezer-friendly bag and lay flat, freeze for 1-2 months. When ready to serve, thaw at room temperature and simmer in tomato sauce until warm.

hand holding white bowl with spaghetti and eggplant meatballs with red tomato sauce in it over a brown wooden board.

More Italian Eggplant Recipes to Try

Classic Eggplant Parmesan
6 Ingredient Roasted Eggplant Pasta
Baked Eggplant Rollatini

Roasted Eggplant Meatballs

4.75 from 4 votes
These delicious eggplant meatballs are the perfect "meatless" version of an Italian classic. Instead of meat, they are filled with roasted eggplant, parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, and fresh basil.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Serves 15 meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 lb eggplant, cubed
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (regular panko or gluten-free)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese grated
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon (each) salt & black pepper
  • 2 cups tomato sauce/marinara for serving

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Roasted eggplant: on a sheet pan, arrange cubed eggplant with olive oil and sprinkle of salt. Toss in oil and bake for 20 minutes, flip halfway through.
  • Puree eggplant: in a large food processor, add eggplant and pulse until it's pureed. Let cool.
  • Mix meatball ingredients: in a large bowl, mix together pureed eggplant, minced garlic, parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, egg, salt & pepper, and chopped basil.
  • Form meatballs: use a cookie scoop or measure out 3 tablespoons of meatball and gently used hands to form into ball. Arrange on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake: lower oven temperature to 375F and bake meatballs for 20-25 minutes.
  • Simmer in sauce: when meatballs are finished, add to a sauce pan with marinara and simmer for about 5 minutes. Serve right away with additional chopped fresh basil and parmesan cheese!

Notes

Make it gluten-free – either use store-bought breadcrumbs or make them yourself with gluten-free bread! You can find my favorite homemade breadcrumb recipe in this post.
What to serve eggplant meatballs with – my favorite way to serve these up is with chickpea pasta, regular wheat pasta, or gluten-free noodles. You can also serve them with zucchini or vegetable noodles!
Add extra herbs – for more fresh flavor, you can also add chopped fresh oregano or parsley to these meatballs.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword eggplant meatballs, roasted eggplant meatballs, vegetarian meatballs
Freezer Friendly Yes
Author Bethany Kramer

Nutrition

Serving: 1meatball | Calories: 53kcal | Carbohydrates: 7.2g | Protein: 2.2g | Fat: 1.7g | Cholesterol: 13.4mg | Sodium: 119.5mg | Fiber: 1.3g | Sugar: 1.6g



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10 Comments

  • Carol says:

    I have an abundance of eggplant from my garden and trying to find away to use them. Have you ever frozen the meatballs?

  • Maggie says:

    5 stars
    Many years ago, I had eggplant meatballs at a great local restaurant – yummmm. I would LOVE to be able to make these meatballs! But our free-wheeling foodie days are in the past. I wondered if you have any suggested tweaks that would give us a pretty darn tasty version of your meatballs while staying true to our dietary limitations.

    Please feel free to respond “No.” Our limits aren’t your problem, and I know there is no way any substitutions could perfectly replace the listed ingredients. But we had a friend who always said “Ya don’t know if ya don’t ask! So, here goes.

    We have to avoid carbs (as in bread crumbs) and require zero added cholesterol (as in whole eggs). Do you have any suggestions for a very low carb ‘bread-less crumb’? Can I successfully substitute pasteurized egg whites in lieu of a whole egg? Would aquafaba (chickpea liquid) be a better binding agent than pure egg whites, and if so, how much aquafaba should be used in lieu of the whole egg? (We already use ‘plant-based parm’ so that’s one ingredient substitution I found on my own! I really do look for alternatives!)

    Thank you.

    • Bethany says:

      Hi Maggie, I totally understand. And I always try to think up adjustments for those with different dietary needs. You can definitely try egg whites instead of a whole egg! You just need something to bind the “meatball”. You might have to eye ball how much you need based on how well the mixture holds together. As far as breadcrumbs, you could try almond flour/almond meal instead! I’ve not tested this, but I think it could work 🙂 Let me know if you try these recommendations! Sorry I don’t have any suggestions tested!

    • Maggie says:

      Thank you Bethany! I’ll give the almond meal a try – I just discovered I can ‘air fry’ raw almonds in my Breville countertop oven/air fryer so I can create it as needed!
      (And I would NEVER ask another human being (other than my brother, who has almost the same set of dietary constraints as I have) to try some of the concoctions I’ve come up with!!!

  • Donna says:

    4 stars
    They were delicious, but they went flat. Any suggestions?

    • Bethany says:

      Hi Donna, were they completely rolled up? That’s really the only way to keep them from flattening is rolling them tightly. I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  • Jill says:

    5 stars
    Delicious – simply delicious. I think roasting the eggplant first deepens the flavor. Plus the seasoning quantities give them a robust flavor.

    • Pasquale alessi says:

      5 stars
      Do eggplant balls need to be turned over half way through the baking time? Mine seem be cooking well on the bottom but top is slow to brown.

    • Bethany says:

      They typically do not need to be turned halfway. Every oven is a little different, so if you feel like they’re cooking fast in your oven you can always turn them slightly using a spatula! Hope you enjoyed them!