Eggplant Parmesan Meatballs

4.97 from 57 votes
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Eggplant Parmesan Meatballs offer all there is to love about Eggplant Parmesan in a vegetarian meatball. These eggplant meatballs are best served with marinara sauce, ricotta cheese, and crusty bread for dipping. (Dairy free option also available!)Vegetarian meatballs in a black baking pan with marinara sauce and ricotta

Why You’ll Love these Eggplant Parmesan Meatballs

Fork-tender, filling, and filled with Parmesan and herbs, these healthy eggplant meatballs are the unsung Italian heroes.

Eggplant Parmesan is just one of those Italian dishes that exudes comfort. It’s also one of the heartiest vegetarian dishes out there, and equally appealing to vegetarians and meat eaters alike. 

These eggplant meatballs boast all the beloved qualities of the classic Italian dish in a two-bite treat. They’re crispy, cheesy, herby, and extra delicious dunked in marinara sauce. I love serving them with crusty Italian bread and a crisp side salad. However you can also enjoy them in a hoagie roll for a vegetarian riff on a meatball sub

They’re truly one of the most delicious ways to enjoy multiple servings of veggies this time of year. And while they’re impressive enough for entertaining, they’re easy enough to make on any given weeknight. 

Recipe Ingredients and SubstitutionsRecipe ingredients in separate bowls with blue labels

  • Eggplant: You need 1 1/2 lbs of eggplant for this recipe, which amounts to roughly 2 medium globe eggplants. Globe are the large, seedy eggplants with dark purple skin–the most common variety you’ll find in the produce section. Look for eggplants with shiny skin that are firm to the touch–both signs of ripeness and freshness. 
  • Breadcrumbs: The recipe calls for seasoned breadcrumbs, however you can also use plain and season them yourself. All you need to add is 1 tsp. Italian seasoning, or a mix of whichever dried herbs you have on hand. If making gluten free, I love this brand of gluten free breadcrumbs. 
  • Parmesan: You need 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, which you can grate yourself or purchase pre-grated. If making dairy free, use homemade pine nut Parmesan or nutritional yeast instead. 
  • Eggs: For binding the eggplant meatballs, you need one whole egg and one egg yolk. Unfortunately, plant-based egg alternatives such as chia or flax eggs don’t work great in this recipe. 
  • Garlic: 3 cloves (~1 Tbsp) of minced fresh garlic adds an aromatic backbone to these meatless balls. If you don’t have fresh garlic on hand, use 1 tsp of granulated garlic instead. 
  • Parsley: Chopped fresh parsley adds bright, herbaceous flavor. Alternatively, you can use chopped fresh basil leaves, however the flavor will be a little stronger. 
  • For Serving: I love serving these eggplant meatballs in marinara sauce with dollops of ricotta cheese. Any brand of marinara works, however my absolute favorite is Rao’s brand. If making the recipe dairy free, I suggest using Kite Hill’s brand of almond-based ricotta. 

Meatball being sliced into to see the insides

Step-by-Step Instructions:

Step 1: Roast the Eggplant

Start by cutting the eggplant into 1×1-inch cubes. Next, place them in a 13×9-inch baking dish, and toss with oil and salt. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, tossing the eggplant once halfway through.

Transfer eggplant to the fridge and let cool for 20 minutes, or until cool enough to handle. Maintain oven temperature. Cubes of eggplant being roasted in a white pan

Step 2: Pulse Eggplant in Food Processor

Transfer cooled eggplant to a food processor and pulse about 10 to 12 times, or until the eggplant is finely chopped/broken down. Transfer eggplant to a large bowl. Roasted eggplants being pulsed in a food processor

Step 3: Make Eggplant Meatballs

To the bowl with eggplant, add breadcrumbs, Parmesan, eggs, parsley, garlic, black pepper, and onion powder. Use your hands to mix the ingredients together until well-combined. (The mixture should still feel pretty moist.)

Carefully form mixture into 20 mini meatballs (about 2 Tbsp. each).Aubergine meatball mixture being mixed in a clear glass bowl

Step 4: Sauté Meatballs in Skillet

Heat olive oil in a large skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add half the meatballs and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, turning to cook all sides, until browned. Repeat with second batch of eggplant meatballs.Vegetarian meatballs being seared in a large black skillet

Step 5: Bake Eggplant Parmesan Meatballs 

Spread marinara sauce in the same 13×9-inch pan you roasted the eggplant in. Add cooked eggplant meatballs to the pan, and add small dollops of ricotta cheese throughout. 

Place pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until the marinara is bubbly. Serve warm with crusty bread. Skillet of marinara sauce, ricotta cheese, and aubergine meatballs before being baked

What to Serve with Eggplant Meatballs

  • Marinara Sauce. Good-quality store bought pasta sauce is one of steadfast pantry staples. My go-to is Rao’s Marinara Sauce, which you can find at most well-stocked grocery stores. 
  • Pasta. For a real Italian feast, serve these meatballs over your pasta of choice. To pump up the protein, use a chickpea or lentil-based pasta, such as Banza brand
  • Crusty Bread: You simply can’t go wrong with a chunk of crusty Italian bread for dipping. It will also help round out the meal with a bit more sustenance. 
  • Hoagie Bun. Layer on some eggplant meatballs with melty mozzarella for the ultimate vegetarian meatball sub!

How to Make-Ahead, Store, and Reheat:

  • Make-Ahead: Roast the eggplant up to two days ahead and keep refrigerated in an airtight container. You can also prepare the whole meatball mixture up to 1 day ahead, and remove from the fridge 20 minutes before forming into balls. 
  • Store: Store leftover meatballs (with or without sauce) in an airtight container refrigerated up to 4 days. 
  • Reheat: If reheating the meatballs in sauce, it’s best to warm them stovetop in a small saucepan. If reheating the meatballs without sauce, either warm them gently in a skillet over medium-low heat, or in the toaster oven. 

Baking pan filled with red sauce and vegetarian meatballs with a scoop being taken outSkillet of meatballs with one being sliced into

More Vegetarian Meatball Recipes

Moroccan Lentil Meatballs with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce reader favorite!

Chickpea Meatballs

Kung Pao Cauliflower Meatballs

If you give this recipe a try, I’d love for you to leave a rating and review. Also, be sure snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth so I can see your beautiful creations.

4.97 from 57 votes

Eggplant Parmesan Meatballs (Vegetarian)

Eggplant Parmesan Meatballs offer all there is to love about Eggplant Parmesan in a vegetarian meatball. These eggplant meatballs are best served with marinara sauce, ricotta cheese, and crusty bread for dipping. (Dairy free option also available!)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 5

Equipment

  • 13x9-inch baking dish
  • Food processor

Ingredients  

  • 1 1/2 lbs. eggplant, cut into 1x1-inch pieces (about 2 medium globe eggplants)
  • 6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup, plus 2 Tbsp. seasoned breadcrumbs (sub plain breadcrumbs mixed with 1 tsp. Italian seasoning)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 whole egg, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 (24-oz.) jar store-bought marinara sauce (I use Rao's brand)
  • 1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • Crusty bread for serving
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Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 375ºF. Place eggplant in a 13x9-inch baking dish; toss with 3 Tbsp. oil and salt. Bake for 30 minutes, tossing once once halfway through. Transfer eggplant to the fridge and chill for 20 minutes, or until cool enough to handle. Keep oven on and wipe pan clean.
  • Place cooled eggplant in a food processor and pulse about 10 to 12 times, or until the eggplant is finely chopped/broken down. Transfer eggplant to a large bowl. Add breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley, eggs, garlic, black pepper, and onion powder. Use your hands to mix the ingredients together until well-combined. (The mixture should still feel moist.) Gently form into 20 mini meatballs (about 2 Tbsp. each).
  • Heat remaining 3 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat. Once hot, add half the meatballs and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, turning to cook all sides, until browned. Repeat with second batch of eggplant meatballs.
  • Spread marinara sauce in the same 13x9-inch baking pan you roasted the eggplant in. Add eggplant meatballs to the pan, and scatter small dollops of ricotta cheese throughout.
  • Bake at 375ºF for 15 minutes, until the marinara is bubbly. Garnish with extra fresh chopped parsley and Parmesan, if desired. Serve warm with crusty bread. 

Notes

*To make this recipe dairy free, swap the Parmesan for pine nut Parmesan or nutritional yeast. I also recommend Kite Hill's brand of almond-based ricotta. 
Make-Ahead: Roast the eggplant up to two days ahead and keep refrigerated in an airtight container. You can also prepare the whole meatball mixture 1 day ahead, and remove from the fridge 20 minutes before forming into balls. 
Store: Store leftover meatballs (with or without sauce) in an airtight container refrigerated up to 4 days. 
Reheat: If reheating the meatballs in sauce, it's best to warm them stovetop in a small saucepan. If reheating the meatballs without sauce, either warm them gently in a skillet over medium-low heat, or in the toaster oven. 

Nutrition

Serving: 4meatballs | Calories: 405kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Sodium: 900mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 11g

I calculate these values by hand to ensure accuracy, however expect up to a 10% variable depending on food brands.

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60 Comments

  1. Michelle says:

    Has anyone tried airfrying these eggplant balls?

    1. Megan says:

      5 stars
      I just did these in the airfryer yesterday. I had to do two batches, but did them for about 13-15 minutes at 400 and they’re perfect! We love this recipe

  2. Erin says:

    This recipe is so delicious! I’ve made it a couple times now and each time the meatballs crumble while I’m frying them. Any tips to get the meatballs to stay together?

    1. Clare says:

      Hi Erin, I reckon if you let the mixture sit a little before frying the breadcrumbs will expand and hold the mixture together. I did that and had no problems when frying. Good luck!

  3. Maddie says:

    5 stars
    I make these all the time. Super delicious and easy.

  4. Jackie Carroll says:

    5 stars
    My husband and I are trying to go more plant based in our diet and this one was so delicious we will definitely be making it again. Yum yum!

    1. Sue says:

      Did you leave the skin on the eggplant? I don’t see it mentioned at all in the recipe.

      1. Hannah Horne says:

        The photo provided above shows the eggplant chopped for roasting — and I zoomed in to see lots of the pieces have the peeling still on them. Going with that method 🙂 Good luck!

  5. Hallie Sharp says:

    5 stars
    Great recipe! Made it 3 times the first month I tried it. All members of my family the vegetarians and meat eaters were big fans. Doubled the recipe to feed a crowd and had multiple people asking for the recipe. Will for sure remain in my kitchen repertoire. Love how easy the prep for this is and the rewards of forming and cooking bc all the balls pay off in flavor. Thank you!

    1. Wendy says:

      4 stars
      Made these tonight wow they are amazing. Everyone loved served with gnocchi so delicious.

  6. Adele A Peters says:

    Can you freeze left over egg plant balls

  7. Thom Seehafer says:

    Should you peel the eggplant first? I think it would make sense, considering most recipes say this due to the bitterness of the skin-might want to do more thorough research on your recipes and what you print as you become a foodie

    1. Tracy says:

      Omg, I made this tonight and served it over spaghetti squash and it was amazing! I will definitely be making this recipe again, thank you for an amazing recipe!

    2. Valerie says:

      You absolutely do not need to peel the skin. This recipe is not bitter at all and in fact the skin probably helps the balls keep their shape a bit.

  8. Lisa says:

    4 stars
    I made this the other night and it was really tasty. It needs more breadcrumbs or at least the warning to make sure meatballs are ‘moist’ but not WET and adjust the amount of breadcrumbs accordingly. If they’re too wet, they just fall apart when frying and that was the biggest challenge making this recipe. For the second batch of frying the meatballs, I added more bread crumbs but many still fell apart.