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!)
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 Substitutions
- Eggplant: You need 1 ½ 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 ⅓ 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 teaspoon 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.
Step 1: Roast the Eggplant
Start by cutting the eggplant into 1x1-inch cubes. Next, place them in a 13x9-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.
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.
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).
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.
Step 5: Bake Eggplant Parmesan Meatballs
Spread marinara sauce in the same 13x9-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.
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.
More Vegetarian Meatball Recipes
Moroccan Lentil Meatballs with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce -- reader favorite!
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.
Eggplant Parmesan Meatballs (Vegetarian)
- 13x9-inch baking dish
- Food processor
- 1 ½ lbs. eggplant, cut into 1x1-inch pieces (about 2 medium globe eggplants)
- 6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- 1 cup, plus 2 Tbsp. seasoned breadcrumbs (sub plain breadcrumbs mixed with 1 tsp. Italian seasoning)
- ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 whole egg, plus 1 egg yolk
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- ½ tsp. onion powder
- 1 (24-oz.) jar store-bought marinara sauce (I use Rao's brand)
- ½ cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
- Crusty bread for serving
- 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.