You can make perfect vegan eggplant meatballs using only eggplant and no other veggies or legumes. Since roasted eggplant has this amazing texture and fairly neutral flavor, proper seasoning can turn it into delicious meatballs without much effort. Serve with a chunky vegan marinara sauce over spaghetti.
Are you looking for even more vegan eggplant recipes? Try our rich vegan eggplant parmesan with a creamy white bean mozzarella sauce or our vegan moussaka with the meatiest vegan minced meat possible. We also love this roasted eggplant bell pepper dip which is a delicious marriage between muhammara and baba ganoush.
What can you expect?
Since eggplant has a spongy texture, it’s important to monitor the amount of oil used, as it can quickly absorb too much, resulting in a heavy and oily dish. While I enjoy watching Chef Pasquale‘s enthusiastic preparation of meatballs eggplant balls, I find the amount of oil used off-putting.
Our vegan eggplant meatballs are simple and healthier, requiring no eggs, oil, or breadcrumbs. They can be delicious without these ingredients. The key to their exceptional taste is marjoram, an Italian herb that’s not well-known but adds an amazing flavor to eggplants.
You only need six ingredients to make vegan meatballs with eggplants.
- Eggplants – Roasted and pureed
- Quick oats or fine oats – We don’t recommend using rolled oats as they are harder to soften and may give you a crunchy finish.
- Rice flour – You can use oat flour or all-purpose flour.
- Ground flax seeds – This is one of the vegan egg substitutes for binding.
- Marjoram – The idea to use marjoram comes from the seasoning of sausages we grew up with. We were just experimenting with our vegan lentil loaf recipe using marjoram when we thought of trying it also with this recipe. And it worked. At least for our taste buds. You can – of course – season it with basil and oregano.
- Garlic powder
- Salt and black pepper
🛒 You can find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
First, you need to roast the eggplants, which is easy. I usually use a glass container or a baking mat to roast them oil-free.
- Wash the eggplants.
- Cut them in half vertically and place the halves upside down in a single layer in an oven-safe glass baking dish or on a silicone baking mat. You can cut off the stem, but not necessary.
- Preheat the oven to 400 Fahrenheit (ca. 204 °C) and roast the eggplants for 30 minutes. They have to be tender enough that you can peel or spoon out the eggplant flesh.
- Take them out and let them cool until it is comfortable to touch them with your bare hands. You can see in the below photo how eggplants look after roasting without oil in the oven.
Making vegan eggplant meatballs
- Peel or spoon the eggplant “meat” and blend it until you get a puree using a food processor or a hand blender.
- Mix ground flax (not flakes or seeds) and water and wait until they get a gelee consistency. The ratio of ground flax and water is 1:3 tablespoons.
- Take a large mixing bowl and add the pureed eggplant and all other ingredients (oats, brown rice flour, flax egg, marjoram, salt, and black pepper) and mix them with a wooden spoon. You don’t need to add the mixture back to a food processor or blender.
- Place the mixture in the fridge for approx. 10-15 minutes so that the oats and the flax egg can work their magic and get all ingredients to stick together.
- After that, form small (2-3 inches wide) eggplant balls.
- Take your frying pan or large skillet, add a bit of oil, and fry them on medium heat for a couple of minutes on each side. Add them to vegan marinara sauce and serve them over spaghetti when ready.
If you prefer baking, use a baking mat or a sheet pan with parchment paper and bake them at 350 Fahrenheit (ca. 177 °C) for 15-20 minutes turning them at half-time.
- Roasting in advance – You can roast the eggplants in advance and store them in the fridge for 1-2 days without a problem. The only thing you need to pay attention to is that they might release liquid, so you need more oats or flour to get to the right consistency
- Size matters – Baking and frying time depends on the size of the meatballs you make. The smaller they are, the cooking time will be shorter.
- Turn them gently – These vegan eggplant meatballs are soft while hot, but firm up after cooling.
- Don’t recommend simmering the meatballs in a sauce – While you can add them to a tomato sauce, they won’t fall apart. Nonetheless, it’s recommended that you bake or fry them beforehand to achieve a crispy outer crust.
When your vegan eggplant meatballs are ready, you can serve them in many ways. The most popular would be to make homemade marinara sauce, serve it over spaghetti, and sprinkle it with grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley or basil.
- Try it with our delicious caramelized carrot pasta sauce or this vegan cashew alfredo sauce that complements these meatballs perfectly. Or try to add it to your vegan mac and cheese.
- You can make a complete meal by adding vegan mashed potatoes, your favorite fried rice, or any combination of roasted veggies (roasted asparagus, mushroom, root veggies…)
- Make an eggplant meatball sub with vegan marinara sauce.
- Put them on a stick or skewer and add a dip (like vegan BBQ sauce or vegan nacho cheese sauce).
- Make meatball biscuit sliders.
- Stuff pita bread with veggies and eggplant meatballs, and top with vegan tzatziki.
- Add them to your vegan shakshuka to make it more filling.
- Can it be a delicious pizza topping? Why not?
Refrigerator: You can keep it in the fridge in an airtight container for 4-5 days tops without any problem. We recommend storing the vegan eggplant meatballs by themselves, separated from any sauce. Otherwise, the balls soak up the sauce and may fall apart the next day.
Freezer: We recommend freezing after frying or baking, not as an uncooked mixture. The reason is that roasted eggplant will release moisture after it is thawed. If you are ready to enjoy them, pop them back in the oven or warm them up in a frying pan to get the crispy crust back.
You can use many ingredients as a binder: ground flax seeds, ground chia seeds, corn starch, tapioca starch, vegan egg substitutes, oats, and breadcrumbs. In this vegan eggplant meatballs recipe we opted for the combination of oats and flax egg.
If you are making vegan eggplant meatballs to serve with marinara sauce and spaghetti, we recommend using spices like basil, oregano, marjoram, or thyme.
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Vegan Eggplant Meatballs
- Wash the eggplants, then cut them in half vertically. You can cut off the stem, but not necessary. Take the eggplant halves to an oven-safe glass container or a baking mat and turn them upside down (peel is up). No oil is needed.
- Preheat the oven to 400 Fahrenheit (ca. 204 °C) and roast the eggplants for 30 minutes. Take them out and let them cool until it is comfortable to touch them with your bare hands.
Making vegan eggplant meatballs
- First, peel or spoon the eggplant “meat” and blend it until you get a purée using a food processor or an immersion blender.
- Mix flax meal and water and wait until they get a gelee consistency.
- Take a large dish and add pureed eggplant, oats, rice flour, nutritional yeast (optional), marjoram, garlic powder, flax egg, salt, and black pepper. Mix them thoroughly with a wooden spoon. You don’t need to add the mixture back to a food processor or blender.
- Leave in the fridge for 15 minutes for the oats and the flour to absorb any excess moisture.
- Take a tablespoon of the mixture and form balls with your hands. It will be soft and may stick to your hands. If it is too sticky, add more oats.
Frying or baking
- Take a frying pan and heat it on medium heat. Add a bit of coconut or olive oil if you don’t have a non-stick pan. Fry them on each side for a couple of minutes to give them a nice brown color.
- If you prefer baking, take a baking mat or a sheet pan with parchment paper and bake them at 350 Fahrenheit (ca. 177 °C) for 15-20 minutes until they get a crispy brownish crust. Turn them in at half-time.
- Roasting in advance – you can roast the eggplants in advance and store them in the fridge for 1-2 days without a problem. You only need to pay attention to that they might release liquid, so you need more oats or flour to get to the right consistency.
- Size matters – Baking and frying time depend on the size of the meatballs you make. The smaller they are, the cooking time will be shorter.
- Turn them gently – These vegan eggplant meatballs are soft when hot but will firm up after cooling.
UPDATED: This recipe was originally posted in Jan 2019, but was rewritten and republished with more details and tips in Feb 2023.