Eggplant “Meat”balls

in Appetizers, Dinner, Pasta

Meatballs are kinda of awesome. What’s not awesome is deciding you really don’t want to eat meat anymore, and forgetting that meatballs are sort of included in that category. I needed to find a substitute. One that wouldn’t make me miss my Mom’s beefy ones, which truly, is a nearly impossible feat. When I searched for recipes, most of them seemed to end up using bread crumbs as the base and the idea of eating a bowl of pasta with bread balls on it is just nutritionally unappealing, regardless of how good they might taste.

However, over the holidays I visited my old stomping ground, The Saluda Grade Café, which I once worked at as a waitress, and was pleasantly surprised to see eggplant meatballs had been added to the menu. I took my first taste and could feel the clouds part and the heavens singing – these were what I had been looking for! I begged Kaye, the owner, for the recipe but she wasn’t able to give it to me. I can’t tell you why but trust me that I begged and pleaded to the best of my ability, all to no avail. So instead, I went on a mission.

Oh man, success tastes so good. These meatballs are flavorful and a great addition to a plate of pasta. I also wouldn’t be opposed to using them in meatball sub as well. Or just eating them by themselves on a toothpick. Anything meatball-appropriate will work just fine.

Eggplant “Meat”balls

Print this recipe!

My original plan was to fry these, but at the last minute I decided to bake them. That’s why you see them covered in bread crumbs, since that would have been frying-appropriate, but I’m going to omit that step the next time I make these.

2 large eggplants, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 slices day-old bread
1 egg
½ cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Lay the eggplant out on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 30 minutes, or until they have turned golden brown.  Remove from the oven and turn heat down to 350 degrees F.

Grind the bread slices in the food processor until they’re broken into bread crumbs. Remove about ¼ of the crumbs and set aside. To the processor add in the roasted eggplant and egg and grind together until the mixture becomes a fairly smooth paste. Now add the garlic, cheese and parsley. Pulse to combine. If the mixture is too runny add in more of the additional bread crumbs until it becomes something you can mold.

Form the mixture into small balls and place on a baking sheet. Cook in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through (I split one open just to test).

Serve as you would normal meatballs: over pasta, in a sub or on a toothpick.

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Kayla @ Let's Live Wholesome January 10, 2011 at 4:14 am

It’s so funny, because when I ate meat, meatballs never really appealed to me. Now I’ve given it up, of course it’s the one thing I really want! Sounds delicious :-)


Katrina January 10, 2011 at 5:01 am

Cool recipe! I adore meatless “meat”balls!


blog is the new black January 10, 2011 at 5:06 am

What an original idea!! I love eggplant, but the bf does not. I wonder if I can trick him!


Caroline January 10, 2011 at 8:19 am

Honestly, after roasting them and mixing with the other ingredients there really isn’t much the eggplant taste or texture left, I’m sure your BF would still like them!


Bethany @Bridezilla Bakes January 10, 2011 at 5:28 am

Oh what a great idea! I love that you roast the eggplant first… roasted eggplant is delish.

And, um, breadcrumb meatballs? Not only nutritionally unappealing, but also inherently mealy in texture… right?? Way to avoid.


DessertForTwo January 10, 2011 at 7:02 am

What a great idea! I can’t wait to try these!

There’s a great recipe for ‘meat’balls on Tasty Kitchen made with lentils. I highly recommend them :)


Caroline January 10, 2011 at 8:20 am

ooooo lentils sound good too! I’ll try those next!


Kori January 10, 2011 at 7:07 am

Yum, this sounds right up my alley! Thanks for sharing ;)


Joanne January 10, 2011 at 9:29 am

Seeing as how I’m a much bigger fan of eggplant than I’ll ever be of ground meat, I think I pretty much need these in my life. And they go way better with my whole lose 20 pounds new year’s resolution. In fact, they may be my new BFF.


kaye vazquez January 10, 2011 at 9:43 am

Good job Caroline! Lol! Love you much!


Caroline January 11, 2011 at 4:13 pm

haha, glad you like it!!


laura @ a little barefoot January 10, 2011 at 10:20 am

this is such a great idea! can’t wait to try it.


Sarah January 10, 2011 at 10:55 am

Wow! Just the sort of recipe I love. Comforting and healthful! Thanks.


Sarah January 10, 2011 at 1:58 pm

These look amazing–if we hadn’t just gotten a big snowstorm I’d be running out to the store to buy eggplant this minute. Thank you for the recipe!


Sarah January 10, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Hey!! I know Kaye! I worked with her a dozen years ago at Oh Susannah’s in Brevard. I visited the Saluda Grade Cafe a couple years ago and was blown away by her food. I’m trying to eat veggie so I will definitely be giving this recipe a whirl.


Michelle January 10, 2011 at 2:18 pm

My husband claims he doesn’t like eggplant. I’m thinking this might change his mind.


Julie B January 10, 2011 at 6:46 pm

These look great! I’m going to try them out on my four year old. How many meatballs does the recipe make?


Caroline January 11, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Oh! I always forget to put that down. It makes roughly 14-18 meatballs


Lindsey Frances January 11, 2011 at 9:05 am

Ah I want want want these.


Betty @ scrambled hen fruit January 11, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Hubby loves eggplant, so I know he’d be all over these. I love it that you baked them! I’m bookmarking to try for sure! :)


Zo @ Two Spoons January 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm

You are so brilliant :) Vegetable win. I totally know what you mean about lots of meat substitute things being made out of breadcrumbs too, so thank you for this.


Foodie January 13, 2011 at 8:43 am

There’s a good recipe–similar– for eggplant ‘meat’balls in Dom Delouise’s cookbook, “Eat this, it will make you feel better”. And there’s a whole chapter devoted to eggplant.


Antonietta January 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm

I really like this recipe. Can’t wait to try it.


Jamie February 12, 2011 at 9:29 pm

MMM! Looks so good. I love anything remotely Italian. I actually have my own food blog dedicated to Italian food, and I’m coming up to a subscriber giveaway.
I can’t wait to add this recipe to my own files, in my own way. =]


hp mini 210 August 27, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Na , dieses ist ein sehr toller BLOG! Eure Beitraege und Kommentare sind wirklich immer wirklich angenehm und schoen geschrieben. Der jetztige Beitrag ist daher so gut wie ich es gewohnt bin ,daher schreibe ich kurz diesen Text um euch das zu sagen und euch als Favoriten zu markieren,damit ich keine weiteren Texte verpasse!Liebste Gruesse Tanja


Candice September 5, 2011 at 4:50 am

Just tried these tonight, and they were WONDERFUL! Thanks so much for the recipe! I’ll be making them again soon for sure :)


Pooja October 17, 2011 at 2:18 am

Just tried these and they are AMAZING!! will definitely be making these again! Thanks!!


Michelle @ Chellbellz October 21, 2011 at 4:12 pm

They look so yummy, I am trying to move away from Meat and this is perfect. I think I’m going to try this! Maybe this week.


Ruby Alexandra November 7, 2011 at 6:13 am

I just made this for my flat cooking night. My boyfriend is vegan so I didn’t use egg. I also added basil and roasted red capsicum to the mix. Both my flatmates said it was the best flat dinner they’d ever had! Mine wasn’t as pretty as yours, and had a tonne more veges in the sauce but still!!


Michelle @ Chellbellz January 23, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Can i use breadcrumbs? I don’t have day old bread? or should i toast it or something? I want to make these tonight.


Adrianna January 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Bread crumbs will totally work. I’d start with about 3 tablespoons and add from there until it all comes together.


Peter Kovacs January 31, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Its perhaps just me, but the ‘Print this Recipe’ goes to a Mushroom Bourguignon recipe.


Kristin June 25, 2012 at 10:06 am

I can’t wait to make these! As Peter mentioned above, the ‘print recipe page’ took me to the mushroom recipe – fyi.


Leyla September 18, 2012 at 6:02 pm

These were okay but I found the cheese to be way too overpowering. I didnt really taste the eggplant which is sad.


Judy November 6, 2012 at 6:08 am

It may defeat the purpose, but I added a half pound of ground beef to the eggplant. Also delicious and the meatballs, first served with pasta, were nibble food for days.


Dorothy December 10, 2012 at 8:28 am

Bookmarked this because I am eating roasted eggplant and garlic right now and I believe your recipe will just add to the satisfaction of meatless living !


Lara January 20, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Can you freeze the meatballs, I’m the only one in the family that will eat this recipe?


Phillip Stewart October 20, 2013 at 8:01 am

Would love to print the eggplant meatball recipe. Would not come up in a printable version. Can you help? Please.


kobby January 19, 2015 at 1:22 am

i am a vegan and i love it but my problem is the addiction of the cheese.


Alla April 26, 2015 at 10:35 am

I like the idea of using eggplant but on it’s own, eggplant has very little nutritious value. I would add a meatless protein to this such as TVP or firm tofu or bean flour.


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