Delicious meatless “meatballs”

Whether you’re vegetarian or just looking for a something different, these meatless eggplant balls are the perfect way to top your spaghetti.


• Asian eggplant (the long skinny ones) work best for this recipe. They have fewer seeds, which can be bitter, and are easier to cut into uniform pieces. If you can’t find Asian eggplant, get smaller oval-shaped ones. They have fewer seeds than the Italian eggplant that look like bowling pins.

• When initially cooking the eggplant, put it in an oven set to 325 degrees. That probably sounds low, but you’re trying to get the eggplant to a tender consistency. You don’t want the eggplant to get crispy during this stage of the process.

• Double the recipe for big family meal. Or, quadruple the recipe and freeze the extra eggplant balls in a zip top bag. Store in a single layer and lay flat in the freezer.

Eggplant balls topping pasta and marinara (photo: Brent Petersen)


• For a gluten-free recipe, substitute cooked rice instead of breadcrumbs

• Simmer the eggplant balls in marinara and serve as a tasty appetizer

• Add some finely chopped tofu for additional texture

• Add half a finely chopped jalapeno for an added kick

• If you prefer frying your meatless eggplant ball, roll them in Panko breadcrumbs before frying

Tray of eggplant balls fresh out of the oven (photo: Brent Petersen)

Ingredients (makes eggplant balls)

4 Asian eggplant (the long kind) or 2 medium-small Italian eggplant

3 Tablespoons olive oil

3/4 cup breadcrumbs (more or less depending on liquid content of eggplant)

1/4 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon salt

A few turns of freshly ground pepper

Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan (optional)

Method (makes about 30 eggplant balls)

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Peel the eggplant and cut into thick planks, about 1 inch wide and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper
  3. Using a pinch of the salt, dust both sides of the cut eggplant planks
  4. Brush both sides of the eggplant planks with olive oil
  5. Roast the eggplant until very tender (check after 20 minutes)
  6. Allow the eggplant to cool. Meanwhile increase the temp on the oven to 375 degrees
  7. Put the eggplant, garlic, salt, pepper, and cayenne (optional) in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Do not over process or the eggplant can get gummy
  8. Put the eggplant paste in a bowl and add the chopped onion, breadcrumbs, and Parmesan (optional).
  9. Mix with your hands until the breadcrumbs and onion are fully incorporated
  10. Roll the eggplant into 1 inch diameter balls and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet or roasting pan. If the eggplant balls are too sticky, you can add more breadcrumbs or roll them in breadcrumbs. You can make larger balls if you like, but the smaller ones cook better, IMO.
  11. Bake in the oven (375 degrees) for 30 minutes, or until brown and crispy on both sides. Check after 15 minutes, when the bottom is getting brown and crispy, turn them over and bake until the other side is crispy.
  12. Serve hot with bucatini (or spaghetti) and marinara. Dust with Parmesan, if desired.

About the Author

Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides to Lisbon, PortoSintraMonsaraz, and Evora in Portugal. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms and is distributed by the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.

Author: Brent