Eggplant meatballs are perfect for dinner. These vegetarian meatballs are cooked in a chunky tomato sauce and are stuffed with cheese.
Eggplant is one of the vegetables that I truly enjoy cooking with. It's versatile and can be turned into many delicious dishes such as eggplant caponata, eggplant dip and moussaka. This vegetarian meatball recipe is one of my favorite things to cook with eggplants and it's so tasty!
This post is sponsored by Cabot. All opinions are mine.
Meatless eggplant meatballs
These eggplants meatballs are 100% vegetarian yet the texture is similar to meatballs made with beef or turkey. You can make a big batch of these eggplant meatballs for a gathering and no one will ever guess that there is no meat in them.
But here comes the best part, once you cut this meatballs in half, that gooey melted cheese will ooze out and takes this humble eggplant meatball dish to a whole new level. This meatless meatball recipe is so simple and easy to make, and it might become one of your favorite weekly meals if you love eggplant and cheese as much as I do.
Cheesy eggplant meatball ingredients
To make this easy eggplant recipe, you need the following ingredients:
- Eggplants: I used globe eggplant but you can also use Italian eggplant. I don't recommend using Chinese eggplant because we want the flesh and globe eggplants have more flesh.
- Breadcrumbs: to combine with the eggplants and make the meatballs.
- Walnuts: if you have never tried the eggplant and walnut combo, now it's time.
- Garlic: never a good meatball without a few garlic cloves!
- Egg: to bind all the ingredients together.
- Oregano, paprika, thyme, salt and pepper: you can also add other favorite seasonings such as rosemary.
- Cheese: the best part of these meatballs is the cheese. I used Cabot cheese Lite Natural Jalapeno Cheese.
And to make the chunky tomato sauce that the meatballs would simmer in, you need:
- Tomatoes: you can use either fresh or canned. I prefer canned in this case because we need the juice.
- Onion and garlic: the base of everything delicious!
I would love to tell you more about Cabot now that they are celebrating their 100th year as a cooperative. Cabot is owned by farm families of New York and New England which means 100% of the profits actually goes to the farmers. Cabot has different varieties of cheddar cheese (it's so hard for me to choose a favorite!) and all the cheddars are 100% lactose and gluten free. Cabot offers a variety of cheese that works well for any meal you're about to make, including these juicy eggplant meatballs.
How to make eggplant meatballs
First things first, cut the eggplant vertically into 4 thin slices. Sprinkle salt on both sides and place the slices in a colander in the clean sink. Let the eggplants sit for 30 minutes so they start "sweating". This process is done so the eggplants won't absorb much oil once fried.
Heat olive oil in a pan and wash the eggplant slices one by one and dry with a paper towel. Fry the eggplants over medium heat until they're brown and soft on both sides. Place the fried eggplants in the food processor with bread crumbs, walnuts, garlic cloves, egg and spices. Blend until they all come together and form a mixture.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and place in the freezer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, start forming the meatballs using wet hands and place a cube of cheese in the middle of each piece and form it into a ball. Roll each ball in bread crumbs and place them on a plate. Refrigerate for 20 more minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
After 20 minutes, take the eggplant meatballs out of the refrigerator and place them gently on the baking sheet. spray with olive oil spray and bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Take the meatballs out of the oven and place them in the chunky tomato sauce. Return to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes. Serve warm.
The chunky tomato sauce
This tomato sauce is packed with flavor. It compliments the eggplant meatballs perfectly and is pretty simple to make. I used a can of chopped tomatoes which I blended for a few seconds in the blender to make the chunks a bit smaller. To make the tomato sauce for the meatballs, saute onion and garlic in a pan over medium heat for a few minutes, add in the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to simmer and let it cook on low simmer for a few minutes.
Can I roast the eggplants instead of frying?
You can absolutely roast the eggplants instead of frying them. Check out my tutorial on how to roast eggplant and make sure to read all the notes and tips for perfectly roasted eggplants.
What to serve with eggplant meatballs
These eggplant meatballs are the perfect meal on their own. However, they also go well with a fresh salad such as cucumber tomato avocado salad or Greek salad. You can also serve them with some brown rice or dill rice for more flavor.
Can I freeze eggplant meatballs?
These meatless meatballs freeze beautifully. Once you shape them, place them on a baking sheet lined with a parchment paper. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for two hours until the meatballs are fully frozen. Place them in a container or a large freezer bag and freeze for up to two months.
To cook, simply preheat the oven to 375°F and place the frozen meatballs on a baking sheet line with a parchment paper. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes and then place them in the tomato sauce and bake for another 20 minutes.
Notes and tips to make eggplant meatballs
- I didn't peel the eggplants for this recipe because the ones I used had very tender skin. However, I recommend you peel the eggplants before frying or roasting them because most times, the skin on globe eggplants is pretty thick.
- If using fresh tomatoes for the tomato sauce, make sure they're juicy and if not, add some tomato sauce or simply water to the sauce to make sure the consistency is right.
- You can store the leftovers in an airtight glass container and refrigerate for up to two days.
- This recipe calls for breadcrumbs and it's possible to use either regular bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs.
Cheese Stuffed Eggplant Meatballs
- 2 globe eggplants
- ¼ cup olive oil divided
- 1 ½ cup breadcrumbs
- ½ cup walnuts
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon thyme
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup Cabot Cheese cubed
- ½ cup breadcrumbs for coating
Chunky tomato sauce
- 2 cans chopped tomatoes 15 oz. each
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Cut each eggplant into four pieces vertically. If the skin is thick (which it usually is), peel it completely.
- Sprinkle some salt on both side of each piece and place all eggplant pieces in a colander in a clean sink. Let them sit for 30 minutes so they "sweat".
- Heat half of the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Wash the eggplants and dry using a paper towel.
- Fry the eggplants in olive oil over medium or medium low heat until they're soft and golden on both sides, about 4 minutes on each side.
- Once all the eggplants are cooked, place them in a food processor with breadcrumbs, walnuts, garlic cloves, egg and spices. Mix until fully blended.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl and freeze for 20 minutes.
- Wet your hands with water and form meatballs. Place a cube of Cabot cheese in each meatball and form it into a round meatball.
- Roll each meatball in bread crumbs and place them on a plate. Refrigerate the meatballs for 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the meatballs on the baking sheet and bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, make the chunky tomato sauce.
Chunky tomato sauce:
- Blend the canned tomatoes in the blender for a few seconds and set it aside.
- Heat olive oil in an oven safe pan over medium heat and saute onion until translucent. Add in garlic and cook for a couple of minutes
- Add in tomatoes and salt and black pepper. Bring to a low simmer and cook for ten minutes.
Assembling the meatballs
- Once the eggplant meatballs have been baked in the oven for 25 minutes, take them out of the oven and place them in the tomato sauce.
- Return the pan with the meatballs and tomato sauce to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes.
- Serve warm with your favorite side dish.
- You can use regular or panko breadcrumbs for this recipe.
- If an oven safe pan is not available, make the tomato sauce in a regular pan and transfer it to a baking dish before adding the meatballs.