A hearty and savory flavor-explosion, and definitely THE must make recipe when you need to impress a crowd. Not only are these eggplant meatballs oil-free and low in fat, they are also packed with plant-protein from the chickpeas and tempeh! These are perfect for kids, adults, friends, family…anyone you want to share these precious little bites with 😉
You can serve these eggplant meatballs atop spaghetti and marinara (my personal fav), place them into a toasted sub with some vegan cheese and marinara as Chris did here on his Instagram, as appetizers with a toothpick and a drizzle of marinara, in minestrone soup, in a salad…the list just goes on and on!
I began writing this blog post intending to simply share that I was inspired by Chris’ mom’s eggplant meatballs I had tried in New Jersey this past December, but it brought me to realize just how good of a time we had there, it brought a smile to my face.
Are there any particular foods in your life that are nostalgic, and take you back to great memories? The fact that positive (or negative) experiences with a given food can influence our craving and perception of it later on has always fascinated me. I read that positive correlations with food give us comfort and a reminder of social ties, helping us feel less lonesome when we feel isolated. When we have different foods associated with specific memories, it can also impact how good we think foods taste as well as how those foods make us feel.
…I should add that that is not to say that I think these eggplant meatballs are only good because they are associated with a good memory because they are EXCELLENT I promise 🙂 Anyways 🙂
While we were in New Jersey, Chris’ mom made us these AMAZING eggplant meatballs that I ate with just about everything– salads, minestrone soup, spaghetti, and even just alone with some sauce or even ketchup– they were that good. I was actually obsessed with them, and I knew that I just had to get my hands on the recipe.
Julie sent over the recipe, and we both discussed how we wanted to make some changes because of the undesirable texture — her version fell apart easily and did not have any body (they would mash with even the slightest push).
So, I went to work in the kitchen and tried to figure out how to make these a bit more sturdy. After researching different recipe successes and methods, I saw that chickpeas, eggplant or tempeh were usually the main components of plant-based meatballs, so I thought well why not use ALL THREE?
And that is exactly what I did…and HALLELUJAH, these are perfection.
I shared a recipe for a raw vegan spaghetti marinara that these meatballs would go PERFECT with if you’re in the mood to make it at home 🙂 Of course feel free to use any vegan sauce of choice, but I would definitely recommend this one!
Make sure you tag me on Instagram @sweetsimplevegan or twitter @sweetsimpleveg and hashtag #sweetsimplevegan if you recreate any of my recipes, I love to see your photos!
- 1 chia egg (1 tablespoon chia seeds + 3 tablespoons water)
- 1⅓ cups white onion, diced
- 1 rib celery, diced small (about ⅓ cup, optional)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 unpeeled eggplant, diced into about ½-1" cubes (about 10.5-11 cups diced)*
- 1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
- ⅓ cup parsley, chopped and loosely packed
- ¼ cup tempeh bacon (I used 4 slices of Light Life)*
- ¼ cup quick oats
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 cup plain breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon liquid smoke (optional but recommended)
- ¼-1/3 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½-3/4 cups vegetable broth, as needed
- Spaghetti noodles
- Marinara of choice (or a raw vegan marinara)
- Make the chia egg by mixing the chia seeds and water together in a small bowl, and set aside to thicken for about 15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F on convection*. Line 2-3 large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place ¼ cup vegetable broth or water in a large pan over medium heat. Once heated, add in the onions, garlic and celery, and cook until translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes (adding more broth as needed to prevent burning). Transfer to a large bowl.
- In the same pan, add another ½ cup more water or broth with the eggplant. Cook, stirring often, until it is soft, about 10 to 12 minutes. If needed, cook in two batches and add more broth to prevent burning.
- Once cooked, add to the large bowl along with the garbanzo beans, parsley, tempeh, oats, and basil. Mix until uniform, then place into a food processor in two batches and pulse until chopped and combined but NOT pureed. If needed, you can pulse and also mash down with a fork later on in the bowl to prevent a purée consistency.
- Place all of the mixture back into the large bowl and add in the remaining ingredients. Adjust salt to taste, then roll into 30-35 meatballs, about 1-inch in diameter. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet(s) and bake until firm and browned, about 20-24 minutes.
- Serve warm with marinara and pasta or zucchini noodles or even make a meatball sub in a roll with vegan cheese.
This recipe was tested using a convection oven. For a regular oven, set the temperature to 400°F and bake for about 25-30 minutes, cooking until firm and browned. I haven't tested it this way and can't guarantee the results but I am confident in a positive outcome.
If you can't get your hands on tempeh bacon, add in ½ tsp liquid smoke + sub in ¼ cup more bread crumbs or oats -- I haven't tested this yet so I can't guarantee the results.
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