Vegan Eggplant Meatballs (Oil-free)

January 23, 2017


By: Jasmine Briones 

Learn how to make these delicious eggplant meatballs. They’re vegan, oil-free, and the perfect meatless recipe to share with your friends and family.

spaghetti and vegan eggplant meatballs in a white bowl by sweet simple vegan

A hearty and savory flavor-explosion, and definitely THE must make recipe when you need to impress a crowd. These are perfect for kids, adults, friends, family…anyone you want to share these precious little bites with 😉

Ingredients for vegan eggplant meatballs on a wooden board by sweetsimplevegan

If you are craving more Italian-inspired recipes, here are some of our favorites:

vegan meatball sandwiches with melted cheese by sweet simple vegan

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!

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spaghetti and vegan eggplant meatballs in a white bowl by sweet simple vegan

Vegan Eggplant Meatballs (Oil-free)

  • Author: Jasmine @ Sweet Simple Vegan
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 34 meatballs
  • Diet: Vegan


Learn how to make these delicious eggplant meatballs that vegan and oil-free, with a gluten-free option. They are the perfect meatless recipe to share with your friends and family.


  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds (or flaxseed meal)
  • 3 tablespoons water + more for cooking
  • 1 cup white onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 unpeeled Italian eggplant, diced
  • 1 cup cooked garbanzo beans 
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs (ours were fine in texture; or plain breadcrumbs of your choice)
  • 1/3 cup parsley, finely chopped and packed
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped and packed
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • Optional but recommended: 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 


  1. Prepare the chia egg by mixing the chia seeds and 3 tablespoons of water together in a small bowl, and set aside for about 15 minutes to thicken.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°F on convection* (or 400°F conventional). Line 2-3 large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In the meantime, in a medium pan over medium heat, add 3 tablespoons of additional water. Once heated, add in the onions, garlic, and celery, and cook until translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes (adding more water as needed to prevent burning). Transfer to a large bowl.
  4. In the same pan, add another 3-4 tablespoons of water along with the diced eggplant. Cook, stirring often, until it is soft and had reduced by about 1/2, which will take about 8 to 10 minutes. Be sure to add more water as needed to prevent burning.
  5. Once cooked, transfer the eggplant to the large bowl along with the garbanzo beans. Mix until everything is uniform.
  6. In a food processor, transfer about 1/2 of the mixture from the large bowl and pulse until chopped and uniform, but NOT pureed. Transfer this mixture to another bowl (just for the time being) and then process the remaining mixture.
  7. Add everything back into the large bowl and add in the remaining ingredients along with the chia egg.  Adjust salt and to taste.
  8. Using a cookie scooper (about 1 1/2 tablespoons large), form the meatballs and transfer them to the lined baking sheet. We yielded 34 meatballs that were about 1-inch in diameter.
  9. Transfer the meatballs to the oven and bake until firm and browned, about 24-30 minutes, or until golden brown.
  10. Serve the meatballs as desired and enjoy! 


  • This can be made gluten-free with gluten-free breadcrumbs. 
  • You can cook the vegetables with oil instead of water if desired. 
  • We have also tested this recipe cooked in an air fryer and pan fried on the stovetop, and we have found that the oven yields the best results. 
  • We prefer to use a convection oven for these but if you have a regular oven, they still work well! 
  • Prep Time: 25 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Category: Entree
  • Method: Oven

Keywords: eggplant, meatballs, oil-free, oven baked, vegan, vegetable meatballs, entree

Disclaimer: This page may contain affiliate links, which simply means that I earn a commission if you purchase through those links, but your price remains the same. Thank you for supporting Sweet Simple Vegan!

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Recipe rating

  1. Julie Petrellese says:

    WOW… Jasmine, these meat(less) balls look amazing!!! I can’t wait to make this using your recipe…I’m going to make them for a girls night out event I’m attending in a few weeks…THANK YOU!!! xoxox

  2. Lucy says:

    I’ve got ground flax seed in the fridge. Could I use that (1T flax to 1T water) in place of the chia seeds?
    Btw, do you know how long flax seed and nutritional yeast last and the best ways to store them?

    • Hi Lucy! Great question, gRound flax would definitely work, just be sure to use the same ratio of 1 tablespoon to 3 tablespoons water. AS for storage, the refrigerator would be the best 🙂

  3. Candice says:

    Can I use seitan instead of tempeh? I live in China and tempeh is not available in the part of China I live in.

  4. Lisa says:

    I made these and the outside is firm but inside is kind of soft still, will this harden as it cools?

    • Yes it should slightly! But they are more pillow-y in texture overall 🙂

      • Lisa says:

        Hmm I definitely did something wrong then! My boyfriend loved them and said they were great, but I thought they tasted off. Like too firm on the outside and too mushy on the inside. Do you have any tips/suggestions? Maybe I initially overcooked the eggplant? I didn’t really time it.

        • Hi Lisa,

          I am not sure of what could have caused that, did you use a convection or regular oven? I think that overcooking or over processing the eggplant mixture may have had an effect if that is a possibility. You could also try making them smaller so that the inside cooks more easily. Let me know if this works for you!

  5. Sherica says:

    I’ve been drooling over these for the past week. I cannot wait to try them!!

  6. Diamon says:

    I am super excited to try this for dinner tonight! But just to verify, I will need to add the chia egg to the mix before adding it into the food processor?

  7. Gianna says:

    I am going to try these tonight but have one question. Do we cook the tempeh bacon first? Or cook the bacon first and add?

  8. Linda Apodaca says:

    I do not use anything with soy, is there something I can use in place of the tempeh?

  9. Debi says:

    Hi..just wanted to know if the meatballs could be made in advance and frozen

    • Hi Debi! Yes, these can be made in advance and frozen. We would suggest that you fully bake, cool, and then freeze the meatballs (freezing them uncooked may cause the texture to change). I hope this helps!

  10. Jennie says:

    These turned out amazing!! I loved them! They were definitely a hit! Do you think these would be good to freeze and then thaw and bake? I am trying to figure out a way to save them and eat later since the recipe makes so many! Thanks!

    • Hi Jennie! Yes, you can definitely freeze these. We would suggest that you fully bake, cool, and then freeze the meatballs (freezing them uncooked may cause the texture to change). I hope this helps!

  11. Kris Clark says:

    I have Ichiban Japanese egplant from the garden, so I am thinking 3 of these verus 2 traditional eggplant?

  12. Theresa Swisher says:

    What type of eggplant are you using? I just have the large variety here, not the slender cucumber size. Would I just use one in my case?

    • We are using the large variety! I will update the recipe to reflect that 🙂 For your case, I would say you will need 1-2 depending on how many will yield 10.5 cups or so as the recipe calls for, unless you are making half a batch!

  13. MJ says:

    Hi there, not sure if I missed it but I didn’t see the nutritional yeast, liquid smoke, chia egg, garlic powder or bread crumbs in the directions. Just wondering if there is a specific order to mixing them in or does everything go into the food processor all at once? And is the liquid smoke in addition to the tempeh bacon or added only for flavor if “bacon” isn’t used at all. Recipe looks delicious 🙂

    • Hi MJ! They are added in step 6 with “the remaining ingredients”. Thanks for noting that, I will add specifics now!

      As for the smoke, we still like to add it even when we add the tempeh to make it super smoky but it is optional!

  14. Jazz says:

    I made this today and it turned out extremely well! The only flaw was I didn’t have a food processor and had to chop the eggplant/chickpeas as fine as I could , it caused the balls to not really stick together and it turned out more like a “ground beef” once I mixed everything together but hey it all still worked out haha. Thanks for making the instructions easy to follow and sharing this idea! 🙂

  15. These are amazing! I added chopped walnuts. So good!!!!

  16. Nereida Palacios says:

    The flavor is good but they are very mushy on the inside. I wouldn’t call them vegan “meatballs” since the consistency isn’t like that at all.

  17. Chris Petrellese says:

    the best.

  18. Jodi Marcus says:

    i made these without celery (substituted with more onion and a bit of red pepper) and with dried instead of fresh herbs (just cause I didnt have any in the house).

    they came out great and the texture is really convincing as “real” meatballs.
    chris and jasmine u guys r the besttttt !!!

  19. Shari says:

    I had a lot of eggplant to use up so I did a search and came across this recipe. I had to use dried herbs because I did not have fresh ones but the meatballs turned out amazing. They are full of flavor and I am really impressed with the texture and how well they stayed together. I look forward to making them again with fresh herbs.

  20. Regan says:

    What’s the best way to reheat these? I made them ahead of time due to knowing work was going to make me too lazy to cook haha.

  21. DawnD says:

    I must be brain-dead. Nowhere in the recipe, either ingredients or directions, did I see tempeh bacon, nor did it see it in any of the rest of the descriptions prior to the recipe. There isn’t even a picture of it in the picture of the other ingredients. The only place I see it mentioned is in Comments. Am I simply missing it? Obviously it’s not crucial to the recipe, you even address the issue in the comments section. If it’s an accidental omission on your part, you might want to correct it. If it’s not, please, please, please tell me where to find it. I’m tearing my hair out looking.

    By the way, out of curiosity, how much tempeh bacon do you recommend using?

    • Chris Petrellese says:

      Hey Dawn,

      Sorry for the confusion! The recipe used to have tempeh bacon in it, but we recently updated it. I don’t see anywhere in the recipe where it mentions tempeh bacon though. Could you point it out for us, thank you!

  22. Karen says:

    These came out okay, but I regret using the liquid smoke. It gave the “meatballs” a somewhat unpleasant aftertaste. I love eggplant, so will make these again without the smoky element.

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