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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