Eggplant Pesto “Meatballs”

Who said meatballs must be made with meat? Hearty eggplant is one of the best vegetable substitutes for making meat-less “meatballs” because of its meaty texture and high fiber content. These plant-based Eggplant Pesto Meatballs have a similar texture to your traditional Italian recipe, but the eggplant in our recipe gives these “balls” a more tender and silky consistency and a flavor that makes it easy to forget that you are not eating beef.

This recipe comes to us from Triad to Wellness.

Want more meatless recipes like this? Subscribe to our newsletter for a weekly selection of plant-based recipes delivered right to your inbox!

Makes 40 meatballs (5 servings)

  • Eggplant mixture
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 1/4 pounds eggplant unpeeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • red pepper flakes optional
  • Cashew Pesto
  • garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight or boiled for 20 minutes until soft
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and saute until translucent about 3 minutes. Add garlic until lightly browned, remaining olive oil, and eggplant, and brown on both sides. Add water, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until eggplant is soft. Remove from heat, transfer to a heat proof bowl, and set aside.

In a food processor, add garlic, cashews, pine nuts, nutritional yeast, sea salt, and water. Process until smooth. Add basil, lemon juice, and olive oil while processing. Mix until smooth and set aside.

In the bowl, mash eggplant into small pieces with the back of a wooden spoon or potato masher. Add the cashew pesto and mix well. Lastly, add the breadcrumbs and red pepper flakes and stir until well combined.

Roll eggplant meatless balls in about 2-inch diameter approximately 1 1/2 tablespoon of mixture.

Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet and bake until browned (about 25 minutes) turning once so the eggplant pesto “meatballs” are browned on both sides.

Serve over zucchini noodles or your choice of pasta with tomato sauce.

This Recipe is Categorized In:


This Recipe's Ingredients:

, , , ,

Nutrition Information

Eggplant Pesto “Meatballs”

Servings per Recipe: 5

Amount per Serving

Calories:  320

Calories from Fat:  135

Total Fat:  15

Saturated Fat:  2g


Sodium:  140

Carbohydrates:  40g

Dietary Fiber:  7g

Protein:  7g

Sugars:  5g

View Our Nutritional Guidelines

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends 2000 calories a day as a reasonable average guideline for most American adults. Click here to learn how you can use the Monday 2000 to reset the calorie budget you have to spend each day. For specific calorie recommendations based on your age, metabolism and medical history, consult your doctor or nutritionist.

Recipe Unit Conversions