Who said meatballs must be made with meat? Hearty eggplant is one of the best vegetable substitutes for making meat-less “meatballs” because of it’s meaty texture and high fiber content. Our 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. Firm on the outside and tender and soft in the center, eggplant enhances our meatless morsels by giving them both a “meat-like” density and a natural sweetness. We love combining antioxidant-rich eggplant with our protein-rich cashew pesto to create a nutritious and delicious plant-centric dish. Our Eggplant Pesto Meatballs are a perfectly healthy and warm meal for a cozy meat-less any-day-of-the-week night.
Nutrient Booster: Eggplant
Not only does eggplant enhance the delicious flavors in this recipe, but it also adds an abundance of nutrients. Eggplants are very high in fiber, helping to keep the digestive system functioning properly. As fiber passes through the body, it keeps blood sugar and hunger regulated. Consuming enough dietary fiber will help slow the rate of digestion and the absorption of sugar in the body, which can prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes.
Whether prepared as a meatless main course, a vegan side, or a bite-sized party-pleaser, there are so many ways to serve our Eggplant Pesto Meatballs. These meat-less meatballs taste great on their own, but you can also pile them on top of spaghetti squash, zucchini zoodles, or your favorite pasta. Do you love eggplant parmigiana? Smother these delicious morsels in tomato sauce and add our Cashew Ricotta Cheese for a nutrient-dense, plant-based version of a traditional Italian classic. These delicious goodies can be refrigerated for up to 5 days and frozen for up to 2 months to satisfy all your future meatball cravings. Make once, eat twice, because there is no reason to miss the meatballs when you’ll never miss the meat!
Eggplant Pesto "Meatballs"
- 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
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight or boiled for 20 minutes until soft
- 2 tbsp pine nuts
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 cups basil, washed
- 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.
Serving size: 8 meatballs Calories: 320 calories, Fat: 15 grams, Saturated fat: 2 grams, Carbohydrates: 40 grams, Sugar: 5 grams, Sodium: 140 milligrams, Fiber: 7 grams, Protein: 7 grams