This post is sponsored by Sunkist, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that support Delish Knowledge.
What comes to mind when you think of meatballs? For me, I’m instantly transported back to my grandmother’s kitchen where we would eat dinner most Sundays when I was a little girl. With a last name like Caspero, Italian was always on the menu. It’s where I discovered my love for food, sitting at her counter where should would teach me how to shape gnocchi, give me sips of whatever sauce was simmering and guide me on rolling the perfect meatball.
Now that my diet is mostly plant-based, I’ve replaced her pork meatballs with my versions using mushrooms, chickpeas and now- eggplant. Meaty, tender, these vegan eggplant meatballs are delicious on their own as an appetizer or served as a main dish.
When Sunkist reached out to me and my friend Katie of Mom’s Little Running Buddy this summer to create recipes for sharing, I knew I had to go with some kind of meatball. To me, meatballs will always be shared food; whether you are passing a giant platter of pasta piled high with sauce-covered meatballs or serving these spiced Moroccan meatballs with a creamy lemon dipping sauce.
Not only are these meatballs delicious, they are healthy too. Much lower in fat than regular meatballs, they are packed with antioxidants thanks to the ground spices, fresh parsley and fresh lemon juice! Citrus, like grapefruit, lemons and Valencia oranges are all excellent sources of Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that may play a role in reducing the risk of heart disease.
These meatballs are fairly easy to put together, but you will need a food processor to help break the ingredients down. I recommend cooking the eggplant in a little oil and water; this technique gives the eggplant flavor without weighing it down. Along with the white beans, the eggplant provides heft and a tender, meaty texture. Adding in a source of vitamin C, like the lemon juice, to the bean enhances iron absorption! Some research shows that pairing vitamin C with plant-based iron sources can increase iron uptake by 4-6x which is really impressive.
Meatballs aren’t meatballs without sauce, which is why we decided to serve these Moroccan meatballs with a creamy lemon sauce. When I’m making these meatballs for BL and I, I tend to add up to 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to give them extra kick. Spicy meatballs make me want to dip into more of the cooling lemon sauce! If you’re not a fan of spice, then feel free to reduce the cayenne or omit it completely.
Few tips for that luscious creamy lemon sauce. We are using cashews for the base, to make this sauce dairy-free and vegan! When pureed, cashews create a blank, creamy canvas for whatever you throw at it. In this case, we are adding both lemon and dill which complement the Moroccan flavors so incredibly well.
Can’t wait to hear what you think of this recipe! Tell me what your favorite sharing meal is in the comments below. You can also watch me make this recipe in the video below.
Vegan Eggplant Meatballs with Creamy Lemon Sauce! Vegan eggplant meatballs served with a creamy lemon dipping sauce. Perfect as an appetizer, main dish or party food!
Vegan Eggplant Meatballs
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 lb eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 2 teaspoons freshly minced ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4– 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
- 1 cup canned white beans, rinsed
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon fresh Sunkist lemon zest + 1 tablespoon fresh Sunkist lemon juice
- 1 cup breadcrumbs, whole wheat, panko or regular
Vegan Creamy Lemon Sauce
- 1/4 cup cashews, soaked in hot water at least 1 hour
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Make the meatballs. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. When hot, add in the eggplant along with 1/4 cup of water, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender- about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor.
- Add the remaining teaspoon olive oil to the same warm skillet along with the chopped onion. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes, then add in the garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add to the food processor along with the spices, beans, parsley, lemon zest and juice. Pulse about 8-10 times until well combined, but not pureed.
- Remove and place into a large bowl, then toss with the breadcrumbs. The mixture should easily hold together, but not be wet. Add more breadcrumbs if needed.
- Scoop ~1 1/2-2 tablespoons and roll into balls, then place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, you should have ~22-24 meatballs.
- Drizzle with olive oil then bake until firm and browned, about 25 minutes.
- Make the creamy lemon sauce. Place the the cashews, dill, nutritional yeast, water, salt, pepper and lemon juice into the base of a blender or food processor and puree until very creamy and smooth. Serve with the meatballs.
Keywords: vegan eggplant meatballs