Vegan Eggplant Meatballs with Creamy Lemon Sauce

By Alexandra Caspero on August 11, 2019
Perfect as an appetizer, main dish or party food!
22-24 Meatballs

Vegan Eggplant Meatballs with Creamy Lemon dipping sauce.

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. 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.

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.

vegan eggplant meatballs


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vegan eggplant meatballs with creamy lemon sauce

Vegan Eggplant Meatballs with Creamy Lemon Sauce

  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 22-24 meatballs 1x
  • Category: dinner, vegan, meatballs
  • Method: oven
  • Cuisine: vegan, morroccan


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!

  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 22-24 meatballs 1x
  • Category: dinner, vegan, meatballs
  • Method: oven
  • Cuisine: vegan, morroccan
  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 22-24 meatballs 1x
  • Category: dinner, vegan, meatballs
  • Method: oven
  • Cuisine: vegan, morroccan


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
  • 1/41/2 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


  1. Make the meatballs. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Drizzle with olive oil then bake until firm and browned, about 25 minutes.
  8. 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.

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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Plant-Based Chef and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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    1. Marla
      June 25, 2020 AT 12:48 pm

      Wondering if the eggplant should be peeled?

      1. Alex
        June 30, 2020 AT 6:50 am

        I didn’t! But you are welcome to.

    2. Line Dupuy
      March 4, 2020 AT 7:39 am

      Hi Alex,
      Thanks for sharing.
      I’d love to try this recipe (egglants are on sale, to make it even better!), but I’m not a fan of breadcrumbs.
      I saw someone repaced them with almond flour, but that adds a lot of (healthy) fat and I’m concerned with it being overly “filling”.
      Could you please recommend another substitution? Ground oats maybe?
      Thanks for your help.

      1. Alex
        March 6, 2020 AT 9:59 am

        Hi Line– ground oats will likely work! I’d try that, though I can’t guarantee the texture/taste will be there as I haven’t tried it myself.

    3. JK
      October 15, 2019 AT 6:26 pm

      I made this tonight and loved the flavor ( I could just eat the eggplant/bean mix with a spoon!!)…I was wondering what parts could be made ahead of time. Could I mix it together and keep in the refrigerator for a few days then bring to room temp make the balls and bake? or would it be best to only make and refrigerate the eggplant part before adding the beans & bread crumbs — but with the spices added so the flavors keep soaking in? just wondering if you tried any of this when developing the recipe … thanks

      1. Alex
        November 7, 2019 AT 2:46 pm

        Hi JK- I haven’t tried making these ahead of time, but I imagine it would work. I’d make the mixture as-is ahead of time, then taste before baking. If the spices have dulled, simply add a bit more.

    4. Nutrition N You
      September 9, 2019 AT 12:30 pm

      I love the fact that the “calories per serving” is only 36.

    5. Heather Waghelstein
      August 21, 2019 AT 11:01 am

      Ive just started to cook more scratch meals for myself and I made this. I subbed Almond Flour for the breadcrumbs (trying to do more keto) and it turned out well. The texture was excellent which for me is the most important. The middle eastern spices are an acquired taste for me but Im working on expanding my palate.

    6. Jean
      August 18, 2019 AT 8:52 am

      I am enjoying this recipe and will make it again. Love eggplant and the restrained oil content of this recipe is very appealing. I needed more breadcrumbs than called for — used whole wheat panko. Would also tweak the spices next time. I grind cumin seed myself so it is stronger/fresher than the supermarket variety. As much as I love it and try to adjust for that fact, I got a bit much in there. I am also curious about the size of the onion used; would like to see weights when possible. Thanks for a great idea.