These Eggplant Meatballs (also known as polpette di melanzane) are a fun vegetarian spin on meatballs. They are super moist and flavourful and packed with chunks of sautéed eggplant, garlic and onion, baked in the oven and then served in a rich tomato sauce. Polpette di Melanzane (Eggplant Meatballs) Polpette di Melanzane originated in the southern region of italy (specifically Sicily, Campania, Calabria and Puglia) where eggplants are abundant and widely used in cooking. I have spent time in Sicily and Puglia and loved how different the food was compared to other regions of Italy. I found that other than seafood, the one ingredient that a lot of their dishes centered around was eggplants (or melanzane). I was able to try a wide variety of different polpette di melanzane during my trips to Italy, and after much trial and error, finally mastered the art of what I believe to be the perfect eggplant meatball. 

These little eggplant meatballs are unbelieva-BALL-y good…sorry, I couldn’t help myself. But seriously, these are little balls of deliciousness that will quickly have any meat eaters forgetting that they are vegetarian meatballs. They are a cross between two classic Italian dishes, eggplant parmesan and traditional meatballs, and can often be found on menus in Italy listed as polpette di melanzane. They are firm on the outside and tender and soft perfect texture in the center. Eggplant gives each ball “meatlike” density while the basil and garlic add delicious flavor. 



Polpette di Melanzane (Eggplant Meatballs)

Why You Will Love These Eggplant Meatballs

  • If you are a fan of Italian food, you will love this healthy cross between meatballs and eggplant parmigiana. The meatballs have a meaty texture and are packed with so much flavor.
  • If you are trying to eat more meatless dishes and looking for vegetarian recipes that will still leave you feeling satisfied, this is a great recipe to try that the whole family will enjoy. The eggplant in these polpette di melanzane have a wonderful meaty taste that makes them feel substantial like classic meatballs made with beef. 
  • They can be enjoyed as a filling meal, smothered in sauce and served on their own or overtop of your favorite pasta, or enjoyed as an appetizer with the sauce on the side for dipping.
  • This Eggplant Meatballs recipe uses simple ingredients that can be found at any grocery store
  • These polpette di melanzane are Paleo, Whole30, Keto, Grain Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free & Specific Carbohydrate Diet Legal. 


Polpette di Melanzane (Eggplant Meatballs)

Ingredients Needed To Make These Eggplant Meatballs

  • Eggplants: I prefer using large eggplant such as globe or italian eggplant because I find that they have a meatier texture then smaller eggplant such as Indian eggplant. I prefer to leave the eggplant skin on for added texture, but you can peel it off if you prefer. 
  • Garlic: fresh garlic adds wonderful flavor to the sauce and meatballs. I love garlic so I always add extra and use 3 large cloves garlic, but you can reduce the amount depending on your personal preference 
  • Onion: Be sure to finely dice the yellow onion
  • Vegetable or chicken stock
  • Eggs: rather than using a whole egg, this recipe just uses the egg white which helps to bind the eggplant mixture together. I haven’t tried using a flax egg but have received feedback from others that it works and is a great option if you want to adapt these into vegan eggplant meatballs. 
  • Almond Flour: traditionally eggplant meatballs use bread crumbs but to make this recipe grain free they are replaced with almond flour which i find gives them a very moist texture. If you are not on a dairy free diet, feel free to swap the almond flour for 1 3/4 cup of  breadcrumbs.  
  • Basil: fresh basil leaves add wonderful flavor to the meatballs 
  • Parmesan Cheese: freshly grated parmigiano reggiano (pecorino cheese can also be used) or nutritional yeast if you are on a dairy free diet. 
  • Tomatoes: For the sauce I use a combination of fresh tomatoes (for texture) and canned tomatoes for the base of the sauce. Try to use very ripe tomatoes so that the sauce isn’t tart in flavor.  


Polpette di Melanzane (Eggplant Meatballs)

How To Make These Eggplant Meatballs

  1. Start by cutting the eggplant into cubes. Heat extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. Saute the onion, garlic, eggplant and broth until the eggplant has softened and all of the excess liquid has been absorbed. 
  2. Transfer everything from the pan to the bowl of a food processor and pulse for only a few seconds, make sure that you don’t over blend as you want the eggplant to remain in chunky pieces. 
  3. Add the eggplant meatball mixture to a large mixing bowl along with the almond flour (or bread crumbs), basil, parmesan cheese, egg white, salt and black pepper and stir using a wooden spoon until well mixed.  
  4. Use a cookie scoop or a large spoon scoop out portions of the eggplant mixture and roll it into small balls (approximately the size of a golf ball). Place the rolled meatballs in a single layer on a parchment paper lined sheet pan approximately 1 inch apart. 
  5. Place the baking sheet in the oven and leave to bake for 30 minutes flipping them half way through so that they are golden brown on both sides. 
  6. While the eggplant balls are cooking make the sauce by combining the sauce ingredients in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Leave it to simmer.
  7. Serve the baked eggplant meatballs on your favorite pasta, zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash or even enjoy them on their own with the tomato sauce spooned overtop. Garnish with grated cheese and a chopped handful of fresh basil

Polpette di Melanzane (Eggplant Meatballs)

Are They Dairy Free?

I added parmesan to the recipe but if you are following a dairy free or paleo diet it can be substituted for nutritional yeast for a touch of cheesy flavor. 

Are They Grain Free?

Traditionally Polpette di Melanzane are made with breadcrumbs which helps to absorb any excess water from the eggplant. You can use breadcrumbs, or to make these eggplant polpette grain free and paleo, use almond flour.



Time Saving Hack

I love making the homemade marinara from scratch and leaving it to simmer for 30 minutes, but if you are short on time, you can use store bought marinara sauce. I recommend jazzing it up a bit by sautéing some fresh garlic (and even diced onion) in a pan, then add in the jarred sauce. For added flavor you can also stir in some herbs such as italian seasoning, dried oregano or basil. 



What To Serve With These Eggplant Meatballs

I love serving these eggplant polpette as a main dish with pasta (or gluten-free noodles), or zucchini noodles. They can also be enjoyed as an appetizer by serving them on a plate as finger food with some sauce spooned overtop and crusty bread on the side. 




Polpette di Melanzane (Eggplant Meatballs)


Can I Make These Eggplant Meatballs In Advance?

Absolutely! I would suggest baking the polpette di melanzane and then storing the baking tray covered with plastic wrap in the fridge. Before serving simply place the eggplant meatball and the baking tray in the oven and reheat before serving them with the sauce. 




What About Leftovers?

I recommend storing the baked eggplant meatballs and the sauce separately in the fridge in an airtight container to prevent the meatballs from becoming mushy.  These balls hold their firmness for a few days after baking, but storing them separately will help to ensure they don’t become soggy. The vegetarian eggplant meatballs and sauce will last for up to 4 days in the fridge and the meatballs are best reheated in the oven, in the microwave or in an air fryer. 



Polpette di Melanzane (Eggplant Meatballs)

Here are a few more Italian recipes that you might enjoy:

If you make this recipe let me know in the comment section below, I would love to hear what you think or take a photo and tag me (@everylastbite_) on Instagram, I love seeing your photos!

Eggplant Meatballs (aka Polpette di Melanzane)

Every Last Bite
These eggplant meatballs are a vegetarian spin on meatballs. They are packed with chunks of eggplant and oven baked.
5 from 7 votes
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 10 minutes
Diets Dairy Free, Grain/Gluten Free, Paleo, Refined Sugar Free, Specific Carbohydrate Diet Legal
Servings 24 balls
Calories 88 kcal


  • 2 medium eggplant
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/3 cup basil chopped
  • 1 3/4 cup almond flour (or breadcrumbs)
  • 1/3 cup parmesan (or 2 tbsp nutritional yeast for dairy free)
  • 1 egg white lightly beaten


  • 6 medium tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 14oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 tbsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup basil chopped


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius)
  • Cut the eggplant into small cubes. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat, add the diced onion, garlic, cubed eggplant and stock, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Allow to cook for approximately 15-20 minutes until all of the eggplant has become soft and the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender and pulse once or twice but no more, you want the larger pieces to break down but you do not want the entire mixture to turn into a smooth puree. It should remain chunky.
  • In a bowl combine the eggplant mixture, chopped basil, almond flour, parmesan and egg white and blend until well combined.
  • Line a baking tray with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray to ensure its well greased.
  • Spoon out 1-2 tablespoon sized amounts of the mixture into your hands and roll into balls the size of a golf ball. Place on the baking sheet approximately an inch apart.
  • Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes, flipping the balls half way through. Keep an eye on them to make sure they do not burn. They are done when they become more firm to the touch.
  • While the meatballs are cooking, make the sauce. Chopped the tomatoes into small pieces. Place them in a medium sized pot on medium-low heat along with the olive oil, crushed garlic and diced onion.
  • Allow to cook for 15-20 minutes until the onion becomes transparent. Add in the canned tomatoes, lower the heat and allow to simmer for 30-45 minutes
  • Add in the oregano, chilli flakes and chopped basil. Stir and then serve the eggplant meatballs with the tomato sauce spooned overtop.
Calories: 88kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 3gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 56mgPotassium: 219mgFiber: 3gSugar: 4gCalcium: 51mgIron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Leave a comment below and let us know how it was!