Eggplant Mushroom Walnut “Meatballs”

I love experimenting with different vegetarian meat alternatives. Most of the variations I’ve made contain some combination of legume, grain, veggies, spices, and often a binder such as a flax egg. While perusing my new Love and Lemons cookbook, I came across the rare “meatball” recipe that has no legumes. Check out her website for more great recipes!

The primary ingredients are eggplant, mushroom, walnuts, and millet. Due to the moisture from the vegetables, no binder was needed! The result is a meaty, moist, well textured veggie ball that can be used to top pasta, be enjoyed by itself, or even formed into a patty to create a burger. The original recipe called for cremini mushrooms and millet. Because I didn’t have either available, I substituted regular button mushrooms and quinoa (cooked in veggie broth for extra flavor). The quinoa provides the benefit of being a complete protein! I suspect most combinations of a grain (must people have access to brown rice) and mushroom (thinking portobellos) would probably work. Because the moisture content varies between ingredients, I found I had to add some panko bread crumbs to the mixture to create the ideal texture. An optional panko coating adds a nice crunch! The recipe pairs great with my Two Ingredient Roasted Tomato Sauce.

These meatballs made great leftovers for lunch! I mixed them with whole wheat pasta, chopped spinach, kalamata olives, marinara, and red pepper flakes!


  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces button (white) mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small eggplant (or 1/2 large), chopped
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (I cooked mine in veggie broth and use a rice cooker)
  • 1 cup (plus more for coating) panko bread crumbs


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • In a large skillet, heat 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil (this can be omitted if trying to keep oil free. I try to “water-saute” or “veggie broth saute in a nonstick pan) over medium heat
  • Add onion and cook until soft, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste
  • Add mushrooms and cook until browned
  • Add eggplant and cook until soft (I covered my veggies at this point for about 5 minutes to help them steam-cook and soften further). Sprinkle with more salt and pepper
  • Add balsamic vinegar and soy sauce or tamari and cook until entire mixture is browned and soft. Adjust seasonings to taste
  • In a food processor or high-speed blender, pulse walnuts (there should be chopped into pieces, but not over-processed to where they form a powder or paste)
  • Add mushroom/eggplant mixture and pulse further until combined
  • Transfer mixture to a bowl and add quinoa
  • I added 1/2-1 cup panko to the mixture to reduce the moisture and create a better texture to form balls
  • Form 16-20 1 1/2 inch balls
  • Roll in panko crumbs to coat if desired
  • Place on baking sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes, turning occasionally to ensure even browning