VEGAN MEATBALLS – WE TRIED IT AND WE LOVED IT!

So good it feels like a cheat meal!

INGREDIENTS
1 chia egg (1 tablespoon chia seeds + 3 tablespoons water)
1 1/3 cups white onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced small (about 1/3 cup, optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 unpeeled eggplant, diced into about 1/2-1″ cubes (about 10.5-11 cups diced)*
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1/3 cup parsley, chopped and loosely packed
1/4 cup tempeh bacon (I used 4 slices of Light Life)*
1/4 cup quick oats
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional but recommended)
1/4-1/3 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2-3/4 cups vegetable broth, as needed

TO SERVE
Spaghetti noodles
Marinara of choice (or a raw vegan marinara)

METHOD
Make the chia egg by mixing the chia seeds and water together in a small bowl, and set aside to thicken for about 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F on convection*. Line 2-3 large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place 1/4 cup vegetable broth or water in a large pan over medium heat. Once heated, add in the onions, garlic and celery, and cook until translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes (adding more broth as needed to prevent burning). Transfer to a large bowl.
In the same pan, add another 1/2 cup more water or broth with the eggplant. Cook, stirring often, until it is soft, about 10 to 12 minutes. If needed, cook in two batches and add more broth to prevent burning.
Once cooked, add to the large bowl along with the garbanzo beans, parsley, tempeh, oats, and basil. Mix until uniform, then place into a food processor in two batches and pulse until chopped and combined but NOT pureed. If needed, you can pulse and also mash down with a fork later on in the bowl to prevent a purée consistency.
Place all of the mixture back into the large bowl and add in the remaining ingredients. Adjust salt to taste, then roll into 30-35 meatballs, about 1-inch in diameter. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet(s) and bake until firm and browned, about 20-24 minutes.
Serve warm with marinara and pasta or zucchini noodles or even make a meatball sub in a roll with vegan cheese.

NOTES
You may have to cook the eggplant in two batches. Please note that the eggplant will cook down a bit.
This recipe was tested using a convection oven. For a regular oven, set the temperature to 400°F and bake for about 25-30 minutes, cooking until firm and browned. I haven’t tested it this way and can’t guarantee the results but I am confident in a positive outcome.
If you can’t get your hands on tempeh bacon, add in 1/2 tsp liquid smoke + sub in 1/4 cup more bread crumbs or oats

We cooked ours on STAR-RAP heavy duty foil in the oven!