These ‘Not Meatballs’ are adapted from a recipe in The Abel & Cole Veg Box Companion cookbook. They are a great veggie alternative to meatballs, and a favourite in my household. Delicious served with spaghetti and tomato sauce – a simple can of chopped tomatoes heated through at the end with a pinch of salt would be a perfect accompaniment.

Serves 2:

1 aubergine
1 onion, red or white
a fat clove of garlic
1 red chilli or a pinch of the dried stuff
1 tablespoon finely chopped black olives (optional)
3 tablespoons oil
zest and juice of half a lemon, or a tablespoon of bottled lemon juice
a slice of bread, stale or fresh
a fistful of herbs: parsley, mint, coriander or basil all work well

Cut the stems off the ends of the aubergines and halve lengthways. Dice the flesh into chunks and pop into a medium non stick saucepan or frying pan. Peel and finely slice the onion and garlic, chop the chilli as finely as you can, and add these to the pan. Toss in the chopped olives and a tablespoon of oil, and cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes to brown and soften.

Grate over the lemon zest and squeeze in the juice, and, once the aubergines are soft, tip everything into a mixing bowl. Grate the bread over the top (or break it up and blitz it in a blender for a minute to make breadcrumbs), finely chop the herbs and mix in well.

Shape the mixture into tablespoon sized balls with your hands. Put the remaining oil in a frying pan and carefully fry the aubergine balls in batches until browned all over. Remove with a slotted spoon, and serve with extra lemon juice and basil to taste.


Not-Meatballs from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe. Available to buy at The Hive, supporting your local independent book store. Photography by Susan Bell.


Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe  Facebook:


  1. Reblogged this on Mumsnet Suffolk & Norfolk and commented:
    Living with a non meat eating person has greatly expanded my gastronomic horizons- getting that rich flavour into stocks and sauces simply is not easy when you are accustomed to simply bunging in some meat jus or a few bones from the local butchers. We have eaten this lovely meatball and pasta sauce dish and not just as ‘not’ meatballs either. Mashing up the aubergine and breadcrumbs into the sauce then adding a goodly amount of white or red wine turns it into a very fine base indeed for all kinds of vegetable stews; adding fine sliced fennel turns it into a facsimile of Bouillabaisse. If I had my druthers I would make it with both aubergine and ‘meat’ meatballs though- mine corpulent with beef, a bit of veal and pork as James Villas the wonderful Tar Heel food writer best makes them. But veal is expensive, baby calves are really cute and I cannot be arsed to cook two meals for Mr Veggie and Ms Not Veggie. So Jack Monroe’s wonderful Aubergine veggie version it is and it is none the lesser for it- just different.

  2. I love these Not-meatballs so big thanks for the recipe. These not-meatballs have soo much flavour and you can easily add any herbs or spices to the mix before shaping to ring in the changes. When I made these I left the shaped balls in the fridge for 5 or so minutes to help firm them up and I also fried them lightly in an oven friendly frying pan before putting in the oven to finish off so I wasn’t disturbing them too much and they kept their shape nicely. I have just invested in some Moroccan spices (easy to make your own version) and think I will try adding them and I also fancy making some home made preserved lemons ( which I think the rind when done would go nice inside if diced small (although it will be over a month for the lemons to be ready) to serve with your baba ghanoush and couscous.

  3. Had a bit of trouble getting these to bind – maybe an egg or something might help? Delicous and the kids loved them though 🙂

    • I tried them last night and had the same problem – tasted great but I ended up mushing it all again as the meatballs wouldn’t stick together in the pan. Let me know if you find a solution!

  4. This was yummy… also had binding problems but the mix was delicious… thank you!

  5. Mine fell apart too – perhaps I should have used white bread, not brown? It didn’t matter though – it makes a delicious pasta sauce, with chopped tinned tomatoes added. I’ve made it several times already!

  6. I made this for lunch today. I decided to bind it together with a tablespoon of tahini mixed with some water (probably too much, as I also had to add about a tablespoon of flour). I also rolled the balls in flour. They did stick together quite well. I also thought that the aubergine mix (not stuck together) would be good for a vegetarian lasagne. The ‘no-meatballs’ were very tasty! I shall make them again.

  7. Just made these, really tasty but I had problems as well with the balls falling apart in the frying process. I added an egg after reading a few comments above, which was too much and made it too sloppy so had to add some more breadcrumbs. Should have perhaps rolled them in flour as well.
    Im sure I will make these again though, as they taste really good. I had them with cous cous, spinach, avocado and red pepper hummus.

  8. Nice recipe! But I do prefer the real ones, meatballs, that is. I also like little crabs, their meat, scales and everything. Do you have a recipe for them? Preferably in combination with a little fish? Thank you so much!

  9. Made a version of these last night with some red lentils in too for protein goodness, I put extra bread in but still couldn’t get them to stay together when I fried them. Any suggestions?
    ps. absolutely gorgeous with a spicy tomato sauce and some pasta!

    • A tablespoon of flour generally helps bind them together if they are a bit smooshy. I always chill any bean-based mixes in the fridge for half an hour (or freezer for 15 mins if in a rush) and it makes a huge difference to its viability.
      I’ve found with aubergines the water content can vary hugely, so leaving the whole mix in a sieve or colander, in a bowl, in the fridge for half an hlur can help drain out some of the excess liquid. A pinch of salt helps draw it out, as does a bowl balanced on top to add a little weight to push any excess liquid out.

      If all else fails, I blitz it in the blender and have it as a pasta sauce! But start with flour and go from there. 🙂

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