Spicy Crushed Calabrian Chiles are at the center of flavor in these vegetarian meatballs. This is a classic dish in Calabria, Italy and makes a unique appetizer. For more kick heat the tomato sauce with a few extra Crushed Calabrian Chiles.

Prep time: 5 min

Cook time: 45 min

Total time: 50 min

Calabrian Crispy Eggplant “Meatballs”
Copyright Recipe © 2015 Woodland Foods


Makes 32 balls

  • 1 Large Eggplant (About 1-Lb.), skin on, cut into 1-inch dice

  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher Sea Salt Flakes, plus more to taste

  • 1 1/4 Cups Fresh Breadcrumbs

  • 1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

  • 2 Tablespoons Flat-Leaf Parsley, minced

  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced

  • Ground Black Peppercorns Dustless

  • 1/4 Teaspoon Crushed Calabrian Chiles

  • 1 Large Egg, lightly beaten

  • 1/3 Cup Panko Breadcrumbs

  • Vegetable Oil, for frying

  • Tomato Sauce, for serving


  1. Bring large pot of water to a rapid boil, and stir in salt. Add eggplant and boil, uncovered, for 10 minutes, or until soft. Drain and let cool. When eggplant is cool, press to remove excess water and finely chop.

  2. Combine eggplant, fresh breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley and garlic in large bowl, and mix with fork. Season to taste with salt and black pepper, and add crushed Calabrian Chile. Add egg, and mix until thoroughly incorporated.

  3. Place panko bread crumbs on plate. Roll tablespoonfuls of eggplant mixture to form balls about 1-inch in diameter. Balls should hold their shape. If they do not, add more fresh bread crumbs by tablespoonfuls until they do. Roll each ball in panko bread crumbs until evenly coated. Place coated balls on baking sheet.

  4. Heat 1/2-inch vegetable oil in skillet over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add one ball to oil. If it sizzles immediately, add half of balls and fry, turning gently until well browned and crispy all over, about 3 minutes total. Transfer to paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining balls.

  5. Let cool about 10 minutes before serving with tomato sauce for dipping.