Zucchini “Meatballs”

Baked meatless “meatballs” made with grated zucchini, herbs, breadcrumbs and a touch of Parmesan, in a delicious marinara sauce. Serve them over zucchini noodles, pasta or as an appetizer! Vegetarian and easily gluten free. 

Zucchini meatballs with marinara sauce in a skillet, with a stripped kitchen towel

Move over, meat! Zucchini are here to take over the world!

My favorite sneaky veggie is back with another trick. This time, it’s not to make the “moistest” patties (like here or here) or fake-good-for-you- pasta (spiralized zucchini, anyone?) but to make meatballs, without the meat. How crazy and wonderful is that?

Doesn’t matter if you do love meat meatballs (I do and I’m not disowning them!), these meatless meatballs are fantastic, too!

They are:

  • soft and moist, but in a very delicious way
  • they don’t taste like bare zucchini – which is a plus in my book! They taste like basil, oregano and parmesan, with a touch of lemon. In other words: not bland at all.
  • they are versatile! You can serve them with pasta, zucchini pasta, rice, cauliflower rice… I love the sauce but you can also serve them without and they’d make great appetizers, too!
  • good for you! there’s a whole big serving of veggies in there + they’re low calories AND filling. Me loves.

Zucchini meatballs in a skillet with a large serving spoon, next to a white plate with more zucchini meatballs

How to make zucchini meatballs

  • Step 1 – In a large skillet, cook some garlic and grated zucchini. This will help develop the flavors and most of all, make it easier to drain as much moisture as possible from the zucchini.
  • Step 2 – Transfer the zucchini to a fine sieve and squeeze out as much moisture as you can
  • Step 3 – In a large bowl, combine the drained zucchini with the beaten eggs, breadcrumbs, herbs, lemon, parmesan and red pepper flakes if using.

Three step by step photos to make zucchini meatballs

  • Step 4 – Mix until it’s thoroughly combined. I like to use my hands – it’s quicker, easier and…a little bit fun 😉
  • Step 5 – Shape into meatballs, making them as compact as possible (so they don’t fall apart). Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper sprayed with a bit of oil.
  • Step 6 – Bake for 22 to 25 minutes or until golden.

Step by step pictures to make baked zucchini meatballs

  • Step 7 (not pictured) – In the same skillet you used before, reheat marinara sauce, and add in the spinach and lemon. Reheat the zucchini meatballs.
  • Add a few dollops of ricotta cheese, sprinkle with parmesan cheese if you feel like it, and serve!

Zucchini meatballs in marinara sauce cut in half to show inside

Tips to make zucchini meatballs

  • Cooking the zucchini in a skillet first might sound like an unnecessary step but it’s actually very important to deepen the flavor and most importantly, to help get as much moisture as possible out of the zucchini. That’s key for the meatballs to hold their shape!
  • Don’t skip the draining step, either!
  • You can use a food processor with the grating attachment to speed things up (this is the one I use and love).
  • Grating the zucchini thinly helps remove more moisture.
  • Freezing: let the meatball cool completely and freeze them in a single layer (don’t make the sauce). Once they are frozen (after a couple of hours), you can transfer them to a smaller container or ziplock bag. Defrost them in the marinara sauce on low heat.

A skillet of baked zucchini meatballs in marinara sauce with ricotta and spinach

Zucchini meatballs with marinara sauce in a skillet, with a stripped kitchen towel
5 from 1 vote
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Zucchini Meatballs

Baked meatless "meatballs" made with grated zucchini, herbs, breadcrumbs and a touch of Parmesan, in an improved marinara sauce. Serve them over zucchini noodles, pasta or as an appetizer! Vegetarian and easily gluten free. 

Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Mediterranean
Keyword #dinnerrecipe, #kidfriendly, meatless, vegetarian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4 people
Calories 279 kcal

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped basil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped oregano I used dried
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (Use gluten free breadcrumbs to make gluten free "meatballs")
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes optional

Sauce

  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup baby spinach packed
  • 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
  • grated Parmesan cheese to serve - optional
  • chopped parsley to serve - optional

Instructions

Meatballs

  1. Preheat oven to 375F / 190C degrees.

  2. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Cook garlic for 1-2 minutes, stirring often, then add zucchini. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until moisture has evaporated. 

  3. Add zucchini to a fine mesh sieve and press all liquid out, using a silicon spatula to press mixture. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.

  4. Add mixture to a large mixing bowl. Stir in lemon zest, herbs, breadcrumbs, egg, parmesan and red pepper flakes. Mix until well combined.
  5. Form into 16 even “meatballs” making them as compact as possible (so they don’t fall apart) and add to a greased baking sheet. 

  6. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Sauce

  1. In the same saucepan, heat marinara sauce over medium heat. Fold in lemon juice and spinach. 

  2. Add meatballs and continue cooking until meatballs and sauce are warmed throughout. 

  3. Dollop with ricotta and season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Sprinkle with a bit of parmesan cheese and parsley, if using. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

A few tips!

  • Cooking the zucchini in a skillet first might sound like an unnecessary step but it’s actually very important to deepen the flavor and most importantly, to help get as much moisture as possible out of the zucchini. That’s key for the meatballs to hold their shape!
  • Don’t skip draining step, either!
  • Use a food processor with the grating attachment to speed things up (this is the one I use and love).
  • Grating the zucchini thinly helps remove more moisture.

Freezing: let the meatball cool completely and freeze them in a single layer (don’t make the sauce). Once they are frozen (after a couple of hours), you can transfer them to a smaller container or ziplock bag. Defrost them in the marinara sauce on low heat.

Nutrition Facts
Zucchini Meatballs
Amount Per Serving (4 meatballs + sauce)
Calories 279 Calories from Fat 99
% Daily Value*
Fat 11g17%
Saturated Fat 4g25%
Cholesterol 58mg19%
Sodium 1303mg57%
Potassium 781mg22%
Carbohydrates 32g11%
Fiber 5g21%
Sugar 9g10%
Protein 13g26%
Vitamin A 1735IU35%
Vitamin C 26.7mg32%
Calcium 271mg27%
Iron 4.4mg24%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

If you tried these zucchini meatballs, don’t forget to rate the recipe below and let me know how it went in the comments – I love hearing from you! You can also follow me on InstagramPinterest and Facebook for more deliciousness and behind-the-scenes!

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posted in
All Seasons Recipes Appetizers Clean Eating Gluten free Main Dishes Recipes Summer Recipes Under 300 cal Vegetarian
19 Comments
  1. I always have a ton of zucchini in the summer and I’m always looking for new ways to serve it! This is great! I can’t wait to them!

  2. Hey Marie,
    Thanks for posting this recipe! I have been using tempeh to make vegetarian recipes, but it is hard to make them very flavoursome. I will definitely try your recipe for zucchini meatballs! It might be just the thing to go with marinara and zucchini pasta!
    Hope you have a great day 🙂

  3. Wow. It really looks great and delicious. This catch my attention because you can pair this with pasta. I know that pasta and meatballs are common but if you put some twist to the meatballs, it can result to a great pasta with meatballs recipe.

  4. Hey Marie! I am so excited to try this recipe! However, I am a vegetarian but I do not eat eggs, is there anything that I can substitute the eggs with or can I forgo using them?

    1. Hi! You could try with flax eggs instead. I haven’t tested it myself but I think it should work. You need a binder so I wouldn’t just leave them out.

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