Lemongrass aubergine neatballs

Lemongrass aubergine neatballs

lemongrass aubergine neatballs close up

I’m so glad it’s Friday at last as this week has been a bit testing, to be honest. Duncan had his sinus operation on Wednesday and he has been so unfazed by it – he spent a lot of time in hospitals in his 20s, so he is very au fait with them, whereas me, not so much. I get worried and scared so I was probably stressing for both of us. Luckily, the op went really well and the patient is recovering with an occasional cuddle from the healing cat.

Even though it’s summer here, a proper summer for once, I have been waking up with a sore throat for the past two days. My eyes sting and my energy levels are low, so I think I might be coming down with something. Probably the same bug that one of Duncan’s co-workers brought to work because his company has a Draconian sick leave policy. Duncan went down with it last weekend and now, it’s my turn. Thanks a bunch! We were supposed to go to Wales this weekend to see friends we have not seen in years, but the jury is still out us to whether we will make it given the current state of affairs…

Okay, rather than moaning and feeling sorry for myself, let me tell you a bit about today’s recipe, as I’m rather excited about it and I hope you’ll love it! Because for some reason when things come easy to me, I feel like it’s cheating (any psychologists out there know what the hell is wrong with me?!), I’ve decided to double the amount of work and do two different varieties of these puppies and cook each in two different ways too. Yup, and that’s on a day when I am not feeling my best either… At least you get to benefit from my disordered thinking 😛 .

So the first batch I made was with cooked chickpeas and the second with smoked tofu. We’ve enjoyed them both immensely so choose whichever one appeals to you more.

These neatballs (aka vegan meatballs if you aren’t down with the kids 😉 ) are flavoured with lemongrass, chilli and coriander as I’m hankering for some South East Asian travelling! They are by no means authentic (just a figment of my food-obsessed brain), but they taste good, so who cares!

They go rather well with a bowl of rice noodles or rice, a simple salad (I used carrot, cucumber, radishes, spring onions and herbs for mine), lashings of sweet chilli sauce, a squeeze of lime and a dash of soy sauce or tamari.

lemongrass aubergine neatballs chopping aromatics

lemongrass aubergine neatballs rolling balls

lemongrass aubergine neatballs fried

lemongrass aubergine neatballs

60 min
30 min
60 min
30 min
  • 1 large aubergine / eggplant
  • 250 g / 1½ cups cooked chickpeas OR 280 g firm or extra firm cotton tofu, pressed*
  • 2-3 lemongrass stalks (I used 3), tender inner part only
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped very finely
  • 1 medium heat chilli, adjust to taste
  • 2 spring onions
  • 15 g / 0.5 oz fresh coriander
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil (I used rice bran oil), plus more for frying
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • zest of 1 lime
  • ½ tsp white pepper, to taste
  • ¾ tsp salt, adjust to taste
  • approximately 30 g / ¼ cup any flour (I used brown rice flour)
  1. Heat up your oven to 200º C / 390º F and line a baking tray with a piece of baking paper.
  2. Cut your aubergine / eggplant into thick slices (about 1.5 cm / 0.6″) and arrange them on the prepared baking tray (no need to grease). Bake for about 30 minutes, until soft. Allow the slices to cool down completely.
  3. Blitz the chickpeas (or tofu) in a food processor until you get a coarse, uniform mixture, but be careful not to overprocess them. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
  4. Chop up all your aromatics into a small dice: lemongrass, garlic, chilli, spring onions and coriander. Transfer the coriander to the mixing bowl with the shredded chickpeas / tofu.
  5. Heat up 1 tbsp of neutral oil in a small frying pan or a wok and stir-fry all the aromatics until softened and fragrant. Add 1 tsp of toasted sesame oil at the end, just for flavour. Transfer the aromatics to the large mixing bowl.
  6. Transfer the cold aubergine slices to the food processor and process, but be careful not to over process as we don’t want baba ganoush here. Transfer the mixture to the mixing bowl with the remaining ingredients.
  7. Finally, add lime zest and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Mix in the flour, start off with ¼ cup and add more later if the mixture is too wet after it’s had a chance to chill. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 1 hour or stick it in the freezer for 20 minutes if you are in a rush.
  9. Once chilled, squeeze portions of the mixture in your palm to make it stick to itself and then roll into balls (mine were 20 g each) in your hands. If the mixture is too wet, add a touch more flour, but don’t go crazy, especially if you intend to bake the neatballs as baking will dry them out a bit more than frying.


  1. Before you are ready to make your neatballs, heat up your oven to 180° C / 355° F and brush a baking tray with a little oil.
  2. Arrange your neatballs on the pre-oiled baking tray. Bake for about 15 minutes.
  3. Using a flat knife or a spatula, flip each neatball gently to the other side and bake for a further 15 minutes. You may need to brush a little bit more oil underneath each neatball as you flip them.


  1. If you want to pan fry your neatballs, heat up enough oil so that it covers the bottom of the frying pan.
  2. Once the oil is hot, arrange the neatballs on the pan in a clockwise fashion so that you know which ones have been frying the longest. Leave them alone for a few minutes before cutting them off the pan with a flat knife or a small spatula. If lifted too early, they will stick to the pan.
  3. Allow them to brown on all sides, nudging them gently to a new side every now and then. Drain on a paper towel after frying, handle with care as they are fragile when straight off the pan. They firm up as they cool.
  4. Serve with a simple Asian-inspired salad, rice noodles and a sweet chilli sauce.

*Unless you are using a brand like Tofoo, which is vacuum packed and does not require pressing – just squeeze it out well.

1 g
1 g
0 g
1 g
5 g
*per neatball
How would you rate this recipe?
This is a test string

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

6 reviews, 28 comments
These are so so good! I have this weird aversion to tofu and I'm trying to make myself like it, so I'm always looking for recipes that don't have cubed tofu or something like that but are a bit more sneaky about it, if that makes sense? :D These work really well for me ;) I've made them a few times already and usually serve them with rice noodles and julienned carrots and kohlrabi and a peanut lime sauce. I made them again last night but I forgot to get the aubergine at the store, so instead I used a small roasted broccoli and they came out super tasty as well. We prefer them pan fried, although they do fall apart easily when handled. Thanks for another great recipe Ania, I'm always looking forward to check our blog every weekend!
    Thanks Sanna, I am very happy to hear that these went down so well with a self-proclaimed tofu sceptic as yourself ;) . I completely understand what you mean and I do have many more recipes with sneaky tofu, like this one or that one or that one. As for the falling apart bit, I am surprised. I have no issues with them falling apart whatsoever - perhaps you need to press your tofu? or if they are too dry - do the opposite and add a tablespoon or two of water to the mixture. Or perhaps it's an issue of handling, you need to be quite gentle with them when raw - once they sear they are quite firm. Hope that helps. Ania
Do you mean cilantro instead of coriander? Coriander is ground not chopped.
    It depends where you live, Sam. Here, in the UK, coriander is the name for both the herb (what you call 'cilantro') and the seeds (spice). Hope this helps! Ania
Delicious flavours and texture. I served with brown rice, salad and edamame. Will make double recipe next time and freeze half before cooking.
Healthy and delicious.
    Thank you Sue, I am so happy to hear that you enjoyed these and plan to make them again. Thanks so much for taking the time to review, much appreciated. x Ania
This is so good!!! We went to restaurant and we ordered vegan ball with lemon grass so I search and I found this amazing recipe, it teased better then the rest
    Thank you, I am so happy to hear that you enjoyed this recipe so much, that's great news. And thank you for taking the time to leave this lovely review - I really appreciate it. x Ania
These look amazing. I’m allergic to eggplant though. Is there anything you think might work as a substitution?
    Hi Stacy,
    How about mushrooms? Ania
These were so delicious! I love anything with eggplant, but lemongrass and chilli combo was a whole new level. I used tofu and baked the neatballs in the oven. This will be on my rotation list! By the way, I'm heading to Krakow this weekend, could you recommend any nice vegan restaurant ? Thank you!
    Thanks, Laana! I'm so pleased you enjoyed it! Yes, my top place to visit in Krakow is Youmiko Sushi, they are not a vegan sushi joint but they do vegan sushi days (once a week, I think) when they only do vegan sushi. Their sushi is to die for. x Ania
Hi Ania,
I'm really looking forward to making this recipe this week!
Quick question could you freeze the neatballs?
    Hi Eva,
    Yes, you certainly can, but do so before frying/baking. Hope that helps! Ania
Great recipe, I couldn’t find lemongrass so used extra lime instead. Delicious and great texture. Hope I can make it with lemongrass next time!
    That's fab to hear, Georgia! Good hack, but yes, lemongrass is worth hunting for (not literally ;) ) as it has an amazing flavour. I love using it. Ania
Ella Anne Smith:
could you sub lentils for chickpeas?
    Hi Ella,
    I think so but only firm lentils (like green or Puy lentils) will work. Ania
Could lentils be used in place of chickpeas?
    Hi Ella,
    I have not tried but you can certainly try (green or Puy lentils as others will turn into mash) but they will give you a different texture and so you may need to compensate with some more flour / breadcrumbs etc. Ania
New to your blog, really want to make this but no store in 30 min drive carry lemon grass, I was thinking to add lemon and up the green onion to 3. What do you think? Any suggestions? Live your blog!
    I like your lateral thinking, Karen, but it won't quite be an equivalent flavour. If I was you, I would simply swap it for grated ginger (amount to taste, but star with 1 tsp) - that's usually way easier to get. Hope that helps and thanks for your kind words! Ania
Louisa Berry:
Could you make these with courgettes instead of aubergines? I'm not the biggest fan of aubergines...
    Hi Louisa! I'm not sure as courgettes are substantially more watery than aubergines unless you want to grate them first and then squeeze all of the water out like you would for zucchini fitters. It might work, but I haven't tried myself! Ania
Laila Kokins:
I made the neatballs with the smoked tofu a few days ago and they were excellent . Great taste and texture. I’m sure I can fool my non vegan friends with these and if not they will love the taste. I’m thinking with the aubergine and tofu as base so many variations are possible . Love your recipes and blog.
    Thank you so much, Laila! I'm so delighted to hear that! Ania
I have never heard the term "cotton tofu" before. (I am also new to your website/blog, but look forward to more exploring) I'm in the U.S. so it's probably another cultural vocabulary thing, like eggplant /aubergine (I call them the former, and I know you use the latter more.) Can you explain it?
    Hi Nicola,
    Welcome to my blog! I'm glad you are here :) As for the term 'cotton' in relation to tofu, here is an extensive explanation. Hope that helps! Ania
These are on my meal plan for next week already! They look so delicious, I can't wait to try them x
    Thanks, Laura! I hope you'll enjoy them! Ania
Hello Ania.....I love your blog and cook lots of your recipes. Read about you feeling under par and thought you may like to hear of a fabulous remedy when you feel yr coming down with something. This was recommended by my medical doctor who’s also into natural rememdies and acupuncture.
Take 15,000 units of VIT D so that’s 15 x 1000 unit tabs or 3 x 5,000 unit tabs. Sounds excessive but it works!!! As soon as you feel something not right in your body take this remedy. ONLY TAKE ONCE.
It so works. Symptoms gone next morning . I’ve taken it at night and during the day so works both times.
I work in a hospital and DO NOT have the flu injections each year . I use this remedy and have great faith in it.
May this be of benefit to you.
    Thanks, Mukula, that sounds interesting. I shall do some research on it. Ania
Beautiful photography Ania, as ever! I'm going to try these in my cast iron poffertjie/ Indian paniyaram pan. Have you seen one? The pan has multiple half circle indents that are lightly oiled then filled and the contents form a natural ball as you turn them about with a couple of skewers, or forks. Pretty healthy as little oil.
Hope you are both well enough to enjoy your Welsh weekend.
    Thanks, Sally! Unfortunately, we've had to cancel as neither of us is fit for travel :( I've never heard of a pan like that, but it sounds amazing and I will definitely see whether I can get one without breaking the bank. Thanks for this helpful tip! Hope you'll enjoy these! x Ania
Join our mailing list and we we will let you know when we publish a new recipe. You'll receive our DELIGHTFUL DESSERTS E-BOOK as a thank you for supporting us.