Change up your eggplant routine and make a kid friendly, dip worthy dinner with crispy baked eggplant dippers and Italian meatballs!
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We are complete and utter beach bums in the summer…
…and as my girls reach the not-so-baby ages, we are enjoying the waves and powdery beach sand by our home almost daily at this point! The evening sunsets and waves have my girls all heart eyes over summertime, and I’m more than willing to indulge them every last bit as the school year approaches ever so quickly!
Summer eggplant love
Another one of our favorite summer spots is the farmer’s market, and pretty purple eggplants are my girls’ favorite summer veggie! Don’t pass them up when you see them out this summer. Eggplant is one of those produce finds you can only get a few short months a year – the first eggplant find of the summer is so exciting!
Eggplants are a great source of veggie fiber, as well as numerous vitamins and essential minerals. The purple skin is also loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients.
So pretty…but what do I do with this thing?!
A few weeks ago I let the girls pick out their own eggplant (it was fun to see what colors they picked and why!), and I set out to make a few fun dishes with them.
I am always quick to grab up those really big, dark purple eggplants, with my mind on roasted eggplant & tomato soup and this veggie spaghetti sauce, but I was really glad that the girls wanted to try some of the smaller, pretty colors because it made me think outside the box to cook with them – I wanted to do something special!
Little kid sized fun!
My 3 year old picked some pretty light purple swirly striped eggplants, and I envisioned them as being perfect for her little hands. This age *big puffy heart* loves anything that they can hold in their hands…and dip too! The small eggplants made the perfect sized little dippers for her, and my older 2 girls ended up devouring theirs too.
Super fun veggie side, but what about the rest of the meal?!
Dear momma, you didn’t think I’d leave you hanging, did you?! Of course I know you need something to go with your eggplant dippers, and since we are on the little hand sized fun theme, we might as well do meatballs, right!?
I doctored up these quick prep meatballs with the same marinara/Italian flavors as the eggplant dippers, and this finger food dinner is right up any kid’s alley! They are just as easy to prep and can cook right alongside the dippers. We had quick side salads with this Olive Garden Copycat dressing, and it felt like we were dining in a fancy Italian restaurant!
You can note the flour options/swaps in the recipe card – feel free to play around with it though. I have found you can coat these with just about anything. I do happen to like the potato starch the best as it gives the crispiest finish. If you are egg free, you can use a flax or chia egg for both the egg wash for the dippers, and for the bind in the meatballs.
A note about leftovers!
While preparing for this post, I baked off quite a few eggplant dippers! They were so good as leftovers the next day. My kids ate them right out of the fridge, but you could probably warm them up in the oven for a few minutes. We ended up having tomato soup the next day, and the girls were dipping their eggplant dippers in the soup – so good!
- FOR THE EGGPLANT DIPPERS ::
- ⅓ cup potato starch
- 1 egg whisked with a splash of water
- ⅔ cup unsweetened coconut shreds
- ⅔ cup white rice flour (If Paleo/grain free use almond flour, or cassava flour)
- 2 tbsp Italian Seasoning
- 1 ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1-2 small eggplants, sliced into thin rounds
- Your favorite marinara sauce for dipping!
- FOR THE MEATBALLS ::
- 1 lb grassfed ground beef
- 1 egg
- 3 tbsp white rice flour (If Paleo/grain free use cassava flour)
- 2 tbsp marinara sauce or pizza sauce
- ½ cup loosely packed fresh basil (or about 1-2 tsp dried basil)
- ½ cup loosely packed fresh oregano (or about 1-2 tsp dried oregano)
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Set out 3 bowls. Put the potato starch in the 1st bowl. Whisk the egg/water in the 2nd bowl. Whisk the coconut shreds, rice flour, Italian season, salt, and pepper in the 3rd bowl.
- Dip each eggplant round in the potato starch 1st, then the egg/water bowl 2nd, and finally the flour bowl. Line up the coated eggplant dippers on a Silpat lined baking sheet.
- Bake the eggplant dippers at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, flip the eggplant dippers and bake another 20 minutes (You will be putting the meatballs in to bake for that last 20 minutes too!)
- While the eggplant dippers are baking the first 25 minutes, you can roll your meatballs. Put all of the meatball ingredients in a small mixing bowl and combine. Roll the meatballs and line them up on a baking sheet.
- Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes along with the eggplant dippers that you have flipped. Serve with marinara sauce for dipping and salads on the side!
More real food recipes you might like ::
- Roasted Eggplant & Tomato Soup
- Veggie Spaghetti Sauce
- Kid Friendly Fish Sticks
- Instant Pot Summer Veggie Soup
- Orange Ginger Skillet Salmon