Remember when I wrote 10 Ways to Cook with Eggplant and worried how I would limit myself to just ten recipes? I ended up writing about more than 30 ways to savor this amazing vegetable. Now I’m back to write about eggplant again, only this time I’m taking the show on the road. Eggplant is a favorite vegetable that is used all over the world. It’s understandable, as eggplant is not only healthy and filling, but also delicious with its creamy texture and meaty, savory flavor. It’s always exciting to learn how different ethnic cuisines take the same ingredient and create such unique and diverse dishes. Take a culinary trip with me and explore 10 global ways to enjoy cooking with and eating eggplant.
1. Middle Eastern
I love roasted eggplant! I love roasted garlic! These two loves get together to make this delicious spread called Baba Ganoush. The taste is rich and decadent, and the name is fun to say.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut 2 large eggplants in half lengthwise and place cut side down on a lightly oiled, foil-lined baking sheet. Roast the garlic by placing 4 cloves on a small piece of foil and drizzle 1 tsp. of olive oil on them. Wrap the cloves in the foil and place on the baking sheet with the eggplants. Bake the eggplants until they are soft, about 30 to 40 minutes. You should be able to pierce them with a fork. Let the eggplants and the garlic cloves cool. Scoop out the centers of the eggplants into a food processor. Squeeze the garlic cloves to release the garlic from their skins and add to the eggplant. Add ¼ cup tahini, 1 tsp. ground cumin, the juice of one lemon, 1 tsp. kosher salt, ½ tsp. cayenne powder and 2 Tbs. of olive oil to the food processor. Pulse until the ingredients are well-combined. Taste and adjust seasonings, as desired. Transfer to a bowl and mix in 1 Tbs. of fresh chopped parsley. Serve with toasted bread or pita chips. Baba Ganoush! For another Middle Eastern eggplant dish, try this Legendary Middle Eastern-Style Bake.
Pasta with eggplant is also known as Pasta alla Norma. It’s an iconic Sicilian dish made with tomatoes, fried eggplant, grated ricotta salata cheese and basil. It is supposedly named after the opera, Norma. I took the liberty of not frying my eggplant. Instead I sauteed it in a skillet. Rather than ricotta salata, I used vegan mozzarella. The eggplant is soft and tender, the sauce is creamy and indulgent and the whole dish tastes fresh and satisfying. It doesn’t take long to make and it’s a definite crowd-pleaser.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt to the water and cook 1 lb. penne according to the package directions until it is al dente. In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 diced onion and 4 minced garlic cloves and cook until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add 4-6 diced Japanese eggplants. Toss to coat the eggplant in the garlic oil. Cook until the eggplant is soft, about 10 minutes. Remove ½ the eggplant mixture and reserve in a bowl. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add 2 cups diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in ½ cup non-dairy cream. Add ¼ cup fresh sliced basil, reserving the rest, and1 tsp. dried thyme. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for about 4 minutes. When the penne is done, drain it but reserve about ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Add this water to your sauce so it thickens from the starch. Then add the pasta to the skillet (or if your skillet is too small, add the sauce to the pasta pot). Toss to coat the penne with sauce for about 1 minute. This will allow the flavors to thoroughly coat the pasta. Add in the reserved eggplant. Mix in ½ cup vegan mozzarella, either in shreds or small chunks. The heat will melt the cheese. Turn off the heat. Add in another ¼ cup sliced basil. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve while hot. This Spicy Eggplant Caponata is another delicious Italian eggplant dish.
Indian food is filled with healthy and tasty vegetables that are flavored with fragrant spices, and eggplant is a often used ingredient. Usually, when I make Indian dishes, they are stew-like with thick, creamy sauces. This recipe is different. Thick slices of eggplant are seasoned with Indian spices and roasted to perfection. To make my Indian Spiced Eggplant Steaks: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Prepare the spice mix by combining 1 tsp. each garlic powder, ground cumin, ground coriander and curry powder, ½ tsp. each kosher salt and garam masala and ¼ tsp. turmeric. Cut 2 medium to large eggplants into 4 thick slices. Sprinkle the spice mix over the eggplant slices. Drizzle vegetable oil over the eggplant slices and distribute the spices over the slices with a pastry brush. Roast the eggplant for 15-20 minutes or until softened and tender. Serve hot. For other Indian eggplant dishes, try this Bitter Melon, Potato and Eggplant Indian-Style Stir Fry and this Indian Baigan Bharta -Char Roasted Eggplant Dip.
I love any excuse to use lots of Thai basil and my Thai Green Curry Eggplant with Basil uses 20 basil leaves! To make it: heat 1 Tbs. oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1-inch grated ginger, 3 minced garlic cloves, a pinch of red pepper flakes. Let cook for a minute or two until fragrant. Add 1 large eggplant cut into cubes to the pan and toss to coat with the oil. Let cook about 7 minutes, until the eggplant is browned and softened. Add 1 large diced onion and mix with the eggplant. Let cook another 4 minutes until softened. Add 3 Tbs. green curry paste and 1 cup canned coconut milk to the skillet. Mix well until the paste is dissolved and all the vegetables are coated with the sauce. Add 2 Tbs. brown rice vinegar and 3 Tbs. tamari to the pan. Sprinkle 2 Tbs. brown sugar over the vegetables and mix to combine. Let cook until the sauce is hot. Turn off the heat, add 2 Tbs. lime juice and 20 chopped Thai basil leaves and toss. Serve while hot. Another dish that makes good use out of both eggplant and Thai basil is this Stir-Fried Thai Basil with Tofu and Eggplant.
Spanish food is one of my favorite cuisines. There is a delicious roasted vegetable dish from the Catalan region of Spain called escalivada. It consists of roasted eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and onions and is often served on crusty bread as a tapas. To make Escalivada: cut 2 large eggplants in half lengthwise, brush the cut side with olive oil and place them cut-side-down on a large baking sheet lined with foil. Make a few small slits in the skin with a knife. Peel 2 medium-sized onions, cut them in half and place them on the baking sheet along with 2 bell peppers. Cut the top off a head of garlic, drizzle a bit of olive oil on it and wrap it in foil. Place this on the baking sheet as well. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the vegetables and roast in a 400 degree oven for 1 hour. Check the veggies after 30 minutes, flipping the onions and peppers over. After 1 hour, add 4 tomatoes, cut in half, to the pan. Drizzle olive oil on the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Continue roasting the veggies for another 20 minutes or until they are softened and browned. If any of the veggies are done before the rest, remove them from the oven and continue with the remaining vegetables. Allow all the veggies to cool so you can touch them. Remove the skin from the eggplant and the peppers. The eggplant will be smooth like a dip. Mix in the roasted garlic. Cut the peppers, onions and tomatoes into strips and toss them together. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle more olive oil on top. Take crusty slices of bread and spread the eggplant and garlic mixture on the bread, topping it with the sliced peppers, onions and tomatoes. For another Spanish eggplant dish, try this Pimientos y Berenjena con Tofu or Peppers and Eggplant with Tofu.
When I first became vegan, I tried all the vegetable dishes my local Chinese restaurant offered. One of them was baby eggplant cooked in a spicy chile sauce. I had to make my own version of this dish. The eggplant is cooked until tender in a spicy sauce that is full of flavor. To make my Sauteed Eggplant in Spicy Chile Sauce: heat 2 Tbs. vegetable oil in wok or large skillet until hot. Add 4-6 Japanese eggplants that have been cut into cubes. Cook for 6 minutes until the eggplant begins to soften. Add 2 tsp. fresh grated ginger, 3 minced garlic cloves, 3 Tbs. tamari or soy sauce, 2 Tbs. brown rice vinegar, 2 Tbs. water, 2 tsp. agave nectar and up to 1 Tbs. spicy chile sauce, depending how spicy you like your food. In a mug, combine 2 tsp. arrowroot powder with 1 Tbs. water and mix to form a slurry. Add the slurry to the pan and mix well. Cook another 2 minutes until the sauce thickens. If it gets too thick, add more water. Add 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil before serving. Read how to make your own chile sauce at home.
Melanzanosalata, or Eggplant Dip, is a traditional Greek dish. It’s made with all the flavors associated with Greek food such as lemon, oregano, thyme, mint, red wine vinegar and parsley. This rich and tangy dip is delicious served with pita bread or with pita chips. To make Melanzanosalata: prick a few holes in 1 large or 2 small eggplants. Place them on a baking sheet lined with foil, rub them with olive oil and roast them in a 400 degree oven for 40 – 50 minutes or until they feel very soft. Remove them from the oven and let them cool so you can touch them. Peel away the skin and chop the eggplant flesh. Transfer the eggplant flesh into a bowl and add ¼ cup diced tomatoes, 2 Tbs. minced onion, 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. red wine vinegar, 1 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley, ½ tsp. dried oregano, ½ tsp. dried thyme and ½ tsp. fresh chopped mint. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix it all together, cover the bowl and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Taste for any seasoning adjustments and serve with bread or chips. Another delicious way to eat eggplant with Greek flavors is this Vegan Moussaka Burger with Béchamel Cheese Sauce.
A popular Hungarian dish is chicken paprikash. I make a vegan version of this dish using eggplant. To make my Eggplant Paprikash: heat 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil in a large Dutch oven or large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 large chopped onion and cook for 5-7 minutes or until softened and slightly browned. Add 2 sliced bell peppers, 1 seeded and minced chile pepper, 1 sliced carrot and 4 cloves minced garlic. Mix and cook for 10 minutes until the carrot softens. Add in 2 large eggplants that have been cubed. Season with 2 Tbs. smoked sweet paprika and kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Cook for another 10 minutes, allowing the eggplant to soften. Mix in ¼ cup tomato paste and let cook for a minute. Add 2-3 cups vegetable broth and 1 Tbs. vegan Worcestershire sauce. Mix well and cover the pan. Simmer for 10 more minutes. Add 1/3 cup vegan sour cream and mix it into the eggplant. Serve the eggplant over pasta and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
9. East African
All along the coast of East Africa, there is a favorite dish of eggplant and chickpeas in curry sauce. This amazing dish is called Mchuzi wa Biringani. To make this Eggplant Curry with Chickpeas: in a big saucepan or Dutch oven, heat 2 Tbs. vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 chopped onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Add 4 cloves minced garlic, 1 seeded and minced jalapeno pepper, and 1-inch fresh grated ginger. Saute for 1 minute until you smell the aromatics. Add 1 large eggplant that has been cut into cubes and season with 2 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. ground coriander, ½ tsp. ground turmeric, ½ tsp. kosher salt, ¼ tsp. ground cardamom and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir to coat the eggplant with the spices. Mix in 1 Tbs. tomato paste and let cook for 1 minute. Add 3 cups diced tomatoes and ½ cup vegetable broth. Stir and cover the pan. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often, until the eggplant is softened. Add 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas, stir and simmer for another 15 minutes. The eggplant should be tender and the sauce should be thick. Taste for any seasoning adjustments and serve hot. Serve over rice. For a taste of North Africa, try this Moroccan Grilled Eggplant, Onion and White Bean Spread.
One of my favorite dishes that is fast, easy and healthy is ratatouille. Lots of vegetables cooked in a garlicky tomato sauce with a salty kick from olives and capers. It’s also a versatile recipe. Want it to be a thick stew? Make it the way it’s written. Or turn it into a chunky, filling soup by adding a quart of low-sodium vegetable broth. Eat it on its own or serve it over rice, quinoa, millet or whatever your favorite whole grain is. Serve it over penne or spaghetti, and it becomes an incredible pasta sauce.
To make my Ratatouille Stew: in a deep skillet or pot, heat 1 Tbs. olive oil over medium heat. Add 4 minced garlic cloves and ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes in the oil until the garlic turns golden. Add 1 chopped onion and 2 chopped bell peppers to the pot. Let them cook for 6 minutes until they start to soften. Add 1 peeled and diced eggplant, 1 diced zucchini and 1 diced yellow squash to the pot. Let the vegetables cook for another 6 minutes. Mix in 2 Tbs. green olives, 2 Tbs. capers, 1 tsp. kosher salt and ½ tsp. black pepper. Cover pot, reduce heat to medium low, and cook the vegetables down, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant has softened, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add 3 cups diced tomatoes and with a wooden spoon, scrape up all the yummy bits on the bottom of the pot. Add 2 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley and 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas, and heat through. The longer you let it cook, the deeper the flavor will get. Top with vegan grated parmesan if desired.
Eggplant is an extremely versatile veggie that is used all over the world to make incredible dishes. What is your favorite international eggplant recipe? Let us know in the comments.
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Image source: Legendary Middle Eastern-Style Vegan Bake