Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables and I’m not alone on that. These purple jewels are eaten all over the world in savory recipes – just look at these 10 Ways to Cook Eggplant with Global Flavors. It’s no surprise since eggplant has a creamy texture and rich, meaty flavor. They are versatile, can stand-in for meat in any recipe and they make filling and satisfying dishes.
Eggplants are also really healthy as they are filled with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals while being very low in calories. With all these reasons to eat eggplant, it should definitely be a part of your recipe rotation. If you are unsure about what to do with eggplant, sit back and learn 10 ways to cook with it.
1. Selection and Storage
You can buy eggplant all year-round though it peaks in late summer. There are 5 types of eggplants – tender baby eggplants, mild Asian eggplants, the familiar purple globe eggplants, the sweeter heirloom white eggplants and the very cool-looking graffiti eggplants. Each one has distinct characteristics that make it most suitable for specific recipes. Whichever type you buy, select ones that are firm, heavy and have glossy, blemish-free skin. Younger, smaller eggplants usually have better flavor and are less bitter than larger, older ones. Store eggplants, whole, in the refrigerator for up to 2 or 3 days as they are perishable.
To prep eggplant, wash it well before using. The skin is edible; if you plan to eat the skin, buy organic eggplants. If you don’t want to eat the skin, use a vegetable peeler or a paring knife to remove it. Sometimes I only remove some of the peel which gives eggplant slices a pretty striped appearance on the sides. Only peel and cut the eggplant when you are ready to use it or the flesh will discolor quickly. Cut off the ends of the eggplant and then cut the eggplant into slices or cubes depending on the recipe you are making.
There are divided opinions about salting eggplant. Some say it helps reduce bitterness by releasing the juices. I have never salted eggplants as I don’t find them bitter at all. If you want to salt them, put the eggplant slices or cubes in a colander and sprinkle them generously with salt. Top them with paper towels and something to weigh them down (similar to pressing tofu). Let the eggplant sit for 15 minutes or so. Rinse and pat dry before cooking.
Roasting brings out rich, intense flavor from eggplant. It’s also a good way to cook it that involves little oil. You can roast whole eggplants by placing them on a baking sheet, with the skin on, and roast at 400 degrees until the eggplants get shriveled and soft. Once it cools, slice the eggplant open and scoop out the flesh. Use this method to make this Indian Baigan Bharta – Char Roasted Eggplant Dip.
Eggplant can also be roasted in slices or cubes. Season the eggplant and toss in a bit of oil, if desired. Arrange the eggplant on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast at 400 degrees until tender, about 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway through. Delicious roasted eggplant dishes include this Spicy Eggplant Caponata, Eggplant Slices with Tahini Cumin Sauce, Rainbow Eggplant Stacks, Eggplant Cannelloni and Miso Roasted Eggplant and Zucchini.
4. Make Fries
Everyone loves fries and using eggplant to make them is a healthy alternative to the usual fries. When you make fries out of eggplant, the outside is crispy while the inside is creamy and so good. Eggplant fries can be baked or fried and must be served with a flavorful dipping sauce for the perfect snack or starter. Try these addictive Eggplant Fries with Marinara Sauce, Grapefruit Eggplant Fries, Baked Eggplant Fries, and Eggplant Fries with Chipotle Aioli.
Grilled eggplant is delicious. The eggplant soaks up any marinade or seasoning and gets a rich smoky flavor. All you have to do is halve or slice the eggplant, brush with oil, season with your favorite herbs and spices and grill. For specific grilling instructions and tips, see How to Grill Tasty Veggies Indoors and Outdoors.
Dishes that feature grilled eggplant include Lemon and Thyme Baba Ganoush, Moroccan Grilled Eggplant, Onion and White Bean Spread, Black Bean and Butter Pecan Sauce over Grilled Eggplant and Sauteed Spinach, and this Kale Salad with Grilled Eggplant, White Beans and Fresh Figs.
6. Make Stew
Nothing says comfort like a warm bowl of rich, hearty stew. Eggplant is a perfect ingredient for stews because even though it softens, it doesn’t fall apart when cooked for long periods. Stews, while satisfying, can still be light like my Ratatouille Stew and Indian Eggplant Stew.
Fried eggplant is amazing, but people often avoid this method because eggplant can soak up a ton of oil. If you want to fry eggplant, make sure you are doing it properly with really hot oil and not overcrowding the pan. Read Learn How To Fry Food The Right Way by Following These Tips for crispy fried food without the greasy taste. Then make these Beguni (Batter Coated Eggplant Wedges) and Eggplant Medallions.
8. Make Burgers and Meatballs
Eggplant might not be the first vegetable that comes to mind when you think about making burgers or meatballs, but it should be. When eggplant is roasted or sauteed until it is soft and creamy, it is the perfect vegetable to form into patties or balls (with the help of some flour or bread crumbs). This Baked Eggplant Burger is savory, filling and addictive as is this Hearty Eggplant Burger with Vegan Mayonnaise. My Eggplant Crunchburger with Horseradish Mustard Mayo is the ultimate vegan burger. It is stuffed with vegan cheese and topped with potato chips for a fun, crunchy texture. For a Greek twist, try my Moussaka Burger with Béchamel Cream Sauce. It’s a play on the classic eggplant and potato dish turned into a delicious and decadent burger.
Just as you can make burgers out of eggplant, you can also make meatballs with them. After all, meatballs are sort of like little, round burgers. My Vegan Mozzarella-Stuffed Eggplant Meatballs are fun and easy to make. The eggplant gets a crispy crust when fried and when you bite into them, you are rewarded with ooey-gooey vegan mozzarella. These eggplant meatballs are perfect for subs, sandwiches or atop a big pile of spaghetti.
9. Saute/Stir-Fry It
Sautéing and stir-frying are great ways to cook eggplant because both methods are fast and result in amazing flavor. To learn how to saute and stir-fry foods, check out the Secrets to Sautéing and Stir-Frying Veggies Chinese Style and Tips for Cooking Vegetables. Make a variety of dishes with these 10 Simple and Awesome Homemade Saute Sauces. Then try this Seared Asian Tofu with Chinese Eggplant and Baby Bok Choy, Bitter Melon, Potato and Eggplant Indian-Style Stir-Fry, Vegan Eggplant and Purslane Pilaf with Peanuts and Stir-Fried Thai Basil with Tofu and Eggplant.
Don’t think sauteed eggplant is all Asian food. Go global with my Pasta alla Norma, this Toasted Hazelnut and Eggplant Pasta, Tofu Frittata with Smoky Eggplant Salsa, and this Eggplant Ragout with Risotto.
10. Other Creative Methods
There are so many ways to cook with eggplant, it would impossible to include them all in one article. In addition to the methods already discussed, I am going to try to tell you about a bunch of really creative ways to cook with eggplant that you just have to try. This Eggplant Bisque is the richest, silkiest soup you will ever eat. Everyone is into zoodles or zucchini noodles but you have to try these Vegan Eggplant Noodles. Make bacon out of eggplant like the Eggplant “Bacon” Wraps on these vegan sausages and then get out your dehydrator to make Eggplant Jerky. Switch up your pizza toppings and try this Eggplant, Pesto and Mushroom Pizza with Tofu for something new. Use eggplant instead of pasta to make the layers of a Vegan, Gluten-Free, Noodle-Free Lasagna or this Middle Eastern-Style Vegan Bake. See, the options are endless!
If you think you don’t like eggplant or you’re just not confident about how to cook with it, that ends now! Try any of these recipes and I guarantee, you’ll want to try all of them.
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Lead image source: Rainbow Eggplant Stacks