by Erin Marissa Russell
Thinking of growing eggplant this season and wondering how to put it all to use in the kitchen? Never fear, because we’ve put together 29 different ways to use it. Eggplant is one of those vegetables that has a bad culinary rap—though that negative reputation is entirely undeserved. (Also in this camp: Brussels sprouts.) As is usually the case when people think they don’t like a particular vegetable, eggplant has suffered from maltreatment in the hands of cooks who didn’t know how to make it shine.
So don’t be afraid to grow plenty of eggplant. We’re here to guide you through how to make it taste great, with a selection of recipes we recommend for using the eggplant you’ll grow. But first, let’s get a few tips and best practices under your belt to make sure your dishes are the best they can be.
Tips for Preparing and Cooking Eggplant
- Choose the right eggplant and use it while it’s fresh. If you’re selecting an eggplant at the store or farmer’s market, pick one without squishy spots or bruises that feels heavy and has shiny skin. One that’s completely hard to the touch is a better bet than a softer one with mushy spots. The stem should be firm and green without signs of browning or mold. Smaller eggplants are a better bet than larger ones, which tend to be seedy and stringy. Eggplant should be eaten within a few days of purchase.
- Go easy on the oil. Eggplant is quite absorbent, so using a heavy hand can result in spongy, greasy dishes. Lightly brush or drizzle your eggplant with oils and dressings for best results. Adding oil to the pan is futile, as it will likely be absorbed instead by the eggplant—so apply oil to the eggplant in the first place instead of oiling the pan.
- Use nonstick cookware whenever possible. Because eggplant is so absorbent, nonstick cookware helps prevent the sticking that can be a hassle when you cook eggplant in other pots and pans.
- After chopping eggplant, give it a salt treatment to decrease bitterness. If your recipe uses sliced or diced eggplant, sprinkle it with salt after chopping. Let the eggplant sit with the salt on it for 10 or 15 minutes, then rinse it under cool water and pat dry. Continue as your recipe directs. The salt treatment both reduces the bitter flavor some diners find unpalatable about eggplant and decreases moisture to improve the texture of the final product. There’s no need to follow these steps if you’ll grill, roast, or steam your eggplant, however. The salt treatment is only effective with other cooking methods and is especially recommended when you’ll be frying your eggplant.
Look to Italian Cuisine for Delicious Ways to Use Eggplant
Italy’s love affair with the eggplant is so intense there’s a whole variety named after the Mediterranean country. You’ve probably experienced an Italian take on the aubergine with eggplant Parmesan, but the buck doesn’t stop there. Check out these delicious Italian renditions on eggplant and pick out your favorite to impress your family with tonight.
Cookie and Kate’s Eggplant Parmesan
(This recipe is lighter than many of them out there, skipping the breading and roasting the eggplant instead of frying it. These changes make the dish quicker to prepare—and gluten free—but if you’re in the mood for a more traditional take on eggplant Parmesan, choose the next recipe instead. )
Martha Stewart’s Eggplant Parmigiana
Giada de Laurentiis’ Eggplant Rollatini
(Rollatini features eggplant sliced lengthwise and wrapped around a cheesy stuffing with pine nuts and basil. The whole thing is topped with tomato sauce for an indulgent vegetarian main dish.)
Food & Wine’s Pasta Alla Norma
(This dish combines eggplant with tomato sauce and ricotta salata for a rustic and simply elegant meal.)
My Darling Vegan’s Eggplant and Caramelized Onion Pizza
The Mediterranean Dish’s Roasted Eggplant Caprese Salad
Rachael Ray’s Beef & Eggplant Ragu with Rigatoni
Or go vegan with TheKitchn’s Eggplant Bolognese recipe, which calls on mushrooms to replace the meat.
Blend Eggplant Into Spreads for Appetizers or Snacks
There’s nothing more delicious than a smooth, savory dip or spread. Eggplant’s smooth texture and creamy, complex flavor make it a wonderful addition to spreads of all kinds. Read on to get some ideas for an eggplant spread of your own, or follow one of these recipes for a surefire hit.
Epicurious’ Classic Caponata
Serve crackers or baguette slices with caponata, which combines eggplant with onion, red wine vinegar, capers, and basil.)
Serious Eats’ Baba Ganoush
(In baba ganoush, roasted eggplant and tahini come together for a smoky, savory dip that’s downright addictive paired with pita, scooped onto raw veggies, spread onto sandwiches—you’ll find plenty of ways to eat this delicious dip.)
The Wanderlust Kitchen’s Melitzanosalata (Greek Eggplant Dip)
(Melitzanosalata blends roasted eggplant with bright lemon juice, spicy garlic, and olive oil for a hummus-y way to eat eggplant.)
Food52’s Roasted Kale and Eggplant Tapenade
Natasha’s Kitchen’s Baklazhannaia Ikra (Eggplant Spread)
(This Slavic spread combines eggplant with bell pepper, carrot, onion, and tomato. Its name translates to “poor man’s caviar.”)
Fold Eggplant Into Sandwiches both Meaty and Vegetarian
The hearty texture and full-bodied taste of eggplant make it a natural choice for filling and tasty sandwiches. Simply use one of the spreads we’ve recommended in your favorite sandwich combinations, or turn to one of these recipes for a hearty lunch or dinner.
Taste of Home’s Eggplant Muffuletta
(A Muffuletta sandwich is known for its stack of Italian meats topped with a salty, vinegary olive relish. This Muffuletta replaces the meat with eggplant for a vegetarian sandwich that’s excellent at holidays and potlucks. You can always add the prosciutto, salami, and coppa, though.)
Martha Stewart’s Eggplant-Mozzarella Melt
Cooking Light’s Grilled Eggplant Sandwiches with Red Onion Aioli
Alexandra Stafford’s Balsamic Roasted Eggplant and Arugula Sandwiches
Michael Chiarello’s Stuffed Focaccia with Roasted Eggplant and Oregano
The New York Times’ The Best Fried Eggplant Sandwich
Bon Appetit’s Roasted Eggplant and Pickled Beet Sandwiches
The Chew’s Fried Eggplant Sandwiches with Harissa
Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Eggplant Bacon
(Use the eggplant bacon as you would pork bacon on sandwiches. It makes an especially good vegan BLT.)
Love and Lemons’ Grilled Eggplant & Pesto Sandwiches
Taste of Home’s Grilled Eggplant-Pepper Sandwiches
(Grilling the eggplant takes it to a whole new level. That said, you can roast it following the instructions here and toss the peppers in as well if you don’t have a grill available or the weather isn’t conducive to a night in front of the barbecue.)
Make Eggplant an Easy Dinner with One-Dish Preparations
Eggplant’s meaty tooth and taste combine with its quick cooking time to make it a perfect weeknight star. Choose one of these one-dish recipes for a lunch or dinner that will come together in no time.
Purnima Garg’s Eggplant and Tomato Curry
Genius Kitchen’s Imam Bayildi
(Though it may not be familiar, the translation of this recipe’s name should clue you in as to the taste—imam bayildi means “the priest wept.”
Barbara Kafka’s Marinated Eggplant
(This recipe uses the microwave to prep eggplant and serves it up with flavors of sesame, tamari or soy sauce, rice vinegar, and cilantro.)
Kendra Vaculin’s Bhartha (Spicy Indian Eggplant)
TheKitchn’s Easy Stuffed Eggplant Parmesan
You may have noticed that many of these recipes are vegetarian or vegan. That’s because when prepared properly, eggplant has a rich and luscious flavor that tends to take the spotlight. Whether you’re a gardener who read this article looking for ways to cook with your eggplant harvest or you just ended up bringing one home from the grocery store because it’s glossy, jewel-toned flesh bewitched you, we hope you found these ideas inspiring. How do you love to serve eggplant? Let us know in the comments below.
Want to Learn More About Ways to Use Eggplant?
Cooking Light covers How to Cook Eggplant
Delish covers How to Cook Eggplant
Los Angeles Times covers Eggplants: How to Choose, Store and Prepare
Self covers 19 Amazing Ways to Cook With Eggplant
kitchn covers 8 Simple Ways to Cook with Eggplant