Ever been stumped on how to cook eggplant? You’re not alone! It can be tricky to get right, but when you do it’s delicious. Here is an in-depth guide to mastering it, with my favorite tips & tricks plus some easy recipes to try!
Eggplant: one versatile vegetable that gets a bad rep!
Fun fact: also known as an aubergine, this oblong piece of produce is botanically classified as a berry! At the time Europeans first discovered it in the 18th century, it’s size, shape, and white color resembled a goose egg, hence the name.
Most of us are used to the standard deep purple variation in stores today, but did you know there are many different kinds?
- Globe: The most common kind at grocery stores! Most recipes using eggplant call for this kind.
- Chinese: This type of eggplant is long & skinny with a lavender color and without many seeds. It works well in stir-fries.
- Japanese: Similar to Chinese eggplant, this variety is also long & skinny, but with a darker purple color! It is also excellent in stir-fries or rice-based dishes as it absorbs flavor well and is slightly more tender than traditional eggplant.
- Indian: Also known as baby eggplant, this type has a dark maroon color and small egg-like shape. It works well when stuffed but also in curry-inspired dishes.
- Thai: Very round with a light green color, this type of eggplant is rare but a great addition to Thai dishes like stir fry if you can find it!
- Italian: At first this version looks like a traditional globe eggplant, but it is slightly smaller and the flesh becomes tender more easily. It is of course great in Italian dishes like ratatouille or caponata!
- White: As the name implies, this variety is noticeable due to its pure white exterior. It can be prepared like any usual eggplant but looks a little more unique.
How to choose an eggplant
- When choosing an eggplant, look for one that has a smooth and shiny skin.
- A good eggplant should feel heavy for its size.
- A perfectly ripe eggplant should be slightly firm to the touch. If the skin breaks or feels at all mushy when you press on it it’s too ripe.
- Look at the stem. It should not have any mould on it or be soft or mushy at all and should be slightly green.
- Choose a smaller sized eggplant to avoid bitterness. Larger eggplants tend to be a bit more bitter. (Though if you are grilling an eggplant for a dip, this won’t matter.)
How do I prepare eggplant?
Raw eggplant doesn’t taste great, so make sure to properly cook your eggplant! When the eggplant is cooked well, it will be soft and creamy on the inside!
Roast it/Bake it
Roasting eggplant is one of the simplest and most delicious ways to enjoy eggplant. Just cut the eggplant in half and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes until tender. (reduce cooking time for small eggplants)
- Pro tip: You can peel the eggplant if they are large since the skin can be a bit tough. Roasted eggplant is also delicious to use in a Moussaka!
Grill it/BBQ it
Just toss it on the grill! You can do it whole, cut in half or cut up in cubes on skewers. Grilling eggplant is also great if you’re making any sort of eggplant dip and want it to have a delicious smokey flavour. Just grill until tender.
- Pro tip: if you can opt for a charcoal bbq and grill your eggplant whole until tender inside. Scoop out the insides and use to make a delicious smokey dip!
If you’ve ever had Greek food you may have had deep-fried eggplant! To fry eggplant, salt the eggplant first, then coat it in flour, cornstarch or a batter, and deep fry until golden brown and crispy.
- Pro tip: Cut the eggplant into thin rounds, and always salt your eggplant before frying. This will draw out the water and help it get crispy.
Cut your eggplant into cubes and toss it in a stir-fry. You can make a stir-fry eggplant dish on its own, or add it to a stir-fry of tofu or mixed veggies with your favourite sauces. Chinese eggplant is particularly delicious in a stir-fry!
- Pro tip: cut the eggplant and soak in a large bowl of water with 1 tsp of salt for an hour. Drain the eggplant and pat dry before cooking. This will remove and sort of bitterness from the eggplant and help it stir-fry up nicely.
Some other great ways to enjoy eggplant
- Use in a dip like baba ganoush from Feasting at Home! Baba Ganoush is a cousin of hummus that’s a perfect take-along side for a party. It has a slightly smoky flavor that works well for dipping!
- Make ratatouille, like this recipe from Bon Appetit. Ratatouille is one of my favorite summer dishes with a combination of peppers, eggplant and zucchini. It’s a definite celebration of fresh summer produce!
- Add it to pasta salad, like this recipe from Cookie + Kate! Roasting the eggplant really brings out caramel-y flavors, and small orzo is a fun change up from traditional pasta shapes.
- Stuff it like this Quinoa Stuffed Eggplant with Tahini Sauce from Simply Quinoa!
- Use it as a filling like in these Moroccan stuffed sweet potatoes.
- Should I peel eggplant before I cook it? Eggplant skin is edible, but with larger varieties off the eggplant, the skin can sometimes be a little tough. If the eggplant is younger and a smaller variety, leave the skin on when cooking or stir-frying. (Bonus: the skin has tons of nutrients in it!)
- Why do people salt eggplant? Salting eggplant is done for two main reasons. One, it helps get rid of the bitterness that some eggplants can have and two, It helps the eggplant get crispier if you’re planning on frying it. Younger and smaller varieties of eggplant tend to be less bitter, so salting eggplant isn’t always necessary.
- What does eggplant taste like? Eggplant has a pretty mild flavour a bit similar to zucchini, though definitely still different and a different spongier texture.
- Is eggplant healthy? Yes! Eggplant is filled with many nutrients and is high in antioxidants. Eggplant is a nightshade, (family of plants including eggplants, potatoes, tomatoes and more) which some people may consider “bad for you.” This is only really the case if you have an autoimmune disorder, sometimes nightshades can cause a flareup. For most people though, eggplant is totally healthy.