When it comes to eggplant, you either love it or hate it. It’s one of those vegetables that have very few tepid fans.
I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, you are in the ‘love it’ fan club. Welcome, you’re in good company.
But even if you do love eggplant, sometimes it can be hard to come up with great dishes beyond the standard eggplant parmesan or tossing it on the grill.
Yeah, those are both great options, but you can do so much more with the delicious flavor of eggplant.
I’ve put together this list of eggplant dishes to inspire you.
But first, let’s talk about eggplant a little bit.
Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family, so it’s a fruit rather than a vegetable.
Here are a few commonly found varieties in your local supermarket. If you enjoy eggplant, you should try growing them in your garden as well.
Common Eggplant Varieties
Globe eggplant – It’s the most prevalent, elongated dark purple lobes. It’s the one we all think of when someone mentions this vegetable.
Graffiti – These eggplants are so beautiful. They appear to be white-skinned eggplants that have been artfully painted with purple streaks. Unfortunately, the stripes fade when it’s cooked and the flavor is no different than regular eggplant. However, this variety is generally smaller making it more tender and less likely to be bitter.
Chinese and Japanese – I love these things and grew them for the first time last summer. This eggplant variety is long, slender, and thin-skinned, making it perfect for slicing into coins and frying with red pepper flakes to tender, creamy perfection. Oh man, now I’m hungry.
Indian – These little eggplants (also known as baby eggplant) are almost too cute to eat. Except, they’re delicious, so we’re going to eat them. Their small size lends them well to stuffing!
White – While I don’t see this variety very often in the local supermarket, I do see it quite a bit in the summer at my local farmer’s market. Again, it’s more of a novelty; beyond the color, it’s pretty similar to a regular ol’ eggplant.
There are a few more varieties available; the ones I’ve mentioned are the easiest to find in a supermarket. I highly suggest checking out your local farmer’s market to see what types of eggplant they have.
If you are a gardener, there is nothing more satisfying than cooking with your own freshly picked eggplant, and there are some exciting heirloom varieties to grow. If you’ve never considered growing eggplant, give it a try.
How to Choose the Perfect Eggplant
Choosing a good eggplant is vital to the flavor and texture of your dish. Let’s start with how to pick the perfect eggplant. You want your eggplant to have the following characteristics.
- Choose smaller eggplants as they are less likely to be bitter or thick-skinned
- The flesh should be shiny and tight
- There should be no (or very few) blemishes on the skin
- Gently squeeze your eggplant, it should be firm, but not rock hard
- Alternatively, it shouldn’t feel soft or squishy
- Older eggplant starts to look wrinkly and have brown spots; you don’t want either
- The fresher, the better, use your eggplant as soon as possible.
- If the skin is thicker, I suggest peeling it, so your dish ends up with a nicer texture.
My 12 Favorite Eggplant Recipes
Now that you have your bumper crop or your freshly purchased eggplant, what do you do with this alien-looking vegetable?
Well, just about everything, as this is one versatile little veggie.
No, not the Disney movie, the provincial French vegetable stew. This is hands down my absolute favorite way to eat eggplant. And this is the recipe I use every time because it gets it right.
I will make massive batches of this stuff in the late summer when all of the vegetables in ratatouille are overflowing the garden.
Do yourself a favor, make it a day ahead, and then let it hang out in the fridge overnight. Magical things will happen to the flavor.
Preserve it using the pressure canner method and you can enjoy the flavors of summer all winter long.
2. Baba Ganoush
Hummus and baba ganoush are similar Mediterranean dips, the former being chickpea-based, and the latter eggplant based.
Except baba ganoush is like the cool world-traveling aunt of hummus. Smooth, creamy and irresistibly savory, baba ganoush is perfect as an appetizer.
It’s fantastic used as a sandwich spread instead of mayo. Or pack it as part of a lunch full of fresh, crunchy veggies.
Like so many other dips, homemade baba ganoush is so much better than anything you can get at the store. Give this delicious dip a try.
Here’s my go-to recipe.
When it comes to eggplant, nearly everyone knows and loves eggplant parmesan. Marry that Italian classic with another Italian classic, and you have one of the most amazing pizzas known to man.
The addition of grilled eggplant to the traditional pizza flavors of tomato and mozzarella takes the average pizza out of this world.
If you’re looking for a lighter eggplant option, nothing fits the bill quite like roasting it. Roasting is one of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables as the flavor and texture are unlike any other preparation method.
The slow high-heat caramelizes the naturally occurring sugars, lending a sweetness to the eggplant. And roasted eggplant is ridiculously easy to make.
Give this scrumptious roasted eggplant salad a try. The tartness of the goat cheese pairs nicely with the silky texture of the eggplant.
This would be a great winter salad when your traditional winter fare gets to be a bit too heavy.
Lots of folks are kicking the carbs these days. Often this means giving up pasta. By slicing eggplant horizontally into thin strips, you can create pasta-like eggplant noodles.
And let’s face it; you’ve just upped the flavor over pasta with that move.
Enjoy this low-carb eggplant lasagna and don’t feel guilty about going back for seconds.
I’m a sucker for a tasty soup. Eggplant is already creamy and divine when cooked well, so, logically, it would be the perfect ingredient for a cream-based soup.
Lemon and other zesty spices combine to accentuate the earthiness of eggplant. This is another recipe that tastes even better after it’s spent the night in the fridge.
Looking at the vegetables used in this recipe, you’re probably thinking, “Wait, isn’t this just ratatouille all over again?” Nope.
While the two dishes share similar vegetables, the flavor profiles are very different. Caponata has a tang to it from the olives, capers, and vinegar, giving the dish a bright tang.
Serve caponata at room temperature to let those flavors shine through.
I have a dear friend whose wife is Chinese. She made a similar eggplant dish when I was over for dinner one night. I nearly ate the whole bowl by myself; it was so delicious. It practically melted in my mouth.
This is a great weeknight side as it doesn’t take too long to prepare. You’ll want to use either a Chinese or Japanese eggplant for this dish as they have thinner skin.
If all you have is a globe eggplant, peel most of the skin off. Leave a few strips on so it will hold its shape while it’s cooking.
You can’t have a list of eggplant dishes without featuring the timeless eggplant parmesan. However, I think you’ll like this version even more as it’s much easier to make.
And by skipping the frying, it’s healthier to boot. You get all that classic eggplant parmesan flavor without all of the fuss.
11. Eggplant Burgers
These eggplant burgers are a perfect vegetarian alternative to the traditional burger. They’re packed with flavor and just as filling as a hamburger.
When you’ve got a bumper crop of eggplant, make a batch of eggplant burgers for your next BBQ.
Start this recipe in the middle of the day, and when dinner time rolls around, you’ll have an amazing curry ready to eat.
Throw four chicken thighs in the bottom of the slow cooker for added protein. This is another recipe that feels like it should be bad for you because it’s so creamy and delicious, but help yourself to seconds.
You need more veggies!
I hope you found some new favorites to add to your recipe box.
And I hope you plan on adding an eggplant or two to your garden this year.
With so many wonderful ways to prepare it, you’ll likely find yourself eating it more often.