Traditional recipes

What Is Eggplant?

What Is Eggplant?

One probably wonders, where does a round purple vegetable get a name like eggplant anyway? This name actually refers to the eggplants grown and cultivated in Europe, which were yellowish or white, resembling eggs. Oddly enough, eggplants were used more often for decoration than consumption. The name stuck, however, and travelled along to the West, where the food continues to be grown and eaten under the name eggplant. The classic image you get in your head when you think of eggplant, though, is most likely of a large, oblong-shaped vegetable (more accurately a fruit) with a dark purple hue.

Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family, closely related to tomatoes, potatoes, and the tobacco plant. Due to its connection to the nightshade family, it was originally believed that eggplant was poisonous. While not nearly as deadly as that in reality, eating raw eggplant isn't exactly advisable. Eggplants have a natural bitterness that they accrue as they grow. To alleviate this, many chefs recommended that you salt the cut eggplant flesh and then rinse it before cooking it. This process, also known as degorging, draws out moisture and lowers the amount of oils and fats that the eggplant will absorb when cooking.

Originally native to India, the common purple eggplant has spread its seeds throughout the modern world and can be found in the cuisine of a multitude of different countries. In France, eggplant is known as aubergine, a name also used for the purple color of eggplant (even the flowers of the plant are purple),

and is one of the main ingredients in the famous French dish ratatouille. In the Middle East, eggplant is mashed and blended with other ingredients like tahini to create baba ghanoush, a creamy dip for dipping pita bread in. Pickled and miso-glazed eggplants are very popular in Japan — it seems almost every country in the world has some traditional use for eggplant.

Eggplant is so versatile in the kitchen that it is commonly used, rather effectively, as an alternative to meats and proteins. As an example, consider eggplant parmigiana, a popular Italian dish; as a substitute for classic chicken parmigiana, the eggplant holds up as a hearty main ingredient, especially when it's breaded and fried in the same manner as chicken. With some tomato sauce and melted mozzarella cheese, they're almost indistinguishable at first glance.

With such varying recipes from around the world, you don't need to be an eggplant wizard to figure out how to cook one. Grilled, baked, boiled, fried, or sautéed — all are examples of perfect ways to prepare eggplant. With a softness perfect for melding with other vegetables in a stew and a heartiness to withstand the highest of heats, eggplant has all the characteristics of a multipurpose food and is the main focus of many a recipe. Grab them when the weather is warm, and when they're small and heavy, and eat them up. Skin, seeds, and all.

21 Easy Eggplant Recipes That Aren't Just for Your Vegetarian Friends

When it comes to veggies, fall varieties like squash, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower get all of the love. But being a favorite means they&rsquore often overserved&mdashand overeaten. For something with a little more variety and a lot more flavor (trust us), we say next time you&rsquore in need of some veg, reach for the humble eggplant. The squishy insides are perfect for soaking up all kinds of flavor, so go ahead and get saucy with one of these 21 healthy eggplant recipes.

1. Sheet-Pan Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan is classically made by frying the eggplant, soaking it in tomato sauce, and drenching it in melted cheese. While its hard to argue with that, we do love that this recipe that lightens things up by opting for baking and breaking the eggplant into single-serve portions&mdashmaking it perfect for a dinner party or removing the temptation for overconsumption (because, melted cheese&hellip ). Serve with a simple side salad or sautéed broccolini.

2. Tomato Eggplant Zucchini Bake With Garlic and Parmesan

There&rsquos a reason eggplant and zucchini are often seated next to each other at the grocery store. They simply belong together. The slight crunch and bitterness of zucchini pairs perfectly with the squish and sweetness of eggplant, which is even more amplified with cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs, and Parmesan cheese.We love serving as a veggie side paired with flaky white fish or chicken or topping on grains (like quinoa) to keep it vegetarian.

3. Baked Eggplant Fries With Greek Tzatziki Sauce

Could veggie fries be any more genius? While we love potato, opting for alternatives like asparagus, zucchini, or eggplant, mean we can eat them that much more often.With bread crumb-coated eggplant and refreshing tzatziki sauce, these Mediterranean-inspired fries are one of our favorite departures from the norm. To make them extra crunchy, opt for panko instead of classic bread crumbs.

4. Persian Eggplant Dip

Hummus (or guac) may be the first dip you think of when craving something creamy and delicious, but this Persian eggplant dip will change that for good. Made with only a handful of ingredients, it&rsquos way easier to whip up than the average hummus and is a great way to shake up the table&mdashnot to mention, your nutrient intake. Serve with warm pita, lavash, naan, or some good ol&rsquo sliced veggies.

5. Miso Eggplant With Black Garlic

The sauce on these suckers is so darn good, we could honestly eat this dish for dessert. Made by blending black garlic (which is easily found at specialty shops), miso, sake, and mirin, its thick as can be and the perfect pairing to the light, natural flavor of eggplant. For a little crunch, add sliced scallions or toasted sesame seeds.

6. Easy Mini Eggplant Pizza

First comes fries, then comes pizza. Is there anything eggplant can&rsquot transform into? This recipe is a great low-carb twist on the comforting classic and can be made in fewer than 30 minutes.Simply slice the eggplant, coat with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with marinara sauce and the toppings, bake for five more minutes, and get your pizza feast on.

7. Eggplant Patties

Veggie burger patties tend to be overly dry or just a bit too soggy&mdashthey&rsquore never just right. Eggplant changes that. Because of the veggie&rsquos moist nature, the ingredients in the patty hold together perfectly. We&rsquore talking no breakage and just the right amount of ooze (thanks to melted cheese). And because there&rsquos no egg, it&rsquos super simple to make it vegan. Simply sub vegan cheese!

8. One-Pot Greek Eggplant and Rice

We love this Big Fat Greek Dinner. Made by sautéing eggplant, tomato, onions, and garlic, and layering on rice, cheese, and spices, this dish is the perfect balance of comforting and healthy. If mizithra cheese sounds like something out of Lord of the Rings, worry not. You can sub goat cheese or feta for a similar flavor&mdashand a much simpler shopping experience.

9. Grilled Eggplant Tacos

Who needs tortillas, anyway? As much as we love chips and salsa and all things taco, this recipe nails our favorite Mexican flavors&mdashthanks to black beans, avocado, cilantro, and shredded cheese&mdashwithout going crazy on carbs. And don&rsquot worry, you don&rsquot actually need a grill to get that charred, delicious flavor. Simply broil the eggplant or use a grill pan.

10. Eggplant Gratin With Feta Cheese

We want to dive right into this eggplant gratin. Made with an unexpected blend of cheeses&mdashfeta and Gruyere&mdashand a killer combo of creams (yes, even more creaminess than just cheese), this recipe is a decadent spin on eggplant Parmesan that&rsquos light on tomato and heavy on melted goodness. We love the combo of thyme, chives, and basil and that the eggplant is just sturdy enough to carry its dairy-filled load.

11. Eggplant, Caramelized Onion, and Tomato Pasta

While many recipes mask the flavor of eggplant with heavy sauces, this pasta recipe lets the eggplant shine. Store-bought tomato sauce is made slightly more punchy with the addition of sherry, and eggplant is accompanied by caramelized onions and herbs for a simple yet fulfilling easy weeknight night dinner. If you&rsquore vegan (or don&rsquot eat dairy), keep the recipe as is or feel free to top with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parm.

12. Sichuan Eggplant Stir-Fry

Sticky, sweet, sour, savory&hellip what more could you ask of a sauce? This traditional Sichuan dish does require a trip to an Asian supermarket (or specialty store), but it&rsquos all kinds of worth it. You can also make things easier by sticking to plain soy sauce (instead of the two recommended varieties), using dry sherry instead of Shaoxing wine, and grabbing whatever dried chilis are available (just stay away from chipotle). We also love subbing crumbled tofu or ground chicken for the pork.

13. Crisp Eggplant Chips With Smoky Seasoning

Yet again, eggplant prevails over potato. Now we know what you&rsquore thinking: How can watery eggplant create crispy chips? Great question. It&rsquos actually pretty easy! The super-thin slices mean there&rsquos no risk of sogginess&mdashunless the chips are over-oiled before baking. To keep that oil light and just right, opt for a spray oil (like coconut or avocado) and make sure they bake without any overlap. Sayonara, processed food. These chips are utter perfection.

14. Eggplant Rollatini

These rollatini are anything but teeny. Eggplant is sliced length-wise to create the perfect sized roll-up, providing just enough space to squeeze in a hefty blend of cheeses (don&rsquot worry, there&rsquos delicious overflow too).For extra veg, we love adding thawed frozen spinach or diced marinated artichoke hearts. And though fresh basil does make for a beautiful topping, we actually love it sprinkled throughout the inside too.

15. Easy One-Pan Eggplant Chicken Dinner

This recipe is one of those simple dishes that requires throwing things in a pot, stirring a bit, and waiting for the heat to work its magic. Easy is an understatement.We&rsquore also huge fans of its protein-packed prowess, a hefty dose of veggies, and that it tastes good with all kinds of additions and substitutions. Don&rsquot love chicken? Use sausage or ground turkey. Sick of spinach? Use Swiss chard or kale.

16. Brussels Sprouts Eggplant Buddha Bowl

In a grain bowl rut? One of our favorite things about the easy lunch (or dinner!) is that you can throw pretty much anything in it, toss on some seasonings, and find yourself eating something super delicious.But if you do need some guidance&mdashwe all do every now and again&mdashtry this Buddha-inspired recipe full of hard-boiled eggs, roasted Brussels sprouts, and baked eggplant. As with many bowls, the secret lies in the dressing, which, in this case, is a perfect mix of tart and sweet.

17. Eggplant and Caramelized Onion Grain Salad With Walnut Vinaigrette

Hate boring salads? Don&rsquot we all. This recipe uses some of our favorite salads tricks&mdashwe&rsquore talking grains, fresh fruit, and creamy dressing&mdashto make it all kinds of exciting (and nutritious too).We love the crunch from grapes and walnuts and the savory flavor from caramelized onions and eggplant. But what we love most of all is the secret addition of salty feta cheese and the fact that the lettuce is warm and wilted, making it the perfect fall or winter salad remedy.

18. Crispy Eggplant &ldquoBacon&rdquo

Coconut bacon, tempeh bacon, rice paper bacon&hellip as much as we love a good vegetarian substitute, none of the options we&rsquove tried nail the equally chewy and crispy consistency of our favorite bacon (as in, real bacon).Cue eggplant, the veggie that has once again swooped in to save the day. Its meaty insides mean that the texture resembles that of actual meat, and the seasoning is smoked and spiced to perfection. Whether you&rsquore vegan or a tried-and-true bacon lover, this salty spin-off won&rsquot disappoint.

19. Pressed Eggplant Sandwiches

Perfect for a picnic, an easy lunch, or an afternoon snack (it&rsquos a snack if you share, right?), this eggplant sandwich packs so much freshness into one bite it&rsquos a little ridiculous. Made with pesto, grilled veggies (roasted works too), fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, and hearty ciabatta bread, it&rsquos everything you love about Italian flavors stuffed into a single bite. Feel free to skip the meat to keep it veggie or substitute grilled chicken for a boost of protein.

27 Healthy Eggplant Recipes That Aren’t Eggplant Parm

Despite its perplexing name, eggplant is an amazing food to cook with. There’s a truly impressive array of tasty and healthy eggplant recipes in the world, just waiting to be made and enjoyed by you.

“Eggplant is much more versatile than many people realize,” Rachael Hartley, R.D., certified intuitive eating counselor and owner of Rachael Hartley Nutrition, tells SELF. The type of taste, texture, and yumminess you get really depends on how you like to prepare your eggplant.

For instance, “When roasted or broiled with plenty of olive oil, eggplant gets a tender and buttery texture I just love,” Hartley says—great for mashing into a sauce or pureeing into a dip. And while eggplant can act as a mild-flavored sponge for other flavors (much like zucchini), Hartley finds that eggplant is also a particularly satisfying ingredient in vegetarian meals given the meaty, smokey taste it can take on while cooking—especially when enhanced with umami-rich ingredients (like miso) and caramelized or charred.

As for what makes an eggplant recipe “healthy”? Given that you’re starting with a fiber and vitamin-stuffed veggie, most anything you make with eggplant provides some great nutrition. If you’re going to build a full, satisfying meal around eggplant—as opposed to a side or appetizer—then it’s a great idea to include a form of protein, fat, and starch, Hartley explains. (Most of the recipes below will make for a well-rounded meal, but there are a few sides too.)

One easy way to work in that variety of food groups is a casserole-style dish. Hartley likes taking advantage of the fact that eggplants are great little vehicles and stuffing them full of grains (couscous is her fave), lentils, beans, cheese, nuts, meat, or more veggies.

No matter how you like to eat your illogically named nightshade, there’s something here for you. Here are 27 yummy, healthy eggplant recipes.

A note about the word healthy here: We know that healthy is a complicated concept. Not only can it mean different things to different people, it’s a word that’s pretty loaded (and sometimes fraught), thanks to the diet industry’s influence on the way we think about food. At SELF, when we talk about food being healthy, we’re primarily talking about foods that are nutritious, filling, and satisfying. But it also depends on your preferences, your culture, what’s accessible to you, and so much more. We selected these recipes with those basic criteria in mind, while also trying to appeal to a wide variety of nutritional needs and taste buds.

50 Easy Eggplant Recipes

In this 30-Minute Meal, eggplant and ground beef come together to make a hearty and decadent pasta sauce. Don&apost forget the ricotta!

Roasted Curried Eggplant with Yogurt & Raisins

You&aposve never had eggplant like this before! This easy recipe makes a great app, side dish, or even a meatless main course.

Eggplant Stacks

Stack &aposem up! Made with layers of grilled eggplant and mozz, this Caprese-inspired dish will taste great long after tomato season ends.

Linguine with Eggplant Ragout

This elegant, meatless main course makes a great special-occasion supper for vegetarians.

Sesame-Honey Eggplant

Eggplant is a staple in Asian cuisine and plays well with classic flavors like sesame, soy sauce, and fresh ginger.

Crispy Eggplant with Honey & Rosemary

Photography by Armando Rafael

This popular 30-Minute Meal is a great idea for tapas night, but it also works well as an appetizer or main course!

Ziti & Sweet-but-Hot Sauce with Sausage & Eggplant

Photography by Armando Rafael

By leaving half the skin on and taking half of it off, you&aposll get lots of texture variation in this easy, meaty eggplant sauce.

Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

Garlic lovers, this one&aposs for you. You&aposre just five ingredients away from this easy Asian-inspired side!

Eggplant Shakshuka

Shakshuka is traditionally made with tomatoes, but this version layers in eggplant too for an extra hit of veggies.

Charred Eggplant with Tomato-Kalamata Vinaigrette

Photography by Sarah Anne Ward

Fire up the grill to make this barbecue-ready side dish.

Grilled Chicken and Eggplant Stacks

Rach&aposs Tip: Leave the skin on half of the eggplant — it gives the dish great color and texture.

Cheesy Vegetable Tart

Zucchini, eggplant, onions, and plenty of cheese. What more could you want?

Eggplant Roll-Ups

Store-bought ingredients make this delicious weeknight dinner quick and affordable!

Ratatouille Riggies

Pan-fried zucchini slices dress up this easy, family-style Eggplant Marinara with Rigatoni.

Spice-Grilled Eggplant & Feta Pizzas

Pizza on the grill gets toasty and caramelized with all those classic charcoal flavors.

Chicken & Eggplant Stir-Fry

Kick your Chinese takeout habit with this easy stir-fry recipe. Want to go healthier? Make it with brown rice!

Roasted Eggplants with Sicilian-Style Cannellini Beans

This meatless main is a total showstopper. 

Ratatouille with Oven-Poached Eggs

Photography by Joesph De Leo

Poach your eggs in the oven like Rachael does in this 30-Minute Meal and never look back!

Pappa al Pomodoro with Grilled Eggplant

Sweat out your eggplant to remove the moisture by salting it, setting it on paper towels for 10 to 15 minutes, then patting it dry.

Grilled Eggplant Subs

This is a handheld meal jam packed with color and flavor!

Grilled Ratatouille Boats

Make zucchini boats in a flash by scooping out the seeds and a bit of flesh from the center for a hallowed-out shell that can be stuffed and grilled or baked in the oven.

Ratatouille Kebabs

Photography by Andrew Purcell

Grilled sirloin, eggplant, zucchini, and summer squash all come together on a kebab. Make rice in foil packets and dinner&aposs done!

Baked Ziti with Eggplant

It&aposs like if eggplant parm and baked ziti had a love child.

Chicken Moussaka Stacks

Pick up some ground chicken tonight and get ready to meet this new family favorite.

25+ Eggplant Recipes for People Who Don't Like Eggplant

Ready to love eggplant? This purple beauty is frequently on the list of foods that people "don't like," but we're not convinced. With so many exciting ways to use it, there's something for everyone when it comes to this elegant summer veggie. The key is finding the right dish&mdashan actually good eggplant dish. Our best eggplant recipes are sure to convert even the most skeptical eaters.

There are a lot of misconceptions about eggplants out there, and it’s time that we put every last one of them to rest. First off, the bulbous vegetable has nothing to do with eggs, despite its misleading name, which originates from the 1700s when the plant more closely resembled goose and hen’s eggs. Today, the two foods have no real link. Second off, they are so much more than an evocative emoji (. we’re all thinking it, it’s fine. ). Third off, they belong to a group of produce called “nightshade vegetables,” along with potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes. While this name sounds unsettling and ominous, it’s not a dig at the wondrous, purple food. Rather, this category of plants gets a bad reputation because they possess solanine, which at high levels can be toxic (although it’s very unlikely that you’ll consume enough to come close to the danger zone). If you have bad arthritis or painful joints, this might be something to note, but for the average person, there is no reason why you should be shying away from this glorious vegetable.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the endless possibilities with eggplant. If you’re not convinced that you’re a fan of it, that probably just means you haven’t prepared it in the right way. That all changes today. From pasta dishes, to stuffed boats, to hearty butters, the sky&aposs the limit. Now go forth, cook, and finally come to understand the beauty of the eggplant.

How to cook eggplant, three ways

One of the most popular baked eggplant recipes is eggplant parmesan, with its layers of mozzarella and marinara mixed in with the eggplant. But eggplant can also be baked into a healthier take on French fries, roasted and mixed in with pasta, or broiled and pureed to make a tasty dip. To cook eggplant in the oven, preheat the oven to 475°F, toss, brush, or drizzle your cut eggplant with olive oil, and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast until the eggplant is tender, 18 to 20 minutes.

If you’d like to broil your eggplant, prepare the eggplant as needed for your recipe—either by slicing it, dicing it, or piercing an uncut eggplant with a fork—and heat the broiler to high. Set the oven rack six inches below the broiler (more if the eggplant comes close to the broiler) and cook until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

26 of the Easiest-Ever Eggplant Recipes

Eggplant is the best kind of vegetable, which is to say, it&rsquos a multi-tasker that can take on many different and delicious forms and be incorporated into all kinds of recipes. It can stand up to being grilled or fried, tastes bomb when breaded (like in eggplant parmesan or eggplant rollatini) and lives its best life when roasted, stewed, or sautéed for ratatouille, baba ghanoush, and more. Bonus: eggplant works as a substitute for meat, too, and learning how to cook eggplant is actually&mdashdare we say it&mdasheasy.

One of the most popular types of eggplants in America resembles a long pear-shaped zucchini, with glossy skin and a deep purple color. The flesh inside is beige-colored and spongy in consistency with seeds. Choose eggplants that have a firm, smooth, and shiny skin and feel heavy for their size. They should be free of discoloration, bumps, and bruises, which indicates that the veggie's been damaged and could be decayed. Eggplants are also available in plenty of other sizes and colors, including lavender, green, orange, and yellow. Though they're available year-round, eggplants are in peak season from July to October.

The nightshade veggie packs a host of vitamins and minerals, including fiber, vitamin B, copper, vitamin K, and folate, plus it contains phytonutrients and plenty of antioxidants. It&rsquos easy to prepare and tastes divine when done right&mdashtry one of these easy eggplant recipes and you&rsquoll be part of the purple gang in no time.

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Taiwanese-Style Eggplant

For this recipe, I prefer medium Chinese eggplants, the pale purple, slender ones that are 10 to 12 inches long, over similar-looking but more bitter varieties. This calls for oil-blanching and, because eggplant is basically a sponge, brining them for an hour first until they are saturated but not bloated. During frying, the water turns to steam and makes the eggplant creamy and not at all oily.

Cooking is really the study of water. It takes water to grow everything, and so the amount of water that remains in an ingredient after it is harvested or butchered dictates how it will heat through in the pan, whether it will soften, seize, crisp or caramelize. You add water when you use stocks, vinegars or alcohol. You create barriers to water with starches. How you cut ingredients and the order in which you add them to the pan control how and when they release the water inside them. Even the shapes of cooking vessels are about releasing or retaining moisture. When cooking with a wok, changes to water happen so quickly that split-second timing is essential.

Trim and discard the eggplant ends, then cut into thick wedges like steak frites: First, cut crosswise into three 3-inch chunks, then halve those lengthwise repeatedly until you have 1-inch-thick wedges.

In a large bowl, combine 4 cups water and the salt and whisk until the salt is dissolved. Add the eggplant, making sure it is submerged, and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Fill a 5-quart or larger Dutch oven with the neutral oil and secure a deep-fry thermometer on the side. Set over medium-high heat and warm the oil to 375 degrees.

Meanwhile, drain the eggplant and dry well with paper towels. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup water, oyster sauce, fish sauce and sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Set this sauce aside.

Add the sliced garlic to the oil and fry until crisp and light golden brown, about 30 seconds. Use a spider to transfer them to a paper towel to drain.

Check that the oil in the Dutch oven is still at 375 degrees. Set up for the second fry by setting a dry wok or large skillet over high heat.

Carefully slide all the eggplant into the oil. Stir until the eggplant has darkened and caramelized at the edges, about 1 minute. Remove the eggplant with the spider and drain well over the Dutch oven, then transfer to the screaming-hot wok.

Immediately add the chopped garlic and most of the chile rings (reserve a few for garnish) to the eggplant in the wok and toss everything to combine. Add the reserved sauce and continue to toss until the sauce thickens to a glaze and the eggplants are browned at the edges, about 1 minute. Add most of the basil leaves and toss until wilted.

Transfer the contents of the wok to a serving platter. Crumble the fried garlic and scatter it over the eggplant with the rest of the basil and chile rings. Serve immediately.

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What To Serve With Roasted Eggplant

I love healthy eggplant recipes like this one because it goes with just about anything! You’ll find all of my easy keto low carb dinner recipes here, but here are a few favorites that would be perfect with this baked eggplant recipe:

    – Mediterranean dishes like this one are a natural fit for the best roasted eggplant recipe! – While the chicken is finishing in the slow cooker, turn on the oven and make roasted eggplant slices! – Add some roasted eggplant slices to this chicken and you’ll have a chicken/eggplant parmesan mash-up! YUM.
  • Crispy Baked Chicken Thighs – Sometimes basic just goes with basic. The seasonings may be basic, but the flavor is incredible.