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6 Foolproof Ways to Prepare Eggplants

6 Foolproof Ways to Prepare Eggplants

Tips and recipes that will make you love the divisive vegetable

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Carolin Roitzheim

Carolin Roitzheim

Food Editor at Kitchen Stories

If you're an eggplant skeptic, you have probably thought at least once: They're mushy, spongy, taste bitter or too bland, and always soak up too much oil.

If you're an eggplant fan (like me), you're probably already familiar with their diverse, delicious qualities: tender and silky from the oven, meaty and smoky from the grill, or crispy on the outside and juicy-soft on the inside after bathing in hot oil coated in breadcrumbs.

For the skeptics among us: What if I told you I can change your mind by sharing with you the right ways to prepare this versatile vegetable?

So here it is, your ultimate guide to making eggplant the star of your dishes. Learn these different preparation methods and what to look for when:

– Oven-roasting
– Grilling
– Pan-frying
– (Breading and) deep-frying
– Steaming
– Braising

And of course, we have the perfect eggplant recipes ready to make this fantastic vegetable extra tasty.

Your shortcut for ensuring great flavor in eggplants every time

Try the spice mixes from our Plant Power Spice Set!

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from Kitchen Stories

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6 foolproof methods for preparing eggplants

Before you get down to the business of preparing them, take a look at our article on how to buy and store eggplants properly.

1. Oven roasting

Cooking in the oven usually takes a little longer, but it also means you can relax and let the oven do the work.

Oven roasting is a gentle method that uses less oil and gives the eggplant a soft, tender and silky texture. Roasting intensifies the eggplant's natural flavor and gives it a slight smoky note. The oven is especially useful when you want to prepare eggplant whole, stuff it, or roast the flesh for dips.

Preparation tip: To allow the heat to reach the inside better, prick the eggplant with a fork if you are using it whole. If you cut it in half, you can prick it or make a cross-shaped incision. Now just brush or drizzle the flesh lightly with olive oil and marinate to your liking before putting it in the oven. And don't forget to turn them once halfway through the cooking time.

Try it with this recipe:

Turkish stuffed eggplants (Karnıyarık)

Turkish stuffed eggplants (Karnıyarık)

This Turkish dish combines oven-roasted eggplant with a hearty minced meat filling and an aromatic tomato sauce. Best served with couscous or rice.

2. Grilling

Outdoors on a grill of your choice or indoors on a grill pan, your call! Grilling gives eggplant a smoky note and a meaty texture. Thin slices (lengthwise or crosswise) are particularly great for the grill: They don't have to cook as long and get nicely browned and really tasty in just a short time. They taste particularly good as a side dish with other grilled food, on sandwiches or in salads.

Preparation tip: Even when preparing on the grill, you should not forgo brushing with oil so that the eggplant does not stick to the grate or your grill tray. Also, make sure to turn it over to avoid it becoming too charred on the outside before it's cooked through on the inside. You can tell if it's done when the eggplant turns slightly translucent (if it's still white, it's not ready yet!)

Here's how to make it extra smoky: Char the whole eggplant in open embers or in the flame of your gas stove. Then scrape out the soft, smoky inside, for example for homemade baba ganoush.

Try it with this recipe:

Grilled eggplant with herby garlic dressing

Grilled eggplant with herby garlic dressing

This no-fuss recipe shows how you can take grilled eggplant slices to a new level: Marinate them after grillng in a tangy dressing made from our Dressing Up spice blend.

3. Pan-frying

Pan-frying is one of the most popular methods. It doesn't take long and gives the eggplants a golden, crispy exterior while the inside remains slightly firmer but still tender. They retain their texture, making them a perfect meat substitute for vegetable dishes or the perfect base for dishes like pasta alla norma and moussaka.

Preparation tip: A well-heated pan with enough oil will ensure even frying without the eggplants sticking. Before frying, you can lightly salt the eggplants to remove excess moisture and ensure that they don't soak up so much oil, and to avoid splattering oil (more on this in our FAQ below).

Try it with this recipe:

30 minute Sicilian Pasta alla Norma

30 minute Sicilian Pasta alla Norma

For this classic pasta dish from Sicily, roasted eggplant adds a delicious texture and unique flavor, resulting in Mediterranean harmony with tomato sauce, basil and ricotta.

4. (Breading and) deep-frying

Breaded and deep-fried, pretty much everything tastes good - and of course this also applies to eggplants. They become wonderfully crispy on the outside and juicy and soft on the inside. The breading adds texture and flavor. With egg and panko or breadcrumbs and extras like sesame or parmesan in the breading, they become a flavor explosion. You can also keep it simple and just flour them a little. Try them as a vegetarian burger patty or cutlet variation, as a side dish or snack.

Preparation tip: After frying, you should drain the eggplants on paper towels so they don't continue to soak up the fat.

Try it with this recipe:

Here, the eggplant is deep-fried Japanese katsu style and used as a burger patty. In this article, you'll learn even more tips on how to make an incredibly crispy eggplant burger (and other great veggie burger variations).

5. Steaming

Steaming is a preparation method in which the eggplant retains its natural moisture and hardly any oil is needed. This makes its consistency pleasantly soft, but not mushy. Afterwards, the steamed eggplant behaves like a sponge (in a positive sense!), soaking up all the flavors of the spices and sauces used.

Preparation tip: For steaming, it's best to peel the eggplant completely or partially, or cut it into strips, so the steam can better reach the inside of the flesh and cook it. And don't despair if you don't have a steamer attachment–you can also steam beautifully in a kitchen colander over a pot.

Try it with this recipe:

Easy Chinese steamed eggplant with spicy garlic sauce

Easy Chinese steamed eggplant with spicy garlic sauce

Steamed eggplant in spicy sauce can be found in most Chinese restaurants and homes. This recipe uses regular eggplants, if you can find Japanese or Chinese eggplants (they are longer and lighter in color), you can use those as well.

6. Braising

When you braise eggplants, they fully absorb the flavors of the liquid, broth or sauce in which they are stewing and become wonderfully aromatic. Whether you prefer to braise in a fireproof roasting dish in the oven or simply on the stove is, of course, up to you–both variations are excellent. Especially in (vegetable) stews and curries, braised eggplant serves as a juicy, "meaty" ingredient.

Preparation tip: Before braising, first sauté the eggplant pieces briefly in oil until they take on color and then add liquid, simmer until they are soft. This way you can take the delicious roasted flavors of the vegetables into your dish.

Try it with this recipe:

Braised eggplant with baked potatoes and gremolata (Eggplant Osso Buco)

Braised eggplant with baked potatoes and gremolata (Eggplant Osso Buco)

Inspired by the Italian osso buco, eggplants, instead of veal shanks, braise in a delicious tomato sauce and become the highlight of this vegan feel-good dish.

Extra tip: It's better not to eat eggplants raw! Although today's varieties contain only a little solanine, this substance can irritate the stomach in high concentration and lead to nausea. In addition, they usually taste bitter when raw.

Eggplant FAQ: What else to keep in mind during preparation?

How do you get the most flavor out of eggplants?

Eggplants have a fairly neutral flavor profile and only develop their own character when combined with other ingredients. Therefore, you can use a plethora of herbs and spices to influence their flavor, depending on the culinary direction you want to take.

These spices combine particularly well with eggplant: Garlic, chili, onion, basil, mint, cumin, parsley, coriander, oregano.

With our organic spice blends, you can inject a variety of flavors with just a pinch!
Tofu Lover: For Chinese-inspired eggplant dishes
Veggie Wunder: For classic oven-roasted or smoked eggplant dishes
Dressing Up: For eggplant antipasti or salads
Avocado Dreams: For topping up on any eggplant dishes
Find out how to season vegetables like a pro: our article includes tips that will make oven veggies a hit each time!

Should eggplants be salted before cooking?

Yes and No. Salting eggplants is not absolutely necessary. However, for some preparation methods, such as frying, grilling or deep-frying, it can be quite useful: Salting dehydrates the eggplant, which then doesn't lose as much liquid during preparation and doesn't splatter as much when it hits hot oil. It also keeps the spongy flesh from becoming too thirsty, so it absorbs less oil and becomes nice and crispy on the outside and silky and creamy on the inside. Along the way, it also loses bitterness, giving it a milder flavor.

Here's how you can salt eggplant:

– Salt the flesh of the eggplant generously.
– Leave to sit for approx. 30 minutes.
– Drain off any liquid that has escaped and pat dry with kitchen paper.

How can I avoid bitter eggplant?

In the past, it was often recommended to salt eggplants to extract the bitter juices from them. Nowadays, eggplants are cultivated to be less bitter anyway, so salting is often not really necessary. You can, however, keep a few things in mind if you still want to play it safe and avoid bitter eggplants:

– When shopping, choose smaller kinds: The larger ones often contain more bitter substances.
– The bitter taste often comes from eggplants being overripe and stored for too long. Therefore, it is best to use them as soon as possible.
– More bitter substances are found at the narrow end with the stem and leaf base. These parts should therefore be cut off and not eaten.

To peel or not to peel?

That is the question! Eggplants usually don't need to be peeled. Especially if they are organic, you can absolutely eat the peel (and we love zero waste!).

Due to its texture, the peel plays an important role in the taste and provides a better structure for the very soft flesh after preparation. The peel becomes much softer with preparation, but numerous vitamins and nutrients are retained.

If the eggplant is larger and has a harder skin (or you're just not a fan of eggplant skin), you can still peel it with a vegetable peeler or knife.

Some recipes (like this eggplant unagi) also explicitly call for peeling the eggplant to achieve a certain texture.

Whole or in pieces?

It all depends on your recipe and the desired preparation method:

Whole, halved, sliced (crosswise or lengthwise), in sticks, pieces or cubes–everything is possible! The narrow end with stem and leaf base is usually cut off because it tastes bitter and should not be eaten (if you prepare them whole, you can leave it on for now for a nicer presentation).

More eggplant recipes you should try!

Not for nothing are eggplants represented and popular in many national cuisines: Eggplant Parmesan like on vacation in Italy, shiny glazed eggplant from Sichuan cuisine, smoky-creamy baba ganoush, and many other eggplant delicacies are waiting for you:

Eggplant Unagi (Japanese-style glazed eggplant)
Red lentil and eggplant moussaka or Classic eggplant moussaka
Eggplant Parmesan
Timballo (Italian eggplant pasta bake)
Roasted potato salad with baba ghanoush dressing
Stir-fried eggplant, potatoes, and peppers
Chinese spicy garlic eggplant
Chinese-style steamed eggplant
Spicy harissa and eggplant pasta bake
Eggplant cordon bleu with tomato and bread salad
Eggplant fries with limey dill dip

What is your favorite way to prepare eggplant? And what's your favorite eggplant recipe of all time? Let us know in the comments!

Published on October 10, 2023

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