Around the World in 26 Eggplant Recipes
No matter the dish, smoky, buttery aubergine always delivers.
Watching flowers grow and elongate into the humble eggplant is one of the greatest joys of gardening. The old world nightshade is technically a fruit, sharing its family with tomatoes, and peppers. However, in the kitchen, it behaves most confidently as a vegetable: a culinary powerhouse with a versatility to match the likes of potatoes. From smoky Middle Eastern baba ganoush and Italian eggplant parmigiana to spicy Chinese stir-fries and stuffed Turkish dishes, eggplant recipes show up in cuisines from all over the globe.
What it lacks in raw nutrition, the aubergine makes up for in its ability to absorb flavors and oils. When cooked properly, the oils give the eggplant their characteristic, luscious, buttery texture. This, along with their flavor-flexibility, allows the eggplant to occupy a unique space in vegan and vegetarian recipes as a hearty, savory ingredient or as a meat substitute.
While most young, fresh eggplants are slightly sweet, older, raw eggplants have a naturally bitter flavor. Fear not, as there are a multitude of options available to the home chef to combat this. Salt eggplant halves for one hour and rinse them gently with water to leach out some of their bitterness. Steaming them, as opposed to deep-frying, offers a route to tenderness without massive amounts of oil. If you do find the sweeter kind this summer, roasting or grilling them intensifies their flavor with very little effort. Their flesh becomes gooey, charred, and soft over the fire. Here is how the world celebrates the creamy, purple-hued vegetable.
Mayonnaise ensures a creamy, smooth texture in this Midwestern riff on the classic Mediterranean dip by cookbook author Amy Thielen. Chopped cumin seeds add spice and a little crunch to the smoky eggplant. Get the recipe for Smoky Baba Ghannouj with Oil-Cured Black Olives »
Fried eggplant is layered with homemade red sauce and two types of cheese—mozzarella and Pecorino Romano—in this family recipe from former SAVEUR editor-in-chief Stacy Adimando. Get the recipe for Eggplant Parmigiana »
A tian is a type of gratin, typically vegetables baked in an earthenware dish. (The word “tian” can also refer to the earthenware dish itself.) This classic Provençal version is made with alternating rows of sliced zucchini, eggplant, and tomato. The flavors meld as the vegetables cook together, somewhat like ratatouille. Seasoned simply with thyme, garlic, and good, fruity olive oil, the dish is best served at room temperature. The “Cooking Queen of Provence,” Lulu Peyraud, insists it tastes even better made a day in advance. Get the recipe for Provençal Vegetable Tian »
For this comforting roasted eggplant salad, Russian chefs (and brothers) Sergey and Ivan Berezutskiy glaze the eggplant with kvass, a traditional Slavic drink made from fermented rye bread. Get the recipe Warm Eggplant Salad with Hemp Seed Sauce »
Sliced, grilled vegetables served in a simple marinade or vinaigrette are a fixture at many Tuscan meals. Get the recipe for Grilled Eggplant With Basil Vinaigrette »
You can make the major components of this classic Greek casserole in advance, from the red sauce to the fried eggplant, or even assemble the whole dish ahead of time. Get the recipe for Greek Grilled Eggplant Spread (Melitzanosalata) »
Chef Sara Jenkins of New York City’s Porchetta gave us the recipe for this spicy, comforting pasta dish, inspired by a version made by Italian chef Salvatore Denaro. Get the recipe for Pasta Alla Norma (Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Eggplant) »
This classic recipe is found throughout Georgia as part of the vegetable starters for a supra, but they’re great with drinks before dinner, too. Small eggplants are sliced lengthwise, salted, rinsed, and lightly fried, before being spread with garlicky walnut paste and rolled up. Get the recipe for Eggplant Rolls (Nigvziani Badrijani) »
Steaming eggplant, as opposed to deep-frying it, lightens this fragrant stir-fry, adapted from a recipe in Grace Young and Alan Richardson’s The Breath of a Wok (Simon & Schuster, 2004). Get the recipe for Chinese Spicy Garlic Eggplant (Yu Xiang Qie Zi) »
The sweet and sour flavors—or agrodolce—of this caponata come from sugar and vinegar, which have historically been used to preserve Sicilian relishes and are typically included in the island’s traditional vegetable and seafood dishes. Get the recipe for Sicilian Caponata »
Brighten up any day with this simple roast chicken and fresh eggplant and herb salad. Get the recipe for Chicken, Olive, and Eggplant Salad »
Akin to Puerto Rican escabeche, roasted, tender vegetables are marinated in a simple sherry vinegar dressing for an easy side dish to grilled fish, roast pork, or tender rib eye steak. Get the recipe for Escalivada Catalana »
The North African tradition of serving almonds in savory dishes is reflected in the pesto for this dish, in which the nuts are mixed with tomatoes and basil and tossed with busiate, the traditional corkscrew-shaped pasta from Trapani. Get the recipe for Corkscrew Pasta with Eggplant and Tomato-Basil Pesto (Busiate con Pesto alla Trapanese) »
This recipe originated in the Ottoman palaces. Use small eggplants for a better eggplant-to-stuffing ratio, since the key is to bake as much vegetable and tomato flavor into the eggplant as possible. Get the recipe for Turkish Stuffed Eggplant (Imam Bayildi) »
Charred until nearly burnt, then mashed with earthy paprika and sour sherry vinegar, we love this dish as a condiment on roast lamb or served as a dip with pita chips. Get the recipe for Twice-Cooked Eggplant with Sherry Vinegar and Paprika »
A smoky, sweet, and savory condiment as versatile as ketchup. This version is adapted from Tim Wiechmann of Boston’s Playska, a Balkan-style sandwich shop. Get the recipe for Ajvar »
This hearty Azeri egg dish—which can be served in small pieces as an appetizer or side, or cut into larger wedges as a main—is loaded with ground walnuts, onions, and eggplant, giving it a nutty, meaty consistency and color. Get the recipe for Eggplant and Walnut Frittata (Badimjan Kükü) »
This eggplant dish from Michael Solomonov highlights classic Middle Eastern ingredients: carob molasses, tahini, and pomegranate. Get the recipe for Fried Eggplant with Tahini and Pomegranate Seeds »
A good moussaka—a baked casserole of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and minced lamb or beef under a lush layer of béchamel sauce—is one of the most fabulous things you can eat. Get the recipe for Moussaka »
A creamy eggplant purée, enriched with béchamel and Gruyère cheese serves as a bed for meltingly tender lamb shanks, slow-braised in red wine and aromatics. Get the recipe for Lamb Shanks in Red Wine with Creamy Eggplant »
Across the Levant, eggplants are grilled and mashed to make baba ghannouj, a silky, delicious dip for flatbreads and vegetables. Get the recipe for Mashed Eggplant Dip (Baba Ghannouj) »
This simple but flavorful dish of fried eggplant and onions is served with a vinegar-spiked tomato sauce. Get the recipe for Eggplant in Tomato Sauce »
Eggplant is simmered to melting softness in a fantastically pungent curry fortified by shrimp paste. Get the recipe for Burmese Eggplant Curry (Khayan Thee Hnut) »
Creamy, mild eggplant pairs with briny capers, floral basil, and a drizzle of balsamic reduction for a knockout appetizer or side dish. Get the recipe for Pan-Fried Eggplant with Balsamic, Basil, and Capers »
With ingredients like dill, chiles de árbol, and anchovies, this dish is far from authentic Shanghainese, but it’s totally delicious. Get the recipe for Red-Cooked Eggplant (Hongshao Qiezi) »