If you’ve been intimidated by eggplant in the past, it’s time to give it a try. Eggplants are at their best and most abundant in late summer, and they turn soft and tender when roasted, with a smoky flavor and substantial texture that makes them perfect for vegetarian dishes. Read on for some of our best tips for working with eggplant, plus simple and delicious ways to prepare them from the Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen.
Eggplant: Everything You Need to Know
What to Look For
Choose smooth, firm, glossy-skinned eggplant with green caps and stems. Avoid any that are wrinkled, torn, bruised or scarred or that have brown, dried caps.
Eggplants can be ivory, purple, white, green, rose-colored or another color, and even appear with stripes or striations. The flavor doesn’t vary much, but unusual eggplants can make a beautiful presentation. Young eggplants or Asian varieties have fewer seeds, resulting in less bitterness and a more delicate skin, so often they can be cooked without salting or peeling.
Rinse eggplants and then, using a large knife, trim the green top. If an eggplant is large with lots of seeds, or if the flesh looks dark and watery, sprinkle salt on it after slicing and place in a colander set in the sink for 30 minutes. Salting helps extract the bitter juices and also prepares eggplant for deep-frying. Young eggplants or Asian varieties can be cooked without salting or peeling. If roasting eggplants whole, prick holes in the skin with a fork to keep them from bursting.
Store eggplants in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Your Eggplant Toolkit
- Stainless-Steel 3-Piece Mesh Colander Set, for salting and draining eggplant
- Williams-Sonoma House Olive Oil, to brush on eggplant before grilling or broiling
- Wusthof Classic Chef’s Knife, to cut and slice eggplant
- Calphalon Elite Nonstick 3-Piece Fry Pan & Saute Pan Set, for sauteing eggplant
Large globe eggplants are ideal for roasting, broiling and grilling. Once cooked, they are wonderful pureed into spreads, incorporated into pasta sauces and served as chilled antipasti. Longer, thinner Asian eggplants lend themselves well to stir-frying, braising in curry sauces and pickling.
Eggplant Parmesan: Slice eggplant into 1/2-inch rounds and season with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour, then egg wash, then panko. Panfry in olive oil until golden brown. Transfer to a baking dish. Top with marinara and mozzarella. Broil until cheese is bubbling, then sprinkle with chopped fresh basil.
Eggplant Fritters with Mint & Honey: Slice eggplant into 1/4-inch rounds and season with salt and pepper. Whisk together 1 cup flour, 1 tsp. baking powder and 1 tsp. salt. Whisk in 1 egg and 1/2 cup club soda. Dip eggplant in batter and panfry in oil until golden. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with slivered mint.
Baba Ghanoush: Prick a large eggplant with a fork. Grill on medium-high until soft. Peel eggplant, place in a food processor and pulse with 2 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 tsp. cumin, 1/4 cup tahini, 1/4 cup lemon juice, salt and pepper. While processing, drizzle in olive oil.
Caponata: Saute diced onion, red bell peppers, zucchini and eggplant in olive oil until almost tender. Add diced tomatoes, sugar, red wine vinegar, capers and raisins and simmer until vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and toasted pine nuts.
Grilled Eggplant with Ricotta Salata: Halve Japanese eggplants lengthwise, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill on medium-high, turning once, until tender. Top with crumbled ricotta salata, diced tomatoes, chopped basil olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar.
Lamb-Stuffed Eggplant: Halve eggplants lengthwise; scoop out flesh, leaving a 1/4-inch layer. Drizzle with olive oil and place in a baking dish. Saute diced onion in olive oil; add minced garlic, cumin, cinnamon, ground lamb, toasted pine nuts, salt and pepper and cook until browned. Fill eggplants with lamb mixture and bake at 400ºF until soft.
This rolled eggplant dish emulates Italian involtini–thinly-sliced eggplant is wrapped around a stuffing of ricotta and mozzarella cheese and then smothered in a tomato sausage sauce and baked. Young eggplants or Asian varieties can be cooked without pre-salting or peeling.
Soba noodles and tofu make satisfying background flavors for perfectly caramelized eggplant and ginger-soy dressing.
Toss cubes with tender pieces of pork in a fiery chile sauce. The eggplant flesh emerges from the wok seared on the outside but silken at heart.
This Turkish dip is made with eggplants cooked by charring them whole and with the skin on. It’s another dish which comes in all sorts of different guises in Istanbul—you can add anything from broiled bell peppers to a dollop of plain yogurt or roasted tomatoes to transform it.
Although panzanella, the bread salad that is popular in Italy, is often served as a side dish to accompany grilled meat or fish, this version, which gets a nontraditional spin and a heartier texture with the addition of grilled eggplant and toasty charred corn, is hearty enough to make a light supper.