We guide you through how to cook eggplant correctly, with expert tips for choosing, preparing and cooking eggplant.
Eggplant — or aubergine, as it is also known — is an indispensable part of Mediterranean and Oriental cuisine and it has many fans, especially among vegetarians: large, plump, with feminine curves and in a dark purple skin, the elegant aubergine tries to impress every vegetable lover.
In terms of taste, however, it is by nature rather inconspicuous and has so far not really convinced many people of its potential for enjoyment. Many people have found them to be rather bland and often slightly bitter — and often this is because they are not chosen well or prepared properly.
Overview and nutrition
The aubergine belongs to the nightshade family and, from a botanical point of view, is a fruit vegetable — a type of vegetable whose fruits usually contain little fructose and are suitable for consumption. Because of its elongated, rounded shape , it is also called ‘eggplant’ .
Compared to other popular vegetables such as peppers or citrus fruits, eggplant contains little of the healthy vitamin C. Does that mean it is not healthy? Not at all: It is rich in various minerals that help the body to absorb other important substances better: Potassium supports your nervous system and manganese is an important component of enzymes. With 90 percent water content and only 17 kcal per 100g, it is also quite good for those who are keeping an eye on their weight. However, if there is plenty of fat involved in the preparation as a flavoring agent, calories are quickly added.
In addition to healthy minerals, unripe eggplants also naturally contain the poisonous and bitter substance solanine. Therefore, you should only use ripe fruits and preferably not consume them raw in order to avoid stomach aches and stomach upsets. Heating up destroys the natural toxin and makes eggplant safe to eat.
Rumor has it that eggplant contains nicotine. But is that really true? Yes, small amounts of the substance known from cigarettes are actually contained in the purple fruits – but not nearly as much as was claimed in what turned out to be an incorrect analysis. Further examinations in the aftermath confirmed: the amount of nicotine, at up to 100 micrograms per kilogram of aubergine, is just at the limit of what can be detected and is no higher than with numerous other types of vegetables.
How to cook eggplant correctly: choosing the best eggplant
Deep purple to black and about 20 cm tall – this is how you will find eggplants on every supermarket shelf. White, yellow or marbled varieties with a snake-like or spherical shape are not so common, but they are also represented in specialty grocers. Even if you can buy them all year round, the actual season is late summer heading into autumn — from August to October in the northern hemisphere — during these three months you have the best chance of getting your hands on the perfect fruit.
A good aubergine should be as heavy and plump as possible — that speaks for its freshness and a pleasant consistency. The shell should be shiny and free of cracks and scratches. The flesh should give way slightly when you apply gentle pressure. If this is not the case, hands off — hard fruits are still unripe, bitter and contain more solanine. Nobody wants that, so always choose mature specimens. Then it becomes soft, creamy and mild in taste when freshly prepared.
Expert tip: Thanks to new breeds, very few ripe aubergines that you can get in the store are still extremely bitter. If you have the opportunity, however, it is advisable to look around the farmers market for them — there are regional products with short transport routes. The fresher the fruit, the milder it tastes. If it lies around long after the harvest, it becomes increasingly bitter.
How to cook eggplant correctly: Correct storage
The best trick for delicious results: Process the fruit immediately. You shouldn’t buy an eggplant until you know for sure that you want to process it within the next 1-3 days. The longer it lies after the harvest, the more bitter its flesh becomes. But brownish-yellow discolored pulp indicates that the fruit is already overripe, and should be discarded.
Also important: the aubergine is delicate and has a small risk for frostbite. The vegetable drawer in the refrigerator is taboo. The damp climate in the refrigerator makes the pulp even more spongy and rather rubbery. Instead, you should store them in a cool, dry place, but please not for too long. In addition, the sensitive fruit is a loner who prefers to avoid contact with other fruits and vegetables. In addition to apples, bananas and tomatoes, she does not feel particularly comfortable because they give off ripening gases, which also make the aubergine ‘age’ faster.
If you have bought an immature specimen, you can leave it to ripen for 2-3 days at room temperature if necessary. This reduces its solanine content and you can still process it afterwards without hesitation.
If you’ve grabbed too many and can’t use the fruit straight away, freezing is also no problem if necessary. However, the following also applies here: the shorter you leave them, the better — so it’s best to put them in the freezer immediately. To prevent the peel from becoming bitter, it is best to freeze it peeled — that way you are on the safe side. After thawing, the consistency of the fruit is usually a little softer. They are best made into stews or pureed as a dip.
How to cook eggplant correctly: 4 steps for processing
The key factor in successful eggplant dishes is in knowing how to prepare eggplant correctly. We guide you through the steps for perfect preparation.
Wash and trim
The aubergine is used with the skin in most dishes. Therefore, you should first rinse the whole fruit thoroughly under running water. Then it has to be trimmed: The narrower head with the stem and leaf base must not be eaten, it is very bitter. Therefore, if you are using the eggplant as a ‘boat’, cut it off, leave the ends on and advise your guests not to eat the stalk with them. You can also cut off the lower end or eat it with you.
Remove the stem end of the aubergine
Cut off the bottom of the aubergine
The simplest cut variant is round slices. To do this, place the fruit on a cutting board and cut even, finger-thick slices.
Cut the aubergine into even slices
To cut in half, you can stand the fruit vertically on the cut surfaces created by trimming and divide it lengthways into 2 halves.
Halve the eggplant
For elongated slices, place the halved fruit with the large cut surface facing down on a board, press it gently with one hand and first cut it horizontally lengthways into slices.
Cut the aubergine horizontally into slices
By dividing again in the opposite direction, you first get long ‘sticks’ and can then cut them down into even dice cubes.
Dice the eggplant
Let the salt and water steep
Whether cut into slices or cubes, before you continue with the preparation, you should generously salt the aubergine. To do this, put the cut fruit in a kitchen sieve, mix it with 1 tablespoon of salt and let it steep for at least 30 minutes.
This procedure is particularly advantageous if the food is then prepared with a lot of fat — for example deep-frying or roasting — the salt removes water and bitter juices from the fruit. This makes the consistency more pleasant, the taste of bitter specimens a little milder and it soaks up less fat during preparation. Even if the positive effect of salt on the bitter substances in the fruit is controversial, salting is always worthwhile for consistency and low-fat processing.
Salt the cut eggplant
To get rid of the excess liquid, you can line the work surface with kitchen paper, spread the eggplant pieces on it, and pat dry thoroughly. This makes them nice and crispy instead of limp and spongy. In this state, the pieces are now ready to be prepared.
Dry the aubergine with kitchen paper
What about the skin and the seeds?
You can eat both the skin and the seeds without hesitation. The small seeds run through the entire pulp of the aubergine. However, they are so fine that you won’t even feel them when you eat them. So you don’t have to remove them. They are neither harmful nor do they change the taste of the fruit. The skin becomes buttery soft when cooked, so you don’t have to remove it when you prepare the fruit while warm.
Expert tip: The only exception with the skin is pickled eggplant. In the vinegar brine, the dark skin can become bitter in the long run if you store it for a long time. That is why it is better to peel the fruit with a peeler or — as is usual with tomatoes — scald the fruit with hot water and peel off the skin.
Can you eat raw aubergine?
As a nightshade plant (including potatoes, for example), the unripe aubergine naturally contains the poisonous and bitter substance solanine. In modern breeds, solanine is usually only contained in very small quantities, but you should not consume the fruits unripe under any circumstances. If the aubergine has its well-known dark purple color and if you gently press it from the outside, it is ripe and you can prepare it without hesitation.
When heated, the natural toxin becomes water-soluble at high temperatures and some of it goes into the cooking water when it is boiled — so you should pour it away and not use it again.
Most of the available eggplant varieties are bred in such a way that if ripe fruits are eaten raw, no serious poisoning is to be expected. In order to avoid stomach ache and upset stomachs, it is better to use carrots, kohlrabi and co. They are much more digestible raw and also tastier than the rather bitter raw aubergine.
How to cook eggplant correctly: 8 recipe ideas
How long to cook eggplant? That’s a question like ‘how long is a piece of string?’ … it depends on the size of the eggplant or the pieces you have cut it into, and also the cooking method. We recommend just trying these easy recipes out as your first forays into how to cook eggplant.
Even an eggplant skeptic will enjoy these 8 refined variants of preparation. Our personal favorites: eggplant pizza from the oven and the crispy fried eggplant-parmesan bites!
Bake eggplant – out of the oven
The aubergine gets really aromatic in the oven. For the classic version of how to cook eggplant in the oven aubergine, you can simply cut the fruit in half and cut the cut surface into a diamond shape. Brush everything with olive oil and season with sea salt and oregano.
How to cook eggplant oven: Brush eggplant with oil and season first
After 30 minutes, at 190 ° C in the oven , the baked fruit tastes good straight by itself, as a side dish, or you can process the creamy pulp directly into a hearty dip.
Baked eggplant out of the oven
How to cook eggplant: Eggplant pizza
The main ingredients for the Margherita variant are just an eggplant, chopped tomatoes, salt, oil, herbs and cheese. Eggplant, chopped tomatoes, various herbs, salt, oil and cheese – that’s all you need
The basis for the mini pizzas is, of course, eggplant slices. The egg fruit has few calories and a mild taste, which you can refine wonderfully with garlic and herbs. Sliced it is great for topping with anything you like to eat on pizza. You can use this recipe as a base and then spice it up with some cooked ham, mushrooms, spinach or tuna. You can also vary the cheese and tweak the taste. Then it’s briefly in the oven and you’re done.
Grilling the aubergine or on the barbecue
If you want to grill vegetarian or are looking for a delicious vegetable side dish, you can never go wrong with eggplant. With a beautiful grill pattern and deliciously seasoned and topped, the aubergine becomes a real delicacy on the grill.
This is how it’s done: Cut the eggplant lengthwise or widthwise into approx. 2 cm thick slices. Brush with oil and grill at 200-220 ° C for 4-5 minutes on each side. Season with salt and pepper.
How to cook eggplant: Grilled eggplant topped with goat cheese and tomato
Before the aubergine slices find their place on the grill, bathe them in a marinade made from olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey. But that’s not all – a topping made from mildly melting goat cheese, fruity tomatoes and fresh herbs makes eggplant a summery grilled specialty.
Braising eggplant – as a ragout
When braised, the aubergine is really creamy and tasty. In the well-known French ratatouille, the aubergine is an absolute must and it also looks particularly good in an aromatic curry . Just the thing for stew lovers.
How to cook eggplant: Colorful ratatouille with rigatoni
ingredients for 4 people
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 bunch of spring onions
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small eggplant
- 1 zucchini
- 1 chili pepper
- 400 g cherry tomatoes
- 150 g tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 bunch of basil
- 230 g rigatoni
- Salt pepper
- Cut away the dark green part of the spring onions. Cut the light part into rings.
- Finely chop the garlic cloves.
- Chop the tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes and pointed peppers into bite-sized pieces.
- Finely chop the basil.
- Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium heat. Sauté the spring onions, garlic and bay leaf for about 3 minutes.
- Add eggplant and fry for about 5 minutes.
- Add the zucchini, bell pepper, tomatoes and salt and cook for about 8 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Reduce the heat and fry the vegetable mixture for another 10 minutes. Then mix in the basil.
- While the vegetables are cooking, bring the salted water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the rigatoni and prepare according to the instructions on the packet.
- Strain the pasta and add to the vegetables. Mix well and distribute on plates. Season with freshly grated parmesan, a little salt and pepper.
How to cook eggplant on stove top
In the pan you can sear the aubergine in slices with a little oil. You can also use a grill pan if it’s not grilling weather. So there are delicious roasted aromas and a nice grill pattern even without the grill.
Fry the aubergine in a grill pan. The aubergine is fried as an aromatic side dish and is also great in a salad.
How to cook eggplant: Glazed honey eggplant with yogurt dip
ingredients for 2 servings
- 1 large eggplant
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- 3 tablespoons of honey
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 onion
- 1 small piece of ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon of cumin
- 1 pinch (s) of cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon harissa
- 4 tablespoons of parsley
- Salt pepper
For the dip
- 150 g Greek yogurt
- 50 g goat cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Salt pepper
- Wash the aubergine, cut off the ends and cut into finger-thick slices. Place in a colander, sprinkle generously with salt and drain for 10 minutes.
- For the dip, mix all the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper.
- Pat the aubergine slices dry with kitchen paper. Heat half of the olive oil in a pan and fry eggplant slices for 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Peel onion and garlic and chop finely. Peel and grate the ginger. Fry everything with the rest of the oil in the same pan for about 1 minute. Add the spices and sweat for 1 minute.
- Put the eggplants back in the pan and mix everything with honey, lemon juice and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a yogurt dip.
How to cook eggplant: Eggplant sandwich with olive feta cream
ingredients for 2 servings
For the eggplant
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
For the cream
3 stalks of parsley
2 sprigs of thyme
5 green olives
5 black olives
5 sun-dried tomatoes
1 spring onion
150 g feta
3 tablespoons of yogurt
- Cut the aubergine into slices, season with salt and set aside.
- For the cream, cut the olives into small pieces. Chop the spring onion. Cut the dried tomatoes into pieces. Finely chop the parsley and thyme. Crumble the feta with your fingers. Mix all ingredients with yogurt. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Dab eggplant slices with kitchen paper and brush with olive oil. Fry in a hot grill pan for about 4-5 minutes on each side.
- Brush half of the aubergine slices with olive feta cream. Cover with the remaining slices and press gently.
Fry eggplant – extra crispy
The eggplant can also be made into a crispy snack in finger food format: How does that work? By giving them a bath in hot oil. Everything tastes good fried, but these bites are especially good!
How to cook eggplant: crispy eggplant-parmesan bites
ingredients for 4 servings
For the crispy bites
60 g panko
60 g breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon of dried basil
75 g grated parmesan cheese
150 g of flour
200 ml of vegetable oil
2 tablespoons of salt
For the dip
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
150 g of chunky tomatoes
1 teaspoon of sugar
- Peel the eggplant and cut into cubes. Mix with salt and strain in a sieve for 30 minutes and allow to drain.
- For the dip, peel and finely chop the garlic. Sauté in olive oil. Add tomatoes and spices. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes while stirring.
- Mix the panko, breadcrumbs, basil and parmesan in a bowl.
- In a second bowl, whisk the eggs with 2 tablespoons of water. Put the flour in a third bowl.
- Thoroughly pat dry the aubergine cubes with kitchen paper and roll in flour. Knock off excess flour and pull through the beaten eggs. Coat with panko-parmesan mixture.
- Heat vegetable oil in a saucepan. Bake the breaded cubes little by little in the hot fat until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper, immediately season with salt and allow to cool. Serve with dip.
Fill eggplant – with a delicious filling
Baked in the oven with a spicy filling , the aubergine shows a new side. You can fill as you like. Similar to stuffed baked potatoes , the following applies: the more colorful, the better.
Puree eggplant – as a sauce and dip
It gets extra creamy in a bowl with aubergine as a dip. After a round in the oven, the soft pulp of the purple fruit is ideal as a spread for bread or as hummus to dunk for raw vegetables, tortilla chips or other finger food
How to cook eggplant: Eggplant hummus
ingredients 1 serving
2 cans of chickpeas
3 tablespoons of tahini paste
60 ml of water
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 bunch of fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon of cumin
2 tablespoons of olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 220 ° C. Wash the aubergine, cut in half and place on a baking sheet with the cut surface facing down. Cook in the oven for 40 minutes, until the skin begins to turn very dark. Then let it cool down.
- Meanwhile, drain the chickpeas and rinse them with water. Peel and roughly chop the garlic. Scrape off the lemon skin with a zester grater. Then halve the lemon and extract the juice. Wash the parsley and pluck the leaves from the stems.
- As soon as the aubergine has cooled down, separate the meat from the skin, chop it up roughly and place it in the food processor. Add the chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, cumin, tahini paste, parsley and water and puree to a creamy mass. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pickle eggplant – as an antipasti
The aubergine is pickled as an aromatic starter. To do this, prepare the aubergine as described and also peel it beforehand to prevent the peel from becoming bitter. Boil the cut and salted eggplant with 2 cups of water and 1 cup of vinegar and then let it steep in the mixture for 20 minutes. Then simply drain, squeeze out a little and put in a boiled mason jar with garlic and herbs. Pour in 1 cup of olive oil and ½ cup hot vinegar and seal it airtight. Turn the jar upside down, let it cool and store in a cool, dark place for up to 4 weeks.
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Genevieve Dumas is a design, fashion, food and style writer who has worked on major magazines and mastheads in the United States and Europe.