How to Cook Eggplant
Learn to shop for, prep and cook this versatile ingredient.
What is eggplant exactly? Eggplant is actually a berry—a very large berry and, like the tomato, it's a member of the nightshade family. It's grown around the world and makes its way into an array of cuisines. Depending on how you prepare it, eggplant can be firm and meaty, soft and silky, or even crunchy! (Check out these Healthy Eggplant Recipes for inspiration.)
How to Shop for Eggplant
Eggplants come in a variety of sizes and colors. No matter which variety you choose, look for eggplants without soft spots or cuts in the skin. They should feel firm and a little heavy for their size. Larger eggplants tend to have more seeds, so be aware of that if you're planning to roast them as halves.
How to Prep Eggplant
To slice eggplant into rounds:
Place the eggplant horizontally on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut off the stem and bottom ends. Slice the eggplant into rounds at least 1/2 inch thick. (Try this White Bean Moussaka recipe for a great way to use sliced eggplant.)
To slice eggplant into planks or strips:
Place the eggplant horizontally on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut off the stem and bottom ends. Cut in half lengthwise, then place one of the halves cut-side down on the cutting board. Slice into planks at least 1/2 inch thick. To make eggplant strips, slice each plank into 2 or 3 strips.
To dice eggplant:
Start by cutting the eggplant into strips as directed above, then slice each strip crosswise into cubes. (Eggplant cubes are perfect to use in recipes like this Eggplant Curry.)
Should you salt your eggplant?
Conventional kitchen wisdom says that salting eggplant makes its texture less soggy and its taste less bitter. However, modern crops are bred to be tender and less bitter than their predecessors, so the eggplant you buy today is ready to cook without this extra step. However, salting eggplant draws out moisture, and some chefs believe that salt can make it easier for breading to stick to the rounds or slices before baking. If you would like to take the time for this step, here's how to salt eggplant:
- Slice the eggplant into rounds, planks or cubes.
- Place in a colander and generously sprinkle salt on the pieces to coat them.
- Let rest for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Rinse well and pat dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.
- Cook as directed.
Ways to Cook Eggplant
To bread and bake eggplant:
Slice an unpeeled eggplant into rounds or strips. Create a breading station with 3 shallow bowls: one filled with flour, one filled with 2 eggs whisked with 2 tablespoons water, and one filled with breadcrumbs. Bread the eggplant by dipping pieces first in the flour, then the egg mixture (letting the excess drip off) and finally the breadcrumbs. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in a 400°F oven for 30 minutes, flipping once halfway through. (Try breaded eggplant in this easy Eggplant Parmesan recipe.)
To Grill Eggplant:
Slice an unpeeled eggplant into rounds or planks. Preheat a grill to medium-high heat (450-500°F). Brush each side of the eggplant slices with oil and sprinkle with salt, if desired. Place on the grill grate and cook until browned, about 4 minutes per side.
Give it a go with this Grilled Eggplant recipe.
To Roast Eggplant:
To roast eggplant halves, Slice the stem and bottom ends off an unpeeled eggplant, then slice in half lengthwise. With the tip of a knife, make diagonal cuts about 1/2-inch deep into the cut side of the eggplant. Brush the cut sides with oil, sprinkle with salt and place cut-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast in a 400°F oven until the peel is shriveled and the eggplant is very tender, about 30 minutes.
Roasted eggplant halves can be served as is, scooped out and combined with a stuffing (like in this Indian-Spiced Stuffed Eggplant), or you can discard the skin and use the flesh for dips like this Roasted Eggplant and Feta Dip.
To roast eggplant cubes, dice an eggplant as noted above and toss the cubes with oil and salt in a large bowl. Roast on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a 400°F oven, flipping once halfway through, until tender and browned, 15 to 20 minutes.
To Sauté or Stir-Fry Eggplant:
Dice an eggplant into cubes as directed above. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the eggplant and cook without stirring until browned, 2 to 3 minutes . Stir, then continue to cook until tender.
Try it in this easy Eggplant Pomodoro Pasta recipe.