Add Color to Your Meals by Learning How to Cook Eggplants

Add Color to Your Meals by Learning How to Cook Eggplants

Eggplant comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are a lot of ways to enjoy eggplant, but which cooking method is the best? Here are a few ideas on how to cook it and some recipes to try.

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How to Pick the Best Eggplant

These tips for picking the best eggplant are specific to Italian eggplants, the most common variety at grocery stores. Here’s how to choose the best ones:

  • Select an eggplant that is symmetrical with glossy-smooth skin and free of blemishes and bruises.
  • Check that the eggplant feels heavy for its size since a hollow feeling eggplant might be seedy.
  • Gently press the eggplant with your thumb — any indentations should quickly go away.
  • Choose an eggplant that’s three to six inches in diameter.

An eggplant that doesn’t pass the checks above is likely older, more bitter, and contains more seeds.

 

How to Prepare Eggplant

eggplant sliced 2 different ways | how to cook eggplant

Give your eggplant a good wash under running water. Then, use a sharp and sturdy knife to remove the top and bottom of the eggplant. From there, you can cut the eggplant in a few ways:

  • Slice the eggplant crosswise into ½” rounds. This is our preferred cut for roasting, frying, and grilling.
  • Slice the eggplant lengthwise to get larger pieces. This is great for recipes that require layering, such as eggplant parmesan.
  • Slice the eggplant lengthwise to get larger slices, then cut into long strips and chop the eggplant into cubes. This is best suited for sautéed dishes.

 

Should You Salt an Eggplant?

Probably. It depends on your sensitivity to the bitterness in eggplant and how gross you find soggy eggplant. Since there may be quite a few people in these two camps, just salt the eggplant. You don’t have much to lose except idle time!

Salting the eggplant helps draw out some of the bitter and astringent taste. The process also removes excess liquid to firm up the eggplant flesh. Steps for salting eggplant:

  1. Sprinkle the cut surface of your eggplant slices liberally with salt.
  2. Put the salted slices into a colander and let them sit for 30 minutes.
  3. Using paper towels, give the slices a light squeeze to soak up even more moisture.

 

What’s the Best Way to Cook Eggplant?

We’re covering the basic ways to cook eggplant. To get the best taste from your eggplant, you’ll want to push each cooking method even further. We’ve included specific recipe links to help you do that.

Roasting eggplant

roasted eggplants | how to cook eggplants

Roasting (also known as baking) lets the eggplant caramelize to develop a rich, silky flavor.

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  2. Spread the eggplant in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray; lightly coat eggplant with spray, as well.
  3. Sprinkle your favorite herbs and spices over eggplant.
  4. Roast the eggplant slices for 15 to 20 minutes on each side.

To take it up a notch, you can make breadcrumb-covered baked eggplant, like this crispy baked eggplant recipe. You can also use roasted eggplant in this eggplant dip recipe or in our roasted veggies & chickpea recipe that’s great for vegan meal prep.

Frying eggplant

eggplants frying on pan | how to cook eggplant

Eggplants absorb more fat than any other vegetable during the cooking process. As far as fried eggplants go, they’re delicious, but think of them as a once-in-awhile treat!

  1. Heat a large skillet with ¼” of cooking oil over medium heat.
  2. Sprinkle the pre-salted eggplant slices with your favorite herbs and spices.
  3. Once the oil shimmers, add the eggplant to fry as a single layer, cooking for about 3 minutes per side.
  4. Let the cooked eggplant cool over a sheet of paper towel to help drain some of the oil.

For a healthier spin on frying, try these air fryer eggplant recipes.

Grilling eggplant

grilled eggplants on serving plate | how to cook eggplants

Grilled eggplant is tender in the center with crisp, charred edges — it’s also a quick and easy cooking method!

  1. Preheat the grill to medium heat.
  2. Lightly coat the pre-salted eggplant with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle them with your favorite herbs and spices.
  3. Grill the eggplant slices for about 5 minutes on each side until they appear golden and tender.

Grilled eggplant is an excellent ingredient for vegetarian sandwiches.

Want more healthy, delicious recipes? Get started with our One Minute Meal Plan.

Trinh Le

About

Trinh is a registered dietitian by day, blogger at Fearless Food by night. She loves helping folks develop a better relationship with food, which includes lots of cooking, eating and learning about nutrition. When she’s not snapping mouthwatering shots of (mostly) healthy food, you can find Trinh HIIT-ing it at her local gym. Follow her on Twitter.