How to Cook Eggplant (5 Ways!) So Even Picky Eaters Will Love It
Because eggplant is so hearty, it makes an ideal meat substitute or side dish. Learn how to cook eggplant a variety of ways, including how to grill eggplant, plus how to roast, sauté, and microwave it as well. Eggplant Parm, anyone?
Rich in fiber and cancer-fighting antioxidants and low in calories (just 20 calories per cup), eggplant is one of the most versatile vehicles to sneak extra nutrition into the diets of picky eaters and produce-lovers alike. That’s because its sturdy texture and mild flavor allow for several different ways to cook eggplant, including breading, baking, and so much more. Although eggplants can be found at supermarkets year-round, peak season is July through October for the fruit (yes, eggplant is a fruit, not a vegetable!). So late summer, you’ll want to keep handy these tips for how to prepare eggplant. From how to cook eggplant on the grill to the best way to microwave eggplant, we’ve rounded up your complete guide for the best ways to cook eggplant.
How to Choose the Best Eggplant
When you think of eggplant, you probably envision the large pear-shape or cylindrical eggplant with shiny purple skin. Though this is the most common variety in the United States, eggplant does vary in shape and size, from a couple of inches to a foot long. The color varies with variety, including white, green, reddish-orange, and striated hues. Want to grow your own eggplant? Our garden pros can teach you how!
Look for a firm, glossy-skin eggplant that is heavy for its size with a bright, mold-free top. Younger, smaller eggplants are usually less bitter than larger or older ones. Since eggplants are quite perishable, store them whole in the refrigerator 2 to 4 days.
How to Peel Eggplant and Prep It to Cook
As with all produce that you slice through the peel (such as avocado or melon) or plan to eat the peel (like eggplant or apples), it’s important to wash eggplant before using for food safety. While the skin of a small young eggplant is edible, the skin becomes bitter on larger or older eggplants and should be peeled. When in doubt, the answer to, “Do you peel eggplant before cooking?” is yes, peel it. Use a vegetable peeler (we love this OXO Softworks Y Peeler, $9, Target) or paring knife to remove the skin. The flesh discolors soon after peeling, so peel eggplant right before using.
Here’s how to prepare eggplant for cooking: Cut off the top and blossom ends, and cut the eggplant into ½-inch slices or ¾-inch cubes, unless a cooking method states otherwise. A 1-pound eggplant equals 5 cups cubed.
Some chefs recommend salting eggplants before using in different ways to cook eggplant. While this isn't essential, it does help tame the bitter flavor, especially of older eggplants, by bringing out the juices and letting them drain. Lay the slices or cubes on layered paper towels and sprinkle all sides with salt. Top with more paper towels and a plate or something to weigh them down. Let stand about 20 minutes, then rinse, pat dry, and use as desired. (We use this method in our fan-favorite Baked Eggplant Parmesan.)
How to Roast Eggplant
Roasted eggplant is a great base for dips and spreads, like this Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Spread, or it works as a hearty addition to (or the star of) side dishes (we’re looking at you, Orzo with Roasted Vegetables). Here’s how to roast eggplant:
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan with foil or lightly grease pan.
- Peel eggplant, if desired, and cut into ¾-inch cubes. Place the cubes in a large bowl. For 6 cups eggplant (1 medium), in a small bowl combine 3 cloves garlic, minced; 1 tablespoon olive oil; ½ teaspoon salt; and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Toss eggplant with oil mixture and transfer to the prepared pan.
- Roast eggplant about 20 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally to cook evenly.
How to Stuff Eggplant
Stuffed eggplant recipes might look a little fussy or intimidating, but they're actually a cinch to make. In fact, we think it's one of the best solutions for how to cook eggplant in ovens. Plus, you can stuff eggplant with a wide variety of fillings. A few of our editors’ filling MVPs include a Mediterranean mushroom blend, Caprese salad fixings, and even sloppy joe meat.
To stuff an eggplant, start by halving the eggplant lengthwise. Scoop out most of the flesh of the eggplant, leaving a ¼- to ½-inch shell. Chop the flesh to add to the filling. Add the desired filling, then cook as desired using one of these different ways to cook eggplant:
- To bake stuffed eggplant, place filled eggplant halves in a baking dish and bake at 350°F 25 to 35 minutes or until heated through and eggplant shells are just tender.
- To grill stuffed eggplant, place eggplant halves in a foil pack and grill, covered, 20 to 25 minutes, or until tender.
How to Grill EggplantGet the Eggplant Panzanella Recipe
Eggplant is a natural for the grill because of its dense and sturdy interior, which acts like a sponge and soaks up marinade, oil or butter, and smoky flavor. It’s also quick to prep because eggplant requires no precooking (see Eggplant Panzanella and Grilled Eggplant Parmesan). Follow these steps for how to grill eggplant on your own gas or charcoal grill:
- Cut off the top and bottom ends. Peel eggplant, if desired, and cut into ½- to 1-inch slices. (You can halve small eggplants lengthwise instead of slicing.) Generously brush slices on all sides with olive oil, melted butter, or cooking oil (or use an oil-base marinade). This adds flavor and keeps the slices from sticking to the grill rack. Season as desired with herbs, salt, and black pepper.
- Place eggplant on a piece of heavy foil or directly on the grill rack.
For a charcoal grill: Place the eggplant on rack directly over medium coals. Grill, uncovered, about 8 minutes or until crisp-tender, turning occasionally.
For a gas grill: Preheat the grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place the eggplant on the grill rack directly over heat. Cover and grill about 8 minutes or until crisp-tender, turning occasionally.
Related: 5-Star Eggplant Recipes
How to Sauté Eggplant
One of the quickest fixes for how to cook eggplant is to use your stove to sauté it. (We’re fans of this different way to cook eggplant in many vegetarian entrées, like this Thai Eggplant with Basil and Tomatoes, or as a side, like in our Lamb with Eggplant Relish.)
- Brush slices of eggplant (using something like this Le Creuset Basting Brush, $12, Bed Bath & Beyond) with olive oil on all sides and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Place about ⅓ cup seasoned fine dry bread crumbs in a shallow dish. If desired, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese. Dip each slice of eggplant into the crumbs, coating thoroughly.
- In a large heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.
- Add the coated eggplant slices to the hot skillet, then cook for about 5 minutes per side or until golden.
How to Cook Eggplant in the Microwave
If you’re seeking the ultimate hands-off way to cook eggplant, turn to your microwave. It’s a good way to give the fruit a head start for blending into dips and sauces.
- Peel eggplant, if desired, and cut into ¾-inch cubes. Place cubes in a microwave-safe casserole or dish along with 2 tablespoons of water.
- Microwave, covered, on 100% power (high) for 6 to 8 minutes or until tender, stirring once.
Now that you’re a pro at five different ways to cook eggplant, you’ll be trading it for beef in tomato sauces, chicken in breaded Parmesan recipes, and so much more.