5 Ways to Cook Eggplant

Because eggplant is so hearty, it makes an ideal meat substitute or side dish. Learn how to cook it in a variety of ways, including on the grill, roasting, sautéing, and in the microwave.

Rich in fiber and cancer-fighting antioxidants and low in calories (just 20 per cup), eggplant is one of the most versatile vehicles for sneaking extra nutrition into the diets of picky eaters and produce-lovers alike. Its sturdy texture and mild flavor allow for several different methods of cooking, including breading, baking, and so much more. Although eggplants can be found at supermarkets year-round, peak season is July through October. So in late summer, you'll want to keep these tips on how to prepare eggplant handy. We've rounded up your complete guide for the best ways to cook eggplant.

Eggplants sitting on paper on table
Andy Lyons

How to Choose the Best Eggplant

When you think of eggplant, you probably envision the large pear-shaped or cylindrical varieties 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-skinned eggplant that's heavy for its size and has 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.

Eggplant being peeled on wooden table
Blaine Moats

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 with the peel still on (like eggplant or apples), it's important to wash 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, $11, Target) or paring knife to remove the skin. The flesh discolors soon after peeling, so only peel eggplants right before using.

Here's how to prepare eggplant for cooking: Cut off the top and blossom ends, then cut the eggplant into ½-inch slices or ¾-inch cubes, unless your recipe states otherwise. A 1-pound eggplant equals 5 cups cubed.

Some chefs recommend salting eggplants before using. While this isn't essential, it does help tame the bitter flavor, especially on 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 them with more paper towels and a plate to weigh them down. Let them 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, 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:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan with foil or lightly grease pan.
  2. 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 in the oil mixture and transfer to the prepared pan.
  3. 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 cooking them in an oven. 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 it lengthwise. Scoop out most of the flesh, 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 cooking methods:

  • To bake stuffed eggplant, place the filled 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 the halves in a foil pack and grill, covered, 20 to 25 minutes, or until tender.
Eggplant Panzanella
Andy Lyons

How to Grill Eggplant

Eggplant is a natural for the grill, due to 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 since it requires no precooking. Follow these steps for how to grill eggplant on your own gas or charcoal grill:

  1. Cut off the top and bottom ends, and if you like, peel the skin. Then cut the flesh into ½- to 1-inch slices. You can halve small eggplants lengthwise instead of slicing. Generously brush the slices on all sides with olive oil, melted butter, or cooking oil (or use an oil-based marinade). This adds flavor and keeps the slices from sticking to the grill rack. Season as desired with herbs, salt, and black pepper.
  2. Place the eggplant slices on a piece of heavy foil or directly on the grill rack.

For a charcoal grill: Place the eggplant on the rack directly over medium coals. Grill, uncovered, about 8 minutes or until crisp-tender, turning occasionally.

For a gas grill: Preheat the grill. Reduce the heat to medium. Place the eggplant on the grill rack directly over the heat. Cover and grill about 8 minutes or until crisp-tender, turning occasionally.

How to Sauté Eggplant

One of the quickest fixes for cooking eggplant is to sauté it. We're fans of this different way to cook eggplant in many vegetarian entrées or as a side.

  1. Brush slices of eggplant (using something like this Le Creuset Basting Brush,$13, Bed Bath & Beyond) with olive oil on all sides and sprinkle them with salt and black pepper. Place about ⅓ cup seasoned fine dry bread crumbs in a shallow dish. If you like, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese. Dip each slice of eggplant into the crumbs, coating it thoroughly.
  2. In a large heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the coated eggplant slices to the hot skillet, then cook them 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.

  1. Peel the eggplant, if desired, and cut it into ¾-inch cubes. Place the cubes in a microwave-safe casserole or dish, along with 2 tablespoons of water.
  2. 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.

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