When perusing through the produce section at the grocery store most people tend to gravitate towards vegetables like broccoli and carrots, while overlooking the eggplants. Incredibly versatile and packed with nutrients, eggplants make for the perfect addition to your grocery list.
Eggplant can seem a little daunting, but when prepared right it’s absolutely delicious. Its soft, meaty flesh allows for eggplant to be cooked in many different ways. You can bake it into a lasagna, mash it into a dip, grill it into burgers, braise it for a ratatouille, or stuff it with a mouthwatering filling.
Benefits of Eggplant
Eggplants are a member of the nightshade family and are most closely related to the tomato and potato. While eggplants are used in recipes all over the world, many people don’t know how nutritious they are. Technically classified as a berry but most often eaten as a vegetable, eggplants are packed with health benefits. Some of the amazing benefits of eggplants are:
- Nutrient-dense. Eggplants are rich in nutrients like manganese, potassium, folate, Vitamin K, and Vitamin C.
- Antioxidant-rich. Eggplants contain a high amount of antioxidants, which help protect the body from disease.
- Promotes blood sugar control. The high content of fiber found in eggplants can help to lower your blood sugar by slowing the rate of sugar absorption in the body.
- May reduce the risk of heart disease. Studies show that the antioxidant content in eggplants can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Aids in weight loss. Being low in calories and high in fiber makes eggplants an excellent vegetable to aid in weight loss. Eggplant is often used as a low-calorie swap in recipes, like eggplant parmesan for example.
- May have cancer-fighting benefits. There are several substances found in eggplants that are believed to help fight against cancer cells.
How to Select and Store Eggplant
Once an eggplant has ripened past its peak it can begin to get increasingly bitter, so it’s important to pick the right one. You’ll want to select the eggplant that has shiny, smooth skin and springs back when lightly squeezed. The eggplant’s stem should be green and healthy-looking. If you have an eggplant that you don’t end up eating before the skin starts to look wrinkled, don’t fret, you can still enjoy it! Simply peel away the skin and continue to cook as planned.
Eggplants are sensitive to cold, so keeping them stored in a pantry at room temperature is best. They also need room to breathe, so don’t keep them stored in a sealed bag or closed container. When you buy an eggplant try to have a plan in mind for it, as it’ll only maintain optimum ripeness for about three days after buying. To best protect your eggplant, keep it away from fruits like tomatoes and melons that give off ethylene and speed up the ripening process of the eggplant.
How do you know when an eggplant has gone bad?
Eggplants are delicious, but choosing one that has ripened beyond its peak can ruin the great flavor and leave you with a bitter taste instead. Avoid eggplants that have:
- Dried-out, brown stems
- Soft spots or bruises
- Wrinkly, withered skin
How to Prepare Eggplant
Eggplant can be grilled, roasted, baked, deep-fried, or stir-fried, but it must be prepared the right way before it can be cooked. Eggplants contain a naturally-occurring enzyme that can leave a bitter aftertaste if not prepared properly. That being said, it’s simple to prepare and well worth the effort to obtain the deliciously sweet and smoky nuttiness of the eggplant.
The key to properly preparing your eggplant is to add salt to remove the bitter enzyme it contains. You’ll need to slice your eggplant into rounds before salting it thoroughly, then allow it to sit for at least twenty minutes. After this time, the enzymes will have been denatured and you can wipe the remaining salt off the eggplant rounds.
Are you supposed to soak eggplant before cooking?
Many people swear by soaking eggplants in milk before cooking them. While this isn’t necessary in preparing your eggplant, milk has been known to temper the natural bitterness in the eggplant. Cutting your eggplant into rounds and soaking it in milk for anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour and a half prior to cooking can also make it extra creamy because eggplants absorb the milk into their flesh.
If time allows, soaking your eggplant can help make it taste even better in the long run. If you choose to utilize this method when preparing your eggplant, it’s important to pat it dry afterwards to extract as much liquid as possible before cooking. The goal is to achieve a mouthwatering texture and the natural smoky nuttiness of the eggplant.
How do you cook eggplant without it getting soggy?
Eggplant can be a delicious addition to your table whether you’re eating for one or hosting a dinner party, but it can be a bit daunting to cook because if prepared improperly, it has a tendency of turning out soggy. However, don’t let this scare you off. There are three simple ways to ensure that your eggplant won’t get soggy when cooked:
- Sweat it out. Make sure to salt your eggplant for a minimum of 20-30 minutes. Not only does salting it remove the eggplant’s bitterness, but it also extracts the moisture which helps to prevent the vegetable from getting soggy.
- Pat it dry. In addition to salting your eggplant, make sure to use paper towels or kitchen towels to pat the eggplant dry before cooking to remove any excess moisture from the vegetable.
- Give it room. Giving your eggplant room while cooking is key to achieving a really beautiful caramelization and avoiding soggy eggplant. When you crowd your eggplant, whether on the stove or in the oven, you end up steaming it rather than caramelizing it.
Eggplant for Breakfast
You may not have thought of eggplant as a breakfast vegetable before, but there are a number of delicious ways to incorporate eggplant into any breakfast or brunch.
Here are some ideas:
- Baked Eggplant Frittata which uses eggplant as a healthier alternative for the potatoes traditionally used in frittatas.
- Roasted Eggplant with Baked Eggs. Baking eggs in different foods is a popular trend in the health food community, so it’s no surprise eggplant has joined in on the fun!
- Mini Eggplant Breakfast Pizzas for a healthy brunch dish that your guests won’t be able to get enough of
- Eggplant Shakshuka for a delicious brunch that packs a punch of flavor and is packed with nutrients
- Sweet Potato and Eggplant Hash, a healthy and flavor-packed breakfast filled with complex carbs, protein, and fiber.
- Eggplant Benedict, a tasty play on the classic eggs benedict recipe.
- Eggplant Omelet, also called tortang talong, is a filipino breakfast featuring charred eggplant battered with egg and pan-fried.
Eggplant for Lunch
High in fiber and low in calories, eggplants make the perfect star of any healthy and delicious lunch to keep you satisfied until dinner.
Here are some ideas:
- Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches that are sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
- Chickpea and Eggplant Salad. Pairing high-fiber eggplant with high-fiber chickpeas guarantees a nutritious meal that will taste delicious and keep you full.
- Open-Face Grilled Eggplant Sandwiches, similar to caprese sandwiches but with the addition of deliciously grilled eggplant.
- Sabich, an Israeli street food staple and a delicious vegan eggplant sandwich recipe.
- Mediterranean Eggplant Wraps that can be made in batches for the perfect lunch all week long.
- Eggplant Pizza, a clever recipe where eggplant replaces bread for a healthier version of a family-favorite.
- Roasted Eggplant Salad with smoked almonds and goat cheese, a delicious salad you’ll want to eat straight out of the oven.
Eggplant for Dinner
Whether you’re vegan, health-conscious, or just looking to switch things up, eggplant is an excellent addition to any dinner for you and your family.
Here are some ideas:
- Eggplant Parmesan, it’s an Italian classic for a reason!
- Greek-Style Eggplant Stew for a vegan-friendly recipe the whole family can enjoy.
- Baba Ganoush, a tasty vegan eggplant dip featuring roasted eggplant and tahini.
- Eggplant Casserole. Vegetarians and meat lovers alike will come together to devour this delicious cheesy casserole.
- Eggplant Lasagna that makes for the perfect low-carb alternative to the classic lasagna.
- Grilled Eggplant with Garlic Vinaigrette. This mouthwatering recipe makes for the perfect side dish to any meal and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
- Thai Basil Eggplant, a vegan and gluten-free recipe that you can make in under thirty minutes.
- Eggplant Roll-Ups filled with herbed ricotta and marinara sauce for a child-approved meal that’s fun to make and even more fun to eat.
- Eggplant Penne, where eggplant and penne are married in a delectable tomato sauce for the perfect healthy dinner.
If you’re looking for even more delicious eggplant recipes, here are 27 more that will have you running to the grocery store in no time.