The gloriously purple eggplant is so misunderstood! Most people have experienced badly-cooked eggplant at least once and that’s often why they don’t want to give it a second chance. Give it another try with our cooking tips and easy eggplant recipes! Eggplant is an incredibly versatile vegetable and terrific grilled, steamed, roasted, and fried.
Choosing the Right Eggplant
We call eggplant a vegetable, but it’s actually a berry! There are many varieties of eggplants, but what you’ll usually find in the grocery store is the large, purple, meaty “globe” eggplant.
The best eggplants are young and tender; it’s only when eggplants get old or overgrown that they can taste bitter. Frankly, it’s the same for a lot of vegetables; older ones can be more bitter.
Pick an eggplant that is shiny and firm but with some give. When you gently press into it, the skin should give a little and then spring back. Store it in the produce drawer of your fridge if you aren’t going to cook it immediately, but do not store more than a few days for best taste.
Do You Eat the Skin?
Yes, we eat the edible purple skin! When eggplant is young and tender (as it should be), the skin is edible and does not have to be peeled. Plus, the purple skin is where all of those wonderful antioxidants and nutrients are! However, if your eggplant is older and the skin feels tougher, then consider peeling it, as the skin of old eggplant can get bitter.
A young eggplant should have small, soft and edible seeds which do not have to be removed. However, if the seeds are brown, remove them. This is an older eggplant and brown seeds can be bitter.
With most recipes, you want the skin on anyways, as it will hold the eggplant together. The exception is if you’re making a dip, where you want it to be smooth.
Do You Salt Your Eggplant?
Some folks may find this controversial, but people oversalt eggplant. It may be easy for us to say, because garden-grown eggplant is so tender, but oversalting is unecessary.
- Why we wouldn’t salt: If you have a young, tender eggplant, there is really no reason to salt if you are roasting or grilling it. A little seasoning is fine, but heavy salting is unnecessary.
- Why we would salt: If you have an older eggplant, salting will draw out liquid that can otherwise make the eggplant bitter, improving the texture and flavor. Also, you’ll need to salt if you are frying eggplant to improve the texture. (Note that fried eggplant is what also can make eggplant feel heavy because it’s soaking up all the grease and fat!)
To salt: Cut the eggplant right before cooking (as its flesh will quickly discolor). Then generously coat the pieces with salt and let it sit in a strainer over the sink for about an hour. This will let the liquid drain out. Make sure you rinse it off and pat it dry before you cook it.
You also may find that you don’t need to salt your eggplant if you are working with Chinese or Japanese varieties. Feel free to try it salted and unsalted to find what works for you.
Now that you know more about how to prep this wonderful plant, keep reading for some great ideas on how to cook it.
8 Easy Eggplant Recipes
This is our favorite way to cook eggplant now! The eggplant gets caramelized and tender in the oven and it’s so addicting!
If you’re introducing kids or folks to eggplant who aren’t sure about the purple vegetable, everyone likes eggplant fries
This is a great way to pack lots of protein into a statisfying and healthy meal.
This eggplant recipe contains three different cheeses and is sure to convert anyone who claims not to like eggplant.
This eggplant hoagie recipe is the perfect summer sandwich. Two of our editors who don’t care for eggplant thought it was delicious!
Eggplant is wonderful grilled! Just slice, season, grill, and serve!
A kind of mix between a vegetable stew and ratatouille, this dish has a refreshing, light spice and creates a delicious broth.
Similar to the popular Middle Eastern dip called baba ganoush, this should be served with crisp pita chips or sesame crackers.
Interested in growing your own eggplant! Homegrown eggplant is the most tender and flavorful. See the Almanac’s Eggplant Growing Guide.