Clever Tips for Preparing Eggplant to Perfection

When to pick it, how to store it, and five cooking techniques to make it even tastier.

Eggplant is one of those veggies that many cooks may find daunting. It feels like there are a lot of rules (and a lot of steps) involved in cooking eggplant to make it delicious—and to avoid a slimy, bitter mess. But learning how to cook with eggplant isn't exactly mission impossible.

From choosing a good eggplant to preparing it, here's everything you need to know, plus a few cooking techniques to help you make the humble eggplant a lot more wow-worthy in your favorite eggplant recipes.

When to Pick Eggplant

Eggplant season is July through October. Look for eggplants that have smooth, shiny skin and are firm with a little bit of give—a really soft eggplant is past its prime. One of the key ways to tell if an eggplant is bad is to look at the stem. If it's moldy, steer clear.

When it comes to size, go small if you can. Big eggplants tend to have a tougher skin—which may need to be peeled off—and a more bitter flavor than smaller eggplants.

How to cook eggplant - guide and tips to cooking eggplant (eggplant)
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How to Prepare Eggplant

Wondering whether you can eat eggplant raw? It's OK in small quantities, but it's better if eggplant is cooked. Traditionally, prepping eggplant for cooking required a number of time-consuming steps (salting, rinsing...). Instead, use these strategies to ensure perfect eggplant with minimal fuss.

Cut and Peel

Eggplant can be a low-maintenance prep kind of veggie. You might simply need to cut to the desired shape (round slices, long strips, or a dice)—or just pierce the skin with a fork and roast it.

If your eggplant is larger and has a tougher skin (or you're just not a fan of eating eggplant skin), you can peel eggplant with a vegetable peeler or paring knife.

Salt (If You Want)

It's traditional to salt eggplant before you cook it—a technique that started way back when to reduce the bitterness and help draw out moisture.

But eggplants today (especially if you pick smaller ones) aren't as bitter, so it's only really necessary for frying and other cooking techniques where the moisture content really matters.

If you want to salt the eggplant before you cook it, slice it into rounds or dice the eggplant as needed for your recipe, then lay the pieces out on a paper towel, salt generously, and layer it with more paper towels (and perhaps a heavy pan to weigh it down). Let it sit for 45 minutes, then rinse the eggplant to wash away the excess salt and bitter liquid.

Don't Skimp on the Oil

Eggplant acts like a sponge when it cooks, so it'll soak up a lot of cooking liquid. Follow the recipe's liquid measurements precisely to make sure you get the texture just right.

Marinate for More Flavor

Eggplant can give you the same texture as meat for your meatless Monday recipes and has a mild flavor that can easily pair with any flavors you bring into the dish—whether Mediterranean or a hearty Indian curry. Go ahead and marinate eggplant in your favorite flavor combo to see what this veggie can do.

How to Store Eggplant

Raw eggplant can be stored in the fridge for about a week. But you can actually freeze eggplant, as long as it's been roasted and pureed. (You can also freeze dishes like miso eggplant dip.)

5 Ways to Cook Eggplant

Fried or baked eggplant is delicious, but it's not the only way to cook eggplant. Try it sautéed, stir-fried, grilled, or broiled.

01 of 05

Baking

Eggplant Parmesan Rollatini
There’s no pasta in this comforting baked casserole—just layers of eggplant, marinara sauce, and cheese. Get the recipe. Jonny Valiant

One of the most popular baked eggplant recipes is eggplant parmesan, with its layers of mozzarella and marinara mixed in with the eggplant. But eggplant can also be baked into a healthier take on French fries.

Recipe to try: Eggplant Parmesan Rollatini

02 of 05

Roasting

Easy eggplant recipes - grilled eggplant recipes and roasted eggplant recipes and more

To roast eggplant in the oven, preheat the oven to 475 F, toss, brush, or drizzle your cut eggplant with olive oil, and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until the eggplant is tender, 18 to 20 minutes.

Recipe to try: Roasted Eggplant With Miso and Sesame Seeds

03 of 05

Grilling

Grilled Eggplant With Parsley and Pine Nuts
Marinate the eggplant in olive oil, red wine vinegar, and fennel seed to add a pop of flavor. Get the recipe. Paul Sirisalee

Eggplant's meaty texture makes it a natural for cooking on the grill, whether you're cooking it outdoors or on an indoor grill pan—and grilling gives eggplant a great smoky flavor. For grilled eggplant, rounds are most common, though you could also include eggplant cubes on kebabs or tossed with other veggies and grilled in aluminum foil or a reusable grill-friendly pouch. However you slice it, brush or drizzle the eggplant with olive oil before you add it to the grill. Next, simply cook the eggplant until it softens and browns, about five minutes per side.

Recipe to try: Grilled Eggplant and Smoked Mozzarella Melts

04 of 05

Sautéeing

Eggplant and tofu stir-fry served on a white plate, topped with torn basil leaves.
José Picayo

Sautéed eggplant makes a great addition to curries and stir-fries, where it can take the place of meat. The eggplant can be cubed or cut into rounds, depending on your preference. To cook eggplant in a pan on the stove, simply heat olive oil in a pan over medium or medium-high. Once the oil is hot, add the eggplant and cook until the eggplant is tender, around five to seven minutes.

If you want your eggplant to have a slightly browned finish, allow it to cook without stirring for a few minutes; once the eggplant cubes or rounds are lightly browned, stir occasionally until tender. Add more olive oil as needed if the eggplant sticks or browns too easily.

Recipe to try: Eggplant and Tofu Stir Fry

05 of 05

Broiling

Healthy Superbowl Recipes: Quick Broiled Eggplant Dip
The broiler mimics the direct, searing heat of a grill, so ingredients like eggplant get a charred, smoky flavor while the insides stay soft. For optimal browning, place the rack 4 inches (for an electric oil) or 6 inches (for a gas flame) from the heat source. Serve the dip with a variety of veggies. Get the recipe:Quick Broiled Eggplant Dip. Marcus Nilsson

If you'd like to broil your eggplant, prepare the eggplant as needed for your recipe—either by slicing it, dicing it, or piercing an uncut eggplant with a fork—and heat the broiler to high. Set the oven rack 6 inches below the broiler (more if the eggplant comes close to the broiler) and cook until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

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