Recipes

Eggplant Appetizers: 5 Easy Options

4 Mins read
Eggplant cut

The eggplant is a versatile ingredient that can be used with a wider variety of ingredients. This is due to the fruit’s flesh being able to absorb flavors and aromas during the cooking process. If you have ever cooked with an eggplant, you will know the flesh is spongy and can hold a lot of liquid or oil. This ability makes cooking with eggplant a good option, as the opportunity to season and add flavors is endless. 

Eggplant appetizers are based on the cuisine type, the temperature you are serving them at, and of course, the seasonality of the eggplant themselves. Eggplants require subtropical temperatures, so they are most available in the late spring and early summer months. This article will break down some delicious eggplant appetizers you should consider making the next time you are making a meal and want to include eggplant in your offerings. 

Eggplant appetizer

General Rules For Cooking Eggplant

Knowing some general rules on eggplant cooking can save you time and offer you the best outcome when it comes to flavor. Below are some general guidelines on cooking eggplant you should follow when working with the appetizers. 

Be Sure To Use The Correct Amount Of Fat

Eggplant is notorious for soaking up fat when being cooked in a pan, like when using a saute method. Ensuring you use enough fat during cooking will give it the medium to cook properly. If you do not use enough fat, such as olive oil, when cooking, the eggplant will soak it all up and not heat through properly. This will cause dry or even undercooked pieces. On the flip side, using too much fat will make it soggy. Be sure to follow recipes, and do not fear how much fat is used when cooking eggplant. 

Cutting To Early

Eggplants are notorious for oxidizing very quickly. When exposed to air, it is normal to expect some flesh browning for eggplants. If you let cut eggplant sit too long without any preparation, it will turn brown and produce an offputting color, and if left long enough, some off-flavors. It is better to cut an eggplant when you use it to avoid this and to eat the freshest eggplant possible. 

Knowing When To Peel

The last piece of info that you should know before cooking eggplant is when to leave the skins on or peel them. Older eggplant will have very tough skins, and some will be borderline inedible. It is these eggplants in which you should peel the skins and avoid eating. Younger eggplants have softer, more tender skins and are a great addition when prepared. Feel free to eat these with the skins on. 

Popular Eggplant Appetizers

Baba Ganoush

Baba Ganoush recipe
Image: Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

This Lebanese dish is often served at room temperature and is popular for its smoky taste and its spreadability on a variety of different main dishes. Baba Ganoush. This appetizer uses chopped and roasted eggplant, lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, and various seasonings. The eggplant is often broiled or charred, with the skin then removed. This leaves the flesh with a delicious smoky taste. Baba Ganoush is usually served with labneh, fresh pita bread, or flatbread. 

Caponata

Eggplant Caponata Recipe
Image: The Mediterranean Dish

Caponata is an eggplant appetizer originally from Sicily. It is fried eggplant and other summer veg seasoned with olive oil, tomato sauce, celery, capers, and onions in an agrodolce sauce. Caponata has some variations but is often seen as a relish or a warm eggplant side that can be served in numerous applications. Spreading this on fresh bread or serving it with roasted chicken or fish is often the best way to enjoy this dish. It hits on many flavor notes, but the eggplant fried with tomatoes and acidic ingredients makes this dish popular. 

Eggplant Rollatini

eggplant rollatini recipe
Image: A Simple Palate

Another great appetizer utilizing the eggplant is eggplant rollatini. This dish consists of cooked eggplant stuffed and rolled up with a filling and baked in an oven. One of the most popular ways to prepare them is to bread and fry eggplant slices. Then, layer ricotta cheese, tomato sauce, and other fillings on the sliced eggplant, roll it up and bake it in the oven. You could also grill or saute the slices of eggplant and change up the filling. There are many variations on this crowd-pleasing eggplant appetizer.

Zaalouk

Zaalouk Recipe
Image: The Spruce Eats / Ashlae Warner

Zaalouk is a Moroccan appetizer that consists of roasted eggplant and tomatoes. This dish is known as a “cooked salad” and can be served either hot or cold. Cooked eggplant and tomatoes are blended with herbs such as cilantro and parsley and spices such as cumin and paprika. Salt and lemon juice finish this dish off. This dip can be served with toasted bread, pita dip, or your favorite vegetables. 

Grilled Eggplant

Grilled eggplant recipe
Image: every last bite

Grilled eggplant is one of the simplest yet best ways to enjoy it. Simply slice the eggplant, heat your grill, and season the eggplant with your favorite seasonings. A mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, salt, and pepper is a popular way to prepare Grilled Eggplant. Finding fresh, young eggplant is critical with this appetizer. You will cut and grill the eggplant with the skin on, offering a charred outer layer and a creamy interior. Be sure to try this out as a summer appetizer the next time you fire up the grill. 

Eggplant Appetizers and Their Versatility

As you can see, we have only touched on a few of the many eggplant appetizer recipes out there. The ability eggplant has to be seasoned and cooked makes it so easy to go into different cuisines and flavor profiles. Be sure to try out other appetizer recipes to find your favorite!

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About author
Ray Delucci is a chef and content creator with over 10 years of experience in the restaurant industry. He has worked managing restaurants, in food manufacturing and food product development. He is also the creator of Line Cook Thoughts, a podcast and social media brand focused on sharing the thoughts of everyday cooks in the food world. He is currently located in the Greater Chicago Area.
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