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This poor fruit (though known as a veggie) gained notoriety as a funny emoji, but it’s actually really delicious and good for you. Cooking eggplant remains a mystery for so many people, but it doesn’t have to be! Keep reading and learn how to make eggplant taste good. Once you discover a few of these secrets, it will become one of your favorite savory fruits.
Eggplant is one of the most overlooked types of food. It’s easy enough to grow, and you’ll find lots of it at farmer’s markets, but cooking it is a skill most people don’t understand. The hard thing about eggplant is that if you cook it wrong, it could come out either mushy or dry and resemble rubber.
It doesn’t have to be one of those veggies that you avoid! In fact, if you cook it correctly, eggplant can taste as delicious as summer squash or zucchini. It has natural sugars that give it sweeter notes than zucchini. It also absorbs any flavor you cook it with, so it’s a wonderful way to increase your recipes’ nutrition without changing them.
Today, I’ll be sharing a bunch more info on the eggplant and some cooking hacks you can try at home to make eggplant taste good!
What is eggplant?
Most people think eggplant is a vegetable, but it is technically a fruit because it grows from flowering plants and contains seeds. Think of it as much of a fruit as tomatoes and cucumbers!
Their names are the funniest thing about them – these long purple gourds don’t look at all like eggs. They are called eggplants because, in the 1700s, early European eggplant varieties had the same color, size, and shape as goose or chicken eggs.
Today, this meaty fruit comes in a bunch of different varieties (and I’ll explain the differences between them below). The most common kind found here in the United States is called a globe eggplant or American eggplant. They are deep purple and grow to be between 6-10 inches long.
Beyond the typical eggplants that you see in grocery stores, there are quite a few different varieties. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Check out some of the most popular eggplant varieties below:
- Chinese Eggplant: This one is long and narrow with purple skin and white flesh, and it isn’t as bitter as the American eggplant.
- Fairy Tale Eggplant: This has lovely purple and white striped skin with sweet and tender flesh.
- Graffiti or Zebra Eggplant: As you might imagine, this one also has purple and white stripes, but the purple is lighter than the fairy tale ones.
- Indian Eggplants: These are smaller, often resembling grapes or cherries.
- Italian Eggplant: This one looks a lot like the globe eggplant, but it is slightly smaller and sweeter.
- Japanese Eggplant: It looks very similar to the Chinese variety, but the coloring is much darker.
- Little Green Eggplant: As the name implies, it grows to be a light green shade. It also has a mild flavor and is creamier than other types of eggplant.
- Rosa Bianca: This variety has an almost pinkish shade and grows plump and round.
- Thai Eggplant: These look like mini watermelons. They are tiny, round, and have green stripes.
- White Eggplant: This heirloom variety looks nearly identical to the eggplant that grew in the 18th century.
How to make eggplant taste good
Stop avoiding or being intimated by this purple fruit. Eggplant can be super tasty; you just have to find the right recipe and know a few tricks! Follow these tips, and you’ll grow to enjoy eggplant as one of your favorite healthy foods.
Choose a good one
Before you even cook it, you must make sure you bring home the tastiest eggplant possible. The flavor won’t be quite right if it is too ripe or not ripe enough.
Squeeze the eggplant – this is the best way to tell whether it is good. It should feel slightly firm but not too hard. If you push on it with your fingers and it is too soft, don’t buy it.
Air fry it
Another way to make eggplant taste good is to bread and air fry it. Slice the eggplant into round pieces of the same size and coat them in Panko breadcrumbs, Italian spices, and parmesan cheese.
Air fry them for about 20 minutes at 370F. They should come out crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, just like breaded zucchini fries.
Roasted eggplant will come out slightly charred with sweet flesh. Slice the eggplant in half so you have two eggplant steaks. Then add salt and let it sit for half an hour.
After 30 minutes, rinse and dry the eggplant steaks and add your favorite Italian spices on top. Brush it with some olive oil and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes at 400F. Then, flip them over and roast them for another 20 minutes.
Caramelize the eggplant
Sauteeing eggplant on the stove makes the natural sugars caramelize, giving it a crispy exterior that is both smoky and sweet.
To make the eggplant taste best when you saute it, slice it thinly and then pat each slice dry with a paper towel. Next, sprinkle both sides of all slices with garlic powder, sea salt, and black pepper.
Drizzle about two tablespoons of olive oil into the bottom of your frying pan or skillet (be careful not to use too much). Then, saute the eggplant in the skillet for about 3 minutes on each side.
Cover it in oyster sauce
Whenever you cook eggplant, use oyster sauce! It has a strong umami flavor that fits well with the sweet notes in this purple fruit. It is a very thick sauce that caramelizes gorgeously on the eggplant as it cooks.
Stuff it with cheese
Have you ever made stuffed mushrooms or stuffed peppers? Make stuffed eggplant! Slice an eggplant in half and use a melon baller to scoop out the inside out. Then, fill it with soft cheese, some sausage, and Italian spices. The best filling for stuffed eggplant will be the same kind used for stuffed shells.
After you bake it, drizzle it with some marinara sauce!
Braise the eggplant
To braise something means to fry it a bit and then simmer it in a savory sauce with the lid on the skillet or saucepan. Braising involves both dry heat (frying it first) and wet heat (adding a lid on top to lock in the steam).
To braise eggplant, slice it into thin pieces and saute them in the skillet. Then, place the fried eggplant into a saucepan with tomato sauce, lower the heat, cover with a lid, and let it cook for about 20 minutes.
Soak it in milk
This is one of those best-kept secrets in cooking… When you soak cubed eggplant in milk, it is creamier and less bitter when it cooks. To do this, cube your eggplant, then place the eggplant cubes in a bowl and barely cover it with some whole milk. Let it sit in the milk for about 30 minutes.
Scoop out the seeds
Another way to help your eggplant taste less bitter when you cook it is to scoop out and throw away the seeds. Cut the eggplant in half, then use a melon baller or spoon to remove the seeds before you slice or cube it. Most of the bitter flavors are kept in the seeds. The flesh is actually quite mild (and a bit sweet too).
Grill the eggplant
Grilling eggplant is a popular way to prepare it because it gives it a smokier flavor, and the texture is usually really easy to perfect.
Just slice the eggplant into round pieces or thick strips. Season the eggplant pieces with some salt, pepper, and your favorite spices. Then, grill them just like you would squash or zucchini.
Use the right seasonings
A handful of herbs and spices pair the best with eggplant.
Whenever you cook eggplant, use either ginger, garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, oregano, Italian herbs, paprika, or a combination of them. These spices have the perfect balance of earthy flavors and sweet notes to enhance the natural nuttiness of the eggplant.
Half the battle of making eggplant taste good is using enough herbs. Don’t skimp on them – be generous!
Draw out the moisture
One of the best cooking tricks that people love to use to master the ideal texture of eggplant is to season it with salt before cooking it. This draws out the moisture, which prevents the eggplant from becoming too mushy as it cooks.
To do this properly, add quite a bit of salt to your eggplant slices – on all sides. Let it set for about thirty minutes. Then, use a paper towel to blot the slices and remove the remaining moisture from them.
Drizzle or brush with small amounts of oil
It’s very easy to use too much or not enough oil when you cook eggplant; either choice could make it mushy or rubbery.
If you use too much oil on your eggplant, the fruit will soak up the oil like a sponge and soften too much as it cooks. This is unappetizing. On the other hand, if you don’t use enough oil, the eggplant will be too dry and have the consistency of a car tire.
So, use a silicone pastry brush to apply olive oil directly to your eggplant slices to achieve the perfect balance of oil.
Is eggplant healthy?
Yes, eggplant is very nutritious!
It is a fantastic source of dietary fiber and potassium (which is good for your heart). It also has lots of vitamins and antioxidants in it. Vitamin A is good for your eyes, and the vitamin C in eggplant boosts your immune system. It also has lots of polyphenols in it. These plant chemicals help cells process sugar from food.
How long does fresh eggplant last?
A fresh eggplant will last about three days in the pantry or on the countertop. It will last about seven days if you keep it in the refrigerator.
Can you freeze fresh eggplant?
Yes, you can freeze fresh eggplant. First, slice the eggplant into 1-inch round pieces. Then, place these round slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake the eggplant for about 15 minutes at 350F. Then, let them cool completely. Place the slices in a freezer-safe food storage bag and separate them with wax paper (so they don’t freeze together). Label them with the date and keep them in the freezer for up to six months.
Do you need to peel eggplant?
Eggplant peel is safe and non-toxic to eat, but it isn’t the best-tasting thing in the world. Most people prefer to peel it before they cook with it.
How do you prepare eggplant before cooking?
You need to do a few things to eggplant before you cook them. First, trim the top and bottom and throw these parts away. Next, peel the eggplant. Then, slice it into the shape you need based on the recipe you will be using. Some people salt eggplant before cooking it. Others prefer to soak it first.
What is the healthiest way to cook eggplant?
The healthiest way to cook eggplant is to add just a small amount of salt and pepper and some fresh herbs and then bake or roast the sliced eggplant in the oven. Some people think eating raw veggies is the healthiest way, but you can still enjoy baked or roasted eggplant and get the same vitamins and minerals.
Why do you soak eggplant before cooking it?
Some people prefer to soak cubed eggplant in some milk before cooking it because it makes it creamier and cuts down on some bitterness. The eggplant flesh acts like a sponge, soaking up the milk.
More kitchen resources
If you enjoyed learning how to make eggplant taste better, here are some more helpful kitchen resources you might enjoy next.