I must confess, I have a bit of a mini-crush on eggplant these days. Several months ago I acquired a new cookbook that focuses on Jerusalem cuisine (Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi). I have tried several tasty recipes from it, not the least of which was a lamb and pine-nut stuffed eggplant. It is delicious!
And thus began my search for other ways to prepare eggplant. I had never eaten eggplant much before. Did other people use eggplant like this? Were there other ways I could prepare it? Other mixtures I could stuff it with? I found, not unsurprisingly, that this was certainly the case. Eggplant is used in many ways by many people across the globe. It was in fact just new to me. Part of my expanding kitchen repertoire! 🙂
As I researched online I found that many of the “stuffed eggplant” recipes I came across were a play on Eggplant Parmesan. Which is delicious, of course, but not quite what I was looking for. I wanted a way to build a full meal around stuffed eggplant, and for us that means some type of protein, other than lots of cheese, needs to be included.
Stuffed Eggplant Inspiration
For a while now, one of our staple meals has been stuffed bell peppers. Some combination of meat, spices, sometimes beans or a grain. Cook it all together, then stuff it into the pepper and bake. (I’ve even done this on the Traeger! Follow this link for more on Traeger cooking…) I decided to take that stuffed pepper idea as my inspiration, and build something similar for my stuffed eggplant filling.
The one piece that remained was how to prep the eggplant. In that lamb recipe I mentioned, the eggplant is roasted for a while, the filling is added, and then the whole dish is baked for over an hour. I wanted something a little simpler and quicker for a “weekday dinner stuffed eggplant.”
Then in my recipe searching I came across another stuffed eggplant recipe in a Greek cookbook I have (Greece, by Vefa Alexiadou). The “prep” method for the eggplant outlined in that recipe was perfect! Cut the eggplant in half length-wise, slice the flesh 3-4 times but not through the skin, salt, let drain 30-60 minutes. Then fry on the stove top for 6-8 minutes until browned, and set aside until ready to stuff with the filling. I decided to use this as the prep method for my stuffed eggplant.
Deciding on the Flavor Profile
For my flavor profile, I decided to go with a southwestern flare. That’s often the direction I lean with the stuffed bell peppers, and it always seems to work well. I have a yummy taco seasoning I mixed up a few weeks ago that I decided to use as the flavor base, and I built up from there.
So there you have it – an inspired stuffed eggplant recipe, pulled from perusing cookbooks, and my own experience. I hope you get a chance to enjoy this nontraditional stuffed eggplant recipe! It serves up well with a side of farro (our favorite!), quinoa, or rice.
If you are interested in a low carb version, or want to turn this into a Medifast “lean and green” meal, see the notes at the end of the recipe.
- Saute pan
- Baking dish or cookie sheet
- 2 eggplants (~1 pound each)
- 5 oz ground beef
- 6 oz ground turkey
- ¾ cup bell pepper (diced)
- ½ cup yellow onion (diced)
- 1 clove garlic (minced)
- 1 14oz can diced tomatoes (undrained)
- 1 small jalapeno (diced, leave in seeds for extra spice)
- 1 egg white (or 3 tablespoons liquid egg whites)
- ¼ cup panko bread crumbs (optional)
- ¼ cup shredded cheese (I like a Mexican blend but any will work)
- EVOO (for sauteing)
- 1 tbsp taco seasoning (plus more to taste, click here for recipe)
Prep the Eggplant
- Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise.
- Make 3-4 cuts in the eggplant flesh, being careful not to cut through the skin.
- Salt liberally – rubbing into the flesh, and coating the tops.
- Set in a colander to drain for 30-60 minutes.
Pan-Roast the Eggplant
- Rinse the eggplants thoroughly with cold water and pat dry.
- Heat a skillet, add EVOO (a couple tablespoons so the bottom of the pan is coated), and lay the eggplants in.
- Cook, turning a couple times, until browned and softened. The flesh may even swell up and burst a bit in the centers.
- Drain on paper towels, and then place flesh side up in baking dish or on a cookie sheet.
Make the Filling
- Using the pan the eggplant just came from, add the diced onion, pepper, and jalapeno, with a dash of salt, and cook until mostly softened.
- Add the minced garlic and stir for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
- Add in the ground meats, and cook until browned.
- If there is excess grease at this point, soak it from the pan with paper towels before continuing.
- Add in the can of diced tomatoes – including liquid.
- Sprinkle in the taco seasoning – start with 1 tablespoon, stir in, and then adjust to taste – more seasoning, extra salt/pepper, as needed.
- Simmer for ~ 5 minutes, until slightly thickened and the flavors have had a chance to meld.
- Remove from heat, and add in the egg white. Stir thoroughly. This just adds a little extra binding to the filling, you can omit if desired. Be sure you stir in quickly so you don't end up with scrambled eggs!
- Make an indent in the eggplant flesh by pushing in with a spoon. If needed, scoop out some of the flesh.
- Scoop the meat filling into the eggplant halves, dividing evenly, and piling high.
- Add about an inch hot water to the baking dish.
- Cover, and bake at 350F for 20-30 minutes.
- After 20-30 minutes, mix together the bread crumbs and cheese, uncover the eggplant, sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top, and switch to broil for a few minutes until lightly browned and melty.
- Let the eggplants sit for at least 10 minutes to rest and cool slightly, before serving.