Stuffed eggplant, with all of its comforting and aromatic ingredients, makes for a wonderfully healthy and filling meal, complete with a lovely presentation—always a nice little perk when it comes to food!
Stuffed Eggplant, a Lovely Piece of Stuffed… Fruit?
Eggplant is one of my all-time favorite—wait, is eggplant a vegetable? A fruit? I suppose I could just call it a piece of “produce”—a nice general descriptor—and leave it at that.
But because I'd like to be as accurate as possible for you here, I researched what family eggplant actually belongs to. And believe it or not, it's considered a fruit, and part of the nightshade family.
So I guess I would say that eggplant is one of my favorite fruits, in that case.
But no matter its official classification, I treat it like I would a vegetable, and prepare it in all sorts of scrumptious ways to make for a savory meal.
I love my eggplant cut into chunks and drizzled with a touch of olive oil, plus some herbs and spices, and caramelized until charred and soft (perhaps with some tomatoes) to make a chutney. I also love it sliced, breaded and lightly fried, and turned into this delectable and crispy eggplant burger.
More recently I've fallen utterly in love with another tasty little presentation: stuffed eggplant.
But it's safe to say I enjoy eggplant any way I can get it!
With Stuffed Eggplant, the Options Are Endless
Part of the joy of preparing a recipe like stuffed eggplant is that the sky's the limit when it comes to ingredients.
You can go completely vegetarian, or you can add a little of your favorite ground meat—beef, chicken, turkey, or even sausage. And it's up to you whether you'd prefer to use rice, quinoa, farro, barely, or another type of grain as part of the filling.
Mixing and matching filling ingredients for your stuffed eggplant is the fun and creative part. For me, I love the flavors of middle eastern cuisine—the warm spices and other interesting ingredients like tahini. So I created my recipe for stuffed eggplant with that flavor profile in mind.
I used a little lean ground beef in my filling for the protein, along with fragrant basmati rice, some ground cumin, coriander, a pinch of cinnamon, and paprika for color and kick. I also added some chopped cherry tomatoes for juiciness, and fresh herbs like mint and parsley for a fresh note.
And since stuffed eggplant can always benefit from a delicious sauce drizzled over top to tie all the flavors together, I used a little of that tahini to create a savory and spicy garlic tahini sauce with a kiss of lemon.
Served with some spicy greens on the side, this meal is one of my all-time favorites, and I hope it becomes one of yours as well—especially if you're a bit of an “eggplant head” like me!
Tips & Tidbits for Stuffed Eggplant:
- What kind of eggplant to use: Use traditional eggplant for this, and look for ones that are medium-large and rather longer than rounder—these are easier to scoop and fill, and make for a pretty presentation.
- Choose your protein: Ground beef is my choice for this, but feel free to use turkey, chicken, spicy or sweet sausage, or even ground lamb, another great option.
- Go vegetarian: Feel free to leave out the meat completely if you'd prefer to go the vegetarian route.
- Other filling options: I use basmati rice for my filling, but you could also use brown rice, quinoa, barley, or couscous—anything that you prefer.
- Where to find tahini: Tahini is a sesame paste used in middle eastern cuisine, similar in consistency to almond or peanut butter, and is typically found with those nut butters, or possibly in the International Foods section of your local market. But if you can't find it, just leave it out and the sauce will still be super flavorful!
Feast your eyes on these, or just jump to the recipe:
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Spicy Garlic Tahini Sauce Ingredients:
• ½ cup plain, low-fat Greek yogurt
• 2 tablespoons tahini paste
• 6 cloves garlic
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or your desired amount)
• 3 tablespoons water
Stuffed Eggplant Ingredients:
• 1 teaspoon paprika
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 2 eggplants, cut in half length-wise and center scooped out leaving about 1” border all around
• Olive oil (about 4 tablespoons, divided use)
• Black pepper
• 1 small onion, finely diced
• ½ pound lean ground beef (or turkey, chicken, lamb, or sausage)
• 4 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
• 1 ½ cups cooked basmati rice (you can get this from ½ cup uncooked rice cooked with ¾ cup water)
• ½ cup chopped cherry tomatoes
• 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
• 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint leaves, plus a couple extra leaves for garnish
• 1 tablespoon roughly chopped pistachios (optional)
-Preheat the oven to 400°, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
-Prepare your garlic tahini sauce by adding all of the ingredients into a food processor and processing until smooth; pour into a dish, and set aside while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
-In a small ramekin, combine the paprika, coriander, cumin and cinnamon, and set this aside this seasoning mix for a moment.
-Place the four eggplant halves, flesh-side up, onto the baking sheet, and drizzle about 3 tablespoons of oil (total) over the flesh side of the cut eggplant, and sprinkle over about ⅓ of the seasoning mix from your ramekin, plus a couple of good pinches of salt and pepper; place into the oven to roast until tender and easily pierced with a paring knife, about 35 minutes.
-While your eggplant is roasting, prepare your filling by placing a pan over medium-high heat, and drizzling in about 1 tablespoon of the oil; once hot, add in the diced onion and saute for a few minutes until tender, then crumble in the ground beef and cook that for a few minutes with the onion; add in the remainder of the seasoning mix, along with a couple of pinches of salt and pepper, the garlic and the red pepper flakes (if using), and continue to cook until the meat is cooked through.
-Add to the cooked ground beef the cooked rice, the chopped cherry tomatoes, the chopped parsley and mint, plus the pistachios (if using), and fold together to combine; keep warm.
-Fill each roasted eggplant cavity with generous, equal portions of the warm filling, and place onto a plate; drizzle over some of the spicy garlic tahini sauce, and garnish with extra mint or parsley, if desired.