Despite the rumors that eggplant is bitter, fussy, or boring, it can play the role of many other kitchen staples. You can transform eggplant into a luscious dip, make it mimic potatoes (when cooked as fries), or grill it as a "burger." But roasted eggplant might be this nightshade's greatest trick — turning it from soft and spongy to crispy and tender.
Most supermarkets carry one type of eggplant, the globe variety, with Thai, Japanese, and even fairytale eggplant regularly available at local markets from July to October. Any of these varieties work well when roasted — just make sure you're picking a good eggplant from the start.
Look for an eggplant with tight, unblemished skin. Pick it up and give it a gentle squeeze. Eggplant should feel heavy for its size and be free of soft spots.
The Great Salt Debate
Many of us avoid cooking eggplant because we've been beaten over the head with a myth that eggplant must be salted before cooking to remove bitterness. Modern eggplant has been bred to have less bitterness, and salting is not required to that end. Still, some swear that an eggplant must be salted before frying, while others suggest that salting improves texture. Both methods below call for salting and here's why.
Eggplant Is Absorbent, So Act Fast
Eggplants are natural sponges; they will soak up almost anything they come in contact with — including salt, oil, and marinades. While testing, I found a quick salting helped season the eggplant cubes and slices, and felt that the salted eggplants soaked up less of the olive oil. Don't dilly-dally getting either of these eggplant methods into the oven, as they will start soaking up the cooking oil rapidly. That being said, if you're in rush, feel free to skip the all the salting and rinsing. Simply season the eggplant with just half of the suggested salt amounts.
Don't Forget the Flip
Eggplant is about 90 percent water, which means without tending, this vegetable will steam rather than roast in the oven. To avoid this, be mindful of spacing the eggplant in a single layer with room around each cube or slice to avoid steaming. Flipping the eggplant about halfway through also prevents the crisp roasted layer we desire from going limp in the oven.
How To Roast Eggplant, 2 Ways
Roasting Method #1: Cubed
What You’ll Need
Salad spinner or colander
- Cube the eggplant: Slice the stem end off of the eggplant. Peel the eggplant. Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes.
- Salt the eggplant: Place the eggplant in a colander or salad spinner and sprinkle with the salt. Toss to combine, then let the eggplant sit for 30 minutes. If you’re using a colander, you’ll want to place it in a sink or bowl, as the eggplant will let off a bit of water. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F.
- Rinse and dry: Rinse the eggplant under cool water and then dry thoroughly. (This is where the salad spinner comes in handy.) If you’re working with a colander, place the rinsed eggplant cubes out on a few layers of paper towels and pat dry with a few more towels.
- Toss with olive oil: Transfer the eggplant to a baking sheet and spread out into a single layer. Drizzle with the oil and toss to coat.
- Roast: Roast the eggplant for 20 minutes. Flip and roast until golden-brown and tender, 10 to 20 minutes more. Use the roasted eggplant cubes in salads, as a stand-in for home fries, or as a simple side all on their own.
Roasting Method #2: Steaks
What You’ll Need
1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salad spinner or colander
Wire cooling rack
- Slice into steaks: Slice the stem end off of the eggplant, then slice the eggplant lengthwise into 1-inch-thick "steaks."
- Salt the eggplant: Lay the eggplant out on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Sprinkle each side of the steaks with the salt and let the eggplant sit for 30 minutes. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F.
- Rinse and dry: Rinse the eggplant under cool water and then dry thoroughly. You can rinse the eggplant steaks while still on the cooling rack — just flip once to get each side. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Season the steaks: Transfer the eggplant to a baking sheet and spread out into a single layer. Combine the oil, tamari or soy sauce, and paprika in a small bowl, then brush onto both sides and edges of the steaks.
- Roast: Roast the eggplant for 20 minutes. Flip and roast until golden-brown and tender, 10 to 20 minutes more. Serve immediately.
- Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.