Oven-dried eggplant is so much like beef jerky — delightfully chewy and dense — that it seems only fitting to marinate the eggplant slices before drying and dubbing them eggplant jerky. This is an excellent snack for traveling, and the best part is you don't need a dehydrator to pull this off.
Picking and Prepping the Eggplant
Smaller eggplants are pretty plentiful this time of year — especially if you're growing your own. Unlike larger eggplants, which will need to be cut down to "jerky-sized" slices (think two-by-three-inch pieces), smaller specimens take less time to dry and often are younger and less likely to be bitter. Use a sharp knife or a mandolin to thinly slice the eggplant into eighth-of-an-inch slices.
Flavoring Your Jerky
Eggplant is incredibly absorbent, soaking up flavors with ease. Keep this jerky simple by marinating in a combination of store-bought teriyaki sauce thinned with water and red pepper flakes. A combination of soy sauce, honey, and liquid smoke would also lend a meaty flavor to the jerky. Just be mindful of the salt content of your marinade; the flavor will concentrate in the oven as the jerky dries.
Dehydrators do a great job of zapping the moisture from fruits, vegetables, and meat for jerky with a combination of steady low heat and circulating air. If you happen to own a dehydrator, this eggplant jerky can be easily made in it. For those of us without a such equipment, a very low oven (lowest oven settings vary from 118°F to 200°F) can easily replicate the dehydrator. Oven-drying does generally take a bit longer and isn't quite as efficient as an electric dehydrator, but it does get the job done.
Hacking a Dehydrator
Most home dehydrators consist of four to six racks for drying stacked on one another. This is one of the things that makes dehydrators more efficient than oven drying. To mimic this, stack a few cooling racks on top of each other using balls of aluminum foil as spacers. This keeps the eggplant from steaming in the low oven and allows for circulation around the eggplant slices to aid in drying. You can simply dry the eggplant on parchment-lined baking sheets if you don't have enough racks, but drying will take at least an hour longer.
Read More: How To Dry Fruit Without a Dehydrator
How To Make Eggplant Jerky
Makes 4 servings (about 6 ounces)
What You Need
eggplant (about 2 to 3 small)
red pepper flakes
Mandoline or sharp knife
9x13-inch baking dish
Measuring cups and spoons
2 to 3 wire cooling racks
Rimmed baking sheet
Thinly slice the eggplant: Use a mandoline or sharp knife to thinly slice the eggplant vertically into slices about 1/8 inch thick.
Marinate the eggplant: Combine the teriyaki sauce, water, and red pepper flakes in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Add the eggplant slices and toss to coat. Marinate for 2 hours, flipping them over about halfway through.
Hack a dehydrator: Arrange a rack in the lowest part of the oven, remove all other racks, and heat to 115°F or its lowest setting. Make 12 aluminum foil balls, each about the size of a golf ball, and flatten slightly.
Lay out the eggplant: Lay the eggplant slices onto 2 to 3 wire cooling racks, making sure they do not touch. Stack the racks onto a baking sheet, using the foil balls as spacers in each corner between racks.
Dry the eggplant: Place the baking sheet and racks in the oven and dry until the jerky is dry to the touch and chewy, 4 to 6 hours.
Gluten-free: To make this recipe gluten-free, look for teriyaki sauce labeled gluten-free.
Storage: Store the eggplant jerky in an airtight container at room temperature for up a month.