Everyday Chef: How to Use Eggplant as a Meat Alternative
Alex Caspero, MA, RD, CLT
Everyday Chef, Fruits & Veggies—More Matters
Move over meat. Eggplant has taken the stage. As a long-time vegetarian, I am always looking for plant-based alternatives that mimic the same meaty, savory texture that meat provides. While I love the usual suspects: lentils, beans, and tofu, my favorite meat substitutes are actually vegetables: mushrooms and eggplant! Whether you are a vegetarian or an everyday omnivore, swapping in vegetables instead of meat is a great way to increase your fiber intake. If you still need convincing, it’s important to know that vegetable choices are cholesterol free and tend to be lower in both calories and fat.
Let’s set the record straight. Eggplant can do more than just eggplant parmigiana! It has a rich, meaty taste and is really versatile. You can prepare it using several methods including stir-frying, grilled, broiling, baking and roasting.
3 Ways to Prepare Eggplant
How To Stir-Fry Eggplant
- Use Japanese or smaller eggplants instead of larger globe varieties.
- Add oil to a heated wok until hot. Cube eggplant and add into the wok along with any seasonings.
- Cook until eggplant is golden brown. Enjoy as is or add in other vegetables and a favorite sauce for a stir-fry entrée. Eggplant and teriyaki pair really well together!
How To Grill Eggplant
- Cut eggplant into rounds. I prefer larger globe eggplants for grilling.
- Lightly brush both sides of eggplant with oil.
- Place on a medium-hot grill and cook on each side until golden brown.
- Enjoy as is or stuff into a sandwich! I love grilled eggplant in pitas with parsley, tomato slices, cucumber slices and tzatziki sauce.
- Broil eggplant the same way. Instead of grilling, place on a roasting pan and broil each side until golden brown.
How To Bake Eggplant
- This is a great way to make eggplant flesh, which is the soft inside of eggplant that can be used to make meatballs, burgers, or baba ganoush (roasted eggplant dip).
- Cut the stem end off the eggplant. Italian globe eggplants are better for roasting than smaller Japanese varieties. Lightly pierce the skin with a fork as this will prevent the skin from bursting when cooked.
- Place eggplant in a 350°F oven on a baking sheet or roasting pan and cook for 50-60 minutes until very tender.
- Remove eggplant from the oven and let stand until it’s cool enough to handle.
- Remove the skin from the eggplant and then use the flesh however you would prefer!
Makes 4 sandwiches
1 eggplant, sliced into rounds
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
For the sandwich
8 slices 100% whole wheat bread
Fresh sliced tomatoes
Avocado slices (optional, instead of mayo)
Whisk together the soy sauce, maple syrup, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, smoked paprika and pinch salt/pepper. Place the eggplant into a shallow dish and cover with marinade.
Cover and marinade for 30 minutes.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add 1-2 tsp. oil. Place eggplant rounds in a single layer and cook for 5 minutes.
Flip, add ⅛ cup marinade and cook another 3-5 minutes until marinade is evaporated.
Continue with the rest of the eggplant slices.
Divide the eggplant bacon, lettuce, avocado slices and tomato among 4 slices of bread.
Top with remaining bread and eat.
Photo Credit: Alex Caspero