Salting eggplants is a common kitchen practice, but do you really need to salt eggplants before cooking them?
Only if the eggplant is old. Although, this meaty vegetable—which is actually a huge berry—has crazy huge pores that soak up oil like no other.
Why Salt Eggplant?
A lot of recipes tell you to salt sliced eggplant and let it sit for up to half an hour before cooking, to draw out bitterness. But Chowhounds think that, while large globe eggplants don’t seem as bitter as they used to be, and smaller Italian and Asian eggplants rarely are anyway, there are other reasons to salt.
Salting causes the eggplant to absorb less oil when you cook it and the final result is a firmer bite (no soggy, floppy eggplant). So you may want to salt it for a tighter texture.
Older globe eggplants can still taste bitter, too. Your frist clue will be their extremely large size and spongy texture, but you can also check if the eggplant is old by looking at the seeds. If the seeds are dark when you cut the eggplant, then it’s an older specimen, so salt it to draw out any bitter juice. If the seeds are light, you can skip the salting if you want.
And try these eggplant recipes (heavy on the eggplant Parm side) to test our to-salt-or-not-to-salt theories.
In our classic rendition, we suggest salting the eggplant slices and letting it drain in a colander for five minutes. Panko breadcrumbs give the dish an extra crunch, and after frying the slices are drained on a paper towel lined baking sheet to further fight any soggy or greasy notions. Then melty mozzarella, fresh basil, and tomato sauce join the party. Get our Eggplant Parmesan recipe.
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You might not be in the mood for something heavy like eggplant Parmesan. It’s too muggy out, or whatever. We’ve got the solution: a bread salad. It’s kinda like bruschetta, but heartier. We don’t salt the eggplant chunks, but if yours look older, you may want to. Get our Grilled Eggplant Parmesan Salad recipe.
Related Reading: More Grilled Bread Recipes
Yep, you can pickle that. We salt the raw eggplant cubes and press them underneath a weighted plate to get as much moisture out as possible so they soak up the tangy marinade. The longer it sits in the fridge, the better. Get our Pickled Eggplant recipe.
Almost every Greek swears that his or her mother or grandmother’s moussaka is the best. You be the judge. It’s packed full of eggplant, zucchini, and ground beef and topped with a rich béchamel sauce. Let your eggplant’s age be your guide when it comes to salting. Get our Moussaka recipe.
This is like an Italian take on vegetarian shepherd’s pie, with the two namesake vegetables providing meatiness and the polenta substituting for mashed potatoes. With onions, crushed tomatoes, and olives, it’s a chunky, hearty vegetable filling. Get our Eggplant and Mushroom Polenta Bake recipe.
To keep the eggplant from soaking up all the pan’s oil, you just put a little bit of fat in there and then stir-fry it until it’s crispy and the cut sides effectively seal up. Using slender Japanese or Chinese eggplant is best. Red bell peppers, Thai chiles, garlic, Thai basil, fish sauce, soy sauce, and tamarind paste add an assertive flavor. Get our Stir-Fried Tamarind Eggplant recipe.
The original version of this story was by Caitlin McGrath in 2012.
Header image by Chowhound