Header image: Baba Ghanoush from CHOW
It’s easy to understand why baba ganoush weirds so many eaters out. First, there’s the whole “I hate eggplant, period” contingent, and baba ganoush is about as head on full of eggplant as you’ll get (we’ll save winning over those adversaries for another day). But then there are some who are perfectly fine with the vegetable any other way, yet still can’t seem to wrap their heads around the dip. To anyone who falls into this category, this story is for you. Because it is possible to make baba ganoush that is as savory and delectable as the eggplant you know and love—it’s just that all too often, not enough care is taken to make it as brilliant as it can be. To that end, here are seven tips for getting the creamiest, smokiest, and all around best baba ganoush ever.
1. Bigger is not better
Big, honking globe eggplants may be the norm in supermarkets, full of flesh for the scooping. But frankly, they’re rather bitter and watery, neither of which are good things when it comes to baba ganoush. If you can, seek out smaller varieties, such as Italian, Indian, or (our personal favorite) Japanese eggplants. Not only are they better tasting, they cook faster, too. Get our Baba Ganoush recipe.
2. For extra smoky flavor, put your eggplants on the grill…
Baba ganoush shouldn’t exactly taste like pure eggplant. It should taste like eggplant that’s been forced and manipulated into unleashing its deepest, smokiest, and innermost flavors. To get at that complexity, you need to cook the heck out of it and char the skin until it weeps and wilts beyond recognition. For the absolute smokiest flavor, it’s a no-brainer that you should cook it over the grill. This recipe from Nourish Atelier will show you how. Get the recipe here.
3. …or char them over a gas burner
No grill? No problem. For smoky, charred baba ganoush straight from your kitchen, grab a pair of tongs and stick your eggplants directly over the flame of a gas burner (you can also put them directly beneath a broiler). Deb at Smitten Kitchen likes to char them until they’ve lost all of their purple and turned into the blackest, darkest, barely-shy-of-turning-into-ashes bulbs you’ve ever seen. Get the recipe here.
4. Elminate as much moisture as possible
The purpose of draining your eggplant after it has cooked is twofold: first, it makes the dip less watery (and watery is never a good thing when it comes to baba ganoush). But secondly, it helps cut down on a lot of the bitterness that turns off so many from the stuff. The simplest way to eliminate moisture is by putting the flesh in a strainer and letting it drip out over the course of time. But over at Serious Eats, J. Kenji López-Alt advocates taking the eggplant for a whirl in a salad spinner, which makes the process a whole lot faster and more efficient. Get the recipe here.
5. Add your oil slowly
If there’s one thing that most baba ganoush recipes neglect to mention, it’s that you really need to make sure that you’re blending your oil-based ingredients (olive oil and tahini) in really well with your water-based ones, creating an emulsion of sorts. That way, your dip will come out creamy and consistent. While it’s fine to dump everything into your food processor or blender and hope for the best, it’s better to slowly incorporate your oil in a thin stream, as this recipe from Smoke and Thyme demonstrates. Or if you prefer a chunkier baba, you can add the oil bit by bit while vigorously beating the flesh by hand with a fork. Get the recipe here.
6. Use your best ingredients
Baba ganoush is a pretty elemental recipe, leaving little room for inferior ingredients to hide. This is the time to use that good olive oil you splurged on. Also, take a moment to make sure that your tahini hasn’t gone rancid, since we bet there’s a good chance that you haven’t used that tub since… the last time you made baba ganoush. And for the love of all things citrus, use some fresh squeezed lemon juice, pretty please. That way, we promise that your baba will tastes as good as this one looks. Get the recipe here.
7. Spice it up
If you want your baba ganoush to have that certain something that sets it apart, the easiest thing to do is to add a hint of spice. Cumin is traditional in certain regions. Or you can try a dash of smoked paprika, harissa, or dukkah. This recipe from Vikalinka opts for the lemony tang of sumac. Get the recipe here.