eggplant curry recipe

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Well, I’ve finally made that eggplant curry I was talking about making a while back. I’ve actually been quite amazed to see cheap eggplants already making their ways into stores this early on in the season, but you would never hear me complaining! Oh no, no. I’m really loving them right now. That being said, it has been a long and winding road, learning to love eggplants. I’ve never not liked them, I think it’s been more a case of working in too many cafes where the done thing was to slather slices in way to much oil and chargrill. Ick.

Prepared in this way, the eggplant cooks down into meltingly soft mouthfuls that are full of flavour having soaked up all those fragrant spices and tomatoes.

I know a lot of people are scared off by long winded Indian recipes, with numerous ingredients and steps to follow. But this one I assure you is really straight forward. I have eliminated a few of the usual steps to not only make it faster to prepare, but a damn site healthier too. The recipe this was based on, deep-fried the eggplant first. I have chosen to use a onion base to give the same rich, deep flavour without all the fat. The trick is though, you really do have to cook the onion out for the full 10 minutes. Watch it, and stir often. But don’t be scared to take it to almost burning point! I mean, you obviously don’t want it to be burnt, but get it as close as you can. The depth of flavour this gives is mind-boggling, even more so if you use the ghee or clarified butter to cook it in. (I’ve included a recipe below for both).

I also don’t bother with salting my eggplants. This step used to be essential to release the bitterness in most eggplants. But I find nowadays, that most eggplants if they are nice, young, freshly picked ones without big black seeds inside, they don’t require this step.

As with most curries, the flavour of this really improves over time, so making it a day ahead is not a bad idea. Or make more than enough, so you have some leftovers for the following day.

Loosely based on a spiced eggplant recipe in The food of India by Priya Wickramasinghe and Carol Selva Rajah.

eggplant curry recipe
As mentioned above, like most curries this recipe keeps well, and actually improves with time. If you have leftovers simply reheat the next day, re-check seasoning, adding more salt if needed and serve on freshly steamed rice. I like to use ghee (see recipe below) in curries for the authentic flavour it gives. It is lactose-free, but if you avoid dairy altogether simply use a neutral vegetable oil like rice bran oil. I like to use whole cumin seeds, but by all means use ground cumin if that’s what you have. Make sure you use regular brown onions in this recipe, red onions have a higher sugar content and tend to burn too easily in curries like this, where long, slow cooking is required.  Serves 4-6

  • 2 medium (800g/1lb 12oz) eggplants (aubergine) 
  • 3 Tbsp ghee/vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2.5cm (1 inch) piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds/ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne or a small pinch of chilli powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 400g tin (14oz) chopped tomatoes
  • a small handful of fresh coriander/cilantro leaves to garnish (optional)

Wash eggplants and dice into 2 cm cubes.

Heat ghee/oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes until a deep golden brown colour. (Be patient and don’t be tempted to rush this stage).

Add the grated ginger, crushed garlic, fennel and cumin seeds. Cook for about 2 minutes until garlic and ginger are fragrant. Add ground coriander, turmeric, cayenne/chilli powder and salt. Cook for 30 seconds. Add the diced eggplant and stir well to coat evenly with spices. Pour in the tin of chopped tomatoes, give it a big stir, then place the lid on and continue to cook over low-medium heat for about 10-15 minutes. Check and stir a few times to ensure it’s not catching on the bottom. Turn temperature down a little if need be.

When the sauce has thickened and the eggplant is meltingly soft, check the seasoning once more. Serve sprinkled with coriander/cilantro leaves and steamed rice. Enjoy!

ghee recipe
Ghee is so easy to make at home and is a great lactose-free alternative to butter in cooking. It heats to a high temperature without burning and gives a lovely buttery flavour. Clarified butter can be used in place of ghee and also has very low levels of lactose, if any. Because ghee has no milk solids it keeps really well at room temperature. I store mine in a glass jar on the bench for up to 1-2 months. You can make it in any amounts you like, but I tend to make at least 500g (1 pound) at a time.

  •  500g (1 pound) unsalted butter

    Place the butter in a small pot. Bring slowly to the boil over a low heat and continue to boil gently for around 10-15 minutes.

    To take it further to ghee, simply cook for the full 10-15 minutes. In this time any foam left will drop to the bottom, combine with the milk solids and go all nutty and brown. This gives the ghee a lovely toasted flavour. Carefully pour the clear amber liquid into a glass jar, leaving behind the white sediment. Allow to cool and store either at room temperature or in the fridge.

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    46 Comments

  • Reply
    Kate at Serendipity
    December 2, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Emma, this looks wonderful. I saw some eggplants today at the market and I passed them up because I didn't have this recipe yet. Now I'll have to find some again so that I can try this! Thanks for posting it.

    Gorgeous photos too.

  • Reply
    Amy
    December 2, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Mmmm yum, looks delicious! We cook a lot of curries in the winter, which are especially good with homemade naan.
    I have mixed feelings about eggplant, I think it's a texture thing… But, this does look really good, maybe I will have to give it a go again and re-evaluate my feelings!

  • Reply
    emma
    December 3, 2010 at 1:24 am

    Kate, Thanks for your lovely comment. I'm slowly figuring out how to take better food photos 🙂

    Amy, yep it's always been a textural thing for me too, that's why I've only ever really liked them made into babaganosh! But I've really been enjoying eggplant curries lately.

  • Reply
    Annie
    December 3, 2010 at 1:27 am

    Now I have more things to make!

    Eggplants have always scared me a little bit because of one really bad childhood experience with the peel. Ughh…but I'm going to give this a try.

    P.S. the butter bean recipe turned out terrific!

  • Reply
    emma
    December 3, 2010 at 1:51 am

    Hi Annie, great to hear you liked the butter bean recipe 🙂 I'm glad I'm not the only one to have had issues with eggplant and I totally recommend giving them a second chance 🙂

  • Reply
    calicoanne
    December 3, 2010 at 6:42 am

    yuuum! I wish I had this recipe when I had homegrown eggplants. mmm mmmm

  • Reply
    Sam
    December 3, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Yum – great recipe! Made this and was v. impressed. Really getting into eggplant as star ingredient.

  • Reply
    Jun
    December 3, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    I love eggplants! Our local recipe use slightly different ingredients though.

  • Reply
    foodzone
    December 3, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    That looks so wonderful. These spicy curries are perfect for the winters.

  • Reply
    Julie Percival
    December 5, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    mmmm! Just made this for dinner and it was SUPERT og FANTASTISK (super + fantastic in Norwegian). Thanks for the recipe 🙂

  • Reply
    emma
    December 6, 2010 at 6:25 am

    Awesome Julie! I was wondering where in the world you were these days…Norway I'm guessing!?! I'm so happy you're trying out lots of my recipes 🙂

  • Reply
    Thomas
    December 9, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    You say you are getting better at photographing your food… I think you've mastered it. First time but great site, beautiful food.

  • Reply
    emma
    December 10, 2010 at 12:07 am

    Thank you Thomas! Such kind words 🙂

  • Reply
    Maree
    December 15, 2010 at 12:55 am

    I made this last night and it was delicious! Thank you so much for sharing your recipes.

  • Reply
    emma
    December 15, 2010 at 7:01 am

    yay, so glad you liked it Maree 🙂

  • Reply
    vi vian
    March 18, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    hello my darling lemon thyme,

    i make your curry and it is delicious. my brother who does not like aubergines, love this dish. just a little concern. i am not sure why each time i cook curry, it has a slight bitter taste. can you tell me why this happens?

  • Reply
    emma
    March 19, 2011 at 12:43 am

    Hi vi vian,
    When you talk about the curry being bitter, are we talking about eggplant curry or just curries in general? If it is eggplant curry you are talking about, make sure you choose nice young eggplants that don't have large black seeds inside. If they are older and have large seeds you need to salt them to remove the natural bitterness. Simply chop the eggplant, sprinkle with a little salt, leave 30 minutes, rinse off with water and pat dry before continuing on with the recipe.
    If it is other curries you are talking about, are you using tinned tomatoes by any chance? In the sauce base? These are way more acidic than regular tomatoes and I like to add a few teaspoons of sugar to counter-balance the bitterness. Failing that, are you burning the spices at any stage? These can cause bitter flavours too. Make sure when you cook the spices you add them in the order given in the recipe. Generally the whole spices get cooked first before briefly adding the ground spices.
    Hope that helps. Please to write back if you had any further questions I may be able to help you with -emm

  • Reply
    Angry Asian
    April 18, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    hello,
    i made this last week and while it did turn out lovely, i thought the subsequent leftovers tasted better compared to the first night we made it. the flavors had more time to meld & mingle. thank you for posting this!

  • Reply
    jasmine a-go-go
    July 11, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    good lord. just made this. excuse my french but this shit is delicious. thank you for the post and the pics!

  • Reply
    emma
    July 13, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Haha you are excused jasmine! So glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  • Reply
    Rosie
    September 15, 2011 at 5:45 am

    I added two teaspoons of peanut butter and a big squeeze of lemon juice and it was delicious!!! Thanks for the recipe 🙂

  • Reply
    Anika
    May 23, 2012 at 2:37 am

    This is the 4th time I've made this recipe and I love it. So does my husband who is decidedly anti-eggplant! It is also great the next day cold on bread with avocado and some rocket! Yum

  • Reply
    Christina
    June 8, 2012 at 2:07 am

    Oooh is that how ghee works. I never thought it was lactose free simply from boiling a while. I love your bowls!

    • Reply
      emma
      June 8, 2012 at 2:54 am

      Thanks I made those bowls myself! But sadly left them back in NZ when we made the move to Western Australia.
      And yes, the lactose is in the milk solids of butter, which is left behind on the bottom of the pan when boiled. Just like magic!

  • Reply
    MichB
    February 13, 2013 at 11:17 am

    Hello there,
    I made this tonight and it was beautiful. I haven't always been a fan of eggplant but my local indian place makes a great Eggplant dish and I had been looking around for a recipe for something similar. This was it. Have to say again it was fab.

    Quick question though. My family like their food a bit milder. Would you suggest halving the spices or maybe removing one of them?

    Thanks so much.

    Michelle

    • Reply
      emma
      February 13, 2013 at 12:34 pm

      I'd remove the chilli/cayenne altogether and maybe scale back the spices just a tad. xx

  • Reply
    Oriyomi
    February 23, 2013 at 1:43 am

    I made this recipe but it looks a lot more dry than in the pictures. I used one large eggplant so im wondering could that have been it?

    • Reply
      emma
      February 23, 2013 at 2:15 am

      Using one large eggplant should have been okay? Did you cook it without the lid on instead of covered? This would make the liquid evaporate a little too much.

  • Reply
    Oriyomi
    February 25, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    Oh yes i think that is what may have happened. My partner who made a yuck face at the thought of eggplant LOVED it!! So im making more today!! Im going to us more onion and a bit more chopped tomato and its sauce. Super delish thank you!!! Ill let youi know how turns out

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    April 7, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Hi Emma,
    I am planning on cooking this tonight (as in tonight European time) and just on the off chance you see this…
    Do I put in the fennel seeds without crushing or grinding them? I have never made curry from scratch and it is just something I stumbled over, since I don't know whether they soften or taste good when left whole.
    Franziska

    • Reply
      emma
      April 7, 2013 at 12:53 pm

      Hi Franziska,
      thanks for your message, I tend to just chuck the fennel seeds in whole, but by all means you can crush then if you'd prefer. It's only 1 teaspoon of them, so the flavour they give is not overly strong anyway.
      xx Enjoy!

    • Reply
      Anonymous
      April 7, 2013 at 1:07 pm

      Perfect timing Emma, thanks! I am about to cycle to a friends place to start cooking 🙂 I'll go with chucking them in whole then! Will let you know how I went! Have a lovely evening!
      xxx

    • Reply
      Anonymous
      April 8, 2013 at 11:39 am

      It was delicious! I ended up adding 2 sweet potatoes to the curry which I had on hand. This will be my new go to curry! Thanks again for your help Emma!
      xxx Franziska

    • Reply
      emma
      April 8, 2013 at 12:35 pm

      Awesome! So glad you enjoyed it 🙂 xx

  • Reply
    Twinkie_hr
    September 4, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    I love eggplants and can eat them in any possible way. I just made this recipe tonight for my lunch tomorrow. I am doing the JJ Virgin week with no dairy, gluten, sugar- and this recipe is exactly what I need. But instead of canned, I used a fresh ripe homegrown-by-my-mom tomato and I can not wait until lunch tomorrow! This recipe is a keeper.

  • Reply
    Grace
    September 11, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    I bought an eggplant (aubergine) the other day with no idea what to do with it, stumbled upon this recipe and have just made and eaten it. Really delicious and great instructions. I feel inspired and chefy! Thank you 🙂

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    October 28, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    I tried this recipe some time ago and even my husband not being a big fan of eggplant really loved it. I would recommend it to anyone, it is so easy to do. Thanks for this great recipe. I have served it with some quinoa.

    • Reply
      emma
      October 29, 2013 at 12:00 am

      So glad you enjoyed it! This seems to be one of the favourites of all the recipes I've ever posted 🙂

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    May 6, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    Hi, this looks delicious and easy! Do you think it would freeze well? If so, how would you thaw it? Sorry, i just love the thought of having portions of this ready to eat stashed away:)

    • Reply
      emma
      May 7, 2014 at 1:53 am

      I freeze curries all the time. Simply leave in the fridge overnight to defrost, or defrost in a lidded pan over low heat with a splash of water until warmed through. xx

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    May 8, 2014 at 5:02 am

    So excited to find this! I've got my first real hit of eggplants in the garden so I'm super keen to turn them into something delish 🙂

  • Reply
    thea
    September 13, 2014 at 6:30 am

    made it tonight and served with plain greek yoghurt – INSANELY DELICIOUS! Thank you so much for the inspiration!!

    thea.
    (spoonfulzine)

  • Reply
    andrea marie
    May 24, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    I served it tonight with plain rice and salad it was fantastic!
    thank youfor sharing

  • Reply
    Kath Webber
    September 9, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Can't wait to try this- brinjal bhajee is my favourite curry and this looks every bit as delicious. It'll be on the menu tonight!

  • Reply
    EricaAK
    March 10, 2016 at 2:44 am

    Hi! I am a huge fan of curry and this looks DELISH. Better yet I have all of the ingredients….minus the turmeric and fennel seeds. Is it possible to replace some (portion) of the spices with curry powder?

    • Reply
      emma
      March 14, 2016 at 1:13 am

      I'm sure that would be fine. The end results will be different of course, but still yum 🙂

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