What sets this grilled eggplant recipe apart from the rest?
Simple – the texture! Marinating and seasoning the eggplant overnight helps to cut the natural bitterness sometimes associated with the vegetable, and also seasons it from the inside out. That means the center will be creamy and tender. If you’ve ever ordered a Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce, you know exactly the type of texture we’re referring to. It has so much moisture it will literally melt in your mouth!
In addition to a fantastic, creamy texture, it’s the flavor you’ll crave! The marinade is inspired by Middle Eastern spices — za’atar, sesame, sumac — sweetened lightly with honey, and perfectly complemented by a drizzle of tahini and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for serving.
Eggplant is one of our favorite veggies, with seemingly endless ways to prepare and enjoy it at home. Last year, our garden produced many dozens of these long, thin purple eggplant — so we’ve had a lot of time to experiment and recipe test!
Everything You’ll Need To Make Grilled Eggplant Skewers At Home
To make grilled eggplant at home, you’ll need to first grab a few fresh eggplant. For this recipe, we’re using Japanese eggplant (similar to Chinese eggplant), which are long, thin, and a lighter, brighter color purple relative to American or Italian eggplant, which are darker and much thicker.
Trim the ends off the eggplant, then cut into 2-inch thick pieces.
If you’re cooking the eggplant on skewers, we recommend either bamboo skewers (which need to be soaked in water for at least 30 minutes before assembling and cooking)) or something reusable, such as these stainless steel skewers.
Marinate The Eggplant For A Few Hours (Or Overnight!)
For the Za’atar marinade
The flavorful marinade is a combination of extra virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar, honey, sesame oil, za’atar, suac, chopped garlic, and sesame seeds. Simply combine everything together in a small bowl, then whisk.
If you don’t want to use this marinade, you can coat the eggplant slices in olive oil, then sprinkle with a generous amount of Kosher salt.
Plan ahead! If you have time time, the flavor of the grilled eggplant will intensify if you can let it sit with the marinade overnight. All those delicious ingredients will absorb into the flesh of the eggplant, giving it a huge burst of flavor. Truly, you’ll want to make this side dish again and again, it is wildly delicious!
If you can’t let the eggplant cubes sit overnight, aim for at least 2 hours. It makes a huge difference in the texture of the grilled eggplant!
What Is Za’atar Seasoning?
Za’atar is an aromatic blend of spices consisting of toasted sesame seeds, lemony sumac, dried oregano, and minty hyssop. If you are concerned about buying za’atar for this recipe because you don’t know how else to use it, consider the following:
- serve with pita bread and olive oil, both sprinkled with za’atar
- mix with whole Greek milk yogurt for a tangy dip
- add to meatballs or kebabs
- sprinkled on chicken before grilling
- add to salad dressing
Grill The Eggplant
Heat a grill over medium-high heat, then coat with nonstick grill spray. Not much, of course, since there is olive oil in the marinade, just enough to help ensure things don’t stick. Alternatively, you can use a grill pan indoors.
While the outdoor grill is preheating, assemble the skewers. Thread the eggplant onto skewers, leaving a couple inches at the bottom and top of each. Grill for 4-6 minutes per side, or until the eggplant is charred and extremely tender.
How To Serve
First, let me say that the leftovers are just as delicious as fresh grilled eggplant, so make a double batch!
We love to serve the grilled eggplant over a bit of labne (thick, creamy, strained Greek yogurt) that is flavored with garlic, then drizzle tahini (a sesame sauce) on top.
Garnish with lots of chopped pistachios and parsley, then serve with lemon wedges and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. You can serve this on a large platter (eg, family style) or individually — the presentation is beautiful either way!
If you want to add a bit of heat, thinly slice some small chili peppers to place on top for serving. And if you’re a cheese lover like this lady, a few tablespoons of crumbled fresh feta cheese on top would be divine.
Make It A Complete Meal!
Some of our favorite Middle Eastern-inspired meals are also some of the easiest to make! Za’atar roasted chicken, kebab skewers, and lamb shawarma are flavorful, healthy, and flavored similarly.
If you want to keep things vegetarian or vegan, consider using the grilled eggplant as a salad topping along with crispy roasted chickpeas or chickpea patties. We often serve the latter with a big scoop of babaganoush or hummus for added protein!
Whether you’re vegetarian or not, this is sure to be a total crowd pleasure, both because of it’s warm, fragrant taste and flavor, but also because of its insanely amazing, melt-in-your-mouth texture. It’s the best grilled eggplant, truly!
If you make this Grilled Eggplant recipe, please let us know by leaving a review and rating below!
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More Vegetarian Recipes To Try!
- Sicilian Cauliflower
- Butter Lettuce Salad
- Roasted Butternut Squash with Za’atar and Tahini
- Black Bean Quesadillas
- Asparagus Frittata
Grilled Eggplant Skewers Recipe
- 3 Japanese eggplant or other eggplant, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp za'atar
- 2 tsp sumac
- 2 tsp sesame seeds
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- Labne for serving, optional
- 2 Tbsp tahini for serving
- 2 Tbsp chopped parsley for serving
- 2 Tbsp pistachios roughly chopped, for serving, optional
- Lemon wedges for serving
- Make the marinade. Combine 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 2 Tbsp honey, 1 Tbsp sherry vinegar, 1 Tbsp sesame oil, 1 Tbsp za'atar, 2 tsp sumac, 2 tsp sesame seeds, and 2 cloves of chopped garlic in a small bowl, then whisk to combine.
- Marinate the eggplant. Place eggplant pieces in a large mixing bowl, then pour the marinade on top. Toss to thoroughly coat, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
- Soak the skewers. If using bamboo skewers, place them in a container then cover with water and let soak for at least 30 minutes. Drain.
- Assemble the eggplant skewers. Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Thread the marinated eggplant onto skewers, leaving a few inches at the top and bottom of each. It's okay for the eggplant to be touching.
- Grill the skewers. Lightly spray the preheated grill with nonstick cooking spray. Place skewers on, leaving about 1-2 inches in between each. Cook for 4-6 minutes, then carefully use tongs to flip the skewers over. Cook an additional 4-6 minutes, or until the eggplant is charred, but creamy and tender. Remove from the grill.
- Recommended serving: Serve the skewers over labne with a drizzle of tahini, chopped pistachios, chopped parsley, and lemon wedges. Can be served warm or at room temperature.
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