Baingan bharta is a tasty north Indian dish of roasted, mashed eggplants in a tomato onion sauce.
Baingan Bharta is an irresistible, spicy Indian dish of fire-roasted eggplant mashed and cooked with garlic, tomatoes and onions. It is both an Indian-restaurant and home-cooking favorite, and it's delicious and versatile enough to enhance nearly any meal.
Scoop it up with an Indian flatbread like a roti or naan and you will be in love.
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Spotlight on eggplant
Eggplant (also called brinjals/aubergines) are among the tastiest veggies out there and they are hands-down my favorite. I cannot think of an eggplant recipe I don't love, and this baingan bharta tops the list of my favorites.
Eggplants have lots of healthy nutrients, including folate, magnesium and potassium. They are also loaded with polyphenols, which can help the cells better process sugar in diabetics. And, like all veggies, they have lots of fiber.
Strangely, to me, there are so many people out there who hate eggplant, including vegans who will chow down every other vegetable without complaining. But the mere mention of eggplant will result in grimaces and shrugs and even an emphatic, I hate it!
The reason for this unbridled dislike could only be that these people have never eaten eggplant that's cooked correctly. Sure, it's hard for someone not familiar with this veggie to know just what to do with it. Should you peel that skin or leave it on? And how do you get that spongy flesh, so acridly bitter, to taste good or at least palatable?
The answer is simpler than you may think: cook that eggplant, skin and all. Thoroughly. And flavor it wholeheartedly.
Eggplant is not a veggie meant to be eaten partially cooked or mildly flavored. But when you cook it all the way and smother it with complementary flavors, it transforms into the most delicious food. That flesh gets melt-in-the-mouth tender and creamy and even sweet, and it absorbs all the great flavors of the other ingredients.
If you want to open up your mind -- and tastebuds -- to this extra-special veggie, try looking to cusines that already adore it to get inspired. Roast and mash an Italian eggplant into a tomato-onion sauce for this Baingan Bharta. Serve the smaller, tender varieties smothered in spices and coconuts in this Sri Lankan Eggplant Curry. Or roast one and blitz it with chickpeas and za'atar for a divine Eggplant Hummus. Or make this Italian favorite, Vegan Eggplant Parmesan.
Make friends with eggplants and, you'll find, they are a magical veggie.
Why you'll love this recipe
- It's healthy. Tomatoes, onions, eggplants, garlic and spices with just a little oil. What's not to love?
- It's easy to make. Especially if you have some of my tomato onion masala sauce ready, you can bring this dish together in minutes. And you don't need any highly specialized spices or ingredients for this easy baingan bharta --not even garam masala.
- It tastes amazing. The smoky, creamy, sweet eggplant with the spicy tomato onion sauce is a gorgeous combination.
- It's versatile. You can eat it with almost any meal, although my favorite way is to eat it with roti or vegan naan.
- 2 medium eggplants. It is important that you use only the large, bulbous Italian eggplant here, not the skinny or small Japanese, Chinese or Indian eggplants.
- 8-10 garlic cloves. Use more if you love garlic. I can't have enough of it.
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil. Use any unflavored vegetable oil or, if you have it, use mustard oil for an authentic touch. When cooking with mustard oil it's important to always bring it up to smoking point first.
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds. Cumin adds a wonderful, earthy flavor into the mix.
- 2 medium onions. Red onions work best here, or use shallots. If yellow onions are all you have use those.
- ¼ cup cilantro (fresh coriander leaves). You need lots of cilantro in this baingan bharta recipe for tons of fresh flavor.
- 2 tablespoons grated ginger
- 4 tomatoes
- 1 green chili pepper. Use a serrano or jalapeno pepper. The green chilies add great flavor but if you're very sensitive to heat you can leave them out as there is also some cayenne pepper in this recipe.
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne (or any red chilli powder). Use more or less depending on how much heat you like in the bharta.
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- Salt to taste
How to make Baingan Bharta
- Cut the eggplant down the middle into half, lengthwise. Make three slits with the knife in each half (on the white side) and insert a clove of garlic in each. Place the eggplant, cut side down, on a foil-lined baking pan or rimmed baking sheet. Roast in a preheated 400-degree oven for 30 minutes or until the skin is charred and a knife in the thickest part of the eggplant goes cleanly through. For a more authentic flavor, you can roast the eggplant over an open flame. Be careful and do this with tongs as the eggplant will leak juices. Turn the eggplant around on the open flame with tongs until the skin is all charred and a knife inserted in the center goes cleanly through.
- Once the eggplant has cooled, scoop out the flesh. You can blitz it at this point if you want it to melt into the tomato onion sauce, or just chop it up into little bits.
- Heat the oil and add in cumin seeds or jeera.
- Next add the onions. A baingan ka bharta needs lots of onions, so use a large or medium onion and chop it fine. You want it to melt into the sauce when the dish is done. I like tossing in a handful of cilantro with the onions because it adds even more flavor.
- Chop the tomatoes fine and add them to the skillet.
- Season with cayenne, turmeric and coriander powder. You can add finely chopped green chili peppers, like jalapeno or serrano, if you want more heat, but they're optional.
- Finally add the roasted eggplant, mix it in, and check if you need more salt. Let the eggplant cook in the sauce for just a few minutes so it absorbs all those great flavors.
- Turn off the heat, garnish with more cilantro, and serve.
What to serve Baingan Bharta with
Advance meal prep suggestions
- Make my Tomato Onion Masala Sauce in advance and refrigerate or freeze it. You can also roast the eggplant up to a day ahead.
- To make the baingan bharta heat oil, add the cumin, and then add the tomato onion sauce to the saucepan. Heat it through, add the chopped eggplant, and mix. Garnish with cilantro.
- Refrigerator: Place leftovers in an airtight container and place in the fridge for up to three days.
- Freezer: Baingan bharta freezes nicely. Place in an airtight container after it has cooled and freeze for up to three months.
- Reheating: Reheat frozen or refrigerated baingan bharta in the microwave, about 3-5 minutes for frozen and 1-2 minutes if refrigerated. Stir a couple of times in between to ensure everything is evenly heated. If doing this on the stovetop thaw the eggplant bharta first, then reheat in a skillet or wok.
More Indian recipes with eggplant
- Wok or skillet
- 2 medium eggplants (use Italian eggplants)
- 8-10 garlic cloves (crushed and left whole. Halve if very large)
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 medium onions (finely chopped)
- ¼ cup cilantro (finely chopped)
- 2 tablespoon grated ginger
- 4 tomatoes (finely diced)
- 1 green chili pepper (like serrano or jalapeno, finely minced. Optional)
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne (use more or less depending on how much heat you like)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- Salt to taste
- Roasting the eggplants on a grill or stovetop: Make slits all over the eggplant skin and insert the crushed garlic inside each until it's firmly embedded. Using a pair of tongs, carefully roast the eggplant on each side until the skin is charred and a knife inserted in the thickest part goes cleanly through.Roasting the eggplants in the oven: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut each eggplant into half lengthwise. Make slits in the flesh portion of each half and insert a garlic clove in each. Place cut side down on a foil-lined pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the thickest part of the eggplant goes cleanly through.
- When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, peel off the charred skin if you roasted them over an open fire, or, if you baked them, scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Chop roughly. You can also mash the eggplant or blitz it, but I prefer chopping for the best flavor. Set the eggplant aside.
- In a saucepan, heat the oil and add the cumin. Let the cumin darken slightly and then add the chopped onion, green chillies, if using, and half the cilantro. Season with some salt. Saute or stir fry over medium heat until the onions soften and start to brown.
- Add the ginger, coriander powder, cayenne and turmeric. Mix well to toast the spices, for about a minute. Then add in the chopped tomatoes. Mix, and let them cook another five minutes or so until pulpy. You don't want to cook them for too long.
- Add the chopped or mashed eggplant and mix thoroughly until it disappears into the sauce. Add salt as necessary.
- Turn off the heat after five minutes. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot.
- If you already have a jar of my Tomato Onion Masala Sauce handy, you can reduce the time needed to make this dish by half. Roast the eggplant and scoop out the flesh. Chop it up. Next, heat the oil, add the cumin, and then add the tomato onion sauce to the saucepan. Heat it through, add the chopped eggplant, and mix. Garnish with cilantro, and you're done.
- I usually serve eggplant bharta with basmati rice and a simple dal like the green tomato dal you see in the photo. The dal is a south Indian dish, but it complements the north Indian bharta perfectly. Any dal will do just as well.
- Baingan Bharta is perfect with a garlic naan or a roti or aloo kulcha.
- Place leftovers in an airtight container and place in the fridge for up to three days. Baingan bharta freezes nicely. Place in an airtight container after it has cooled and freeze for up to three months. Reheat frozen or refrigerated eggplant bharta in the microwave, about 3-5 minutes for frozen and 1-2 minutes if refrigerated. Stir a couple of times in between to ensure everything is evenly heated. If doing this on the stovetop thaw the bharta first, then reheat in a skillet or wok.