This recipe for eggplant stew is a hearty vegetarian dish loaded with authentic Middle Eastern flavor. It features tender aubergines, ripe tomatoes, and sautéed onions in a rich, expertly seasoned sauce. Make this dish for an irresistible meatless meal!
Persian eggplant stew, or khoresh bademjan, is a mouthwatering combination of eggplant, tomato, and onion in a rich, tomato-based sauce. As simple as it may seem, this classic Persian stew is infused with layers of exotic flavor with saffron, turmeric, cinnamon, and other aromatic spices. A touch of sour lime and sweet pomegranate molasses add just the right amount of contrast to make all the flavors really pop.
Eggplant stew is a great dish to make when you want a healthy, satisfying meal that will fill you up without weighing you down. You are always welcome to toss a bit of ground beef or lamb into the mix, but I think you’ll find this recipe perfect just the way it is.
Table of Contents
- Eggplant – Also called aubergines, there are at least 7 different varieties of eggplant in varying shapes, sizes, and colors. I recommend seeking out either Italian eggplant or the Chinese variety, which are long and slender. These two have the firmest flesh and fewest seeds. Avoid the American, or globe, variety as they have lots of seeds and a softer flesh that doesn’t hold up well in stews. You will need a total of 2 pounds of flesh after peeling and deseeding so keep that in mind when shopping.
- Spices – Garlic, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, and saffron infuse the stew with layers of zesty warmth and aromatic flavor.
- Pomegranate Molasses – Adds a concentrated, tart-sweet flavor to the mix. If you can’t find this ingredient locally, good substitutes include cranberry juice mixed with grenadine or raspberry jam mixed with lemon juice.
- Dried Lime – This is the dried version of an Iranian lime, also called omani, limoo, amani, or black lime. It is tart, sour, and different from the sweeter, Persian limes. If you don’t have access to this ingredient, sour grapes or fresh lime juice are the best substitutes.
Pomegranate molasses also goes by pomegranate syrup, and is just pomegranate juice that gets reduced to a thick, sweet-tart syrup.
Use it in place of citrus juice or vinegar in salad dressings, or treat it as a glaze on meats before grilling or roasting. It’s a wonderful flavor weapon in sauces as well.
- Prepare the Eggplant. Set a large colander over a bowl. Add the cubed eggplant and sprinkle with a tablespoon of kosher salt. Set the bowl aside to let the eggplant drain.
- Sauté the Spices. Meanwhile, place a Dutch oven with 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 7 minutes, until they are golden and translucent. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, turmeric, cinnamon, salt, and pepper, and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add the Eggplant. Use your hands to gently wring any extra moisture from the eggplant, then pat it as dry as possible with a paper towel. Add the eggplant to the pan along with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until the eggplant is tender and begins browning at the edges.
- Add the Remaining Ingredients. Stir in the tomatoes and pomegranate molasses. Use your finger to crush the saffron before sprinkling it into the pot. Then, use a fork to pierce the Persian limes before stirring them into the stew as well.
- Simmer & Serve. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let the eggplant stew simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with cooked rice of your choice.
Khoresh bademjan translates to “eggplant stew” in English. It is a traditional Persian stew made with eggplant, tomatoes, onions, and loads of warming, aromatic spices.
When the recipe includes beef or lamb, it is called khoresh bademjoon.
Peeling and deseeding your aubergines is a great first step in avoiding a bitter stew. Most of the bitterness associated with eggplant comes from the seeds and the skin. Pick eggplants with relatively fewer seeds (Chinese or Italian) to set yourself up for success.
Eggplants that are past their prime can also get quite bitter, so it is important to pick young, healthy fruit. Make sure there are no shriveled, overly soft, or discolored spots. The best picks will be firm to the touch but not hard, similar to a ripe peach. It should also have a vibrant color and be heavy for its size.
Salt is a major player in preventing bitterness too, so don’t rush past salting the eggplant before you start. And, if your Persian eggplant stew is on the bitter side, a bit of salt is helpful to balance that out.
This robust stew pairs perfectly with a helping of steamed Basmati or this amazing Persian Saffron Rice.
Egyptian stew is also delicious when topped with a dollop of yogurt or Labneh and served with a side of Lavash, Barbari, or Pita Bread for soaking up all the tasty sauce.
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Persian Eggplant Stew (Khoresh Bademjan)
- 4 tbsp olive oil divided
- 2 lbs eggplant peeled and cubed (See Note 1)
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 large white onion finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 28 oz tomatoes whole and peeled tomatoes, drained
- 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses (See Note 1)
- 1/4 tsp saffron
- 3 dried limes or 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
- Place eggplant in a large colander set over a bowl. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of kosher salt and set aside to drain.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until golden and translucent, about 7 minutes. Next, add tomato paste, garlic, turmeric, salt, pepper, and cinnamon; continue cooking for another 2 minutes.
- Gently squeeze water from eggplant and pat it dry with paper towel. Add eggplant to pan with remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook, stirring often, until eggplant is tender and starts to brown at the edges, about 15 minutes.
- Add tomatoes and pomegranate molasses, then use your fingers to crush saffron into the pan. Pierce the Persian limes with a fork and stir them into the stew.
- Bring stew to a simmer, then reduce heat to low, cover pot with lid and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with cooked rice.
- There are several varieties of eggplant. The best for making this eggplant stew are either Chinese (long and slender) or Italian, as they have firm flesh and fewer seeds than other varieties.
- Good substitutes for pomegranate molasses are cranberry juice and grenadine, or raspberry jam and lemon juice.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.