My eggplant stew is light, savory and aromatic, with tender aubergine, tomatoes and warm spices. Make this recipe for a cozy meatless meal!
Stews are a fantastic meal and most popular during cooler months of the year. The thing is, some people think of stew as heavy and hearty, and that is not always the case.
I have plenty of delicious and hearty meat stew recipes like Instant Pot Lamb Stew and Moroccan chicken stew. But once in a while, I like to have meatless meals. This Persian recipe proves that vegetarian stew can be satisfying, too!
Spiced eggplant stew
Cuisine: Middle Eastern / Iranian (Persian)
Eggplant is a staple in dishes throughout the Middle East, appearing in dips like mutabal, condiments like ajvar relish and this savory Persian eggplant stew.
In Persian cuisine, the meatless aubergine stew is called khoresh bademjan. When it's made with meat (typically lamb or beef), it's known as khoresh bademjoon.
khoresht bademjan, khoresh-e bademjan, aubergine stew
Difficulty: Easy 🥄
Spiced eggplant and aromatics cooked in tangy tomato sauce.
Best eggplant for stew
There are at least 7 varieties of aubergine/eggplant, and they come in various sizes and colors (see images of them here). The majority of them have very seedy flesh, and the seeds are what give eggplant its bitter taste.
Either Chinese or Italian eggplants are best for making this stew, as both have firm flesh and fewer seeds than the other varieties.
Avoid using the American variety, known as globe eggplant. It has a lot of seeds and softer flesh. It’s better used to make things that aren’t cooked, or are pan-fried, like eggplant parmesan.
Ingredient notes and substitutions
- Tomatoes- You'll need whole, peeled and cooked tomatoes for this eggplant stew. Any canned variety will work, but San Marzano Italian tomatoes have the best flavor.
- Pomegranate molasses- This Persian seasoning is made from concentrated pomegranate juice. Its bright, tart-sweet flavor is fantastic in this dish!
- Dried lime- This ingredient is the dried version of a fruit known as omani, limoo amani, or black lime. The Iranian lime has a very tart, almost sour flavor, and it's used often in Persian cuisine.
Do not confuse Iranian lime with Persian limes, which are bright green, with a sweet-tart flavor.
Good substitutes for dried lime are sour grapes, or in a pinch, you could substitute them with fresh lime juice.
- Eggplants- Keep in mind that you'll need 2 pounds of flesh. Depending on the variety you use, this may require buying more than one aubergine.
DID YOU KNOW?
Like tomatoes, squash, and several other "veggies", eggplants are botanically classified as a fruit. This is because they grow on vines and have flesh containing seeds.
If you love the flavors in this dish, you should also try my recipe for zaalouk. It's a delicious Moroccan eggplant appetizer!
Ingredient prep for eggplant stew
Before you can start making the stew, you'll have to draw out excess moisture from the fruit. You do this with one simple ingredient; salt.
- Peel and cut the aubergine into cubes, then place them in a colander set over a large bowl.
- Add salt and toss to coat.
- Allow the salt to work its magic while you prep the remaining ingredients and start cooking the tomato sauce.
Recipe notes and serving suggestions
- Leftovers - Store any leftover stew in a covered container in the fridge and use it up within 5 days.
Reheat in a saucepan or skillet on the stove over medium heat, stirring until it's warmed through. You could also reheat in a microwave on medium power.
- Serving suggestions
Traditionally, the Persian stew is served on a bed of basmati rice. As you can see in the photo below, I also made some Persian saffron rice.
Some people like to add a dollop of yogurt or labneh over the top as well.
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Spiced Eggplant Stew
- 4 tablespoon olive oil divided
- 2 lbs eggplant peeled and cubed (See Note 1)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 large white onion finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 28 oz tomatoes whole and peeled tomatoes, drained
- ¼ cup pomegranate molasses (See Note 1)
- ¼ teaspoon saffron
- 3 dried limes or 2 tablespoon 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 below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.