Eggplant: Important Facts, Health Benefits, and Recipes

Explore the health benefits, nutritional information, and various cuisines that use eggplant, along with storage tips, types, and potential side effects in this comprehensive guide.

What Is Eggplant?

  • Eggplant, also known as aubergine or Guinea squash, is a tender perennial plant of the nightshade family, grown for its edible fruits.
  • The stem of the fruit is often spiny
  • Eggplant needs a warm climate to grow and is native to Southeast Asia
  • The plant is closely related to the tomato and the potato
  • Eggplants are purple with a spongy interior
  • Eggplant colors generally range from white to lavender to dark purplish-black and multi-color striped, and pale green, yellow, and reddish.

Is Eggplant Good For You?

Yes, eggplant is good for you! It doesn’t have as many nutrients as other fruits and vegetables, but it does provide some.

3 Health Benefits Of Eggplant

  1. Eggplants are a source of antioxidants
    • Anthocyanins are the main source of antioxidants in eggplant, giving them their deep purple color.
  2. Eggplant is a good source of fiber
    • One medium eggplant has 14 grams of fiber, which is good for digestion and may help lower cholesterol
  3. Eggplant is a source of potassium
    • One medium eggplant has 20% of your Daily Needs for potassium.
    • Potassium is helpful for reducing blood pressure, and therefore is a heart-healthy food

History, Background, and General Facts About Eggplant

  • There is no agreement about the place of origin of eggplant; the plant species has been described as native to India, Africa, or South Asia
  • Eggplant is nutritionally low in nutrient content, but because it absorbs oils and flavors into its flesh easily through cooking, it is used in a variety of cuisines and recipes.
  • ​​In 2018, China and India combined accounted for 87% of the world production of eggplants.
  • Botanically classified as a berry , the fruit contains many small, soft, edible seeds that taste bitter because they contain or are covered in nicotinoid alkaloids , like the related tobacco .
  • Because of the plant's relationship with various other nightshades , the fruit was at one time believed to be extremely poisonous. The flowers and leaves can be poisonous if consumed in large quantities due to the presence of solanine.
  • The eggplant has a special place in folklore . In 13th-century Italian traditional folklore, the eggplant was said to cause insanity. In 19th-century Egypt, insanity was said to be "more common and more violent" when the eggplant is in season in the summer
  • Many preparations call for salting the eggplant's flesh to draw out some of its moisture, allowing it to become softer and more absorbent before cooking.
  • Another popular method is to fire-roast , oven-roast, or broil the eggplant until its exterior is charred, then scoop out the softened, smoky flesh and blend into a dip or other dish.
  • Eggplant can also be marinated, pickled, grilled, braised, deep-fried, sautéed, stir-fried , and baked .

What Are The Cuisines That Regularly Include Eggplant?

  • Greek: moussaka (Greek lasagna with ground meat, eggplant, and potatoes)
  • Italian: eggplant Parmigiana
  • Middle Eastern: baba ganoush
  • Chinese: deep fried, or roasted and eaten with garlic, chiles, oil and coriander, or the flesh is removed and pounded to a mash (typically with a wooden pestle and mortar) before being eaten with rice or other dishes.
  • Japanese: slices of eggplant are grilled and filled with a meat stuffing.
  • Korean: They are steamed , stir-fried , or pan-fried and eaten as banchan (side dishes)
  • Philippines: cooked in stews and soups and in an omelet made from grilling an eggplant, dipping it into beaten eggs, and pan-frying the mixture. The dish is often served with the stalk attached
  • India: in a tamarind lentil stew , a dal preparation with vegetables, chutney , curry , and a pickled dish (sometimes called the king of vegetables because it is used in so many Indian dishes)
  • French: ratatouille stew (tomato, zucchini, onion, garlic, and bell peppers)
  • Iran: blended with whey and added to a stew with tomatoes
  • Romanian: mix of roasted eggplant , roasted red peppers, chopped onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, celery, and spices
  • Spain: ( escalivada ) strips of roasted aubergine, sweet pepper, onion, and tomato

What Is The Best Way To Store Eggplant?

Eggplant is very delicate and lasts only a few days in the refrigerator. Store eggplant in the refrigerator drawer for the whole eggplant. If you’ve chopped it, put it in an airtight container and keep it in the refrigerator.

What Are The Different Types Of Eggplant?

  • Most common eggplant varieties in U.S.: globe and Italian eggplant
    • teardrop-shaped with glossy purplish-black skin and a thick stem cap.
  • Japanese or Chinese eggplant : an elongated variety in a lavender to violet color that has fewer seeds and thinner skins, and doesn't need to be peeled.
  • Rosa Bianca or graffiti eggplant (red- or purple-striped varieties) have a similar shape but milder flavor than their dark purple counterparts. Their thin striated patterns will usually disappear during the cooking process.

Toxicity and Side Effects Of Eggplant

  • Some people report itchy skin or mouth, mild headache, and stomach upset after handling or eating eggplant
    • A 2008 study of people in India, where eggplant is commonly consumed, found nearly 10% reported some allergic symptoms after consuming eggplant, with 1.4% showing symptoms within two hours
  • People who are genetically predisposed to developing certain allergic hypersensitivity reactions are more likely to have a reaction to eggplant, which may be because eggplant is high in histamines .
  • Eggplant and other nightshade vegetables have the chemical solanine, which some people claim adds to inflammation and makes diseases like arthritis worse.
    • There aren’t a lot of studies that prove that eggplant worsens arthritis symptoms. But if you notice that your joint pain flares up after you eat eggplant, avoid it.

What Is The Best Substitute For Eggplant If I Don't Have Any?

If you don't have eggplant available or need a substitute for it in a recipe, there are a few alternatives you can consider depending on the purpose and texture you're looking for. Here are some options:

  1. Zucchini: Zucchini can be a good substitute for eggplant in certain dishes, especially when you need a similar texture and mild flavor. It can be used in recipes like stir-fries, ratatouille, or grilled vegetable dishes. Keep in mind that zucchini has a slightly different taste, so the overall flavor of the dish may vary.

  2. Portobello Mushrooms: Portobello mushrooms can provide a meaty and substantial texture that can be a suitable substitute for eggplant in certain recipes. They work well in dishes like grilled or roasted vegetables, sandwiches, or stuffed mushrooms.

  3. Bell Peppers: Bell peppers can be used as a substitute for eggplant in recipes where the eggplant serves as a vessel or container. Cut the bell peppers in half and use them as a base for stuffing or filling. They can be baked or grilled for a similar effect.

  4. Firm Tofu: Firm tofu can be a substitute for eggplant in dishes that require a meaty texture. Cut the tofu into similar-sized pieces as the eggplant and use it in stir-fries, curries, or grilled dishes. Tofu absorbs flavors well, making it a versatile substitute.

Nutritional Facts
1 eggplant, unpeeled
Amount per serving
32.2 g
1 g
5.4 g
Saturated Fat
0.2 g
11 mg
16.4 g
19.3 g