Eggplants are a tasty addition to many recipes, and they’re used all around the world in many dishes and meals, making them one of the most popular vegetables. But what to do when you’re out of eggplants just when you need them?
There are many possibilities to choose from when you’re out of eggplants or when you simply don’t enjoy their taste. Recreating the taste of a vegetable is difficult, and that’s why you should always go for a different variety of eggplant first, but there are a lot of other options too.
The best substitutes for eggplants
Eggplant (also known as aubergine, the British eggplant) is a plant species of the Solanaceae family, grown in almost every part of the world for its edible fruit, typically used as a vegetable. It’s a delicate, perennial plant, often cultivated in temperate climates.
Eggplant is related to tomatoes chili peppers, and potatoes, and it shares some of their characteristics: the skin of eggplants and their seeds can be eaten, like tomatoes, but it’s usually consumed cooked like potatoes.
Eggplant has the ability to absorb oils and flavors through cooking, and this is one of the reasons they used and loved worldwide. The raw vegetable can have a somewhat bitter taste, but it becomes rich and tender when cooked: salting and rinsing the eggplant helps to remove a lot of the bitterness.
Eggplants are used in a variety of different ways: they can be stewed, roasted in their skin, and then blended with other ingredients, they can be sliced and deep-fried and they even can be grilled or stuffed with meat or rice.
If you’re following a recipe that calls for eggplants but you don’t like them, here’s what you have to know to choose the best eggplant substitute.
1. A different variety of eggplant
Your first best choice, when looking for a substitute for eggplant, is simply to stick to another variety of the same vegetable: there are countless varieties of eggplant, all unique in their own way, and they all could be a good substitute for each other.
Graffiti eggplants have a smaller size, and therefore cook more quickly, and they are tender and smooth with a sweet flavor. Another variety of eggplant known for tender consistency and versatility is Italian eggplant.
Japanese and Chinese eggplants are known for their long and narrow form, they both have fewer seeds than other varieties and an extra tender flesh when cooked.
Indian eggplants are known for their smaller and rounder appearance: they have a tender texture and a velvety interior. Heirloom Rosa Bianca eggplants are beautiful to look at and sweet to taste: they’re almost void of bitterness, plump and round.
White eggplants get their name from the unusual white color, very different from the deep purple of what we’re used to. They have a more delicate flavor, so if you don’t particularly enjoy the standard eggplant flavor you can definitely try with this variety. The color won’t be as particular as other kinds of eggplants, but you can always add some bell peppers for more color!
These are only a few of the available varieties of eggplant: feel free to choose a different variety, and experiment with taste and consistency!
Okra is an elongated, lantern shape fruit, that is actually eaten as a vegetable. It’s a low calories fruit, high in fibers, vitamins, and antioxidants. This vegetable is known for its rows of tiny seeds and for its sticky texture when cut open.
Okra can be cooked in many different ways, and the method depends on whether you enjoy the slimy texture or not: if you don’t, it’s better to stick to frying, sautéeing, or grilling.
This fruit has a unique taste, slightly different than eggplant, but they both belong to the same family, and when cooked it gains a tender and softer texture making it a good eggplant replacement.
Zucchini is a long, cylindrical vegetable, known for a lot of different qualities: it’s easy to cook and easy to grow, cheap, and with a mildly sweet flavor that can work in a lot of different dishes, both sweet and savory.
Their flesh is pale greenish or white and they are soft in texture and light in flavor: this characteristic, along with their versatility, makes them a good eggplant alternative. They work best sliced in dishes like pasta, or as a substitute in something like eggplant parmesan.
Mushrooms are another good eggplant alternative: they have the same soft and sensitive eggplant texture, and the taste is slightly sweet.
If you want to substitute eggplant with mushrooms, the best option is probably Portobello mushrooms. They’re rich in taste and have a chewy and meaty texture that works really well for the intended purpose. They can be grilled, broiled, or sautéed, and they’re available from December to March.
You can still experiment with other qualities of mushrooms, just be sure you’re not choosing something with a stronger flavor.
5. Yellow squash
Yellow squash is a kind of summer squash that can be found in two different varieties: straight neck and crooked neck. They both have smooth and thin skin and white flesh that can be eaten raw when picked young. Squash is also an excellent source of vitamins (especially vitamin C) and contains dietary fiber.
Yellow squash can work pretty well as an eggplant substitute: when cooked, it has a similar consistency and texture, and while the taste is not the same, it can work in a lot of different recipes that call for eggplants.
Tofu isn’t really in the category of vegetables similar to eggplant, but it can work as a good substitute nonetheless. Tofu is made by coagulation soy milk and then pressing the curds into blocks of different softness: it can go from soft to extra firm.
Tofu has a subtle flavor, can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, and is low in calories and high in nutrients (like iron, calcium, and magnesium).
Firm or extra firm tofu can be a nice eggplant substitute because it has a similar consistency and it has the same characteristic: being able to absorb other flavors during cooking really well. If you’re not looking exclusively for a vegetable substitute, tofu can be a good option.
If you’re looking specifically to replace eggplant in dishes like stews, root vegetables can be a good option.
The first root vegetables you can try are turnips, they can have different sizes, shapes, and colors, but the flesh is usually white and they are usually round with a mild taste.
Rutabagas are another good option: they’re a bit larger than turnips, available year-round and can be eaten in a variety of different ways. They have the same taste as turnips and an earthy undertone. Rutabagas, just like turnips, can be a good substitute for eggplants in stews.
You can experiment with other kinds of root vegetables, like carrots, yams, beets, or daikon. Since you’re not going exactly for the same flavor as eggplant, you can choose the best substitute depending on your personal taste.
9. Pattypan Squash
Pattypan squash (also known as scallop squash) is another variety of summer squash, known for the small size and very particular shape: this kind of squash has a round and shallow shape with scalloped edges.
This particular squash can come in yellow, white, or green varieties. They’re all usually tender and have a soft flesh, which is a good source of vitamins (vitamin A and vitamin C) and magnesium. They’re denser and have a little more crunch than other kinds of squash.
Pattypan squash can be used in salads or in different cooked dishes: they work pretty well as a substitute for eggplant, especially because you can stuff the larger ones just like you would do with an eggplant.
How to choose an eggplant substitute
Trying to replicate the same taste and texture of a vegetable is always hard, so your first choice when looking for an eggplant substitute should always be a different kind of eggplant, in fact, almost all of them are interchangeable and have similar flavors.
Of course, this only works if you actually enjoy the taste of eggplants, or if you’re not allergic. If this is the case, you should choose the best substitute based on the recipe you’re following. You can use different types of summer squash (yellow squash or pattypan squash), okra, or zucchini. Mushrooms are a great alternative if you want to replicate a similar texture.
If you don’t mind choosing something that isn’t a vegetable, tofu is a great option. Root vegetables work well, but only in dishes like stews.