Eggplants can be an interesting addition to your diet. There are so many different ways to cook it that it’s hard to get bored of it!
The eggplant has always been a mysterious ingredient to use in cooking since its taste can depend on many factors.
Before I dive into the amazing world of eggplants, there are some basic things that I’ll cover so you know which kind of eggplant suits your palate the best.
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Is Eggplant a Fruit or a Vegetable?
Many people consider eggplants to be a vegetable, but to everyone’s surprise, they’re seeded fruits! They’re even classified as a berry, which is not something most people guess.
Eggplant’s Flavor – What Does Eggplant Taste Like?
One interesting thing about eggplants is that they have slightly different flavors for every part of the fruit. In general, eggplant tastes slightly spongy and earthy and can take on a bitter taste depending on how it was prepared.
To explain it better, the eggplant’s flavor can be divided into three main parts: Its skin, its seeds, and its flesh.
The eggplant’s skin can vary depending on the fruit’s ripeness, but overall, their skin is thin and can go from a deep purple to a glossy purple color. Eggplant skin is edible but on overly mature fruits, it can be tough and bitter.
The skin on Japanese eggplant tends to be thinner and less bitter than on Italian eggplant.
The seeds are located within the eggplant’s flesh, and they’re usually bitter in taste. If you get a young eggplant, the seed’s bitterness is not as high as with a mature one.
In each case, they have a mild taste with a slight touch of bitterness. Keep in mind that if your eggplant is over-matured, the seeds can turn brown, in which case you would have to scoop them out with a spoon if you want to cook the fruit.
The flesh is the most “famous” part of the eggplant, as it’s the one that can provide a huge variety of flavors depending on how you consume it.
Depending on the type of eggplant, the flesh’s flavor is very rich and pleasant to the palate. After you cook it, it can become either meaty, earthy, or smoky.
Eggplant flesh has a high absorption rate; this means that it can absorb other marinades and flavors when cooking. With this in mind, you can achieve a wide variety of flavors depending on what you baste or soak the eggplant in.
Eggplant’s Ripeness Grade
There are three main grades of ripeness. While I personally recommend that you get young and slightly ripe eggplants for cooking, you can choose the option that fits your meal the best.
Eggplants that haven’t matured yet have a very bitter flavor. You can tell it’s unripe if the eggplant has a hard flesh with tiny seeds growing around it.
Keep in mind that unripe eggplants don’t have a high absorption rate, so if you’re planning to cook the eggplant with other ingredients, this may not be a good option for you.
This is my favorite type of eggplant. Mature eggplants have the richest taste of them all. You can tell that an eggplant is ripe/mature when the skin is glossy, and the flesh has a slightly spongy texture.
Another great thing is that eggplants in this state have edible seeds, so no need to scoop them out.
These eggplants are the most unfit ones for cooking. In most cases, overripe eggplants have a really bitter and foul taste.
You can tell it’s overripe if the flesh looks slightly yellow with brown patches on the seeds.
I suggest that you avoid these eggplants since they are way too bitter to cook, and the seeds are not edible anymore.
Can You Change the Taste of Eggplant?
Of course, you can! The best thing about eggplants is that you can cook them along with other ingredients so that the eggplant absorbs other flavors.
Here are some of the most common methods that I’ve found effective to change things up with eggplants.
Remove the Skin
While the skin can be edible, it tends to be the main source of bitterness when consumed. If you’d prefer significantly less bitterness, make sure that you peel the eggplant’s skin off before you cook it.
This can greatly improve the eggplant’s flavor. On the other hand, if you’re looking to braise your eggplant, it’s better if you leave the skin on.
If you’re not a fan of the eggplant’s bitterness, the best thing that you can do is cut it into tiny pieces and get some salt on them. After you mix the salt with the pieces, leave them be for one hour.
When the hour has passed, you can wash off the salt. With this method, the salt removes the bitter moisture from the fruit, which can make the flesh absorb the other flavors faster.
Soak the Eggplant in a Plant Milk
This is an easy trick that I use to improve the flavor of my eggplants. All you have to do is soak the eggplant in your choice of unsweetened plant-based milk for 20-30 minutes.
The milk is going to make the eggplant creamier, and it’s also going to lower its bitterness. I like to use either unsweetened almond milk or cashew milk.
If you’re doing this, make sure that you scoop out the seeds, since they are not going to absorb the milk, making them taste bitter still.
Microwave the Eggplant
If you cut the eggplant in pieces, and cook them inside a microwave for about five minutes, you can significantly improve its taste. Make sure that you do this on a paper towel-lined plate to absorb the water.
Keep in mind that this prevents the eggplant from further absorbing other flavors when cooking. So don’t use this method if you want to soak the eggplant in a marinade or absorb cooking flavors.
Brushing the eggplant’s flesh with oil instead of frying in a layer of oil can prevent the eggplant from becoming greasy after absorbing too much oil.
To do this, take the brushed eggplant into a hot pan, and keep brushing one side of the flesh at a time.
As you can see, there are a lot of fun ways to make eggplant taste delicious. If you’re planning to add eggplants to your diet, make sure that you choose a young and ripe one, but not too ripe.
Try cooking them in a variety of ways from soaking in a marinade, baking, stir-frying, and more in order to find a way that tastes best to you.