Eggplant is the star of the show in this sweet and savory flavor-packed stir fry. If you're intimidated by cooking eggplant, this dish is a great place to start!
As much as I love eating eggplant dishes, I've always been intimidated by cooking it. There's always breaded eggplant and roasted eggplant, but something about cooking eggplant on the stove always leaves me disappointed.
Until I tried this eggplant stir fry recipe at my friend's house a few months ago. It inspired me to make my own eggplant stir fry that's sweet, savory, and easy to make.
- Texture: Ultra-soft, flavor-packed eggplant that is pan-fried until golden, then simmered in a flavorful sauce.
- Balanced: This stir fry is cooked with tempeh for protein. Serve on a bed of rice for a satisfying and budget-friendly meal.
- Sweet and savory: The sweet sauce stir fry sauce is inspired by teriyaki flavors (think sugar, soy sauce, and vinegar). It also has black vinegar, a sweet vinegar traditional to Chinese cuisine.
- Eggplant: I use globe eggplant, which is the most common kind at most American grocery stores.
- Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. It is like tofu's firmer, nuttier-tasting cousin.
- Black vinegar is also known as sweet vinegar or Chinese vinegar. I buy this at an Asian grocery store in my town where it is labeled as "sweetened vinegar". It is also available online, but it is more expensive online. It has a very complex flavor kind of like a combination of licorice, orange, and vinegar. Do not skip this ingredient as it adds a lot to the recipe.
- Soy sauce: I like to use lite/reduced-sodium soy sauce to cut back on salt. Tamari can be used to make this recipe gluten-free.
- Ginger and garlic: Fresh is best for this recipe.
- Brown sugar: I add this for a kick of sweetness that balances out the saltiness from soy sauce. Feel free to adjust to taste.
- Vegetable broth is added to the eggplant to help it cook down. An equal amount of water works in a pinch.
How to cook eggplant
Dice the eggplant into 1-2 inch cubes. They should be roughly the same size but it doesn't need to be exact.
The more surface area the pot used has, the more quickly the eggplant will cook. I actually prefer cooking it in a large skillet as opposed to the Dutch oven (large pot) I used for this video.
Eggplant is like a sponge and it loves soaking up oil and liquid. Because of this, I cook it in 3 tablespoons of oil.
Cook the eggplant, sliced tempeh, and red onion over medium-high heat until the eggplan is golden. This will take 4-6 minutes but timing may vary depending on the size of your pan (larger will be quicker).
Once it's browned, add in ½ cup vegetable broth. Continue cooking over medium-high heat until the eggplant is very soft. Don't stop cooking the eggplant until it is soft enough to eat.
Making the sauce
Remove everything from the pan in order to make the sauce. You do not need to clean the pan before using it for this step.
Heat another drizzle of oil over medium-high heat. Add the minced ginger and garlic. Saute until aromatic and golden, about 1-2 minutes.
Deglaze the pot with the rice vinegar, stirring to remove any stuck-on pieces or browned spots. Add the remaining sauce ingredients, stirring to combine.
Return the eggplant etc. to the pot. Stir to coat in the sauce. Continue cooking until the sauce is thickened, about 4-5 minutes.
Types of eggplant
While I use globe eggplants in this stir-fry due to their convenience (they are the most common eggplant in most grocery stores), you can use most varieties of eggplant.
Chinese eggplant is great for stir-frying, whereas globe eggplants/American eggplant tend to have a "meatier" texture that makes them take longer to cook.
Italian eggplant is a smaller version of globe eggplants and they tend to be sweeter.
Different varieties of eggplant will have different cook times. As a rule of thumb, globe eggplants tend to cook more slowly than smaller varieties like Chinese or Japanese eggplants.
Leftovers: Keep leftover eggplant refrigerated in a closed container for 3-4 days. I like to make an extra serving or two of rice to refrigerate for fried rice.
Reheating: Reheat individual servings of eggplant in the microwave in just 1-2 minutes. Reheat on the stove over medium heat, stirring as needed.
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Eggplant Stir Fry
- 3 tablespoons neutral oil such as canola or olive oil
- 2 large globe eggplants sliced into 1 inch pieces
- 8 ounces tempeh sliced thinly
- 1 medium red onion finely diced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup vegetable broth or water
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- ¼ cup reduced sodium soy sauce
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon black vinegar see note #1
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 1 tablespoon water
- for serving: white rice, fresh basil
- Heat a large tall-walled skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. The eggplant will cook more quickly in larger, shallower pans than in a Dutch oven.
- Add 3 tablespoons cooking oil. Once hot, add the eggplant, sliced tempeh, and diced red onion. Sprinkle with salt.
- Cook for 6-8 minutes, until the eggplant starts to brown. Stir as needed for even cooking.
- Once golden, pour in ½ cup vegetable broth. Continue cooking until the eggplant is softened, another 6 to 8 minutes.
- Remove the eggplant, tempeh, and red onion from the pot and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil over medium heat in the same pot. The pot doesn't need to be cleaned between uses.
- Add the minced ginger and garlic. Saute until golden and aromatic, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add 1 tablespoon rice vinegar to deglaze the pot. Stir to remove any stuck on pieces.
- Add the soy sauce, light brown sugar, and black vinegar. In a small bowl, whisk together the corn starch and water to form a slurry. Add this to the pot. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
- Return the eggplant etc. to the pot. Stir to coat the eggplant in the sauce. Simmer over medium heat until the sauce is thickened and the eggplant is completely cooked and softened.
- Taste for seasonings. Serve with rice and a garnish of basil. Enjoy!
- Eggplant: I use globe eggplant, which is the most common kind of eggplant at most grocery stores. These are meatier than Chinese or Japanese eggplants and larger than Italian eggplant. This recipe works for any kind of eggplant.
- Black vinegar: This is also called sweetened vinegar or Chinese vinegar. I buy mine at an Asian grocery store, but it is also available online (it is much more expensive online). I don't recommend skipping this ingredient because a small amount adds a ton of flavor.
- Keep leftovers refrigerated in a closed container for 3-4 days.