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This easy sauteed eggplant recipe transforms a classic summer veggie into a quick-cooking side dish that goes with so many mains! I have always roasted eggplant when I wanted to cook this veggie, but recently experimented with cooking eggplant on the stovetop. And you’re going to love it! Similar to sauteed zucchini, pan fried eggplant caramelizes even more than the oven version.
Just like the roasting method, cooking eggplant in a pan takes just a few common kitchen ingredients. The main difference is that pan frying takes even less time — and you don’t have to wait for your oven to heat up! (You can also try air fryer eggplant as another quick — and more hands-off — method.)
Why You’ll Love This Sauteed Eggplant Recipe
- Rich, savory and sweet flavor
- Soft, tender texture inside, with caramelized edges
- Just 5 basic ingredients
- Ready in 20 minutes total
- Healthy, gluten-free, and vegetarian
- Easy to pair with lots of dishes
Ingredients & Substitutions
This section explains how to choose the best ingredients for crispy pan fried eggplant, what each one does in the recipe, and substitution options. For measurements, see the recipe card below.
- Eggplant – Also known as aubergine in some parts of the world. Get a firm one, with smooth, shiny skin and minimal nicks, if any. Cook it as soon as you can for freshest flavor.
- Garlic Powder – Eggplant recipes with garlic bring out natural flavors in this veggie, and garlic powder is the easiest way to do it when sauteing. You could use fresh minced garlic, but you’ll want to add it later in the cooking process to avoid burning.
- Sea Salt & Black Pepper
- Olive Oil – Eggplant sauteed in olive oil (especially extra virgin) has so much flavor, but you can also use any cooking oil you have on-hand.
How To Cut Eggplant For Frying
There are a few different ways to cut eggplant for sauteing:
- Slices. Cut the eggplant crosswise into 1/4 inch circles. Start with the end that does not have the stem, so that you have the leafy end to grab onto as you slice.
- Strips. Slice the eggplant into 1/2 inch slices, then stack the slices and cut them into long strips.
- Cubes. Cut the same way as strips, but then cut all the strips in the opposite direction to make cubes.
The last two methods work well in sauces or as a component in other eggplant recipes.
For pan fried eggplant, I prefer slices, for several reasons:
- It’s the fastest method for cooking eggplant.
- You get caramelized edges on each slice.
- It’s easier to get nice browning because you can saute without moving and flip once.
- The ideal thickness is 1/4 inch thick, which allows the eggplant to cook quickly and caramelize well. However, you can slice 1/2 inch thick instead (and cook for longer) if you like.
How To Cook Eggplant
This section shows the best way to saute eggplant, with step-by-step photos and details about the technique, to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Season. Sprinkle eggplant with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. If you want more flavor, you can add some Italian seasoning as well.
TIP: No need to pre-salt unless our eggplant is very large.
This is a common practice with eggplant to remove bitterness, but most eggplants today are bred to avoid this problem. However, larger ones may still be a bit bitter so for those, you can sprinkle the slices with salt, let them sit for 30 minutes, rinse off and pat dry before cooking.
- Saute. Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the eggplant slices in a single layer. Working in batches, saute the eggplant on both sides, until completely soft, tender, and caramelized. Repeat with remaining eggplant, adding oil between batches, until done. Serve as-is, or add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of fresh herbs!
TIP: Don’t move the eggplant around!
Unlike some sauteing methods, in this case we want to leave the eggplant untouched except when flipping. This will give us that beautiful, delicious browning.
Sauteed Eggplant Variations
Try out these tasty eggplant recipe variations that give you endless ways to enjoy this flavorful vegetable:
- Eggplant and zucchini – Fry a mix of eggplant and zucchini slices. Both work great using this method, just make sure they are sliced to the same thickness.
- Pan fried eggplant cubes – Like I explained above, I much prefer to saute eggplant slices, but if you prefer, you can saute cubes instead. Be sure to turn them occasionally so that all sides get browned.
- Garlic – If you prefer fresh minced garlic instead of the garlic powder used in this recipe, add the 4 cloves minced garlic toward the end of cooking so that it doesn’t burn.
- Mediterranean – Pan fry eggplant using the instructions below, then add the toppings (tomatoes, olives, red onions, feta, and fresh basil) from this Mediterranean chicken recipe.
- Cheese – When the eggplant is almost done, place a cube of feta cheese or a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese on each eggplant, cover, and let it melt.
- Store: Keep eggplant in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
- Reheat: Heat eggplant in a 350 degree F oven until warm. Sauteed eggplant is also delicious cold!
Can You Freeze Eggplant?
Yes, you can freeze cooked eggplant slices for up to 1 year, between layers of parchment in a freezer-safe bag or container. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
What To Serve With Eggplant Recipes
Easy eggplant recipes like this one pair well with Italian, Greek, and Middle Eastern flavors:
- Sauces – The caramelized flavors in this dish are sweet and savory on their own, but you can also add a sauce, like marinara sauce (or even just tomato sauce) or tahini sauce.
- Chicken – I like to make Italian-inspired chicken meals like Caprese chicken with balsamic glaze, chicken Cacciatore in the slow cooker, or bruschetta chicken. But it goes just as well with simpler chicken dinners, like baked chicken legs or grilled chicken thighs!
- Lamb – Serve eggplant with lamb kofta kebabs or roasted lamb chops for a Mediterranean meal. Add tzatziki sauce if you like!
- Sausage – Eggplant flavors pair well with sausage stuffed mushrooms, hearty sausage kale soup, or sausage stuffed zucchini boats.
- Pasta – Try this sauteed eggplant recipe with your favorite noodles, or choose healthier veggie options like zucchini roll ups, savory zucchini lasagna, or oven baked spaghetti squash.
- Salads – Add an eggplant layer to Caprese salad, or slice the eggplant add to a Mediterranean chicken salad or Italian-inspired steak salad.
- Sandwiches – Cooked eggplant makes a delicious addition to your favorite sandwich.
More Easy Eggplant Recipes
Make the most of your fresh summer veggies with these healthy and simple eggplant recipes:
Tools For Cooking Eggplant
- Hard Anodized Skillet – The surface on this one is nonstick, but it’s also on the heavier side for even heating and excellent browning. Plus, the bottom has a large surface area to fit a lot of eggplant slices.
Sauteed Eggplant Recipe
Once you learn to cook eggplant, you'll pair it with everything! This sauteed eggplant recipe is pan fried & caramelized in just 20 minutes.
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Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
Slice the eggplant crosswise to make circles, about 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. Cut off the leafy end only after you are done slicing, so that you'll have more to grab onto as you slice. If the slices are damp, pat them dry.
Sprinkle the eggplant slices on both sides with garlic powder, sea salt, and black pepper.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-low to medium heat. Working in batches, add the eggplant slices in a single layer. Saute eggplant for 3-6 minutes per side, until soft, browned, and caramelized on both sides. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices, adding about 1-2 tablespoons of oil per batch.
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Serving size: 4-5 slices, or 1/4 entire recipe
Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy. Have questions about calculations or why you got a different result? Please see our nutrition policy.
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