If you’re looking for the perfect vegan, gluten free fried eggplant recipe, this one is your ticket! Delicate, flavor-packed fried eggplant with green peppers and tomatoes. This humble Mediterranean dish makes a great vegetarian main with your favorite grain or warm pita bread. Side next to Greek lamb. Or, you can also serve at room temperature as an appetizer with other mezze favorites
Be sure to check out important cooking tips and see the step-by-step for how to make fried eggplant below.
Fried Eggplant, The Mediterranean Way
I was first introduced to this fried eggplant recipe with green peppers and tomatoes while on a tour of Turkey back in 2006.
Our group had stopped at a small joint in historic downtown Istanbul for lunch. Our waiter greeted us with drinks, and soon after, what he called “small dishes for sharing.” It was more of a feast of Mediterranean Mezze from dips like baba ganoush; and garlic labneh; to bright salads; and even mini grilled kofta skewers.
One of the last dishes they served was fried eggplant with green peppers and tomatoes along with a side of warm bread to sop up all the goodness. Let me tell you, our group was hooked! Such a simple dish with so much flavor.
I’ve been making my own version of this Turkish fried eggplant recipe for a while, and I’m so excited to share it with you here. It can truly stand on its own as a vegan main, I’ve served it to friends before, and they described it as a “deconstructed vegan moussaka!”
It’s hard to describe the texture of this fried eggplant recipe without using the word “velvety”. Every bite is hearty, delicate, and perfectly savory. Just grab some good pita or your favorite bread to serve along.
Flavor-Packed Vegan Fried Eggplant, No Breadcrumbs!
When we talk about fried eggplant, the first image that comes to mind is something coated with some sort of a batter involving eggs and breadcrumbs. This is a bit different. No batter and no bread crumbs needed for this vegan fried eggplant recipe, but it’s every bit as comforting and delicious!
Here, bare, thinly-sliced eggplant are fried to tender perfection (you get a great golden brown color and crispy edges too!) And using the same method, we fry the green peppers. While they’re nice and hot, we season the fried eggplant and green peppers with sumac, which lends great depth and a subtle tangy touch (find all-natural sumac here.) While, the veggies rest on some paper towels to drain any excess oil, we work on the tomatoes.
This time, tomatoes are fried along with lots of fresh garlic to create a bit of a sauce for our fried eggplant.
One final touch to the saucy tomatoes makes all the difference–a splash of vinegar! Sounds strange? Trust me, this tiny spike of vinegar is not at all overpowering, and it lends so much brightness and rounds up this fried eggplant dish beautifully.
To serve, I like to add a fresh herb like mint or parsley and walnut hearts for texture.
Important Tips for Fried Eggplant
1. Prepare the Eggplant
Eggplant can be bitter and can hold on to a ton of moister. Whether I’m making eggplant Parmesan, roasted eggplant, or fried eggplant, there is one initial step I never skip: salt the eggplant and allow it to sit for a few minutes. This helps the eggplant “sweat out” any bitterness, breaks its spongy texture a bit, and prevents the eggplant from soaking too much of the frying oil (it still will a little bit.)
2. Use a Large Splatter Screen
This is an important safety tip. I use two important tools to keep my hands safe: a pair of long tongs to carefully place the vegetables in the cooking oil from a distance, and a splatter screen large enough to cover your skillet. Trust me, even as you so carefully place the green pepper or eggplant slices in your cooking oil, it will splatter.
3. One More Safety Tip
You will cooking your eggplant, green peppers, and tomatoes in batches. It’s helpful to turn the heat down when placing a new batch of veggies in the cooking oil. This minimizes the oil splatter. You can raise the heat up and place the splatter screen on from there.
4. Drain Excess Oil
I like to lay the fried eggplant and green peppers on some paper towels for a bit to allow any excess oil to drain.
What Healthy Oils to Use for Frying?
A couple of things to remember with this particular recipe here:
1. We are not deep-frying the eggplant here, you’ll probably use about 1/2 cup or so of oil (you want about 1/4 inch in the pan to start with, add as needed if the oil goes down too much)
2. For this fried eggplant recipe, your frying oil should be between 350°F to 375°F at most
So as far as what kind of oil to use for frying, you have different options.
I am personally a big user of extra virgin olive oil. And yes, you can use quality, low-acidity extra virgin olive oil (I use Private Reserve Greek EVOO) with to fry vegetables; it’s smoke point is something like 405 degrees F or higher (depending on quality.) The key is to heat the oil just enough to shimmering but not smoking, so you do need to watch and be careful.
Keep in mind, the typical extra virgin olive oil you may find at a local grocery store has a much lower smoke point than other oils.
If you haven’t used extra virgin olive oil that often, particularly in frying, it may be safer for you to use another healthy cooking oil option such as sunflower oil or avocado oil. (A friend of mine recommends this avocado oil, which she says has a high smoke point of 490 degrees F.)
How to Make this Fried Eggplant Recipe
2. Heat 1/2 cup of oil in a heavy large frying pan. Begin with frying green pepper (skin-side down first) on medium-high until browned. Do this in batches and very carefully, please. Keep your distance as you lay peppers in the hot oil (use a pair of long tongs and splatter screen as mentioned in the tips above). Lay fried peppers on paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with salt and and a generous pinch of sumac.
2. Next fry the eggplant slices. Important Tip: if your oil is not hot enough, eggplant will absorb way too much of it. Medium-high heat should be fine. Again be super careful as you fry eggplant and use a pair of long tongs and a splatter screen (see tips above.)
Fry eggplant on one side until you see edges turning golden brown then flip over on the other side. When eggplant turns a nice golden brown, remove from oil with a spatula (or your tongs.)
Set fried eggplant on paper towel to drain. Sprinkle with salt and a generous pinch of sumac (1 tsp or more)
3. Fry the Tomatoes and Garlic. Lastly, fry the tomatoes and garlic. If needed, add a little more oil to the pan. First let the tomatoes fry about two minutes or so, then add garlic. Let cook together about 4 to 5 more minutes.
Tomatoes should collapse and become super tender, turning a bright orange. Add a little white vinegar; about two table spoons. Season with salt and more sumac.
4. Now, bring the party together. Assemble the fried eggplant dish. Grab a serving dish. Layer the vegetables beginning with a bottom layer of eggplant. Top with green peppers and tomatoes. Repeat as needed. Finish with a garnish of fresh herbs (I used mint, but parsley works) and walnut hearts (totally optional).
What to Serve Along this Fried Eggplant Recipe
Other Recipes to Try:
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Vegan, gluten free fried eggplant recipe with green peppers and tomatoes! This delicate, velvety, flavor-packed dish is a Turkish inspiration. Serve it as a vegetarian main with warm pita bread, rice or your favorite grain. You can also serve it at room temperature as an appetizer next to other Mediterranean favorites. Allow 30 minutes to 1 hour of inactive time.
- 1 large eggplant, washed, dried, sliced in 1/2″ rounds
- 2 large green bell peppers, washed, dried, sliced in 1″- wide strips
- 5–6 large slicing tomato, washed, dried, sliced in 1/2″rounds
- 5 garlic cloves, Roughly chopped
- 2 tsp or more sumac
- 2 tbsp white vinegar
- 1/2 cup healthy cooking oil, more as needed (see post above for more information)
- 1/4 cup walnut hearts (optional)
- 1/2 cup fresh mint or parsley leaves for garnish (optional)
- Spread eggplant slices on paper towels and sprinkle generously with salt. Let sit for 30 minutes (or 1 hour, if you have the time) to sweat out any bitterness. Pat dry when ready.
- Heat oil on medium-high heat (be sure the oil is shimmering but not smoking.) Start by frying green peppers, skin down, until tender and skin turns brown. (Do this carefully and use a splatter screen as recommended.) Remove from heat and place on paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with a little salt and a generous sprinkle of sumac.
- In the same frying pan, now fry eggplant. Do this carefully (use tongs to keep your distance and a splatter screen to cover the pan or skillet.) Oil should still be hot or else eggplant will absorb way too much of it. When edges of one side turn golden brown, flip over. When eggplant nice golden brown, remove from heat and place on paper towels to drain. Sprinkle generously with sumac.
- If needed, add a little bit of oil to your frying pan. Now, fry the tomatoes for two minutes then add garlic. Cook another 4 to 5 minutes, tossing. Turn heat down and add 2 tbsp of vinegar, salt a generous pinch of sumac. When tomatoes are tender, releasing juices and turning bright orange in color, turn heat off.
- Assemble the fried eggplant dish. Grab a large serving platter, layer a bit of the eggplant at the bottom, then add green peppers, then the saucy tomatoes on top. Repeat as needed till you have all the veggies on your platter. Garnish with fresh mint and walnut hearts.
- Serve warm or at room temperature with pita bread or Lebanese rice.
- Cook’s Tip: Do not skip the first step of salting the eggplant, it is important as it helps break it’s spongy texture a bit and prevents eggplant from absorbing too much oil. If you have the time, leave the eggplant to salt for a good hour or so, then pat dry.
- Cook’s Tip for Safety: As mentioned in the post, use a long pair of tongs to handle the vegetables at a safe distance from the frying oil, and a splatter screen for protection and easy clean up.
- Leftovers? Drain excess oil first before storing any leftover fried eggplant. Refrigerate in airtight container for 3 to 4 days. You can serve this cold as a salad or at room temperature. To reheat, use medium heat (covered and with a little added liquid.)
- This recipe will serve 4 to 6 people for dinner, or more as an appetizer next to other Mediterranean mezze.
- Visit our shop to browse our spices, including sumac, and olive oils and bundles!
- Category: Vegan
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keywords: Fried Eggplant, Vegan Fried Eggplant, How to Fry Eggplant, Fried Eggplant No Breadcrumbs
*This post first appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2015 and has recently been updated with new information and media for readers’ benefit. Enjoy!