The Washington Post

Eggplant Pilaf

Eggplant Pilaf 4.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Oct 16, 2018

This fragrant, one-pot meal features little cubes of eggplant, bright green peas and crunchy pumpkin seeds, all coated and seasoned with spices and then finished with fresh mint.

Cookbook author Nik Sharma says: "Eggplants can have a mild bitter taste, and the bitterness can be easily removed by sprinkling the chopped vegetable with a little salt and then letting it sit for a few minutes. The salt will draw out the bitter compounds, along with some of the water. Here, the cardamom pods are lightly cracked and added whole to the hot oil with the other spices. This is a milder way to perfume the rice and eggplant as they cook."

Serve with plain yogurt, a raita or lemon pickle.

Make Ahead: The rinsed rice needs to sit, covered, in a bowl of water for 1 hour before it is cooked.

4 - 6

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4-6 servings

  • 2 cups dried basmati rice
  • 2 medium eggplants (2 pounds total), trimmed but not peeled, then cut into bite-size cubes
  • 3 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 4 green cardamom pods, cracked
  • 1 black cardamom pod, cracked
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 serrano chiles
  • 2 tablespoons hulled, roasted unsalted pumpkin seeds
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)
  • 1/2 cup green peas, fresh or frozen
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, for serving


Rinse the rice under cold running water in a fine-mesh sieve until the water no longer turns cloudy. Place the rice in a medium bowl, add enough water to cover (about 3 cups), and let it sit, covered, for about 1 hour.

Place the eggplant cubes in a large bowl and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt, then toss to coat. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and let them sit for 20 minutes. Discard any liquid that is released.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half the eggplant cubes and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are tender and lightly browned. Transfer to a large bowl; repeat with another tablespoon of oil and the remaining eggplant. Transfer to the same plate.

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon of oil in the same saucepan, over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown. Then add the black pepper, coriander, crushed red pepper flakes, turmeric, green and black cardamom pods, cloves and bay leaves; cook for 30 to 45 seconds, until fragrant. Stir in the garlic, serrano chiles and pumpkin seeds; cook for 30 seconds.

Drain the rice, then stir it in; cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the rice grains are completely coated with the oil and are not sticking to each other.

Return the cooked eggplant to the pot. Stir in the 4 cups of water, the lime juice and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt; increase the heat to high and bring to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for 15 minutes, uncovered, until most of the water has evaporated.

Add the peas, cover and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until they are tender. Remove from the heat; keep covered and let the pilaf sit for 5 minutes.

Fluff the rice with a fork; re-cover to keep warm. You can remove and discard the whole spices and serrano chiles, if desired. Garnish with the fresh mint before serving.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from "Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food," by Nik Sharma (Chronicle, 2018).

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving (based on 6): 400

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 14g 22%

Saturated Fat: 2g 10%

Cholesterol: 0mg 0%

Sodium: 1080mg 45%

Total Carbohydrates: 65g 22%

Dietary Fiber: 6g 24%

Sugar: 7g

Protein: 7g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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