The goal of grilled eggplant is to have slices that are tender not mushy, with just the right bite. These tips for the best grilled eggplant deliver every time, and are made even better when topped with a tangy, garlicky chimichurri.
Eggplant is one of those divisive vegetables that eaters either love or hate. But then, I suppose you could say that about all vegetables, am I right? Growing up we never ate eggplant. Later, as I grew into my own cooking style (with stove top ramen, mac and cheese and chicken tenders as my expertise), it sounded foreign and strange. But today, with more adventuresome palates in ‘da house, it’s one of those vegetables I find myself craving in a big way.
Too often, eggplant gets a bad rap for being bitter, seed-riddled, mushy and either too tough or overcooked. It’s heralded as the vegetable that requires a time-consuming ritual of salting, draining and frying that sometimes tastes like, well, not that much.
On the flip side of the spatula, grilled eggplant is totally the opposite of that, where these purple globes become creamy, tender, sweet and smoky, and incredibly easy to prepare, no salting required!
Types of Eggplant Best for Grilling
Large and sturdy, the globe eggplant is the most common variety of eggplant found in neighborhood grocery stores. However, larger eggplants have a reputation for too many seeds, tasting bitter, and having a tough outer skin. Luckily, much of that bitter bite and way of thinking has been bred out of today’s eggplant. And with grilling, all of those challenges pretty much disappear. The grill’s char adds smoky flavor and direct heat creates a supple bite to any eggplant, no matter what size.
With so many different types of eggplant, grilling’s possibilities are fruitful (literally, eggplant is a fruit), in all the best ways.
Try these types of eggplants for grilling:
- Globe eggplant: thicker skin with plenty of meaty flesh most commonly used in eggplant parmesan
- Japanese eggplant: oblong and skinny with a more delicate flavor
- Indian eggplant: round and small in size, but sweet and tender in texture
If using globe eggplants, look for those that are oblong rather than bulbous or round which have more seeds and can sometimes taste bitter.
Should You Salt the Eggplant Before Grilling?
Many fried or baked eggplant recipes suggest salting eggplant then draining for about an hour before cooking to encourage the vegetable’s natural moisture to evaporate so it doesn’t become soggy or taste bitter. With grilling, there’s no need for the extra step. In fact, that extra moisture is what keeps the eggplant from becoming dried out as it cooks.
How to Make Grilled Eggplant
Leave the skin on. Like the casings you find on sausages, the eggplant’s thick skin holds the insides of the vegetable intact as it becomes tender and pulpy as it cooks. With time over the grill’s heat, the skins become soft and tender, making them slice with ease. Removing the skin before grilling makes the eggplant slices hard to flip, and more likely fall apart on the grill grates.
Cut the eggplant for grilling in thick, uniform slices. To avoid limp or mushy slices of eggplant that overcook on the edges or finish cooking at different times, cut the eggplant into uniform slices about 1/2 inch thick.
Oil the eggplant and season simply. To keep the eggplant from sticking to the grill grates as it cooks, lightly brush eat side of the sliced eggplant with oil and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Always remember to oil the food you cook instead of the grates you’re grilling on.
Grilled Eggplant—Coming In Hot
Prepare the grill for medium-high heat. Use a sturdy grill brush to get the grates clean, then heat the grill to medium high heat, 400-450°F.
Cook over direct heat with the lid closed. Close the lid to create a baking situation, where the eggplant steams as it cooks, softening and becoming jammy and sweet.
Cook the eggplant for 5-7 minutes. Cook the eggplant until well grill-marked and the skin begins to ripple, a sure sign of softening. Turning the eggplant once while grilling is all you need.
Yes, the eggplant gets more moist as it cools. Take one look at the inflated slices of eggplant on the grill and you’ll be wondering what you did wrong to get dried out pieces of eggplant flesh. Not to worry! Once you pull the eggplant from the heat, the slices settle and become softer and more moist as they sit. Just watch and see.
Sauce It Up and Make This Eggplant a Meal
Use grilled eggplant to make a dip or chop to put in grain bowls. Or, drizzle with this homemade parsley, garlic, and cilantro mashed chimichurri sauce served as an easy grilled vegetable side, or make it the main part of the meal when served with lemon-flavored rice.
To serve, top the warm eggplant with the chimichurri sauce which also re-hydrate the grilled slices, absorbing all of that delicious, herbacious, garlic flavor.
What to Serve with Grilled Eggplant
- Grilled Skirt Steak With Chimichurri
- The Best Juicy Grilled Pork Chops
- How To Make The Best Grilled Salmon
- Grilled Halibut With Tomato Avocado Salsa
- The Best Grilled Chicken Breast Recipe
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a star rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
The BEST Grilled Eggplant with Chimichurri Sauce
For the Chimichurri Sauce
- 1 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves only, stems removed
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves only, stems removed
- 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves only, stems removed
- 1/3 cup roughly chopped red onion or shallots
- 3 cloves garlic peeled
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Grilled Eggplant
- 2 globe eggplants , about 1 pound each
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
For the Chimichurri Sauce
To the container of a blender or food processor, add the parsley, oregano, cilantro, onion, and garlic and pulse to mince. Add the red pepper flakes, olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice and pulse 2-3 times to mix. Season with kosher salt and add more to taste. Or, finely mince all of the ingredients with a sharp knife, then whisk with the olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice in a bowl or shake in a covered glass jar. Make ahead and store in the refrigerator 1-3 days or until ready to serve.
For the Grilled Eggplant
Heat the grill at medium-high heat (400-450°F) and brush the grill grates clean. Cut each eggplant crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Lightly brush both sides of the eggplant slices with oil and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Grill the eggplant with the lid closed for 5-7 minutes each side, turning once, or until the slices become tender and are well grill-marked.
Remove from the grill and drizzle the warm eggplant with the chimichurri sauce to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature with more chimichurri sauce on the side. Leftover sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Make the chimichurri sauce ahead of time and refrigerate for 1-3 days before serving.
Feel free to omit the cilantro or oregano in the chimichurri sauce, and make up the amount by using the Italian parsley instead.
Serve the grilled eggplant warm or buffet style at room temperature.
More Grilled Vegetable Recipes
- Grilled Vegetables Skewers
- The Best Easy Grilled Vegetables
- How To Make The Best Grilled Asparagus
- Grilled Zucchini With Goat Cheese And Pine Nuts
- Grilled Corn Salad With Tomato And Avocado
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