Eggplant can be divisive. The notorious nightshade is both beloved and bemoaned for its spongey texture and tiny, bitter seeds. If you’re on the side of eggplant lovers, though, you’re more than familiar with its versatility. Eggplant is hearty enough to be a main, especially when it’s cooked whole or stuffed, but it’s also spectacular as a party snack, baked until silky and tender, or pureed into a smoky dip. If you don’t care for eggplant, I hope you someday find the gateway recipe that helps you enjoy it. There’s just too much delicious potential for you to miss out on it.
If you look at a few different varieties of eggplant, however, you may not guess they’re the same vegetable (Well, fruit). Thai eggplants, for example, look more like tiny watermelons, while Japanese eggplants look just like their emoji rendering. Read up on the different types of eggplant and how to use each so you too can be an auber-genius.
China is the world’s top producer and consumer of eggplant, so it’s apt that the Chinese eggplant variety is so distinct. It has a lighter, almost pastel exterior, with a white flesh and sweeter taste that fits its appearance. The Chinese variety contains fewer seeds than globe eggplants, and are therefore less bitter. These slender eggplants are better suited to quick cooking methods such as flash frying, stir-frying, sautéing, and grilling.
Recipes to try: Sichuan Eggplant in Garlic Sauce, Spicy Sichuan Eggplant, Punjabi Eggplant
Fairy Tale Eggplant
If a type of eggplant has ever stopped you in your tracks at the farmers’ market, it’s probably this one. Small and violet with mottled white stripes, this eggplant variety is such a looker it’s no wonder how it got its name. The interior is light, creamy, and delicately sweet, reflecting the beauty you see from the outside.
Recipes to try: Since they’re on the smaller side, fairy tale eggplants are ideal for roasting, stir-frying, and grilling.
Also known as American eggplants, globe eggplants are what you’re most likely to see in a supermarket. They’re much darker and wider and have a tougher, meatier texture than other varieties, and work well as a protein or bread substitute (think thick grilled slices of eggplant instead of a burger bun), as well as sliced within a larger dish like eggplant Parm.
Recipes to try: Eggplant Parmesan, Simple Baked Eggplant, Perfect Grilled Eggplant
Also known as striped eggplants, graffiti eggplants are distinguishable by their purple and white exterior. Unlike other varieties, they don’t have a standard size. Their seeds and skin are pleasant, so they’re ideal for eating whole or pureeing. They taste similar to standard eggplants, but also have a delicate sweetness.
Recipes to try: Graffiti eggplant’s thin skin and small seeds make it great for roasting or grilling, especially whole.
Purple and spherical, Indian eggplants—also known as baby eggplants—are known for their small, round appearance and tender texture. The velvety interior works well in soups, stews, and dips, but you can also prepare Indian eggplants whole.
Recipes to try: Bharvaan Baingan, Khatta Meetha Baingan, Baingan Aloo Ki Subji
Italian eggplants are like smaller, slightly sweeter, versions of globe eggplants that still maintain a thick, spongy texture. The sweeter notes in Italian eggplant work well with salty and umami flavors, such as those in meat or cheese, making them perfect for eggplant rolls or moussaka.
Recipes to try: Pasta alla Norma, Turkish Eggplant and Ground Beef Casserole
Japanese eggplants, like the Chinese variety, have an oblong shape, but they’re not quite as long or thin and have a darker hue. They have a delicate, spongy texture that works well in stir-fries and a creamy, slightly sweet taste. Japanese eggplant is often grilled, as the variety takes on a beautiful, smoky flavor.
Recipes to try: Pan-Fried Eggplant With Miso, Crispy Eggplant Sticks
Rosa Bianca Eggplant
Heirloom Rosa Bianca eggplants are one of the most eye-catching varieties around. They’re plump and round, and their purple and white exteriors have an almost ombre-like appearance. This mild variety is completely void of bitterness, and tastes best when sliced and roasted or grilled. Sadly, the exterior beauty fades as the Rosa Bianca eggplant is cooked.
Recipes to try: Rosa Biancas are a Sicilian variety, so incorporating them into a classic Sicilian or Italian dish is an easy win. Their mild flavor is a perfect complement for tomatoes and cheese, so an eggplant parmesan or pasta dish is an ideal place to use them.
Look at a Thai eggplant and it’s easy to see why eggplants are botanically classified as berries. This small, round variety has a green and white exterior and a pale pink flesh, although they can also be purple. They’re more bitter than other varieties, and they provide a welcome astringency to curries.
Recipes to try: Thai Red Curry With Chicken
The white eggplant is pretty much identical to a standard one, excluding its creamy skin. They have the same texture, same taste, and same capabilities, all wrapped up in a different color. There are plenty of heirloom varieties, such as the casper and Raja.
Recipes to try: You can cook a white eggplant just how you would with a graffiti or Italian eggplant. Try it in a dish that shows off its color, like pizza.