Golden baked eggplant, juicy chopped meat and sautéed onions, with all the best middle eastern spices…. you are just going to love these Mediterranean Stuffed Eggplant Boats! The flavors here are really incredible and the finished dish is gorgeous as well as healthy!
This recipe for stuffed eggplant is probably the most delicious thing I have made all month. And I cook every single day!
My mom has recently moved to a piece of land near Bethlehem in Israel. On the way to my house there is a little Arab grocery store with huge crates of oranges outside, the crunchiest cabbage you have ever tasted, and racks of freshly chopped bananas.
She has made a habit of stopping at the shop and bringing me lots of veggies when she comes to visit! (a couple times a week).
I was never crazy about vegetables, although I do love a good crispy roasted cauliflower, don’t get me wrong.
HOWEVER, as I am currently nine months preggo, I have really been craving healthy, fresh food and I never realized just how fun making vegetables can be! And delicious. Talk about delicious.
This last week momma made a drop off of eggplants, oranges, and cherry tomatoes. We had some ground beef and the second I saw those eggplants I knew exactly what we were making…..Middle Eastern stuffed eggplant!
What makes this dish mediterranean?
There are certain spices and condiments every single household has in the Middle East. Among those are various types of paprika(a variety I never knew existed till we moved to Israel), cumin, cinnamon, zaatar, and date honey.
Eggplants are also extremely popular here on the mediterranean- whether you are vegetarian or not. They are prepared every weekend in a plethora of salads to be enjoyed on shabbat, often with fresh Challah or Pita Bread.
Healthy Baked Eggplant Boats
This eggplant recipe uses fresh ingredients that make you feel good.
We start with roasted halved eggplants and then chop up the inside flesh and fill them with a tantalizing mix of ground meat, sautéed onions and garlic, spices, and fresh parsley.
I also like to use date honey instead of sugar to give some sweetness and depth of flavor. We do use 1/2 Tablespoon of brown sugar in the sauce.. but everything in moderation right?!
How to Make Stuffed Eggplant
There are a few steps required for this recipe but it’s easy and fun to prepare with little hands on time!
Salt the Eggplant
The first step is to salt the eggplant. If you have ever made baked eggplant and ended up with a watery dish, you’ll know why this is important! The salt draws out moisture from the eggplant as it sits so the flesh stays firm(but still juicy!) while it bakes.
Slice each eggplant in half and sprinkle over about 1/2 teaspoon of salt per half.
Let them sit for at least 20 minutes– or up to an hour if you want to do this early. Then dab off the moisture- you will see drops of water appear on the eggplant flesh as it sits.
Next we will roast/ bake the eggplant. Score the flesh(this makes it easier to mash later), drizzle over olive oil and place flesh side down on a baking tray. Bake for 30 minutes, until the flesh is golden.
The eggplant does not need to be fully cooked at this point because we will bake it again once it is filled, but we do want the meat to be soft.
Prepare Meat Filling
While the eggplant is baking, prepare the meat filling. We start by heating oil and spices to draw out the flavors, and add garlic, onion and herbs.
Once translucent, add in the chopped meat and season with tomato paste and date honey. Cook the meat until it is brown and smelling just amazing.
We had a hard time not eating all of the filling on its own- there is just so much flavor!
Fill eggplant boats
Next we will remove the eggplant, flip them over into a smaller baking dish, and gently mash down the flesh. You want to create room in the centre of each eggplant for the meat filling to sit.
Fill each eggplant with meat stuffing and then pour around the sauce. The sauce is simple but the lemon juice and sugar mixture really takes the dish to the next level. The citrus adds the perfect finish!
Bake Eggplant Boats
The last step is to cover the baking dish with foil and bake for one hour. During this final bake, the eggplant flesh finishes softening, the meat crisps up just slightly, and the lemon sauce thickens.
I like to finish off the eggplant with a sprinkle of fresh parley and serve directly in my casserole dish. If you want to transfer the eggplant boats to a serving platter, be sure to get all of those lemon juices from around the pan and drizzle them over the dish.
We hope you love this love these Stuffed Eggplant Boats! Please leave a review below if you try the recipe, and send a photo our way on Instagram– happy cooking loves!
Mediterranean Eggplant Boats
- 2 large eggplants
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 3 TBSP oil
- 3 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 3 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 onion diced
- 500 gram chopped meat
- 2 TBSP tomato paste
- 2 TBSP date honey(silan)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
- 1/2 a lemon, juiced
- 1 TBSP olive oil
- 1 TBSP tomato paste
- 1/2 TBSP brown sugar
- 1/2 TBSP water
- Preheat oven to 180º C/ 350º F.Slice eggplants in half and salt each half with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Let sit for 20 minutes to one hour. Dab dry with a paper towel.Score the eggplant flesh, drizzle with olive oil and place flesh side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile, prep filling.
Prepare Meat Filling and Sauce
- To a cast iron pan or large frying pan add oil and spices. Saute until fragrant, about one minute. Add garlic and onion and cook until onions turn translucent.Add chopped meat and season with tomato paste, date honey, salt, pepper, and parsley.Cook until the meat is cooked through.
- Add sauce ingredients to a small bowl and mix to combine.
- Remove the eggplants and flip over. Arrange in a casserole dish flesh side up(or a dish that fits the eggplants nicely- you dont want something too large or the bottoms won't have enough sauce and will stick).Gently mash the insides down to make room for the filling. Stuff each eggplant with meat filling. Pour the sauce around the eggplants and a little over them. Cover tightly with foil and place back in the oven for one hour. Serve warm. Enjoy!