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Do you have a recipe that calls for eggplant, and you don’t have any? Or maybe your local grocery store is out. Fear not! There are plenty of options when it comes to finding the best eggplant substitutes that will provide similar flavors, textures, and nutrition as traditional eggplants.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some alternatives to eggplant that can be easily found in most markets or perhaps in your kitchen. With these delicious substitutions at your fingertips, you’ll be cooking up fantastic dishes filled with flavor – no matter the available ingredients! That’s what The Substitute Foodie is all about.
But before we dive into how to find the best eggplant substitutes, let’s make sure we understand what eggplants are and what they taste like. This will help us get a better grasp of the ingredient so we can make the perfect swap.
What Are Eggplants?
Eggplants, also known as aubergines, are a species of nightshade that is native to India and across Southeast Asia. Scientifically classified as Solanum melongena, eggplants have become increasingly popular in cuisines worldwide over the last few centuries. These hearty vegetables boast a rich flavor and deep purple color that make them an ideal choice for adding much-needed flavor.
Eggplants particularly shine when cooked correctly, as they have the potential to be either chewy or creamy depending on the method used; this delicious versatility makes them one of the most beloved vegetables. As someone with Italian heritage, we love using eggplant in various dishes, and one of my favorites is eggplant parmesan or an eggplant sandwich. Talk about YUM!
The Different Types of Eggplants (Swapping Eggplants with Eggplants)
Eggplants are vegetables that can be used in so many types of dishes. And to top it off, there are many different types of eggplants, each with its diversity. We’ll explore some of the most popular types of eggplants and offer some suggestions on how to use them in your cooking and substitute for each other.
Globe eggplants are the most common type of eggplant found in supermarkets. They have a large, globe-shaped fruit with smooth, glossy skin. The flesh is firm and white, with a mild to bitter flavor. Globe eggplants are great for grilling, roasting, or baking. They can also be sliced and fried or used in dishes like ratatouille or moussaka.
Italian Purple Eggplants
Italian purple eggplants are smaller than globe eggplants and have a more elongated shape. The skin is deep purple, and the flesh is white with a slightly sweeter flavor than globe eggplants. They can range from tender to tough when it comes to texture. Italian purple eggplants are best suited for dishes that require longer cooking times, such as stews or casseroles. They can also be grilled or roasted but should be cooked for a shorter time than globe eggplants so they don’t become mushy.
Japanese eggplants are long and slender, with a purple skin and white flesh. They have a milder flavor than other types of eggplant, and their flesh is less likely to become mushy when cooked. Japanese eggplants are typically grilled or roasted whole. They can also be sliced thinly and stir-fried or used in dishes like tempura or yakitori.
Chinese eggplants are similar in appearance to Japanese eggplants but have a slimmer shape and darker purple skin to even white in color. The flavor is slightly sweeter than other types of eggplant but becomes even sweeter when cooked. It has fewer seeds than other varieties and tends to cook faster than globe and Italian eggplants. Chinese eggplants are often stir-fried but can also be boiled, steamed, or baked.
There you have it! A quick overview of some of the most popular types of eggplant and some suggestions on how to use them in your cooking. So, if you have one but need the other, you can understand the differences.
Substitutes for Eggplant (Using Other Veggies)
Eggplants are unique vegetables that change texture and flavor once cooked. It’s hard to find something that will mimic it perfectly since eggplant is like a sponge with a sweet yet rich, savory flavor. These are the two top veggies I would recommend as a substitute. These options are also great if you are avoiding nightshades.
Portobello Mushrooms or Crimini mushroom
Portobello mushrooms are a type of mushroom that is actually the same species as traditional white button mushrooms, but they have been allowed to fully mature. Portobellos are usually five to six inches in diameter and have a meaty texture when cooked, making them popular as substitutes for vegetarian entrees or burgers. They can often be found at farmer’s markets or grocery stores, although their peak season is in the summer months.
Portobello mushrooms should be stored in the refrigerator, unwashed and uncut until ready to use. When preparing them, slice off the stem first – the spores on this part can spread quickly if left exposed on a cutting board. Then brush off any debris from their cap before cooking – some recipes suggest wiping with a damp cloth lightly dipped in saltwater. With a few easy steps, you’ll be well on your way to creating delicious dishes featuring hearty portobello mushrooms!
Zucchini or Yellow Squash
Zucchini and yellow squash are both types of summer squash, a group of vegetables related to the Cucurbitaceae family. They are very similar to one another in appearance but have subtle differences. Zucchini is generally longer and narrower than yellow squash, which tends to be more round. And, of course, yellow squash is yellow!
When cooked, the flesh of zucchini is denser than that of yellow squash. Some chefs side with one or the other based on their unique textural qualities; whereas zucchini has a slightly crunchy appeal, yellow squash is softer and creamier. Both of these vegetables can add a bright flavor and nutrition boost when added to salads, sautés, stir-fries, pasta dishes, and soups.
When using it as a substitute for eggplant, you can use one or the other or even a mixture of both. I know from experience that when zucchini is fried up like eggplant, it caramelizes and release a sweet yet savory flavor as an eggplant does. I have also used zucchini to make eggplant parmesan. I guess you would call it zucchini parmesan!
Vegetables I Don’t Recommend As A Eggplant Substitute
The world wide web mentions some weird off the wall substitutes. And as a true blue foodie, I can not, in good faith, do that to my readers. My goal is to provide the best and closest substitutes so that your recipe will come out great.
Here are six substitutes for eggplants that I have seen around that I don’t recommend using as they are not similar to eggplant.
- Okra – Okra has a distinct grassy, sweet; unless cooked correctly, it can be bitter and slimy. Not a good option for eggplant.
- Rutabagas – This is an awesome root veggie that, when cooked, almost takes on the characteristics of a potato.
- Celeriac -This is another root vegetable that comes from the celery plant. It’s also known as celery root. As you would think, it has a celery-like flavor that is nuttier as it is roasted. Not the best substitute for eggplant.
- Carrots – This root veggie has a sweet earthy flavor that is distinct. When cooked, they become sweeter. They really don’t have any similarities to eggplants.
- Turnips – This purple and white root vegetable has a crisp texture when raw that is peppery and bitter… think like a radish! When cooked, they turn sweet, earthy, and nutty. They are delicious like the other veggies mentioned, but they don’t work as a substitute for eggplant.
- Tofu – Tofu is made from condensed soymilk. It is true that tofu will absorb any flavor it is cooked with. It’s like a little sponge. Eggplants tend to be sponge-like and absorb sauces super well. But the flavor, and texture, and application are not exchangeable between the two.
My Final Thoughts on Eggplant Alternatives
With so many options for eggplant substitutes, you should be able to find the perfect one for your dish regardless of the type of eggplant called for in the recipe. If you’re looking for a replacement that will retain some of the characteristic Eggplant flavors, portobello mushrooms are your best bet. If you want a vegetable with a similar texture but no distinctive taste, try zucchini or yellow squash. I hope you find the perfect eggplant substitute for your dish. Happy Cooking!