Eggplant (aka aubergine) is very good air-fried. It’s tasty, without all the oil and grease that eggplant could soak up otherwise.
You get different results, though, depending on whether you air fry by basket, or paddle.
Basket Air-Fried Eggplant
- more eggplanty-tasting, though not in the green horrible way, still quite mild
- good sprinkled on top or on the side of pasta and other dishes as a garnish
- good on an antipasto tray sprinkled with parmesan
Paddle Air-Fried Eggplant
- denser, meatier
- more like mushroom in taste and texture
- good in saucy recipes such as pasta sauce, curries, etc
- good stirred into pasta dishes both stove-top prepared and baked
- good in pasta salads
The basket-frying method can, though, require more oil / fat.
In the paddle-type machines, you can just pop 1 tablespoon of oil per 2 or 3 medium eggplant, and you are good to go. Yes, the first eggplant chunks to hit the oil will soak it up, but, as the eggplant cooks, the cell structure breaks down and releases that oil back into the pan for other chunks of eggplant to use. So, the cooking fat gets recycled and shared amongst the eggplant pieces.
In the basket-type machines, you must toss the eggplant chunks in oil first. You really need about 2 tablespoons of oil per 2 medium eggplant to even get the chunks barely, lightly coated. And, as they cook and release the oil, it drips down through the mesh bottom of the basket and isn’t passed on to other eggplant chunks.
Still, 1 extra tablespoon of oil compared to the gallons we all used to have to use isn’t the end of the world. And released oil does drip down through the mesh bottom, anyway.
Whatever way you do it, they both have one thing in common: the eggplant will shrink! The above white tray is 23 cm by 30 cm (9 x 12 inches). On each side, basket (left) and paddle (right), you see the results of 4 eggplant. 4 eggplant cooked in the basket fryer, 4 eggplant cooked in the paddle fryer. That’s 8 eggplant in total in the above tray! The whole tray will fit into two small freezer bags.
So if you see a deal on eggplant, don’t think you’re getting too many by buying 4.
The paddle fryer was able to do all 4 eggplant at once (about 50 minutes); the basket fryer I had to do in two goes (about 25 minutes per batch at 160 C / 320 F).
This air roasted eggplant freezes great. You may wish to freeze it in smaller portions so that you can grab out as needed.
The basket-fried eggplant, cooked, frozen and then thawed, still makes a great little antipasto solid — just basket fry it after thawing for 2 or 3 minutes to crisp it up again, then toss with parmesan and pop in a bowl with a drizzle of good olive or avocado oil on it.
I’ve also posted a formal, actual recipe for roasted eggplant.
Air fried eggplant is really, really good, so if you hate eggplant because someone cooked it wrong for you at some point in time and it tasted all “green”, just remember, it’s the same as hating steak because someone boiled it for you — it was just cooked wrong! Give it another try!