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Featuring crispy charred edges and a soft and smoky middle, Grilled Eggplant is a marvel during the summer grilling season. The slices are served with an easy garlic aioli dipping sauce, giving you a healthy side dish or meatless main course that’s loaded with irresistible flavors!
Grilled vegetables should always be served at the summer cookout because they’re delicious and the perfect side dish for juicy hamburgers and pasta salad. The high heat and smoke from the grill bring out the vegetables’ hidden flavors while tenderizing the middle, giving you flavorful veggies that always leave you wanting more.
Grilled eggplant is one of my favorite grilled vegetables. The grill enhances the eggplants' earthy, slightly sweet taste and delicate texture while developing a perfectly caramelized exterior adorned with gorgeous grill marks. It’s a fantastic side dish or meatless main that will delight your senses!
The only way this grilled eggplant recipe gets better is when the slices are served with my 3-ingredient garlic aioli. It’s a practically addictive dipping sauce that will have you craving grilled vegetables weekly!
- Grilling is the best way to transform eggplant, an underrated summer veggie, into a crave-worthy and hearty side dish or plant-based main dish.
- A light seasoning of salt and pepper is all you need to take the eggplant over the top. But there’s plenty of room for more flavor, so play with the seasonings as much as you like!
- Dipping the BBQ eggplant slices in the easy garlic aioli is the best way to dig into this easy summer side dish.
Eggplant - When you’re shopping, look for medium-sized eggplants that feel heavy for their size. They should also have smooth and glossy skin with almost no blemishes.
Salt and pepper - This is all you need to season the eggplant!
Garlic aioli - This deceptively simple dipping sauce, made with nothing more than mayo, olive oil, and minced garlic, is technically optional but very much recommended. The creamy, garlicky goodness matches the char-grilled, smoky flavors flawlessly.
Step 1: Let the eggplant sweat. After washing and cutting the eggplant into thick slices, place them in a large strainer and sprinkle salt over top. Set aside while the excess water drains. Afterward, wipe the water beads off of the eggplant slices and season them with salt and pepper.
Step 2: Grill the eggplant. Place the drained and seasoned eggplant slices directly on the preheated grill grates. Grill until both sides are slightly charred and crisp.
Step 3: Make the garlic aioli. Meanwhile, pour the olive oil into a small skillet and heat it over medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Transfer the garlic-oil mixture to a bowl with the mayo, and stir to combine.
Step 4: Serve. Serve the eggplant hot off the grill with a side of garlic aioli dipping sauce, and enjoy!
Tips and FAQs
- Cut the eggplant into uniform ½-inch thick slices. The same goes if you slice the eggplant into strips or cubes. The more evenly sized the eggplant pieces are, the more evenly they’ll cook.
- To create grill marks and prevent the eggplant from sticking to the grill, preheat the grill to medium heat before laying the eggplant on the grates.
- Don’t flip the eggplant too soon! Instead, let the slices cook undisturbed for a few minutes before flipping. This will help you achieve nicely seared edges and tender, juicy flesh.
Don’t flip the eggplant too soon! Instead, let the slices cook undisturbed for a few minutes before flipping. This will help you achieve nicely seared edges and tender, juicy flesh.
Do you have to peel eggplant before grilling?
I prefer to keep the skin on because it helps the eggplant slices retain their shape. Plus, the charred skin is very thin, which means it’s easy to eat and takes on a nice crispy texture.
Do you have to salt the eggplant before grilling?
Salting the eggplant and letting it “sweat” out the excess water content isn’t always a necessary step but it can help prevent the eggplant from becoming mushy instead of fork-tender. The salt also draws out any natural bitter flavors to produce an all-around better-tasting dish.
How else can you season grilled eggplant?
Salt and black pepper are all you need to enhance eggplant’s natural flavor but you can get even more creative with different seasonings, like garlic powder, cumin, paprika, lemon zest, and fresh or dried herbs like basil, oregano, and parsley. If you love heat, add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, Aleppo chili flakes, or cayenne pepper.
Can you marinate eggplant before grilling?
Yes! Marinating eggplant before grilling is a great way to add depth to the dish. The balsamic vinaigrette dressing I used for this pear salad is a great option. Or, instead of marinating the eggplant, consider brushing the slices with BBQ sauce or teriyaki sauce during grilling.
What goes well with grilled eggplant?
Step up your summer barbecue game and serve the grilled eggplant with grilled proteins, like chicken thighs, tempeh, and bison burgers. Or, instead of serving it as a side dish, add the eggplant to pasta salad, grilled cheese, quinoa bowls, hummus bowls, or lamb bowls.
Refrigerator: Let the leftover cooked eggplant cool to room temperature, then place it in an airtight container or resealable bag. Store it in the fridge for 3 to 4 days (it’s best eaten within 1 or 2 days).
Freezer: While you can freeze leftover cooked eggplant, I don’t recommend it because it may become mushy upon thawing.
More summer side dish recipes
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- Place the sliced eggplant in a large strainer, sprinkle with salt and allow it to sit for at least 20 minutes. The salt will pull out some of the water, which is a good thing. Once the time is up, wipe the water off of the eggplant with a paper towel. Then, season with salt and pepper.
- Heat your grill or grill pan over medium heat, then add the eggplant and grill for 4-5 minutes per side.
- Meanwhile, make the aioli (optional): Add the mayo to a bowl. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a small skillet, then add the garlic and sauté for 30-60 seconds until fragrant. Pour the oil and garlic into the bowl with the mayo and stir to combine.