Baingan Bharta, a popular smoky and zesty dish from North India, is made with roasted mashed eggplant sauteed in onion, garlic, tomatoes, and Indian spices. Vegan & Gluten-free.
I know some of you might not like eggplants, but if you are willing to experiment with this unappreciated vegetable, you MUST TRY this baingan bharta. It has to be one of the tastiest ways to cook eggplant.
But if you are a true fan of eggplant or brinjal, you have to try these Indian eggplant recipes - Aloo Baingan and Bharwan Baingan. Both these recipes are so different from each other and give an amazing twist to this humble vegetable.
Eggplant is considered native to India and popularly known as the ''King of vegetables''. And it does have a beautiful crown sitting on its head.
Interestingly, the term 'Eggplant' is used in North America and Australia. 'Aubergine' is the name by which it is called in Britain. In Persian, it is called 'badenjan'. It is called the 'brinjal' in India, South Africa, and other south Asian countries.
My mom makes the best Baingan ka bharta. She was visiting me last summer, and I relished this favorite dish many times while she was here. So here is her authentic Punjabi recipe for you all.
Many of you have asked me for an instant pot Baingan Bharta recipe, but I have tried the pressure cooked bharta and it does not do justice to this traditional dish without the wonderful roasted smoky flavors in it. So take my suggestion, and make it the authentic way as in the recipe below!
What is Baingan Bharta?
"Baingan" in Hindi means eggplant, and "bharta" means puree or mash. As a result, it translates to nothing but mashed eggplant.
It's a delicious traditional Punjabi dish brimming with spicy and smoky flavors.
I would say that baingan bharta is a cousin of the Middle Eastern dish Baba Ganoush. The roasting of the aubergine is the same, but the spices and other ingredients used are unique.
- Eggplant: Since this is the star ingredient, you should know which type to use for the bharta. Choose the round/ globular Italian type because it is best for grilling/ roasting and yields the most eggplant pulp after you remove the burnt skins. The eggplant must be big, juicy, firm to the touch, and light in weight as it'll have few and small seeds. One large eggplant will suffice for this recipe. Do not buy small and skinny Asian or Indian eggplants. Also, look for glossy dark-purple brinjals without any dents/ bruises.
- Oil/ Ghee: Use any vegetable oil of your choice. I love to cook my sabzis in mustard oil for the most authentic taste. When cooking with mustard oil, remember to heat it till it smokes. If you are not vegan, use ghee for an amazing aroma.
- Cumin seeds: When sautéed in hot oil, cumin adds a delightful flavor and aroma to the dish
- Green Chili: I use Thai green chili for the extra kick. But you can use jalapeno or serrano pepper. These add a great flavor, but it's best to avoid them if you are sensitive to heat.
- Onion: I use yellow onions, but you can use red onions if you prefer.
- Garlic and Ginger: Use freshly minced garlic and grated ginger. You can even use a store-bought ginger-garlic paste.
- Tomato: firm red diced tomatoes will make the base for this curry
- Cilantro: fresh cilantro - add lots of it for an amazing flavor and fresh aroma
- Spices: Kashmiri red chili powder, coriander powder, and cumin powder are just a few spices you need for flavor and seasoning. These are easily available at the Indian store.
- Salt: as per taste
How To Roast Eggplant?
The eggplant would typically be cooked in a charcoal oven, but in modern homes, it's more likely to be done over a stove flame, a grill, or an oven. Here are some ways you can roast your eggplant.
- For this method, you will need a pair of tongs and wire roasting rack (roti jali). You can roast without the rack directly on the burner too.
- Place the wire roasting rack on the burner. Brush some oil on the eggplant. Start roasting the eggplants on a medium flame.
- Turn the eggplant every few minutes to ensure uniform roasting. It will take about 12-14 minutes to roast the eggplant.
- The eggplant should be soft and nicely charred at this point. To test, insert a clean knife or fork into the center of the eggplant; if it passes through without resistance, the eggplants are done. Cooking time can be increased if required.
- Cover the roasted eggplant with a foil and let it cool for some time.
- Add 3-4 slits to the eggplant. Brush some oil on the eggplant. Place the eggplant in the basket. Brush the eggplant with some oil.
- Roast the eggplant at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 18-20 minutes. Then flip it and roast for another 18-20 minutes.
- You must flip the eggplant half way through to ensure even charring.
- To check if the eggplant is adequately cooked, insert a clean knife or fork in the center to check.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Add 3-4 slits to the eggplant or you can also poke holes with a fork. Brush the eggplants with some oil and make sure they are coated well. Arrange the eggplants on a baking sheet.
- Place the baking sheet on the top shelf of the oven. Roast the brinjal for around 40-45 minutes. Check and flip halfway through.
- The skin of the eggplants will be charred, and the inside will be soft and mushy. Insert a clean knife and check the doneness. If needed, add a few more minutes of cooking time.
- Take the eggplants out from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes.
How To Make Baingan Bharta?
Making baingan bharta is pretty easy, and you don't have to be an expert at cooking. The bharta-making process consists of two broad steps.
a) Roast and Mash Eggplant
b) Cooking Bharta
The step-by-step instructions are as follows:
- Roast eggplant. Peel, chop, and mash with a potato masher.
- Heat oil in a large pan on a medium-high flame and add cumin seeds. Sauté until the cumin seeds sizzle.
- Add green chili pepper, ginger, and garlic.
- Add onions and saute until they are golden.
- Add spices and tomatoes. Mix and cover with a lid, so the tomatoes soften. Saute for 5-7 minutes until the oil separates.
- Add the mashed eggplant. Mix well and saute for 2 minutes. Cover with a lid and let it simmer on medium-low for a few minutes.
- Garnish with cilantro.
Eggplant: Choosing the right eggplant is crucial for a great-tasting mash. The eggplant must be big, juicy, firm to the touch, and light in weight as it'll have few and small seeds.
Roasting Eggplant: Roast the eggplant on an open gas flame. This will give you the best-charred flavor.
If roasting your eggplant on the stove, I suggest you line the stove with foil by cutting a hole to fit around the burner. Place the eggplant directly on the grates of the gas stove or on the mesh rack. This will reduce the mess and make cleaning a breeze. My mom suggests to also not make slits in the eggplant so that the juices of the eggplant don't come out and make a mess on the stove.
If roasting the eggplant in the air fryer or oven, you can make slits in the baingan and stuff them with garlic cloves. The garlic cooks along with the eggplant, imparting the best flavor.
Removing skin: The key to easily removing charred skin from the eggplant is to cover it and let it sit. Covering it generates steam, which makes peeling off the skin easier.
Remove all of the charred skin from the eggplant. The bharta will taste bitter if there are any bits of charred skin.
Prepping ahead: To save time on busy weeknights, you can prep and store the onion tomato masala in advance.
You can also roast multiple eggplants at the same time. Peel and mash them, and store the mash. This roasted mashed eggplant can also be freezed in small portions. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before use.
This is so helpful as you don't have to roast (and clean) every time and still enjoy the Baingan bharta.
- You can also add green peas to the eggplant bharta. Add boiled peas. It will not only taste delicious but also boost the protein content.
- If you are not a fan of the smoked flavor, you can make your bharta without roasting it in a pressure cooker.
How To Serve?
Baingan bharta can also be served as a dip or topping with mini naans or pita.
It makes a great pairing when served with raita, as the yogurt balances out the spice level of the bharta.
Baingan bharta is a a healthy Indian dish.
Eggplant is a non-starchy veggie. It is low in calories, and provides a good amount of fiber. It is a low-glycemic food and, therefore, perfect for people with diabetes.
Antioxidants in eggplant, such as vitamins A and C, help protect from cell damage. It's also high in polyphenols, natural plant chemicals that may help cells perform better. These chemicals also improve brain function and prevent cancers.
For further reading, click here.
You can store leftover baingan bharta in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
This brinjal bharta also freezes well. You can freeze it in a freezer-safe container/ bag for up to 1 month.
Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and reheat on the stovetop or microwave until the dish is heated. Just before serving, sprinkle with the chopped cilantro.
Some people are allergic to eggplants. They will experience itching after handling and eating the vegetable. Usually, people who suffer from hay fever are more likely to develop an eggplant allergy. This is due to the presence of histamines. Cooking the vegetable may alleviate symptoms in some people, but it is best not to risk it as not all allergen-causing elements are destroyed.
More Vegan Indian Recipes
Baingan Bharta (Roasted Mashed Eggplant)
- Rinse and dry the eggplant. Apply oil over the eggplant using your palms or a brush. Roast eggplant.
- Place the eggplant on top of a burner for roasting. Optionally, use a stainless steel mesh on top of the burner, and place eggplant on it. Roast whole turning frequently for about 12-14 minutes. Once done, a fork or knife should insert easily in the eggplant. (see notes for air fryer method)
- Transfer to a plate, cover with foil and let it cool slightly. Now with your fingers, remove the skin completely. Then chop/mash the eggplant using a knife/fork. You can also use a potato masher.
- In a large pan on medium-high flame, heat oil and add cumin seeds. Sauté for 30 seconds until the cumin seeds sizzle.
- Add green chili pepper, ginger and garlic. Sauté for a minute.
- Add onions and saute for 5-7 minutes until they are light golden. You don't want to brown them.
- Add all the spices. Then add the tomatoes. Mix well, and cover with a lid so the tomatoes soften. Saute for 5-7 minutes until the oil separates.
- Add the roasted mashed eggplant. Mix well and sauté for 2 minutes. Turn flame to medium-low and cover with a lid for 3-4 minutes. Remove lid, and give the bharta a stir. Turn off flame.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro, and enjoy with roti or paratha.
Note: Nutrition values are my best estimates. If you rely on them for your diet, use your preferred nutrition calculator.