Curried Roasted Eggplant with Smoked Cardamom and Coconut Milk

Eggplant seems to be one of those vegetable-fruits that you either love or hate. In the haters camp are those who criticize the texture (“slimy!”) or flavor (“bitter!”), while the lovers expound on its delicate consistency and sweet taste. 

Indeed, eggplant can be a finicky ingredient. Larger globe varieties can taste sharp if not first tossed with salt and allowed to sweat, then rinsed and patted dry. On its own, it can taste bland and watery, but it also likes to soak up flavors, such as the salt used to sweat it. (I’ll never forget an inedibly salty eggplant dish I was once served in what was usually an excellent restaurant.) Undercooked, eggplant retains a pithy texture reminiscent of a cotton ball; overcooked, it breaks down into beige mush. Even the prettiest magenta-hued nightshades turn a dingy brown when cooked. Additionally, eggplant’s sponge-like surface loves to sop up oil, often emerging from kitchens slicked with grease.

But eggplant has so much potential. When prepared with love, it positively melts with sweetness, its texture almost custard-like, often reminding me of dessert. It just needs a bit of coddling to reach its potential. As with okra and zucchini, attention must be paid during preparation lest the eggplant-phobes of the world have reason to maintain their hating ways.

This time of year, Jay (a reformed hater converted in his teens by eggplant parmesan) and I rejoice in ordering eggplant wherever we can get it: on a pizza at Piccino, in yaki nasu from Umi Sushi, in a bowl of baingan bartha at Pakwan, or in a tangy-sweet caponata from Pizzeria Delfina. At home, we toss it with pasta, we roast and puree it into baba ganouj, and we use it to top pizzas of our own.

This curry is my current favorite use for the Asian varieties of eggplant. Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Tender, it has all the spice of a traditional baingan bartha, but with the feel of a hearty stew. A few tricks oust common eggplant issues. First, slender eggplants are cut into large chunks and roasted to sear their outsides and develop flavor, helping them hold their shape in the finished dish. Rosy tomatoes and bright yellow turmeric give the dish a rich golden hue. A pungent blend of spices (coriander, black pepper, chiles, garlic, ginger, and cardamom) add tons of flavor. The eggplant helps to thicken the sauce, made creamy from coconut milk and ghee, and slivers of ginger and garlic add further textural interest.

I made a few tweaks to the recipe, roasting the eggplant with olive oil and salt rather than dry-frying it in pans (and trying not to eat it all before it could make it into the curry), leaving the skins and seeds on the tomatoes because I don’t mind either in the finished dish, and cutting the liquid in half to keep the cooking time down and the curry thick. Curious to try black smoked cardamom in a savory dish (rather than simply making batch after batch of this ice cream), I added a few cracked pods, and they give the curry added depth.

The original recipe calls for a shower of fresh cilantro and mint. The mint surprised me, but it adds an expected top note (think mint chutney). I’ve made this twice in the past week, and we’ve been enjoying it over rice with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt. I even ate it for breakfast on morning. In fact, this curry gets better after a day or two, when the flavors have a chance to meld.

As an eggplant lover, I’m looking forward to the rest of eggplant season.

Haters gonna hate. I say let them eat curry.

Thanks for reading! For more Bojon Gourmet in your life, follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Bloglovin’, or Twitter, subscribe to receive new posts via email, or make a donation.

Eggplant Love:
Roasted Eggplant, Chickpea+ Summer Vegetable Tagine
Roasted Tiny Eggplant with Muhammara and Feta
Baked Penne with Eggplant and Fontina

One year ago:
Flaky, All-Butter Gluten-Free Pie Dough and a Late Season Apricot + Mascarpone Galette (Gluten-Free)

Two years ago:
Melon with Lime, Feta and Mint

Three years ago:
Lemon Verbena and Red Berry Shakes

Four years ago:
Fig and Ginger Scones

Curried Roasted Eggplant with Smoked Cardamom and Coconut Milk

Adapted liberally from Nigel Slater’s Tender

This recipe works well with fresh small eggplant, such as the Japanese or Chinese varieties; in fact, you might consider roasting a few extra since the baked slices are delicious on their own and may disappear with alarming speed before making it into the final dish. If using larger globe eggplant, cut them into fat chunks, sprinkle them liberally with salt, and let them sit in a colander for 30 minutes to sweat out any bitterness. Rinse them well, drain, and pat dry. Proceed with the recipe, omitting the salt and adding it to the final dish to taste.

Black cardamom is a different variety than their green brethren, and the pods are dried over smoke giving them a campfire-like flavor. They add a nice richness to the curry, but they can be omitted if you don’t have any on hand. Do warn guests that the stew contains whole black cardamom pods. The pods contain a lot of smoky flavor that comes out when they are stewed with the other ingredients, but biting into one whole is a wholly unpleasant experience.

If you cut the tomatoes in a fairly fine dice, the skin and seeds won’t be a problem. Alternatively, peel and seed them as per the original recipe.

Makes 6 main-course servings

For the curry:
2 pounds eggplant (about 10 medium Chinese or Japanese eggplant)
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt, as needed
3 tablespoons ghee (or coconut oil if vegan)
2 cups diced yellow onion (from 2 medium or 3 smaller onions)
5 black cardamom pods, cracked
1 dried chile de arbol (or other medium-spicy chile), crumbled (more or less to your taste)
8 green cardamom pods, cracked
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
1″ chunk of ginger, peeled and cut into long, thin strips
1 pound ripe tomatoes (10 medium dry-farmed Early Girls), stemmed and diced
1 (13.5 ounce / 400 mL) can full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup water
a few handfuls cilantro leaves, chopped
a handful mint leaves, slivered
1 pint whole milk (Greek) yogurt, for serving

For the rice:
2 cups long-grain basmati rice
3 1/2 cups water, plus more for rinsing the rice
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Roast the eggplant:
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 400ºF. If using a long, slender variety of eggplant, cut them on the diagonal into 1-inch thick slices. If using a globe style eggplant, cut them into 2-inch square chunks. Pile the eggplant slices on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with the olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss to coat with your hands. Spread the eggplant pieces on two baking sheets, and roast until golden on the bottoms, about 15 minutes. Use a thin metal spatula to flip the slices over, and roast until tender and golden, 5-10 more minutes. Remove and turn off the oven.

Make the curry:
Heat the ghee in a large soup pot or dutch oven over a medium flame until it shimmers. Add the onion, black cardamom pods, and crumbled chile de arbol. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden and tender, 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, break open the green cardamom pods and shake out the black seeds. Combine these with the coriander and peppercorns in a clean coffee grinder or spice grinder and grind finely.

When the onions are soft, stir in the ground spice mixture, turmeric, garlic, and ginger. Cook for a few minutes to toast the spices, then stir in the chopped tomatoes, coconut milk, water, and the roasted eggplant. Increase the heat to bring the curry to a simmer, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When finished, the eggplant should still hold its shape, but the sauce around it should be slightly thickened stew-like. It will thicken further if allowed to sit and cool.

While the curry simmers, make the rice:
Place the rice in a medium bowl and cover with cool water. Swish around for a few seconds, then drain off the milky water. Repeat this twice more; the water should be fairly clear. Drain the rice well and place it in a large, lidded saucepan with the 3 1/2 cups water and the salt. Bring to a boil over a medium-high flame, then cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and let steam until the rice is tender and all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. If the rice is still crunchy, add another 1/4 cup water and continue cooking. Let the rice stand for ten minutes, then use a fork to fluff the rice.

Serve the things:
Spoon the curry onto a platter and shower with the chopped cilantro and slivered mint, and serve with rice and yogurt.

The curry keeps well, refrigerated, for up to 5 days. Reheat before serving.

116 thoughts on “Curried Roasted Eggplant with Smoked Cardamom and Coconut Milk”

  1. I'm an aubergine – uh, eggplant – lover! Anyone who isn't needs to try it burnt; it tastes sweet and smoky and it's so much fun scraping it from the crumpled, flame-blackened, crispy outside. This looks delicious. I actually love cardamom as well and since aubergines are in season, it'll have to be one I try.

    1. Oh yum! I want burnt eggplant – that sounds amazing! Jay and I both agree that "aubergine" is a way prettier word than "eggplant." I hope you love the curry as much as we do.

  2. I LOVE EGGPLANT! And I'm going to make this dish tomorrow as I have almost everything at home. And even the eggplant! I think eggplant is so versatile especially when you are cutting on carbs. I use it sometimes for eggs benedict instead of the english muffing, or when making lasagna. So good the good ol' eggplant. :)

    1. I love the idea of using eggplant in place of the bread in eggs benedict, and in lasagna – brilliant! Please let me know how you like this curry if you give it a go. :)

  3. I just roasted some dainty baby eggplants yesterday, scored and slicked with olive oil and garlic. I'm definitely a lover. This recipe, as most of yours, is going on my "to make list". And love recipes like this that keep for days, so lunch becomes extra easy. xo

  4. Your blog is one of my most favorites. This recipe is another stunning creation. Thank you for sharing your talent with us.

  5. I love eggplant. When I was a pseudo vegetarian I used to eat it all the time – it reminded me of a burger…if I closed my eyes & used lots of seasoning. ;)

    This looks amazing!! Curry is king.

  6. So gorgeous. So inspiring! I can't wait to try this recipe. I'm a huge eggplant fan — I love the creamy texture of roasted eggplant. Now that it's just barely starting to get cool out I'm SO down for more curry in my life! Thanks for the recipe!

  7. My boyfriend totally falls into that 'hate it' category so I always have to mask that there is eggplant in it with delicious flavors and I bet this curry would do the trick! I love September because the produce is still available but it's cool enough to make fresh stews and curries!

    1. Pesky eggplant-hating boyfriends! I'll be so curious to know if he likes this. The eggplant is definitely still front and center! I couldn't have said it better about September – using summer produce in cozier preparations is the best. :)

  8. I LOVE eggplant and would happily shovel down multiple bowls of this at a sitting. :)

    My favorite way to eat eggplant is to steam it and toss it with a satay-ish peanut sauce. SO GOOD.

  9. Made this tonight and fell in love with it! All those wonderful aromas filled my kitchen and gave some much needed comfort on a rainy fall day. I added some chickpeas as I had some around. Also, I omitted the black cardamom as I wasn't able to find it at my local ethnic store; I added a pinch of smokes salt to get some of that smoky flavor. Definitely making this again! Thanks for sharing this recipe, Alanna!

    1. Ah, that makes me so happy!! And that's so funny that you added chickpeas because I almost did the same – I bet they tasted great, and added some protein, too. Good call on the smoked salt! I'm so glad you liked it. (I'm now on a baked rolled grains kick thanks to you! :))

      1. I just made this tonight. It looks great but it has lemony taste. Is it suppose to? I love Eggplants! Thanks for the recipe.

  10. Loving this recipe, I bet the cardamoms adds a great flavor. Just got organic eggplant (they taste so much better) and I can't wait to prepare this coconut milk curry – it will replace the baba ganoush I had in mind for this Saturday!

    1. Ooh, I do love a good baba ganoush, but this curry is pretty lovely, too. I agree that organic eggplant (and especially ones that are super fresh and grown nearby) are heads and tails above the rest. And I love cardamom in pretty much anything, and they add great depth here. :)

  11. Wow that looks wonderful. My husband is one of those eggplant-haters (I don't get it!!!) so I rarely make it. But this recipe looks so good I might make some and eat it all by myself. So glad to have found your blog today!

  12. I just want to say, this is one of, if not the best home-cooked meals I have EVER made! Granted I substituted and changed a few things up, but it's an amazing base to start with that I'm sure didn't need any tinkering (I just didn't have everything on hand). I made a batch for my roommates this evening and everyone was swooning. One of my dinner invites was nearly in tears (and not because of the spice!)…seriously, it was THAT good. I had to ask that they leave me some leftovers for tomorrow's all day-study session. Can't thank you enough for sharing such a delicious recipe!

    1. Omg, this is the best comment ever! I'm so glad you and your roomies loved this curry! I'm so curious about what you changed, so please let me know if you get a chance! Cheers and best of luck at today's study sesh. :)

  13. I am making this right now and it smells very delicious! Using homegrown chilis, garlic, eggplants and i happened to have all the other ingredients at hand! Love the pictures, love your recipes ( am drinking a pear shrub – also inspired by an earlier post – we have made a habit of shrubs this year!) thank you – keep doing this.

    1. Wow, good on you for growing your own veggies – that's awesome! Please let me know how it turns out, and thank you very much for the kind words. Pear shrub sounds delicious – I'd love to know how you made it if you feel like sharing!

    2. We are having it tonight but i have already licked the spoon ( many times) pear shrub – crushed some ripe pears and then used your cherry shrub recipe. Have made peach, plum, apple shrub too – said this was our new addiction!

  14. I've made this twice in two weeks. My husband and 13yr old son can't get enough of this curry! We've had lots of curries in our lifetime, love them, and I have to say this one is right at the top of one of my all-time favorites, even professional chef-made restaurant curries! The second time I made this I had some fingerling potatoes that I grew and I threw that in with the asian eggplant. Equally to die for. This is now a staple in our household. THANK YOU!!

    1. Yay!! I'm so glad you all like this dish so much – that makes my day. Fingerling potatoes sound incredible here. I'll have to try that next time. Yum! Thanks so much for the note!

  15. Thank you so much for this recipe. I usually modify recipes liberally, but this was perfect as written and gave me a chance to use the black cardamom pods I've had for ages. The curry was so deliciously perfect, I only regret I didn't have the recipe earlier. I've spent years of my life not eating this? Such a sad waste…

  16. Was looking for a new recipe for my farmers market eggplant when i stumbled onto this. Also added some zucchini i needed to use. On the stove simmering now. Cant wait to try to the finished product. Thanks for the recipe!

  17. I have one big eggplant that needs to be used up, so I'm making this recipe today! Thinking I may need to scale it down since I'm not using as much eggplant – will let ya know how it turns out! Beautiful recipe as always, m'dear!!

  18. This is amazing! You are an eggplant genius! I couldn't find black cardamom locally so made it without several times cooking the eggplant on a charcoal grill for smokiness instead. I recently found sound black cardamom while out of town at a spice store so I made it tonight exactly according to the recipe, it's sooooo good! I skip the rice, saving the calorie intake for extra eggplant :-)


  19. This is delicious! The texture of the eggplant melting in your mouth is so great. The black cardamom is essential! And the mint is a perfect addition. This will be a regular in my home :)

  20. Oh my goodness – tried this yesterday and the flavours were just wonderful! Roasting the aubergine (we're in the UK!) is a great touch and the smokiness from the black cardamon contrasting with the fresh green cardamom, coriander and mint is just heavenly. This is going on the regular eats list.

  21. I've made this on more than one occasion and I absolutely LOVE it! Best recipe ever! Thank you soooooooo much!!!!

  22. I have a ton of fresh turmeric right now, and I'm wondering if the proportion needs to be adjusted… Your recipe calls for 1 tbsp of dry ground turmeric. Should I increase it to 2tbsp? I can't wait to make this! Mahalo…

  23. Oh I have all these ingredients! Love the smoke idea too. Hands down ~ I will be making this tomorrow. Thank you for sharing and all your pictures are OUTSTANDING!

  24. Made this a few weeks ago and it was a huge hit! The flavours are so complex. It was the first time I'd used black cardamom, and I was surprised at how different it was from the green cardamom, such an intense smoky flavour! Thanks for the recipe!

  25. Made this tonight – it is divine. My daughter became vegetarian some time ago and searching for recipes to become family faves. This just became a family favourite. Thanks heaps. My two fave spices cardamom and coriander with the top notes of mint are just unreal. Creamy and YUM!

  26. This dish is havenly! I love it. I am not vegetarian, so I cooked it with chicken – at the beginning, with the onion and the scpices. I hope Im not gonna be damned! I love it. Great, thanks. And specially for the idea of the cooking the eggplants in the oven, I will use it just for snack, sidedish, whatever.

  27. This recipe is delightful! I have had this pinned for a while (along with your ice cream) but couldn’t find the black cardamom until I happened upon it at our local Penzeys. I love the smokey hint it lends to the curry. Thanks for a great recipe!

  28. This recipe was really good and now that I have found your site and see various vegetarian recipes, I will be a regular visitor. Thank you and keep up the good work. My belly thanks you.

  29. You do know that you could just buy a rice cooker and not worry about all the steps you just provided right? I mean, it’s literally 100% foolproof as long as you know the amount of water to put into the cooker. The cooker automatically cooks it to perfection and switches off automatically. There’s really no need to go through all that trouble, I dont think anyone is Asia does that. People in Asia would be laughing if you told them to cook rice this way.

    I mean even if you are armed with just a pot, there is simply no need to drain the rice and refill it with water. 1. It is a waste of water. 2. You are making this more complicated that it should be. I know a lady that cooked rice perfectly by just filling a pot with rice and water to a level she knows is optimum and left it there to boil for a certain period of time. That’s all she needed to do. Rice is a staple food, there’s no need to fancy it up.At least not that I have heard of from any chefs, cooks or housewives while I was living there for almost two decades.

    Just an honest feedback :)

    1. I’m confused by your critique of the rice cooking method – what she recommends doing here is rinsing the rice – a very necessary step that everyone in Asia does so they won’t get starchy rice. I think people in Asia would actually laugh if you didn’t rinse your rice. Then she brings the water and rice to boil, covers and reduces to simmer until cooked. That’s the most basic way to cook rice without a rice cooker (which not everyone has space in their tiny San Francisco kitchen for or has the luxury of owning). I think the reason she wrote to drain the rice a couple of times using the pot is actually to save water versus just running it under cold water in a mesh strainer until the water runs clear, which is what most cooks will do. Even if you use a rice cooker, you must drain the rice until the water runs clear before cooking it. Step 1.

      Also – I’m sure you think you’re being helpful, but you do realize this is just an individual person producing free recipes and photos for you to use, right? She works really hard and didn’t get paid to make this recipe for people to use so I’m not sure why the super harsh critique…?

  30. I recently tried to post a comment questioning how the rice is cooked but before I assume my comment got blocked because I was being a bit tad straightforward with my thoughts, I’ll give it one more attempt.

    I laughed. That was my first reaction after reading the instructions you gave on cooking rice. Get a rice cooker, wash the rice, pour the rice into the cooker, fill it to the instructed water level, switched it on. That’s all you need in the art of cooking good rice. There is simply no need to overcomplicate such a simple art of cooking.

    Even if you dont have a rice cooker, you can always replicate it with a cooking pot, a method used by hundreds and thousands of households in Asia for decades if not centuries. It’s really easy once you get the water amount right.

    On the flip side, the curry was better than expected so good job. I think it was a good replica of an otherwise complicated dish. A lot of ingredients are probably omitted given its scarcity in the north american market.

  31. hello! if i only have ground cardamom on hand (brown in color), is that an appropriate substitute, and if so, how much should i use? also, is it possible to used canned crushed tomatoes?

    looking forward to making this…looks delicious!!!

    1. Sorry for the slow reply. That should be fine! I would use maybe 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom since it’s pretty strong. Canned tomatoes should work great!

  32. We are drowning in Japanese eggplant from our garden and needed something else to prepare besides the endless baba ganoush and eggplant parmesan we’ve been eating. I stumbled upon your delicious recipe. It was SO good! I didn’t had the whole spices on hand but made a mixture from the same pre-ground spices I had in stock. The eggplant was savory and creamy and the curry really settled into a satisfying stew-like texture, just as promised in your description. We will definitely be making this again, as the eggplant won’t stop coming!!! Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *