How to Sauté Eggplant

From the perspective of a food scientist

How to go from refrigerator to ready in fifteen minutes.

Featured Ingredient

Sautéed Eggplant

1 Eggplant
~1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 tsp kosher salt
Skillet & Lid
Cutting Board
Chef’s Knife, sharpened

Learning to cook can be quite intimidating when you hear professionals say things like “I don’t measure ingredients” or “you can just tell”. With this quick video, I want to give you some techniques to help your cooking technique founded in principles of food science. 

To start, Eggplant is a unique vegetable. Eggplant received its name when the produce was earlier in its lineage, and the color was white (1). The plant is a native of India, and was introduced from Arab traders to the Middle East and is still widely used there today (1). Eggplants grow in warm climates, and are in peak season in the summer time. Eggplants are also a climacteric produce, so they tend to spoil quickly. 

With its high water capacity, raw eggplant does not freeze well. If it’s on the verge of expiring, use these tips to prepare it in a quick and versatile way. The skin can be quite tough, so always sharpen your knife before chopping. 


  1. Start by cutting your eggplant into even slices, about 0.5in (1.5 cm) in thickness
  2. Then take the eggplant and cut long ways into thin slices about the same thickness
  3. Lastly, cut the eggplant in the opposite direction in order to cube it
  4. Salt the eggplant to help expel the water in the eggplant
    See video above for more details
  5. Next, heat up olive oil in a pan
  6. Place the eggplant in the heated pan and allow to heat
  7. Mix the eggplant to ensure even cooking
  8. Once you see there is no more visible oil in the pan, add more oil and salt, then stir again
  9. Cover the eggplant to trap the heat
  10. Continue to mix, adding oil if there appears to be none in the pan
  11. Cover again
  12. Look for a color and texture change in the eggplant
    1. Color: should become tan as opposed to whitish color
    2. Texture: from spongy like texture, to cooked texture (see images for reference). Eggplant should appear shrunken in size
  13. Season with parsley, salt, and pepper.
    Other options: za’atar, cumin, or other fresh herbs
  14. Serve!

Your eggplant should be about this size for this recipe, or cubed.

Options for serving:

  • Mix with tomato sauce and chickpeas and pour over grain bowl
  • Add to your favorite pasta dish
  • Use as a pizza topping

Why this recipe works:

The high proportion of intercellular air pockets within the eggplant quickly absorb oil (1).  It may seem like a lot of salt and oil, but it is quickly absorbed in the eggplant, and helps break down the structure. The heat disrupts the structure of the eggplant, causing it collapse and releases much of the oil towards the end of the cooking process.  For this reason, it is important to salt and oil the eggplant throughout the cooking process. 

Health Benefits of Eggplant:

  1. Versatile
  2. High in fiber (3.0g/serving)
  3. Heart Healthy: stimulates uptake of HDL Cholesterol (AKA Good Cholesterol)
  4. Rich in Iron
  5. High in Potassium & Magnesium 

1. On Food and Cooking. McGee, Harold. New York. 1984

2 Replies to “How to Sauté Eggplant”

  1. Joan Damico

    Looks good!!! OMG, I was on the radio with Harold McGee in the late 90’s when the first science chef came out, talking about food science from grade school to adulthood.  He was an interesting guy!

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