I love eggplant, but Tony isn’t a big fan. Fortunately, I can usually win him over with Chinese-inspired recipes, like this Eggplant in Garlic Sauce. It boasts bolder flavors that compliment the eggplant. This is also a healthier recipe than most since it’s oil free! I originally shared this recipe over 15 years ago (time flies!), and am giving it a big update today.
Eggplant in Garlic Sauce that’s Plant-Based and Oil-Free
Eggplant typically soaks up oil like a sponge, which is why many eggplant dishes can taste oily. But this is a weeknight version that uses no oil at all. Simmering the eggplant in water helps to soften it before adding the other sauces.
If you do like a seared flavor, you can quickly sear the eggplant in a little oil (about 2 teaspoons) over high heat, and then continue with the method below.
When I first started making this dish, the grocers in my small town didn’t offer Chinese eggplant. So we used the regular Italian-style globe eggplants. But you can use Chinese or Japanese eggplant, if preferred. They typically require less cooking time.
Special Diet Notes: Eggplant in Garlic Sauce
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, optionally gluten-free, nut-free, peanut-free, vegan, plant-based, and vegetarian.
- 1 medium globe eggplant, optionally peeled and cut into oblong pieces the size and length of 2 fingers side by side
- 1 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic (about 2 cloves)
- 1 teaspoon grated or minced fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce (gluten-free, if needed)
- 2 green onions or scallions, sliced
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
- Bring ¼-inch of water to a boil in a wide frying pan. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally and adding more water as needed, until the eggplant is softened and very little water remains, about 7 minutes.
- Remove the eggplant to a bowl. Heat another ¼-inch of water in the pan. Add the garlic, ginger and hoisin sauce. Simmer briskly for 10 minutes, stirring and adding more water as needed.
- Add the soy sauce and green onions to the pan, then add the cooked eggplant, with a little more water if needed. Cook over a low heat for 5 minutes, stirring to coat the eggplant with the sauce.
- Serve hot or at room temperature.
I tried this, but the measurements are truly off because I didn’t know how much water was too much or too little.
You add about 1/4 inch to your pan and cook it down. If it dries up, you add a little more. The water should be mostly gone and the eggplant tender, when finished. The amount of water needed can vary by eggplant, humidity, stove, etc. It isn’t as exact as when using oil, since much of the water steams off (there is no loss when using oil). If you end up with too much water and your eggplant is done, you can drain it or simply use it for your sauce.