This smoky Baba Ganoush (eggplant dip) is the epitome of the Mediterranean cuisine. Learn the best way to cook eggplants for this recipe and all the tips for the best baba ganoush ever!
The smoky Baba ganoush is one of those foods that incorporate all of the goodness of the Mediterranean cuisine. The unforgettable earthy taste with the smoky notes, the creamy texture which makes it perfect for dipping pita bread and the nutritiousness of this recipe make it truly unforgettable.
I’ll admit I was never a big fun of eggplant. Even now, I’ll first dip my bread in my homemade hummus and after having a few bites I will give my attention this smoky eggplant dip. However, when I started using eggplants in my recipes I slowly learned to appreciate their deep earthy flavor which lends a meaty taste to many dishes.
To achieve this meaty taste you have to treat the eggplant accordingly. You either have to sauté it very well or grill/bake it until caramelized. But more on this later.
What is baba ganoush? According to wikipedia, baba ganoush (or baba ghanouj) is an appetizer of Lebanese origin. It’s made with mashed or pureed eggplant, fresh lemon juice, olive oil and some spices.
The interesting thing is that all of the recipes I know use tahini, but wikipedia mentions that tahini is sometimes used. You may find it served with onions, tomatoes and other vegetables.
The eggplant is traditionally grilled over an open flame or over charcoals before peeling, so that the pulp is soft and has a smoky taste.
Once the eggplants are ready, making Baba Ganoush is very easy and it will only take you a few minutes. It is a very healthy dish, it is naturally vegan and has a lot of nutrients.
You can serve it as a dip, add it as a creamy element to your Greek meze platter, serve it as an appetizer or as a side dish.
So where does ‘baba ganoush’ really come from?
Baba ganoush is a Middle Eastern dish and you can find many variations of it in Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Armenia, Jordan and Turkey. In the article where does baba ganoush come from by migrateful.org there is a beautiful opinion which states that “all these overlapping origins and slight variations on the same dishes, demonstrate the shared traditions of food across the Middle East and beyond”.
The name for this eggplant dip comes from the Arabic phrase baba gannuj. Baba has the meaning of father or daddy but in this occasion it probably refers to a Sultan and Gannuj means pampered. So, baba ganoush, in a free translation, means to indulge the Sultan. You can read more about it in the spicy history of baba ganoush by grammarphobia.com.
Baba Ganoush Ingredients
To make this delicious eggplant dip you’ll need:
- Eggplants. Most eggplant varieties will do but Italian eggplant, globe eggplants and Rosa Bianca Eggplants are great. Find more eggplant types in this article from allrecipes.com: 11 types of eggplant.
- Tahini paste (natural tahini from 100% sesame seeds). If you want to make your own tahini check this homemade tahini recipe (the post also includes a delicious sweet tahini spread recipe).
- Lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
- Olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is best for this recipe
- Garlic. You can use raw garlic or you can wrap a garlic bulb with foil and cook it with the eggplants. This will give a mellow flavor to the garlic.
- Parsley. A few sprigs of fresh parsley are enough. Sometimes I’ll also use 1-2 basil leaves because eggplants pair great with basil.
- Spices. Usually cumin or paprika.
How to make Baba Ganoush
- Grill the eggplants over an open flame or charcoals. If you can’t grill them a second option is to bake them in the oven but this will give you a less tasty result. If you decide to bake them turn on the broiler until the skin of the eggplant is charred.
- Take out the flesh. Cut the eggplants in half, scoop out the flesh with a spoon and remove any burned bits. Optionally, you can also remove some seeds because they usually taste bitter.
- Drain. Transfer it to a kitchen towel and squeeze until most of the liquid is drained. This will make your eggplant dip thicker and even less bitter.
- Mix. Transfer all of the ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and process until creamy. For a chunkier result chop the flesh of the eggplant and mix everything in a bowl using a whisk or a fork.
- Chill. Baba ganoush is traditionally eaten cold however it’s perfectly fine to eat it while still warm.
Tips for the best Baba Ganoush
Making the best Baba Ganoush is easy, especially if follow these basic tips:
- Eggplant Variety: Eggplants with a lot of flesh are ideal for this recipe, and Italian eggplant is less bitter so it will make a great dip.
- Try to choose smaller eggplants because they usually have less seeds which means they’re less bitter
- Fresh eggplants. Pick eggplants with firm, glossy skin and check the green stem which shouldn’t look very dehydrated.
- Don’t let your eggplants sit on the kitchen counter for too long because they can get bitter.
- Grill the eggplant over an open fire or charcoals. It makes all the difference!
- This is optional, but you can remove some of the seeds once the eggplants are cooked and cut in half. This is because the seeds can be bitter.
- Drain. Scoop out the flesh and transfer it on a kitchen towel or a cheesecloth. Squeeze to get out most of the liquids. This will make a silky, thick eggplant dip.
- Taste the baba ganoush after it has chilled in the fridge and adjust the salt, the garlic, the lemon juice and the tahini.
What does Baba Ganoush taste like?
The flavor profile of this dish is earthy, smokey, and kind of meaty (though it’s totally vegan!). And of course it tastes like eggplant but in a good way! The quantity of the garlic, the tahini and the spices you will use will affect the flavor, that’s why I recommend starting with the minimum amounts given in the recipe and after the baba ganoush is cold you can taste it and adjust everything to your liking.
How to achieve the authentic smokey taste of baba ganoush
I’ve found that grilling over charcoals makes ALL the difference in the world! It almost produces a totally different result than the one with oven baked eggplants. Also, if you happen to have a fireplace you can throw them in while the fire burning.
A gas stove is the next best thing. Put the eggplants directly on the grates and over the flame. Put some aluminum foil under the grates for easier cleanup. The eggplants will be cooked inside and charred outside in 20-30 minutes depending on their size.
If none of the above is possible, then broiling the eggplant is the next solution. Place the pan in the middle rack and broil on high until it is very soft. You can turn them upside down midway through broiling for better results.
If you bake the eggplants in the oven and they lack in smoky flavor, you can always enhance it by adding a teaspoon of smoked paprika. Another option is to add a few drops of liquid smoke.
What do you eat Baba Ganoush with?
- It pairs very well with falafel and tahini sauce for an extra healthy meal!
- These minty lamb kebabs and other meat dishes are also great.
- Try it with a couscous salad, with feta or chickpeas for some extra protein.
- Another alternative is my favorite bulgur and lentil salad
- All kinds of bread and chips will be delicious dipped in this eggplant dip.
- For a crunchier experience try it with fresh vegetable sticks.
- It can be added to many sandwiches as a healthy, nutritious spread.
- Also, many nuts like walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, hazelnuts are great when sprinkled over baba ganoush.
How long does homemade Baba Ganoush last?
Baba ganoush should be stored in the fridge inside a well-sealed airtight container. Depending on the temperature of your fridge it will last from 4 to 6 days.
- 3 medium eggplants (about 2 1/2 pounds / 1200 grams)
- 3-4 tablespoons tahini
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika (use smoked paprika for broiled eggplants)
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 2 tablespoons parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt (you may need more)
- 1-2 raw garlic cloves (or 1-2 teaspoons roasted garlic adjust this to your taste)
Grill the eggplants: Prick the eggplants with a fork or a knife and grill for about 30 minutes until very soft and charred outside. Turn them with tongs every 5-10 minutes.
Alternatively you can cook them on your gas stove directly over the flame but it will get messy (some aluminum foil under the grates helps with the cleanup). Another solution is to place them on a pan and broil them in the oven until very soft (this can take 40-50 minutes). Turn them halfway through for better results.
Take the flesh. Let the eggplants cool enough to handle, cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Place the flesh on a kitchen towel or cheesecloth, wrap it and squeeze to drain most of the liquid.
Make the baba ganoush. Transfer all of the ingredients to the bowl of your food processor and process until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Chill. Transfer to an airtight bowl and store in the fridge until cold, about 2-3 hours or overnight. Taste again and add more salt, lemon juice, garlic, spices or tahini if you think it is needed. Serve.
- For a chunkier Baba Ganoush chop the flesh of the eggplant and mix all of the ingredients in a bowl using a whisk or a fork.
- Many traditional recipes add a couple tablespoons of Greek yogurt. Please note that this makes it vegetarian and not vegan.
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