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Roasted Baby Eggplant with Crispy Garlic and Herbs

Roasted baby eggplant styled on white platter with crispy garlic, pesto and tomato sauce.
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Roasted Baby Eggplant with Crispy Garlic and Herbs is a simple and vibrant recipe that can actually be made with any variety of eggplant. Sliced eggplant is combined with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, garlic and herbs for a surprising flavor punch! It’s an amazing side dish or appetizer and can be enjoyed so many ways. Read on for more!

Roasted baby eggplant styled on white platter with crispy garlic, pesto and tomato sauce.

Eggplants have an amazing deep, earthy flavor and meaty texture that makes them so versatile to work with. They are delicious grilled, fried, pickled, pureed in soups and dips, mashed into meatless “meatballs”,  stuffed or roasted as in this recipe. Any way you prepare eggplant, it always seems to deliver on both flavor and texture. They’re also so satisfying!

Roasted Baby Eggplant with Crispy Garlic and Herbs is so easy to prepare and delicious to eat–you will likely not be able to stop at just one! If the lemon-accented marinade does not seduce you, then I promise that the crispy garlic will!

With only five main ingredients, these baked mini eggplants are mostly about ingredient quality and technique. A simple marinade of quality extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice and herbs is mixed with sliced eggplant and smashed garlic and roasted until the eggplant is tender and the garlic is crispy. Easy peasy! And, super flavorful.

Close-up of Roasted baby eggplant styled on white platter with crispy garlic and pesto.

What is Baby Eggplant?

Although “baby eggplant” is not a technical term for a specific variety of eggplant, I used it here to apply to several varieties of eggplant that could be considered “mini”. These include Italian eggplant, finger eggplant, Indian eggplant, Asian eggplant and what I have used here, Japanese eggplant, among others.

They can range in size from small, egg-shaped balls to 7” long varieties. They are generally sweeter/less bitter, have less seeds, thinner skins and may be more tender than larger eggplants. Sometimes, they have a more intense eggplant flavor as well.

The Japanese eggplants that I used in this recipe were slender and ranged in length from 4.5-6”, with an oblong, cylindrical shape that tapered slightly at the ends. Their skin was dark purple and they were virtually seedless, another quality that most “mini” eggplant share.

I love how easy they are to cook!

No peeling or salting is necessary. Just a bit of seasoning and roasting at a high temperature and they’re good to go!

What Inspired This Recipe

I’m one of those people that get inspired to cook while walking through supermarkets, farmers’ markets and farm stands. And, the latter was what inspired this particular recipe. I recently stopped at one of my favorite local farm stands that I knew carried the adorable round zucchini that I wanted to use for my stuffed zucchini recipe, and saw these beautiful Japanese eggplant available, and had to snatch up the last basket. 

And, with the fresh Italian parsley and oregano in my garden, that was all the inspiration I needed.

I always say that I’m basically a “salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil” girl, and Roasted Baby Eggplants is a great example of this. With a delicious ingredient like eggplant, you don’t need much more than simple Mediterranean ingredients to season it.

I love these small beauties so much that I have made a mental note to grow them next year in my garden!

Ingredients for roasted baby eggplant with crispy garlic and herbs.

Ingredients for Roasted Baby Eggplant

This recipe has few ingredients, but they are all significant. Like a simple fried eggplant cutlet or fried peppers, it relies on simple technique and great seasoning to become delicious. Here are the ingredients we will be using:

  • Baby Eggplant: While this term might be a bit vague, it does cover more than a few varieties of “mini” eggplant, such as Japanese (what I have used here), Italian, finger, Indian and Asian eggplants, among others. Baby eggplants are generally sweeter, have less seeds, thinner skins and are more tender than larger eggplants. If you cannot find baby eggplant, almost any variety of eggplant can be substituted. (See more information about this in the recipe below.)
  • Fresh Lemon Juice: Lemon juice might just be the star ingredient in this recipe. The acidity and brightness that it brings to the final dish through the marinade is everything–and through such a small amount!
  • Garlic: I use two whole heads in this recipe, because the crispy smashed garlic adds leaps and bounds in terms of texture and flavor! Once separated from the garlic bulb, the cloves of garlic are then smashed with the back side of a large knife, resulting in still chunky but smaller pieces of garlic with great texture. These pieces are then coated in the eggplant marinade, roasted until crispy, and are just amazing! Having said this, use as many or as few cloves garlic as you wish.
  • Fresh Herbs: I used flat-leaf parsley and oregano, but you can try lots of other herb combinations. While dried herbs can be used, I do not recommend them as they will not have a chance to hydrate during the cooking process.
  • Olive Oil: I suggest a good extra-virgin olive oil for this recipe.
Prepped ingredients for Roasted Baby Eggplant with Crispy Garlic and Herbs.

Roasted Baby Eggplant, Step-by-Step!

Here are the main steps for making this mini eggplant recipe:

  • Preheat oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle of the oven. Smash the garlic cloves with the back of a large knife and peel them. Slice each eggplant in half lengthwise through the stem. Then, using a small knife, make a small slit in the eggplant flesh of each half. (This step can be done now or once the eggplant have been placed on the sheet pan.)
    • PRO-TIP: Any variety of eggplant can be used successfully in this recipe. I have made this recipe with Sicilian eggplant, small Italian eggplant, large globe (a.k.a., American) eggplant and others and it works every time! Since eggplants come in all shapes and sizes, and cut sizes will likely vary, just be sure to slice or cut the eggplant into uniform pieces so that they cook at the same time.
Smashing garlic cloves.
Sliced open eggplant.
  • Mix the herbs, olive oil, lemon juice and seasonings together in a small bowl until well-combined. Then, pour this mixture over the prepped eggplant halves and garlic and stir gently until all is coated well with the marinade.
    • PRO-TIP: I used fresh Italian, flat-leaf parsley and oregano in the recipe, but you can get creative here and try lots of other herbs and herb combinations. Rosemary, thyme, dill, basil, or cilantro are all great options.
Herb and olive oil mixture.
Bowl of halved eggplants with smashed garlic cloves and herb olive oil mixture.
  • Arrange the marinated eggplant in a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet pan, cut-side up. The garlic can be interspersed among the eggplant on the sheet pan. Pour any marinade that is left in the bowl over the eggplant. If you have not yet made the slit in the fleshy side of the eggplant, now would be the time to do it.
    • PRO-TIP: This little cut will help the eggplant to cook more evenly and allow some of the marinade inside the eggplant, giving it more flavor throughout.
Remaining herb olive oil mixture being poured over eggplant on parchment-lined sheet pan.
Making a slit in the eggplant half.
  • Transfer the sheet pan to the oven and roast for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant over, then roast another 15 minutes or until the eggplant is tender and the garlic is crispy. Remove from oven and serve them as is or use them in any number of ways. See Serving Suggestions below for some great ideas.
    • PRO-TIP: If you are roasting a batch of baby eggplants of varying sizes, you can removes them from the oven as they are finished/become tender. Just keep an eye on the batch, so that the smaller pieces do not burn.
Seasoned eggplant and smashed garlic on parchment-lined sheet pan ready to go in oven.
Finished roasted baby eggplant on sheet pan.

More Eggplant Recipes

If you love eggplant as much as me, give these other recipe favorites a try!

Finished roasted baby eggplant on sheet pan.

Serving Suggestions and Storage

I have enjoyed Roasted Baby Eggplant so many ways! It’s a great side dish to just about anything, and can even be a vegan main dish in its own right.  I love to serve them as is with a little Pecorino Romano or grated ricotta salata sprinkled over them, or with some fresh lemon juice squeezed over them. Here are some of my other favorite ways to serve them:

  • Served with a simple tomato basil sauce and basil pesto for dipping;
  • Added to an antipasto platter along with cured meats, cheeses, olives, etc.;
  • Paired with creamy ricotta cheese and toasted bread for a quick and flavorful crostini;
  • Made into a sandwich! Pair this grilled eggplant with fresh tomato, basil and olive oil. Or, add it to any Italian sub with cured meats and cheeses and/or sautéed broccoli rabe–mamma mia!; and,
  • Added to a platter of insalata caprese.

To store, refrigerate the roasted eggplant in an airtight container for up to 5 days. While this dish can technically be frozen, I don’t recommend it as the quality will not be very vibrant once defrosted. However, if you choose to freeze the roasted eggplants, use an airtight freezer container. Hold them frozen for up to 3 months.

Like other roasted vegetables, leftover roasted eggplant can be eaten cold or at room temperature. If you would like to reheat them, place them in an ovenproof baking dish or on a sheet pan and bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes or until heated. You can also reheat them in a small pan over medium low heat until hot.

I’d love to hear how you like to enjoy these Roasted Baby Eggplant with Garlic and Herbs. Please let me know in the comments below!

Close up of Roasted baby eggplant with Crispy Garlic and Herbs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Roasted Baby Eggplant with Crispy Garlic and Herbs: 

Can I make this recipe with other types of eggplant?

Definitely! Any variety of eggplant can be used successfully in this recipe. I have made this recipe with Sicilian eggplant, small Italian eggplant, large globe (a.k.a., American) eggplant and others and it works every time!
Since eggplants come in all shapes and sizes, and cut sizes will likely vary, just be sure to slice or cut the eggplant into uniform pieces so that they cook at the same time. If you need more marinade, just double or triple the marinade recipe in the proportions indicated in the recipe.
 
Cooking times may vary as well, so just monitor the eggplant and roast it until tender.

How do you select a good eggplant?

When selecting eggplant, look for a slightly firm, but not hard, texture and choose an eggplant that feels heavy for its size. If you’re able to puncture the eggplant skin, then it is too far gone.

Can I eat the skin on baby eggplant?

Yes. You can 100% leave the eggplant skin on for this recipe and for any small variety of eggplant as it is generally very, very tender. Note that the gorgeous purple eggplant skin will most likely turn brown once roasted, so do not be alarmed.
 
Leaving the skin on larger eggplant is a personal choice. While eggplant skin is edible and nutrient-rich, I find it tough and sometimes bitter on the larger varieties of eggplant. If you are not sure what to do, try it both ways and see which y ou prefer!

Close-up of Roasted baby eggplant styled on white platter with crispy garlic and pesto.
Is salting the eggplant necessary?

No, you don’t need to salt small and baby eggplant.
 
And, unless you are using old eggplant that have been stored for too long, you do not need to salt any eggplant.
 
I realize this may be a controversial reply, since so many people swear by salting eggplants to remove its bitterness. The reality is that, over the years, farmers have bred out much of eggplants’ signature bitterness, rendering salting unnecessary. Having said this, click here for great information about salting eggplants.

What is the difference between baby eggplant and regular eggplant?

All the eggplant are delicious, in my humble opinion! You will find that mini eggplant, like this baby eggplant and other smaller varieties, are sweeter/less bitter, have less seeds, thinner skins and may be more tender as well. Sometimes, they have a more intense eggplant flavor as well.
 
Larger eggplant are older and tend to have a bit more bitterness and more seeds. Overall, I find the flavor to be somewhat similar across the different varieties.

Where can I buy baby eggplant?

The best places to find some of the more unusual varieties of eggplant are farm stands and farmers’ markets in mid-late summer. Having said this, I have been impressed lately with the different varieties of eggplant that my local, conventional grocery store carries. So, be on the lookout and ask your retail produce vendors. But also keep in mind that this particular recipe and cooking technique will work with almost any variety of eggplant. You may just need to cut it down into small slices or strips.

Roasted baby eggplant styled on white platter with crispy garlic and tomato sauce.

If you’re looking for more delicious, vegetable side dishes, check out Green Beans in Tomato Sauce, Sausage, Fennel and Mushrooms, Creamed Spinach with Croutons, Italian Green Beans with Potatoes and Sautéed Broccoli Rabe.

Recipe Variations for Roasted Baby Eggplant

Here are a few ideas to switch up this simple recipe:

  • Use a Different Variety of Eggplant: I’ve made this recipe with Sicilian eggplant, small Italian eggplant, large globe (a.k.a., American) eggplant and others and it works every time! (See more information about this in the recipe below.)
  • Change the Herbs: I used fresh Italian, flat-leaf parsley and oregano in the recipe, but you can get creative here and try lots of other herbs and herb combinations. Rosemary, thyme, dill, basil, or cilantro are all great options.
  • Use Lime Juice for a Mexican Flavor!: While I normally would not suggest replacing lime juice for lemon juice in most recipes, it can work really well here, especially if you also use cilantro as the fresh herb in the mixture. So delicious! Then, why not turn the dish into a roasted eggplant taco–yum!
  • Add More or Different Spices: As with most Italian and Mediterraean food, I kept things simple here spice-wise and just used salt, black pepper and a little crushed red pepper. But, this is another area, like the herbs, that you can add in some creativity. A little chili powder, ground cumin, regular or smoked paprika or even onion powder will go a long way if added to the marinade.
  • Grill the Eggplant: Once marinated, grill the eggplant instead of roasting it. Unless you are using a grilling pan with small holes, though, I suggest leaving the smashed garlic out as it will fall through the grilling grates.

Kitchen Tools for Roasted Baby Eggplant

To make this recipe, you’ll need the following:

Close-up of Roasted baby eggplant styled on white platter with lemon wedge.

More Great Recipes to Try

I hope that you are enjoying Mangia With Michele and all of my Italian recipes!

If you’ve tried Roasted Baby Eggplant or another recipe here, please let me know in the comments below. I love hearing from you!

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Roasted baby eggplant styled on white platter with crispy garlic, pesto and tomato sauce.

Roasted Baby Eggplant with Crispy Garlic and Herbs

Michele
Roasted Baby Eggplant with Crispy Garlic and Herbs is a simple and delicious recipe that can actually be made with any variety of eggplant. Sliced eggplant is combined with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, garlic and herbs for a surprising flavor punch! It’s an amazing side dish and can be enjoyed so many ways.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 2 pounds baby, finger, Indian, Asian or other eggplant (See NOTES below.)
  • 2 heads garlic, cloves smashed and peeled (See photos above.)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley and oregano or other herbs (See NOTES below.)
  • 6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400℉ and arrange a rack in the middle of the oven. Then, prep and gather all ingredients according to specifications above. Rinse and pat dry the eggplant.
  • Prep the garlic as follows: Separate the cloves from the head, then smash each clove with the back side of a large knife, resulting in still chunky but smaller pieces of garlic. Then, peel the skin off of each clove.
    2 heads garlic,
  • Slice each eggplant in half lengthwise through the stem. Then, using a small knife, make a small slit in the eggplant flesh of each half. (This step can be done now or once the eggplant have been placed on the sheet pan.) This little cut will help the eggplant to cook more evenly and allow some of the marinade inside the eggplant, giving it more flavor throughout.
    2 pounds baby, finger, Indian, Asian or other eggplant
  • Whisk the herbs, olive oil, lemon juice and seasonings together in a small bowl until well-combined. Then, pour this mixture over the prepped eggplant and garlic and stir gently until all is coated well with the marinade.
    ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley and oregano or other herbs, 6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp crushed red pepper, Pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • Arrange the marinated eggplant in a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet pan, cut-side up. The garlic can be interspersed among the eggplant on the sheet pan. Pour any marinade that is left in the bowl over the eggplant. If you have not yet made the slit in the fleshy side of the eggplant, now would be the time to do it.
  • Transfer the sheet pan to the oven and roast for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant over, then roast another 15 minutes or until the eggplant is tender and the garlic is crispy. Remove from oven and serve them as is or use them in any number of ways. See Serving Suggestions above for some great ideas. Buon Appetito!

Notes

  • Any variety of eggplant can be used successfully in this recipe. I have made this recipe with Sicilian eggplant, small Italian eggplant, large globe (a.k.a., American) eggplant and others and it works every time!
  • Since eggplants come in all shapes and sizes, and cut sizes will likely vary, just be sure to slice or cut the eggplant into uniform pieces so that they cook at the same time. If you need more marinade, just double or triple the marinade recipe in the proportions indicated in the recipe. Cooking times may vary as well, so just monitor the eggplant and roast it until tender.
  • I used fresh Italian, flat-leaf parsley and oregano in the recipe, but you can get creative here and try lots of other herbs and herb combinations. Rosemary, thyme, dill, basil, or cilantro are all great options.
  • If you are roasting a batch of baby eggplants of varying sizes, you can remove them from the oven as they are finished/become tender. Just keep an eye on the batch, so that the smaller pieces do not burn.
  • The gorgeous purple eggplant skin will most likely turn brown once roasted, so do not be alarmed.
  • To store, refrigerate the roasted small eggplant in an airtight container for up to 5 days. While this dish can technically be frozen, I don’t recommend it as the quality will not be very vibrant once defrosted. However, if you choose to freeze the roasted eggplants, use an airtight freezer container. Hold them frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Like other roasted vegetables, leftover roasted eggplant can be eaten cold or at room temperature. If you would like to reheat them, place them in an oven proof baking dish or on a sheet pan and bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes or until heated. You can also reheat them in a small pan over medium low heat until hot.
 
Recipe by Mangia With Michele. Please visit my site for more great cooking inspiration!
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5 thoughts on “Roasted Baby Eggplant with Crispy Garlic and Herbs

  1. 5 stars
    Roasted Eggplants are delicious and only get better with the fresh summer spices and roasted garlic! Substitute in most other veggies for a robust dinner with crusty sout dough bread! Thanks, Kathy

    1. Thanks, Kathy. 🙂

  2. […] a healthy side, you can pre-roast these roasted baby eggplants and serve cold or reheat ready for your main […]

  3. 5 stars
    This eggplant was delicious and the marinade is surprisingly simple yet addictive. Yum! Thank you for very detailed information!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Maria. Glad you enjoyed the recipe!

5 from 2 votes
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