Discover the deliciousness of Japanese eggplants with our best recipes! The fans’ favorites include soy-glazed eggplant rice bowls, mapo eggplant, grilled eggplant with miso glaze, nasu agebitashi, and more.
If I had to name one vegetable that can get me really excited, it has to be the mighty Japanese eggplants! But like many people, I wasn’t into the nightshade until much later as an adult that I’ve grown to savor its many remarkable qualities.
By themselves, Japanese eggplants don’t have much of a taste, but when cooked and seasoned properly, they can soak up almost any flavors. The sturdy yet spongy character also makes it rather one-of-a-kind. The meaty texture makes them a great option for vegan and vegetarian dishes. That’s what I love about cooking with Japanese eggplant. Let’s get to know them today!
What are Japanese Eggplants?
- Japanese eggplants are called nasu (sometimes referred to generically as long Asian eggplants) and they are recognized by their long, slender body with a deep purple shade.
- Thanks to their long shape and thin skin, Japanese eggplants cook much faster and soak up flavors quicker than regular large-sized eggplant. It is also less bitter and has a velvety and almost melt-in-your-mouth texture once cooked. It also doesn’t need much as oil as regular eggplant.
- The best substitute for Japanese eggplant is Chinese eggplant. Both eggplants belong to the same Asian cultivar but the main difference is the Japanese eggplant tends to have a deeper, almost black-purple color. If you can’t find both eggplants, then other small eggplant varieties, like Italian eggplant are your best bets.
- There are many ways to enjoy Japanese eggplants: grill, steam, deep-fry, pan-fry, simmer, etc. Try them in a variety of recipes, including Japanese or other Asian or western-style dishes.
To give you some delicious ideas, we’ve gathered the very best Japanese eggplant recipes that are well tested and loved by our readers. We hope you enjoy them too!
Our Best Japanese Eggplant Recipes
This vegetarian rice bowl features crispy pan-seared eggplant slices that are smothered with an amazing sweet soy sauce. The simplicity of the dish puts the spotlight on all that eggplant can offer.
‘This was absolutely delicious. Crunchy, salty, and sweet. It came together very quickly. The best part- it doesn’t require a ton of ingredients that aren’t already in the pantry. Will definitely be making this one again.’ – Mae
Similar concept to bacon rollups, this Japanese version calls for thinly sliced pork. The inside is stuffed with eggplant and the rolls are pan-fried until golden brown before coating with a sweet-savory sauce. To add extra zing, top the ginger pork rolls with shiso leaves (or with mint and Thai basil). It’s homey, tasty and goes very well with rice.
‘This is honestly one of—if not —best things I have ever tasted. I followed this recipe closely and it paid off.’ – Kennedy
In this recipe, the quality of the eggplant is accentuated by deep frying and then soaked in a light savory broth consists of dashi, mirin, and soy sauce. Known as nasu agebitashi, the unique Japanese cooking method presents eggplant in a new light. Serve this as a side dish to complement your Japanese or Asian meal.
‘I made this for dinner this evening. It was outstanding! The daikon and ginger condiments are amazing.’ – Debbie
Eggplant and pork make a delicious and protein-rich stir fry! The savory miso sauce ties everything together. For a final touch, sprinkle with some chopped scallions and sesame seeds.
‘My 85-year old mother said that it reminded her of the eggplant with miso that her mother made for her when she was a child.’ – Gayle
Fancy a weekend cooking project that will take you to the streets of Japan? Try these Oyaki dumplings, a popular snack in Nagano Prefecture in central Japan. You can use different fillings, but I love the ones stuffed with eggplant. It’s creamy, tender, and bursting with savory flavor.
‘I had never heard of oyaki in my Asian dumpling explorations before. But I’m glad I found it – these are terrific! I whipped up 15 each of the eggplant and kabocha oyaki on short notice for a potluck and wasn’t able to source buckwheat flour or shiso in time. Even so, they were some tasty dumplings.’ – Todd
Determined to convert eggplant skeptics? This Eggplant Parmesan Spaghetti will turn them into an instant fan. The pasta dish combines the deeply flavored tomato meat sauce with crispy panko-crusted eggplant in the most scrumptious and comforting manner.
‘Tried this tonight, and it was delicious! Cheated a little on the sauce, used Rao’s, and added Italian sausage and herbs. Next time, will make it from scratch.’ – Kuulei
When in doubt, you can always count on this easy Miso Glazed Eggplant recipe. The eggplants are first glazed with an umami miso mixture and then grilled until crispy on the outside while retaining its creamy texture on the inside. 15 minutes is all you need for a great vegetable side!
‘I really love Japanese culture and food. I make this a lot. It is a fantastic recipe.’ – Lucila
You won’t believe this hearty, savory rice bowl with unagi eel and eggplant can come together in just 30 minutes!
‘Instead of unagi we used mackerel since unagi is really expensive in our country. I Just have to say, this recipe was amazing! So much flavor! This is definitely one to be made on a repeat.’ – Miki
Slightly spicy and incredibly flavorful, this mapo eggplant (mabo nasu) is an adaptation of Chinese food that’s very popular in Japan. Served over hot steamed rice, you’ll have a satisfying weeknight meal!
‘My husband and I love this dish! I have been making it regularly since you first posted it, and we never get tired of it. I do change it up from time to time; depending on what I can find at the Mitsuwa- last night I added in stir-fried negi and thick slices of Shitaki mushrooms. Delicious!’ – Barbara
For More Inspiring Vegetable Recipes
- Miso Dengaku 4 ways (Including Nasu Dengaku)
- Easy Japanese Cucumber Recipes
- 12 Japanese Pickles You Can Make at Home
- Delicious Kabocha Squash Recipes