Aubergine Bhaji (Brinjal Bhaji)
Aubergine bhaji is a curried aubergine dish, also referred to as brinjal bhaji in many Indian eateries. It’s a delicious curry, with melt-in-your-mouth aubergine and a delicate blend of Indian spices. Enjoy it with your favourite rice dish or flatbread.
What is aubergine bhaji?
Aubergine bhaji is often served as a vegetable side dish, but is perfect enjoyed as a main dish too. In this version of the recipe, aubergine is roasted until it is super tender and creamy, then stirred through a spiced curry base.
It’s a simple dish which is rich in flavour. The delightfully creamy texture of roasted aubergine just melts in your mouth and makes the curry thick and saucy.
This quick brinjal bhaji recipe is a great option for a midweek meal, as the curry ‘sauce’ simmers away on the stove until the roasted aubergine is ready. By cooking the curry base whilst the aubergine roasts, it keeps time needed down to a minimum.
Not only that, it’s a healthy recipe too. Curries in Indian restaurants are often loaded with oil or ghee, but this aubergine bhaji recipe uses just a little bit of oil to brush on the aubergine and to fry off the spices and aromatics. Aside from that, it’s nothing but healthy veggies!
What does bhaji mean?
A lot of people think of bhaji to be like an onion bhaji, which is a deep fried onion dish often served as an Indian starter. Of course, this recipe is nothing at all like an onion bhaji! Bhaji also means a simple vegetable curry which is often dry, meaning it has little gravy.
Why I love this Indian aubergine curry
- It’s a healthy weeknight meal. Veg forward food should be healthy and not dredged in oil. You can roast the aubergines without any oil if you would rather, and just use a little to fry off the onions.
- Aubergines are filled with vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre.
- It’s quick and easy- coming together in just 30 minutes.
- You only need one pot and a baking tray, so washing up is kept to a minimum.
- Once you get going, there’s very little hands on prep needed.
- It’s great for batch cooking. This eggplant bhaji recipe multiplies up really well, and it’s really cheap to buy several aubergines.
What ingredients are needed for brinjal bhaji?
I would recommend using two medium sized aubergines for this recipe. You’ll need to brush it with a little oil and season with salt and pepper. After the aubergine has been roasted, we’ll scoop the flesh from the skin, so it doesn’t really matter what shape it is.
The curry base
This aubergine bhaji uses a really simple base which mostly relies on tomatoes and a few spices.
Cumin seeds– I’ve chosen to use cumin seeds rather than ground cumin in this recipe, as they have a more intense and complex taste. If you would rather use ground cumin, you can add it with the ground spices below.
Nigella seeds, (black onion seeds)– These little black seeds have a slightly bitter, pungent and nutty flavour. I love nigella seeds and will often use them wherever I can get away with it! They’re especially good in Indian dishes and on top of homemade bread.
Oil– The spices are toasted in a little oil before the aromatics are added.
Aromatics– Finely chopped onion, garlic, chilli and ginger give this aubergine bhaji so much spice and depth.
Ground spices– Smoked paprika, ground coriander and turmeric are added in for an extra boost of smokey, spiced flavour.
Fresh tomatoes and tomato paste– Mixed with a splash of water, these form a thick sauce which is the perfect carrier for the roasted aubergine. Make sure your tomatoes are plump, red and ripe for the best taste.
Lime juice– Citrus adds a bright pop of zestiness to Indian eggplant curry.
To make this recipe, you will need a baking tray or sheet for roasting the aubergine. I recommend using a non-stick tray or covering your tray with a non-stick mat or greaseproof paper.
You will also need a large frying pan or wok for cooking the brinjal bhaji. This needs to have a lid which fits.
How to make aubergine bhaji
Before preparing the bhaji, preheat the oven to 200c or 390f. Cut the aubergines in half lengthways, and score the flesh deeply at around a 1 inch width. Be careful not to cut the skin as this will make it more difficult to scoop the flesh.
Brush the flesh with a little bit of oil, and sprinkle with salt and ground pepper. Lay the aubergine halves flesh side down on a baking sheet, lined with greaseproof paper if needed.
We want to cook the aubergine for so long that it becomes very soft, so set a timer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the aubergine bhaji base. Heat the remaining oil in your frying pan or wok over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and black onion seeds, and fry them until they start to crackle and become aromatic. This should take around 2 minutes.
Add the ginger and chilli to the pan, fry for a further 2 minutes, then add the onion and garlic. Continue to cook this until the onion begins to soften, which will take 3-4 minutes.
Add the ground spices into the pan and stir for a minute to bring out their flavour.
Add in the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and water. Stir well to combine all of the ingredients, and then bring it to a simmer.
Cover and simmer the curry base until the aubergine is ready.
Remove the aubergine from the oven, and use a spoon to scoop out the soft flesh from the skin. Check that the tomatoes have broken down in the pan, and once they have, stir the aubergine flesh through.
Season the aubergine bhaji to taste with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lime juice.
- For a healthy option, serve this vegan aubergine curry with brown basmati rice or quinoa.
- You could also use white basmati or an aromatic rice if you would rather. I also sometimes serve curries alongside biryani.
- Try serving your eggplant bhaji with an Indian bread such as chapati or naan (just make sure there’s no milk in your naan! I love to make homemade peshwari or garlic naan).
- Cauliflower rice is a delicious option for those on lower carb diets.
- Serve with a selection of sauces and chutneys such as mango chutney, vegan raita, or lime pickle.
- For a lighter option, I like to opt for an Indian salad such as kosambari.
My top tips for the best aubergine bhaji
For the most tender and flavoursome aubergine, make sure you roast it at a high enough temperature until it is super soft and caramelised. If you know that your oven runs slightly cooler, turn it up a touch higher for an extra boost.
When toasting the whole cumin and black onion seeds, make sure that you let them become super fragrant before adding the rest of the ingredients. This will ensure the very best flavour in the finished dish.
For the best time efficiency, follow my instructions to get the Indian aubergine curry base on the go whilst the aubergine cooks. This way, both the sauce and the aubergine end up being ready at exactly the same time.
Ingredient substitutes or additions
Spices– I’ve tried to keep it simple by not adding too many different spices to this dish, just adding those which I believe create the very best flavour. If you don’t have many spices to hand, you could simplify this recipe by using a spice mix or paste such as garam masala.
Make it spicier– Add some extra green chillies or red chillies for some more heat, or add some chilli powder or flakes along with the dried spices.
Vegetables– Why not try adding some extra veggies or potatoes to your aubergine bhaji? You can throw in soft or frozen vegetables, such as green beans or frozen peas, whilst you simmer the tomatoes. Make sure you pre-boil any hard vegetables like potatoes or squash.
Protein– Add some protein for an extra boost to your eggplant bhaji. Cubes of fried tofu or tempeh, cooked chickpeas or lentils would work well here. Stir them through at the end of cooking.
Tomatoes– If you would rather, you can use half a can of chopped toms as an alternative to fresh tomatoes in this recipe.
The flavour of aubergine bhaji develops with time, so this makes it a great candidate for cooking ahead and keeping in the fridge or freezer.
Store it in an airtight container in the fridge. To reheat, tip it into a pan over a medium heat, and warm through until simmering. Alternatively, you can pop it in the microwave for a couple of minutes until it’s piping hot through.
Aubergine can become mushy when frozen, but as it’s already so tender in this recipe, that doesn’t make a difference here. Freeze it as above in an airtight container (letting it cool to room temperature first).
Defrost it in the fridge overnight or for a few hours on the counter, then reheat as above.
More vegan recipes you might like…
If you like this aubergine bhaji, you might like these Asian inspired recipes:
- Vegan brown lentil dahl
- Creamy coconut mushroom curry
- Silken tofu Thai curry
- Vegan tofu adobo
- Thai vegan peanut noodles
Aubergine Bhaji (Brinjal Bhaji)
- Non-stick baking tray
- Wok or large frying pan with lid
- 2 medium aubergines
- 1 tbsp rapeseed/canola oil
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp onion seeds
- 1 inch ginger finely chopped
- 1 green chilli finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 brown onion chopped
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 3 medium tomatoes chopped (or 6 small)
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 60 ml water
- half a lime juiced
- Preheat the oven to 200°c/390°f. Cut the aubergines in half lengthways, and score the flesh deeply at around a 1 inch width. Be careful not to cut the skin as this will make it more difficult to scoop the flesh.
- Brush the flesh with ½ tbsp of the oil, and sprinkle with salt and ground pepper. Lay the aubergine halves flesh side down on a baking sheet, lined with greaseproof paper if needed. Roast the aubergine halves in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the curry base. Heat the remaining oil in your frying pan or wok over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and black onion seeds, and fry them until they start to crackle and become aromatic, around 2 minutes.
- Add the ginger and chilli to the pan, fry for a further 2 minutes, then add the onion and garlic. Continue to cook this until the onion begins to soften, which will take 3-4 minutes.
- Add the ground spices to the pan and stir for a minute to bring out their flavour, then add in the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and water. Stir well to combine all of the ingredients, and then bring to a simmer, covered, until the aubergine is ready.
- Remove the aubergine from the oven when it’s done, and use a spoon to scoop out the soft flesh from the skin. Check that the tomatoes have broken down in the pan, and once they have, stir the aubergine flesh through.
- Season the bhaji to taste with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lime juice.
Made this recipe?
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