The best Baba Ganoush (also spelled baba ghanouj and baba ghanoush) is creamy, thick, and smoky. Though the eggplant is traditionally cooked over an open flame, you can make a version that's just as delicious (and much easier) in the oven.
I love that "baba ganoush" can be literally translated in Arabic as "spoiled old daddy." I know that I feel spoiled every time I eat it. It feels decadent to slather a thick layer on soft pita bread, Lavosh Crackers, or a cold cucumber slice, but it's actually quite light with a generous serving coming in at just over 100 calories.
I started making the Moosewood Cookbook's version of baba ganoush a couple of decades ago, so that's the recipe base I started from. But, let me tell you, we've eaten a lot of it lately because I wanted to try cooking the eggplant every-which-way to find the right balance of flavor and ease, here's what I discovered.
Options for Cooking Eggplant
Roasting Eggplant Whole Over an Open Flame: On the grill (BBQ) or a gas stovetop, you can cook a whole eggplant until it's blackened on the outside and silky inside. Delicious results, but time consuming and, on the stove top, really messy. It is the best way to achieve that signature smokiness, but, more on that below.
Slicing Eggplant in Half before Roasting in the Oven: Many recipes call for slicing eggplants in half lengthwise and roasting, cut side down, until tender. (Some also call for salting the cut side to draw out moisture and bitterness, here's a fun read about why this isn't necessary.) I tried this at different temperatures for various amounts of time and found it unreliable. Too often, the cut side developed a 'skin' that needed to be peeled off and discarded before I could scoop out the flesh.
Roasting the Eggplant Whole in the Oven: This is by far the simplest method and the best (so often true!). But, there is critical step to roasting eggplants whole: you must pierce the flesh with a fork or sharp knife before roasting, otherwise your roasted eggplant can explode. Yes, you read that right. I'm guessing this is why it's not the most commonly suggested method. But it takes all of 5 seconds and makes this recipe so easy!
I'll admit that the smoky flavor achieved by cooking eggplants over an open flame is superior to oven roasting. But there is a simple fix: smoked salt. Have you had it?
You know those wonderfully thin, crackly sea salt flakes (Maldon brand is the most common)? They're available in a smoked version! To achieve that classic smoky flavor, scoop your baba ganoush into a serving bowl, swoosh a spiral channel in the middle with the back of a spoon and fill it with olive oil, then finish with a generous sprinkle of smoked salt. It lends the perfect hint of smoke and light salt crunch. (A pinch of smoked paprika works here too, but the smoked salt is better.)
How to Choose an Eggplant
When shopping for an eggplant, freshness is key. Look for a firm eggplant that is heavy for its size with smooth and shiny skin. Look for a stem that is still green and free of mold. Be sure to enjoy your eggplant within a week.
If you're like me and want your baba ganoush thick and spreadable, chill it for at least an hour before serving and ideally overnight.
More Must-Try Mediterranean Recipes
- Pasta alla Norma (Incredibly delicious pasta that makes the most of roasted eggplant!)
- Fattoush Salad (Another Lebanese gem of a recipe!)
- Tabouli Salad (We make this one all year long. It's flavorful, satisfying, portable and lasts for days! Or Quinoa Tabbouleh for people following a gluten free diet.)
- Tzatziki (Thick and rich - so good I'd gladly eat it straight with a spoon.)
- Greek Salad (Simple and classic.)
- and so many more in this Mediterranean Recipes collection
How to Make Baba Ganoush
Step 1: Pierce the skin of a whole eggplant in several places with a fork or sharp knife. Roast on a parchment lined baking sheet in a 450˚F oven for 45 -60 minutes until tender and collapsing.
Step 2: When eggplant is cool enough to handle, slice it down the middle lengthwise and scoop the tender flesh into a bowl.
Step 3: Add eggplant, garlic, salt, lemon juice, and tahini to the bowl of a food processor. Process until silky smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
Step 4: Once chilled through, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with minced fresh parsley and smoked flaky sea salt. Serve with cucumber slices and / or pita bread wedges.
Baba Ganoush Recipe Video
- extra virgin olive oil to serve (optional)
- 1 medium eggplant ~1 pound
- 2 medium cloves garlic minced, or more (see recipe note #1)
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice about 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup tahini
- flaky smoked sea salt such as Maldon brand, optional but recommended!
- minced fresh parsley for garnish, optional
- Preheat oven to 425˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Pierce skin of whole in several places with a fork or a sharp knife and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake 45 to 60 minutes until very tender. Remove from oven and set aside until eggplant is cool enough to handle.
- Slice eggplant open lengthwise and scoop out pulp into a bowl; discard skin.
- Add eggplant, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and tahini to the bowl of a food processor and process until very smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Transfer to serving dish, cover and chill for at least 1 hour (see recipe note #2).
- When chilled, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with smoked salt and parsley; serve with sliced cucumber and / or fresh pita wedges.
- If you like your baba ganoush to have a strong garlic presence, go with 3 cloves.
- For the thickest result, chill overnight before serving.