Turkish stuffed eggplants or karnıyarık is one of the most satisfying meals you can make. Silky tender fried eggplants stuffed with a moreish filling, it can’t get much more comforting than that! Especially if you serve the Turkish stuffed eggplants in the traditional way, with buttery rice pilaf and tangy yogurt on the side.
As soon as eggplants are in season, you can be sure I’ll rush to the store to buy some. Karnıyarık is definitely in my top 10 Turkish recipes, as I make Turkish stuffed eggplants every week or so in the summer!
SMALL EGGPLANTS REQUIRED
It’s important to use the right kind of eggplants for this recipe. The eggplants need to be small to ensure that they’ll cook through. Turkish stuffed eggplants are really soft. Soft enough that you don’t need a knife to cut through them when served. It’s very difficult to get this level of softness from globe eggplants/American eggplants since they are too big to be fried whole. The interior would not get soft enough to make proper karnıyarık. I suppose you could always try to parboil or steam them first before frying, but I never tried it.
Save yourself the trouble by buying Turkish eggplants if you can go to a Turkish store. They are called patlıcan and are usually sold in bags of 3 or 4. If you can’t go to a Turkish store, Italian eggplants are very similar to Turkish eggplants. They are teardrop-shaped like American eggplants but they are smaller, making it possible to fry them whole. If you can’t get Turkish or Italian eggplants, you can use Japanese or Chinese eggplants. They are more elongated and cylindrical-shaped but they fry beautifully so they would work out to make Turkish stuffed eggplants.
STEP 1: PREPARE AND FRY THE EGGPLANTS
- First you’ll need to peel and degorge the eggplants. Partially peel each eggplant and prick them several times with a knife. Sprinkle them all over liberally with fine sea salt and let them sit in a colander for 40 min. Degorging the eggplants helps to reduce their bitterness and I also find the flesh creamier once fried.
- Rinse and dry the eggplants thoroughly before frying them for 5 min on each side in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
- Place the eggplants on a plate lined with paper towels. Split each eggplant lengthways using 2 tablespoons. Add a pinch of fine sea salt to each eggplant.
STEP 2: MAKE THE GROUND BEEF FILLING
- Cook the ground beef over medium-high heat for 10 min. Use a wooden spoon to break up the chunks until it’s finely crumbled. Remove the meat from the pan and set it aside.
- Cook chopped onion until softened, about 7 to 8 min, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped garlic and cook for 2 min. Spread the paste all over using the wooden spoon. Cook for 2 min.
- Add the grated tomato, salt, sugar, and reserved ground beef. Stir well and cook for 4 min. Stir in the parsley and remove from the heat.
STEP 3: COOK THE KARNIYARIK
- Stuff the eggplants by filling the cavities with the stuffing, about 2 heaped tbsp of filling per eggplant.
- Garnish each eggplant with a strip of green pepper and half of a cherry tomato.
- Spoon 3 tbsp of water around the eggplants. Cover the pan and cook the Turkish stuffed eggplants for 35 min over medium-low heat.
Serve with Turkish rice pilaf and Turkish yogurt (or full-fat Greek yogurt) for the best experience! I find that Turkish stuffed eggplants taste the best when they had time to rest. The longer the flavors have to blend in, the better. If you can make this recipe a couple of hours before serving, great! If you’ve got leftovers, you will have a great lunch the day after. Check the instructions in the notes if you need to reheat the Turkish stuffed eggplants.
There is an alternative way of cooking Turkish stuffed eggplants. You can cook them in the oven instead of over the stove once they’re filled. Once you are done making the filling, preheat the oven to 180°C (355°F). Place the eggplants in a baking dish and stuff them as per the instructions. In a bowl whisk together 235ml (1 cup) of water and 1 tsp of Turkish mild pepper paste (or tomato paste). Pour the liquid all around the eggplants, it will prevent the eggplants from getting stuck to the dish so don’t forget this step! Bake the Turkish stuffed eggplants for 20 min. The garnish on top will have darkened and the ground beef will look a bit crispier and golden brown.
I cook my karnıyarık covered over the stove because that’s how my (Turkish) mother-in-law cooks it. I don’t find the flavors to be more intense after having baked anyway and it slightly dries up the eggplants. But every family has its preferences so to each their own! Another way to garnish the Turkish stuffed eggplants is to place a whole green chili on each eggplant instead of a slice of green pepper. My mother-in-law also uses slices of garlic instead of halved tomatoes.
Looking for another “meaty” Turkish recipe? Here are some of my favorites:
- Koftes (meatballs)
- Beyti kebab (oven-baked kebab)
- Creamy chicken orzo soup
Turkish stuffed eggplants
- Prep Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Total Time: 2 hours 35 minutes
- Yield: 3 1x
- Category: Main course
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Turkish
Turkish stuffed eggplants are tender fried eggplants stuffed with a moreish ground beef filling. They are super satisfying and comforting!
- 6 small Turkish eggplants, or you can use Italian, Japanese or Chinese eggplants
- 1 small bullhorn green pepper
- 3 cherry tomatoes
- 5 flat-leaf parsley sprigs
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 tomato
- frying oil
- 250g ground beef (9 oz), not lean
- 1 tsp Turkish mild red pepper paste (tatlı biber salçası), or use tomato paste
- 1 tsp fine sea salt, a bit more to sprinkle over the eggplants
- pinch of sugar
- Degorge the eggplants. Peel 4 strips of the skin of each eggplant, starting about 1.5cm (½ in) below the top to keep the stems intact. Prick each eggplant in random places 4 times with the tip of a pointy knife. Sprinkle fine sea salt directly onto the exposed flesh and place the eggplants in a colander. Suspend the colander over the sink or a mixing bowl. Leave the eggplants for 30 min while you get on with the rest. The salt will draw out bitter brown juice.
- Prepare the vegetables. Remove the stalk and seeds of the green pepper. Cut it into 6 long strips. Halve the cherry tomatoes. The green pepper and cherry tomatoes will be used as garnish so set them aside for now. Pick off the parsley leaves from the sprigs, chop them and set aside. Peel the garlic cloves, chop them and set aside. Peel the onion and finely chop it. Lastly, grate the tomato on the largest holes of a box grater into a deep plate and discard the skin.
- Fry the eggplants. Rinse the eggplants under running water and pat them dry thoroughly with paper towels. Fill a large pan no more than ¼ full with oil and heat it over high heat until it reaches 180°C (355°F). If you don’t have a thermometer, you can tell that the oil is ready when a cube of bread browns in just 30 seconds. Reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the eggplants and fry them for 10 to 15 min, turning them every 5 min or so, until the flesh is golden brown. There should be no resistance if you prick them with a knife. Remove the eggplants with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
- Make the filling. Pour off most of the oil into a bowl or heatproof container leaving about a 5mm (⅕ in) layer of oil in the pan. Add the ground beef and cook over medium-high heat for 10 min. Use a wooden spoon to break up the chunks of beef and keep at it until the ground beef is finely crumbled. Use the slotted spoon to remove the meat and place it on a separate plate. Reduce the heat to medium and add the chopped onion to the pan. Cook the onion until softened, about 7 to 8 min, stirring occasionally. If you notice that some pieces of chopped onions are getting stuck to the pan, add a bit more oil. Add the chopped garlic and cook for 2 min. Add the mild red pepper (or tomato) paste and spread it all over the onion and garlic using the wooden spoon. Cook for 2 min. Add the grated tomato, salt, sugar, and reserved ground beef. Stir well and cook for 4 min. Stir in the parsley and remove from the heat.
- Stuff and cook. Place the eggplants in a large non-stick frying pan. Split each eggplant lengthways using 2 tablespoons. Push the flesh around a bit to give the eggplants a sort of canoe shape. Be careful not to pierce the bottom of the eggplant “boats”. Add a pinch of fine sea salt to each eggplant. Fill the cavities with the stuffing, about 2 heaped tbsp of filling per eggplant. Garnish each stuffed eggplant with a strip of green pepper and half of a cherry tomato. If you have any juices left from the pan where you cooked the stuffing, pour them over the stuffed eggplants. If you don’t have any juices left, spoon 3 tbsp of water around the eggplants. Set the pan over medium-low heat, cover it and cook the Turkish stuffed eggplants for 35 min. Don’t serve them piping hot, let the eggplants sit for 15 min before serving. Karnıyarık is usually eaten with rice pilav and yogurt on the side.
Turkish stuffed eggplants are one of those meals that just tastes better if it has been made in advance. Even if it’s only a couple of hours in advance! You can keep karnıyarık in the fridge for up to 3 days in the pan, covered, or in an airtight container.
Reheat, covered, over medium-low heat. Add more water around the eggplants if necessary to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Serving Size: 2 stuffed eggplants
- Calories: 475
Keywords: eggplant boats, deep fried eggplant, summer vegetable recipes
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