shot of finished Turkish eggplant casserole

turkish eggplant casserole (keto + vegan)

It’s 4 a.m. and I’ve been up for an hour with a three-year-old who’s fighting a fever and has decided to rally anyway. After both of us tried to get comfy in her twin-sized bed for about an hour, she announced it was time to get up. My sweet Posey girl is a tough one, but oh, how she loves to show her dramatic side. Declaring she needs medicine. Wandering around the house with her hand on her forehead, repeating “I’m sooo hot.” The whole sick patient bit. We had this Turkish eggplant casserole for dinner two nights ago and Posey sat at the table with us, repeating how hungry she was and my hopes were raised for a second, thinking, “will she try this?” To toddler eyes, it sort of looks like lasagna, minus the cheese. But it didn’t fool her- one close examination and she adamantly declined. You know, the way toddlers do most of the time.

image of Posey for turkish eggplant casserole recipe
Posey, my foodie child- sometimes picky ,always eating.

When I began cooking low-carb, it was a challenge. But feeding my kids is an entirely different level of challenging. My kids love carbs and sugar in any form. They request chicken nuggets and pizza and cheeseburgers, as kids do. And I let them eat all of that, within reason. I used to stress about their food, especially right after Ian’s brain cancer diagnosis. I guess when you feel your world is collapsing, you grasp at whatever control you might still have and food is where I found it. For us, it was transitioning to organic everything, grass-fed, pasture-raised, chicken-rearing, nothing processed- we did it all (and still do most of it, minus the chickens!). But getting toddlers to eat vegetables? That struggle is real. And an ongoing battle. However, I sense it’s taking a turn for the better. Fingers crossed that next time I offer Posey this Turkish eggplant casserole, she’ll see how she’s seriously been missing out.

shot of raw eggplants for turkish eggplant casserole

what is Turkish eggplant casserole?

I had never tried Turkish eggplant casserole (also called Imam Bayildi) until about a year ago when I found this recipe on Feed Me Phoebe (which I slightly adapted). I was looking for more vegan recipes that were also keto, and WOW, this one is for sure. It could easily be called “keto eggplant casserole” because it has so much fat. The recipe calls for about 1 cup of olive oil! The eggplant is fried in it, and soaks up most of the oil in the pan, which means you have to add more for each batch. The eggplant is then layered in a casserole dish or cast iron skillet, sandwiching a simple tomato/garlic/onion sauce that’s spiced with chili flakes and cinnamon for a deep, earthy flavor with a slight kick. It’s a really easy eggplant recipe, just note that frying the eggplant adds a little extra time, especially when you only have one pan going which is what I usually do, and come to think of it, I have no clue why. Two pans would definitely speed this up, so do that if you don’t mind washing an extra. 🙂

shot of garlic, red pepper flakes and onion used in turkish eggplant casserole

tips on preparing eggplant

do you peel eggplant before cooking?

The quick answer is, it depends. The skin is edible but it’s sometimes thicker and tough on really large eggplants and might leave your dish with more of a bitter taste. You can peel it if you like, but for younger, smaller eggplants, it’s not necessary. I never have.

why do you salt eggplant?

Eggplant has a naturally occurring enzyme that can sometimes leave a bitter aftertaste. Sound familiar? Luckily, you can easily “sweat” eggplant (gross, I know, but that’s what it’s called) to reduce that bitter taste. Start by cutting the top and bottom off the eggplant, then slice it into rounds, about 1/4-inch thick. Spread the pieces on a baking sheet, sprinkle salt over them, and let it sit for 20 minutes. Salt draws out the moisture, which you can gently dab (it’s more of a press) away with a paper towel. Note: if you don’t remove enough of the moisture, the eggplant will pop and sizzle more when it’s placed in the hot olive oil. It’s not a really big deal, but I tend to be a wuss when it comes to frying because of the hot, splashing oil situation.

overhead shot of raw eggplant for turkish eggplant casserole

let’s make a Turkish eggplant casserole

Jump to Recipe

Here’s a list of the ingredients you’ll need for this eggplant casserole:

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • LOTS of olive oil
  • garlic cloves, minced
  • onion, diced
  • canned, organic petite diced tomatoes (fire-roasted is nice but not a must)
  • tomato sauce
  • salt + pepper
  • cinnamon
  • fresh parsley for garnish (I used basil the other day because that’s what I had)

step 1

Slice the eggplant into rounds about 1/4-inch thick. Spread them on a baking sheet and generously salt, set aside for about 20 minutes. Press the excess moisture out with a paper towel.

step 2

In a medium saucepan, heat about two tablespoons of olive oil over low-medium heat. Add the garlic and chopped onion and saute for about 5 minutes. Pour the can of diced tomatoes in and stir. Add the can of tomato sauce. The original recipe doesn’t call for tomato sauce, but I like to add a small can because I prefer this dish to be sauce-heavy. Add salt and pepper to taste, then the chili flakes and cinnamon (more chili flakes if you like it spicy). Keep the mixture on low, stirring occasionally, while you prepare the eggplant.

step 3

Heat your oven to 350°F. Turkish eggplant casserole requires pan-frying the eggplant rounds in a thin layer of olive oil prior to baking the entire dish in the oven. Heat a layer of olive oil in a skillet on medium-high, add several eggplant rounds to the pan so they’re laying flat, and fry them until they’re slightly browned. The eggplant will soak up nearly all the olive oil and that’s what you want! Continue frying all of the eggplant, setting aside the cooked rounds on a plate.

shot of fried eggplant for turkish eggplant casserole

step 4

Begin layering your casserole in your casserole dish or oven-proof skillet, starting with an even layer of eggplant on the bottom. Add a couple of spoonfuls of sauce, spreading it out to cover the eggplant. Then arrange another eggplant layer, then top it with more sauce. Continue until you’re out of eggplant, then add a generous sauce layer to the top. I usually end up with three layers of each. Bake it in the oven for 45 minutes, allowing the sauce to reduce. Cool the eggplant casserole for about 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle chopped parsley or basil. If you’re not dairy-free, a helping of shaved parmesan would also taste lovely.

closeup shot of turkish eggplant casserole layers

This Turkish eggplant casserole is loaded with olive oil, an incredibly heathy fat known for lowering heart disease risk, plus cell protective and anti-inflammatory abilities. It’s a keto eggplant casserole because each serving has a much higher fat to carb ratio, and overall, it just tastes good. Maybe one day my kids will cave and try it, but for now, more for me.

turkish eggplant casserole (keto + vegan)

Course: main dish, dinnerCuisine: keto, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, paleoDifficulty: easy
Servings

6-8

servings
Prep time

30

minutes
Cooking time

1

hour 

This easy Turkish eggplant casserole is vegan, low-carb and keto-friendly, and combines layers of eggplant and a simple garlic-tomato sauce spiced with chili flakes and cinnamon.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants

  • 4-5 medium cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 yellow onion, diced

  • 1, 14-oz. can petite diced tomatoes, fire roasted (no added sugar)

  • 1, 8-oz. can tomato sauce (no added sugar)

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • dash of cinnamon

  • 1/4 tsp. red chili flakes (more for extra spice)

Directions

  • Wash your eggplants and cut the tops and ends off. Slice the eggplants into rounds, about 1/4-inch thick. Arrange them flat on a baking sheet and generously sprinkle them with salt. Let them sit for 20 minutes and then dab the moisture out of the rounds with a paper towel or clean cloth.
  • Pour 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium saucepan, heating it over medium-high heat. Add the minced garlic and diced onion and sauté for five minutes. Add the entire can of petite diced tomatoes and the tomato sauce, stirring the mixture. Sprinkle in a dash of cinnamon, then add the red chili flakes. Simmer on low while you fry the eggplant.
  • Heat your oven to 350°F. In a frying pan or cast iron skillet, pour in olive oil to make a thin layer on the bottom. Heat over medium-high for 1-2 minutes before placing your prepared eggplant rounds in the oil. Fry for 3-4 minutes on one side or until browned, then flip the rounds and fry the other side. The eggplant will soak up the olive oil, so add more as needed. Continue frying the eggplant in batches.
  • In a casserole dish or oven-proof skillet, arrange an even layer of eggplant on the bottom, then top with a layer of tomato sauce, then add another layer of eggplant, continuing until you run out. The very top layer should be a generous amount of sauce. Place the eggplant casserole in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Notes

  • This Turkish eggplant casserole recipe is keto-friendly due to the olive oil and low-carb count in the eggplant. However, there are natural sugars found in tomatoes so if you’re strict keto, you can eliminate the can of tomato sauce to save on sugar counts. In my opinion, the abundance of lycopene (a potent antioxidant) in cooked tomatoes warrants the tradeoff.

4 Comments

  1. Can’t wait to try these. The eggplant casserole I plan on making this weekend and the cookies as soon as possible! Been looking for some great keto recipes, I’m sure these with be delicious especially since they are from you Abby. Love your blog!

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