Eggplant burgers are sandwiches made with eggplant as the primary filler. They are usually made to resemble traditional hamburgers: that is, with the eggplant fashioned into a patty that is served on a bun with toppings such as cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion. Many cooks make these burgers as a vegetarian alternative to meat-based burgers. Some recipes call for mixing the vegetable in with ground meat to make a patty. Adding grilled or roasted eggplant slices to prepared meat can also yield an eggplant burger.
The simplest recipes call for little more than a thick slice of eggplant, seasoned and cooked to taste. Eggplant, also called aubergine or brinjal, depending on location, is a vegetable that typically grows as a thick oblong. Slicing it width-wise usually yields rounded disks with a diameter of anywhere from 3 to 5 inches (about 8 to 13 cm). At the right thickness, these disks can be used as hamburger patty substitutes.
Eggplant is a highly porous vegetable, which means that it absorbs liquid easily. For this reason, many chefs cooking with eggplant soak slices in a variety of marinades a few hours before preparations begin in earnest. Common marinades for burgers include soy-based sauces, teriyaki glazes, and tomato dressings.
Although eggplant can be consumed raw, it has a very bitter taste. Nearly all eggplant recipes require some kind of cooking. Grilling, roasting, baking, and frying all work well for vegetable burgers. The eggplant peel is edible, but is often removed in eggplant burgers depending on individual tastes and preferences.
It is also possible to make eggplant burgers in a way that more closely mirrors the process of making more traditional hamburgers. Creative cooks often dice eggplant, then boil or slow roast it to gain tender, soft pieces. These pieces are then combined with other ingredients, including breadcrumbs, onions, herbs, and oil. Cooks mash everything together to make a dough, which they then shape into individual patties. These patties must typically be cooked again, usually on a grill, before serving.
Additions and variations that can be made when preparing eggplant burgers are expansive. Because eggplant is such a versatile vegetable and because its flavor is typically mild, it lends itself well to all sorts of different taste combinations. Indian-style eggplant burgers may incorporate curry powder and lentils, for instance, while Thai-inspired eggplant burgers often feature hot chilies and basil leaves.
The vast majority of eggplant burgers are vegetarian, but not all are. Many cooks add bits of roasted eggplant into meat-based burgers. This is a common variation in lamb burgers especially. Strips of roasted or grilled eggplant are sometimes also offered as hamburger toppings alongside more traditional garnishes like tomato and onion. Though the term is most commonly used to describe patties made of all or mostly all eggplant, “eggplant burger” can properly be applied to any burger with eggplant included.