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The mild taste and smooth consistency of roasted eggplant makes it an excellent ingredient for inclusion in dips, and cooks have developed many different sorts of eggplant dip. Eggplant dips are popular throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East, and Greek and Arabic varieties are common. Other cooks mix eggplant with their own personal favorite ingredients to create varieties of eggplant dip which are less traditional but which still play to the strengths of the eggplant.
Baba ganoush, or baba ghanouj, is perhaps the most famous eggplant dip in the world. This dip is a mainstay in many Middle Eastern cultures. Recipes for this dip vary from cook to cook but are typically based on a combination of roasted eggplant and sesame paste known as tahini. Preparing eggplant by roasting it is necessary because eggplant can be somewhat tough and unappetizing if not fully-cooked. Olive oil is usually added for flavor and richness. Onions, peppers, garlic, and other spices are typically included to add bite to the smooth rich flavor of the eggplant and tahini mixture.
As is often the case in Mediterranean cooking, the Greeks have produced a recipe very similar to baba ganoush. Melitzanosalata is used as a dip and a spread in Greek cooking. This dish tends not to include sesame paste, but is otherwise very similar to its Arab counterparts. Garlic, lemon, and peppers are typically used to add flavor, and olive oil provides richness.
Tomatoes and eggplant blend well, and some cooks make eggplant dip by mixing the two. This type of dip often includes other ingredients common in Italian cooking. Basil, either as an herb or as pesto, can be added for flavor. Peppers, onions, garlic, and other spices are often added to enhance the flavor and add sharper contrasting notes to the gentle flavor of the eggplant in these vegetable dips.
A different Italian twist on an eggplant dip can be made by blending the smooth flavor and texture of roasted eggplant with olives. Salt is often used to enhance the flavor of eggplant. The use of olives, together with Italian herbs and spices, such as oregano and garlic, adds a salty note to a dip.
Legumes such as chickpeas and lentils feature prominently in Middle Eastern cooking, and form the basis for dips such as hummus. They can be used just as easily in versions of an eggplant dip. This sort of dip tends to be heartier and more substantial, as the legumes are quite filling. They add flavor to the dip as well as protein and other nutrients.
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