This healthier Turkish Eggplant Casserole is a spin on the classic Imam Bayildi, known for the extravagant amount of olive oil that’s typically in it. Here’s a lighter version without all the oil of fried eggplant but with all the flavor!
What is Imam Bayildi?
There are numerous versions of this classic Turkish eggplant recipe. The classic way to make Imam Bayildi is to stuff the eggplant. Imam Bayildi literally means “the imam fainted.” Legend has it he fainted when he learned of the extravagant cost of the dish because of all the olive oil used.
The only thing that will make you faint here is the amazing taste of this healthier gluten-free Turkish Eggplant Casserole!
Tomatoes, onions and even other vegetables are used such as red bell pepper as in Yotam Ottolenghi’s version.
Here, eggplant is first baked in the oven then layered with onions, tomatoes, garlic and spices.
- Olive Oil
- Cooking Spray
- Salt and Black Pepper
- Cayenne Pepper (or Chili Flakes)
- Crushed Tomatoes
- Pine Nuts
- Greek Yogurt (optional)
How to make Turkish Eggplant Casserole – Imam Bayildi:
- Preheat the oven.
- Start with fresh eggplant. Although eggplant is a summer vegetable, good eggplant is available all year long.
- Salt it and drain it if you like, but I rarely do that. The salt is supposed to drain out some of the “bitterness,” but eggplant should have a naturally pleasing “bitterness” to it.
- Select eggplant that is firm without any bruises. Make sure the bagger handles them carefully at the checkout! Eggplant bruises easily.
- Cut the eggplant into approximately ¼-inch slices, place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and spritz with an olive oil-based cooking spray or olive oil from an oil mister.
- Season with salt and black pepper then bake at 375 degrees, turning once until the slices are tender and lightly browned. Baking uses less oil than if you pan-fried the eggplant.
- While the eggplant is baking, start the onions over medium-high heat then reduce heat to medium-low and cook until nicely softened and turning golden. They don’t need to be fully caramelized because they will make the dish sweet.
- Add fresh garlic, spices and canned crushed tomatoes to the onions…
- Then start layering this Healthier Turkish Eggplant recipe in a casserole dish.
- Start with a layer of the tomato and onion combination….
- Then a layer of eggplant…
- More of the tomato and onion combination…
- More eggplant…
- The rest of the tomato and onion combination…
- Then bake in the oven!
- While the casserole is heating through, lightly toast a handful or so of pine nuts.
- Sprinkle the pine nuts over the casserole when it comes out of the oven and…
- And you’ve got a better, healthier version of the classic Imam Bayildi without all the fat and calories from all the olive oil.
Best of all, this Healthier Turkish Eggplant Casserole will make your vegan and vegetarian guests very happy! A dollop of Greek yogurt is all that’s needed (unless you’re serving to a vegan, of course!)
Healthier Turkish Eggplant Casserole serves four as a hearty vegetarian main course or eight as a side dish. If serving as a side dish, it’s perfect with roasted meat or poultry.
One slice is so decadent but no one will ever know it’s on the healthier side!
For more great vegetarian casserole recipes, be sure to check out my:
- Grains and Greens Casserole
- Brown Rice and Summer Vegetable Casserole with Feta and Black Olives
- Italian Summer Vegetable Casserole
- Black Bean and Yellow Squash Enchilada Casserole
- Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Quinoa Casserole
- Brown Rice Cheddar Kale Casserole
Healthier Turkish Eggplant Casserole - Imam Bayildi
- 2 large globe eggplants
- Olive oil for baking dish plus 2 tablespoons - for baking dish plus 2 tablespoons
- Cooking spray - preferably olive oil-based
- salt and freshly ground black pepper - to taste
- 2 large onions - halved and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic - minced
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes - or to taste
- 1 can (15-ounce) crushed tomatoes
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ cup pine nuts - toasted
- Greek yogurt - optional
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush a round baking dish with a small amount of olive oil.
- Slice eggplant into approximately ¼-inch slices. Spritz eggplant with the olive oil-based cooking spray or with olive oil from an oil mister. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking dish and bake 25-30 minutes or until softened and lightly browned, turning once.
- Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, reduce heat to medium-low and cook 15-18 minutes or until very soft and beginning to turn golden.
- Add the garlic, coriander, cumin and cayenne pepper and stir until garlic is fragrant, approximately 15 seconds.
- Stir in the tomatoes and heat through.
- Place a third of the tomato and onion combination in the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
- Top with half the eggplant, overlapping the eggplant as necessary.
- Spread a third of the tomato and onion combination over the eggplant.
- Top with remaining eggplant followed by the rest of the tomato and onion combination.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until heated through and bubbling.
- Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and parsley.
These are estimated values generated from a nutritional database using unbranded products. Please do your own research with the products you're using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.