Turkish Eggplant Casserole – Imam Bayildi

4.67 from 24 votes
1 hour 20 minutes
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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!

Photo of Healthier Turkish Eggplant Casserole - Imam Bayildi on dark gray background garnished with chopped parsley and pine nuts.

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.

Ingredients:

  • Eggplant
  • Olive Oil
  • Cooking Spray
  • Salt and Black Pepper
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Cayenne Pepper (or Chili Flakes)
  • Crushed Tomatoes
  • Parsley
  • 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.
Photo of three freshly washed eggplant in aged white colander.
  • Cut the eggplant into approximately 1/4-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.
Photo of baked eggplant on parchment paper on baking sheet.
  • 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.
Photo of cooked onions in cast iron skillet.
  • Add fresh garlic, spices and canned crushed tomatoes to the onions…
Photo of tomato sauce in cast iron skillet.
  • Then start layering this Healthier Turkish Eggplant recipe in a casserole dish.
  • Start with a layer of the tomato and onion combination….
Photo of first layer of tomato sauce in round clay baking dish.
  • Then a layer of eggplant…
Photo of first layer of eggplant placed over tomato sauce in clay baking dish.
  • More of the tomato and onion combination…
Photo of another layer of tomato sauce over the eggplant in clay baking dish.
  • More eggplant…
Photo of second layer of eggplant in clay baking dish.
  • The rest of the tomato and onion combination…
  • Then bake in the oven!
Photo of final later of tomato sauce placed over the top in baking dish.
  • While the casserole is heating through, lightly toast a handful or so of pine nuts.
Photo of toasted pine nuts.
  • Sprinkle the pine nuts over the casserole when it comes out of the oven and…
Photo of baked Turkish Eggplant Casserole - Imam Bayildi garnished with pine nuts and chopped parsley.
  • And you’ve got a better, healthier version of the classic Imam Bayildi without all the fat and calories from all the olive oil.
Photo of Turkish Eggplant Casserole - Imam Bayildi on gray background with gray towel.

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.

Photo of one piece of Turkish Eggplant Casserole - Imam Bayildi on a white plate with a dollop of yogurt the rest of the dish with wedge removed.

One slice is so decadent but no one will ever know it’s on the healthier side!

Close-up photo of one serving of Turkish Eggplant Casserole - Imam Bayildi on white plate with a dollop of yogurt with rest of the dish in the background.

For more great vegetarian casserole recipes, be sure to check out my:

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Turkish Eggplant Casserole - Imam Bayildi - Overhead hero shot of dish on dark gray background, gray towel garnished with chopped parsley and pine nuts

Turkish Eggplant Casserole – Imam Bayildi

4.67 from 24 votes

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By: Carol | From A Chef’s Kitchen
This healthier Turkish Eggplant Casserole is 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 but with all the flavor!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Course Vegetarian / Vegan Entrees
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Servings 8
Calories 378 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 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
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes - or to taste
  • 1 can (15-ounce) crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts - toasted
  • Greek yogurt - optional

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush a round baking dish with a small amount of olive oil.
  • Slice eggplant into approximately 1/4-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.

Notes

MAKE AHEAD:  Can be made ahead to the point of baking 1-2 days ahead of time.  Let sit at room temperature while the oven preheats.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 | Calories: 378kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 6mg | Potassium: 372mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 242IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 31mg | Iron: 1mg

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.

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15 Comments

  1. This is truly amazing! I’ve spent years salting the eggplant slices and frying them in gallons of oil. So time consuming! With this recipe I regained my freedom! So easy and truly delicious. Thank you so much for this recipe!!

    1. Hi, Colette, Thanks so very much and so glad you enjoyed! I think there are a lot of misconceptions about eggplant. Although I still salt and drain depending upon the recipe, it’s so darn good just the way it is. We grilled some the other night with just olive oil, salt and pepper and mmmwaaaah! Delish! Thanks again!

  2. Very tasty dish. Some Kofta off the grill and a dish of steaming rice, that is what heaven must be like! Thank you for creating a healthier dish.

    1. Hi, Arthur, Thanks so very much and so glad you enjoyed! Love your other heavenly menu items suggestions, too! Thanks again!

  3. 5 stars
    My dear Carol, this was wonderful! I served it with roasted chicken wings in a cornstarch dredge seasoned with Star. My sister made it with Italian seasoning since her hubs doesn’t like cumin. She really enjoyed it too! You rock!

    1. Thanks so much, Julie! It really IS good!! I like the adaptation of using Italian seasoning your sister made–still keeps it in the Mediterranean realm! Some Imam Bayildi recipes call for cinnamon and I just can not do cinnamon in savory dishes so came up with the cumin-coriander combo. Thanks again and so glad you all enjoyed!

  4. 5 stars
    Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables – so underrated! I’ve never heard of this dish before, but definitely look forward to trying it. The cumin and coriander are such vibrant spices. This is definitely a comfort food meal without being too heavy!