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 but with all the flavor!
What is Imam Bayildi?
There are numerous versions of this classic Turkish dish. 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 Turkish Eggplant Casserole!
The classic way to make Imam Bayildi is to stuff the eggplant. Tomatoes, onions and even other vegetables are used such as red bell pepper as in Yotam Ottolenghi’s version.
How to make Healthier Turkish Eggplant Casserole – Imam Bayildi:
- 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 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.
- While the eggplant is baking, cook onions until nicely softened and turning golden. They don’t need to be fully caramelized because it will make the dish sweet.
- Add fresh garlic, spices and canned crushed tomatoes to the onions…
- Then start layering this Healthier Turkish Eggplant Casserole!
- A layer of the tomato and onion combination….
- More of the tomato and onion combination…
- More eggplant…
- The rest of the tomato and onion combination…
- Then bake!
- 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.
Now, let’s eat!
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
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- 2 large globe eggplants
- Olive oil for baking dish plus 2 tablespoons
- Olive oil-based cooking spray
- 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 to taste
- 1 can (15-ounce) crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 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 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.
Amount Per Serving Calories 464Total Fat 34gSaturated Fat 4gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 28gCholesterol 0mgSodium 140mgCarbohydrates 42gFiber 11gSugar 16gProtein 6g