Eggplant is one of those foods I was in love with long before I became vegan, whether in baba ganoush, ratatouille, or my favorite vegetable lasagna recipe. After going vegan, I started looking for new ways to let this versatile aubergine beauty shine as a main dish. Sweet & Spicy Grilled Eggplant is the latest result of my quest and has definitely become a favorite at our house—so much so that I served it when my mother-in-law came to visit.
This recipe is loosely based on Minimalist Baker’s Jerk Eggplant, but a simpler version. (Hard to believe, I know! Their recipes are so awesomely simple in general.) In my recipe, the marinade doubles as the sauce, which cuts down on the number of ingredients and prep time. And since I recently moved and have no longer have an outdoor grill, I simply cooked mine indoors on my new grill pan.
It’s plenty spicy as is, but if you’re craving a Jamaican flavor profile—maybe you have a few bottles of Red Stripe in the fridge?—I include a variation for Jerk eggplant using either store-bought or homemade Jerk seasoning.
I’m not going to lie, this sweet & spicy grilled eggplant packs a little heat—probably more than young kiddos could tolerate. But most of the fire comes from the store-bought BBQ sauce, so if you want to tone things down a bit, just pick the sauce you and your family can live with.
Plus, I always serve this dish with Easy Coconut Lime Rice. Its mild flavor, slight richness and a hint of citrus will cool your palate between spicy bites of eggplant. When you pair these dishes, each bite leaves you wanting more of the other—More heat! More cool! More heat!
Jerk seasoning is readily available at most stores, or this simple version works well with this recipe: I teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 1/4 teaspoon each of ancho chili powder, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon unrefined sweetener like coconut sugar or maple syrup.
1 large eggplant or 2 small, sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds
Cooking spray or oil for the grill
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
3 green onions, chopped into thirds (+ more for garnish)
For a "Jerk Eggplant" variation, add 1 tablespoon Jamaican Jerk seasoning to the marinade/sauce (or make your own - see notes)
Lightly oil the grill, and heat to medium-high (about 400 degrees Fahrenheit.) Or cook on a grill pan on medium high heat.
To make the marinade/sauce, add the dry ingredients-garlic, cayenne, chopped ginger, thyme, jalapeno, green onions (and Jerk seasoning, if desired) to a food processor. Process until finely chopped and blended. Add liquid ingredients (BBQ sauce, lime juice, and soy sauce) and process for about 30 seconds or until the ingredients are thoroughly blended into a slightly chucky sauce.
Divide the marinade/sauce in half. Brush half of the marinade on each side of the eggplant, and reserve the rest as a sauce for serving.
Place the eggplant on the oiled grill and cook, about 5 minutes per side, or until browned on the outside and tender.