Eggplant (Aubergine) Rice Pilaf (Vegan, Gluten-free)

by Zin
Turkish eggplant (aubergine) rice pilaf in bowls, garnished with chopped dill, top view

Eggplant rice pilaf is another delicious Turkish dish for summertime. Although they are available year-round, eggplants are at their peak from early summer to fall. This dish is quite flavourful; your guests might even fall from their chairs.

But I have always had this unanswered question in my mind. Why did we call this beautiful purple plant as “eggplant”? I mean, Egg. Plant. What does it even have to do with eggs? Or should we call it aubergine as you might have seen in other parts of the world? Are they different or the same?

If you want a short answer, then yes! They are the same. Enough? You can jump to the recipe now. If you are curious like me and want to know more, then keep reading.

Domesticated thousands of years ago in Asia, the eggplants found their way to Europe in the late sixteenth century and recorded the first time by an English herbalist, John Gerard. In his 1597 book Herball or General Historie of Plantes, he described them as having “the bignesse of a Swans egge.” According to Ina Lipkowitz, Ph.D., his description inspired the name we know it as “eggplant” today in the US, Australia, New Zealand, and anglophone Canada since the cultivated ones were yellow or white and shaped like goose eggs. Europeans also referred them as “Madde” or “Raging Apples” (from the Latin mala insana or “apples of insanity”) because of its aphrodisiacal qualities and ill effects. Aubergine is a French word widely used in UK, Ireland, and Quebec. It is known as brinjal in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Africa.

Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family, along with peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes. Did you know that eggplant is not technically a vegetable, but a fruit? No, wait! Botanically, it is a berry. Yes. That bitter, purple-colored, egg-shaped, sometimes hefty, sometimes long and slender with a thin skin vegetable is a berry. Well, regardless of the category it belongs to, it is beautiful, versatile, and delicious.

I hope you will like this simple yet amazingly flavourful Turkish dish.


Turkish Eggplant (Aubergine) Rice Pilaf recipe ingredients with the names written

All you need is one large eggplant, one medium-size tomato, one medium size onion, white rice, and spices. They are all easy to find. 

eggplants cut into cubes and overlaid on a parchment cooking paper

In the original recipe, you fry eggplants in olive oil. Whenever I can, I refrain myself using too much fat. So, I baked them in the oven for a healthier option. If you are on an oil-free diet, you do not have to use oil before baking the eggplants. Just toss them with salt and ground black pepper, that is it! 

Turkish eggplant (aubergine) rice pilaf in small bowls, garnished with chopped dill, close up

It would be best if you garnished it with dills. Lots of it! Then it will become a masterpiece.  

Turkish eggplant (aubergine) rice pilaf in small vintage bowls, garnished with chopped dill

Turkish eggplant (aubergine) rice pilaf in a white cream colour bowl, garnished with chopped dill, close up

If you make this delicious eggplant rice pilaf, rate it on the recipe card and leave a comment below. Also, do not hesitate to share your photos on Instagram, tag @plant.awesome, and use the hashtag #plantawesomelife.

Turkish eggplant (aubergine) rice pilaf in a white cream colour bowl, garnished with chopped dill, close up

Eggplant Rice Pilaf (Vegan, Gluten-free)

Yield: 6 People
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Turkish Eggplant (Aubergine) Rice Pilaf. Vegan and gluten-free. Easy to make, flavorful summer dish, and will be a crowd-pleaser in your recipe book.


For Eggplant

  • 1 large eggplant (cut into cubes)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of ground black pepper

For Rice

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1.5 cups of white basmati rice
  • 3 cups of hot water
  • 1 medium-size onion (chopped in a food processor)
  • 1 medium-size tomato (skin peeled and chopped in a food processor)
  • ½ tsp salt (or to taste)
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper (or to taste)
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tbsp dry mint
  • ½ tsp sugar (I don't use refined sugar. I replaced it with coconut sugar.)
  • 1/2 bunch of dills (to garnish or mix it with the rice)


    1. Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit (200 Celsius). Usually takes about 15min.
    2. Cut the eggplant into cubes and place them into a large bowl.
    3. Add olive oil, salt, black pepper, and toss them until they are evenly seasoned.
    4. Place them over a parchment baking paper and bake them in a preheated oven for 25 min.
    5. Remove them from the oven and put them aside.
    6. Put olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes.
    7. Add all spices (salt, black pepper, cinnamon, allspice, dry mint) and stir them for a couple of minutes.
    8. Add tomato and continue cooking with the spices. In this step, you can smell the steam and see if you like to add more spices.
    9. Add sugar. (Adding a little bit of sugar is a common practice in Turkish dishes with olive oil. I guess It is helping to balance the taste of the dish.)
    10. Add rice and stir well.
    11. Add previously cooked eggplants and stir the mix well.
    12. Add hot water.
    13. Cover it and cook in low heat for 15-20 minutes or rice is ready.
    14. Turn off the heat. Place a paper towel over the rim of the saucepan and cover it with the lid again. (I always cover my rice with a paper towel like that while it is resting. It absorbs the excess steam and makes the rice fluffy.)
    15. Let it rest for about 15 min.
    16. Stir gently and serve it.


I used to eat my rice dishes with watermelon when I was growing up. I know it sounds strange, but have you tried it?

Did you make this recipe?

Tag @plant.awesome on Instagram and hashtag it #plantawesomelife

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