Grilled Japanese Eggplant with Tahini Sauce

Fellow gardeners, do you ever plant something because you like the look of it, but grow more than you know what to do with? That’s been my relationship to the Japanese eggplants in my garden. I love to grow them. They hide out trellised against a fence behind my garden bed. They’re a beautiful deep shade of purple, long and elegant.

But unlike tomatoes, you can’t just chop them up and toss them in a salad. Eggplants need to be cooked. Japanese or Asian eggplants are more delicate than their Italian globe brethren. They cook faster, the peels are thinner, and the cooked flesh is creamier.

Japanese eggplant

An easy way to cook this type of eggplant is to grill it, either on a grill or in a grill pan, with high, searing heat. Don’t be afraid of those char marks. They’re delicious. The best part. These grilled eggplant we are serving with a creamy sesame tahini sauce, which works beautifully with the eggplant (and would go great with other veggies as well.)

I have only a few recipes for my garden Japanese eggplants and am always looking for more. So if you have any ideas, please let me know about them in the comments!

Grilled Japanese Eggplant with Tahini Sauce Recipe

  • Prep time: 25 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3-4 as a side dish.

If you don't have a grill, you can use a grill pan or a cast iron pan on the stove top. Just spread some oil over the bottom of the pan so the eggplants don't stick, heat on high heat, follow the recipe for preparing the eggplants, and "grill" the eggplants on the hot pan.



  • 4 Japanese eggplants (about 1 1/4 pound total)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp of olive oil

Tahini sauce

  • 1/4 cup roasted sesame tahini
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Thai basil for garnish


japanese eggplants score eggplants with cross hatch pattern

1 Slice the Japanese eggplants in half, lengthwise. Using a sharp paring knife, score the inside surface of the eggplants in a cross hatch pattern, 1/2 inch deep. Lay in a tray and sprinkle the exposed, scored side with salt. Let sit at least 20 minutes (or up to an hour or more) while the grill is coming to temperature and while you make the tahini sauce. The salt will help draw out excess moisture from the eggplants.

2 Prepare your grill for high, direct heat. While the grill is heating, prepare the tahini sauce.

3 If you have a mini chopper, place all of the tahini sauce ingredients in it and pulse until smooth. If you don't have a mini chopper, mince the garlic and parsley very very fine, and then use a fork or a small whisk to whisk all of the ingredients together. (You can also use a mortar and pestle to grind the garlic with the salt and sugar until it is a smooth paste, then whisk together all of the ingredients.)

japanese eggplants grilled cut side down japanese eggplants grilled cut side up

4 When your grill is ready and hot, pat the eggplants dry with a paper towel, and brush the insides with olive oil. Place the eggplant halves cut-side down on the hot grill. Press them down a little so they make good contact with the grill. Grill on the cut side until well browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. When they are well seared on one side, flip them over and cook on the other side until the eggplants are cooked all the way through, another couple minutes or so. Brush again with a little olive oil.

5 Remove from grill, place on a plate and serve with tahini sauce. Garnish with Thai basil.

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  1. Sally

    Very slender Japanese eggplants, oil to shallow fry, Kikkoman Tempura Dip.
    Slit the eggplants into quarters, all the way through, but still attached at the top and bottom ends. Fry until tender, plate and drizzle with tempura dip prepared as suggested on the bottle.

    I think this came from Sunset magazine back before they became afraid of frying anything. Dark ages, anyway.

  2. Sarah S.

    I have used Japanese eggplant in a Thai green curry along with some tofu, and it was delicious. This recipe looks yummy too!

  3. Derek the Zen Chef

    This looks delicious, and maybe a way to basically make baba ganoush the easy way, or something very similar thereto. I find when I bake eggplant that they get much more mushy and juicy than I would anticipate since they start out with such a seemingly dry, spongy consistency, not apparently moist. I have grown way way more than I needed by accident, but that is what church is for, I suppose. They always appreciate shared veggies.
    All the best,

  4. Jen

    bought 24 ears @Davis ranch in Sloughhouse today to bbq your corn recipe-they came out great,thanks! there were these Japanese eggplants @ $1.50 each,so I just bought one,but it seemed too much trouble to grill this lonely one,so I just might try to find some more @ farmers market tomorrow to try this recipe..they don’t seem to hard to grow here in the Sac area,judging by your success!

  5. Isaac

    I grow these in Phoenix in the summer, because not much else grows in the midsummer heat. I make an Eggplant Migas by peeling the eggplant and cutting into cubes or simply sliced crosswise. Chop about 1/3 cup onions for each cup and a half of eggplant and saute in a couple teaspoons of vegetable oil in a non-stick pan. Add a coarsely chopped jalapeno (seeded and deveined) for each portion, or to taste. Salt lightly while cooking to help flavor the mélange and aid in cooking. When the vegetables are cooked soft and starting to brown lightly, add some tortilla strips (2-3 tortillas for each portion, quartered, then stacked and sliced into 1/4 inch strips). Toss to heat and flavor the tortillas. Take 2-3 eggs per portion and beat them with a couple Tablespoons of shredded Parmesan cheese. Move the vegetables to one side of the pan and scramble the eggs. When firm but still slightly shiny, begin mixing vegetables into eggs. Cook until done. Serve with your favorite tomato based salsa or Tabasco sauce.

  6. Susannah Sherwood

    Bulgarians put sliced, unsalted eggplant into a heated pan, without oil, until brown on both sides, then dunk the eggplant slices into cold water for a few minutes to leech off any bitter juices. Drained and lightly squeezed, slices are then pliable enough to fill with a ricotta-carrot-Parmesan blend, roll, and top with a sauce; or blend with a bit of mayo, vinegar, hot sauce, olive oil, and sprinkling of coarse salt into a dip served with chopped tomato, cucumber, any fresh herbs you like, and warm pita. Delicious!

  7. shawn

    Where does one make the roasted tahini sauce? Seems like a major step is missing.

    • Elise

      In step 3.

      • shawn

        My bad.
        Where does one make the “1/4 cup roasted sesame tahini”

        • Dawn

          You can buy Tahini in gourmet food stores and upmarket grocery stores, or you can make it quite easily. Take 3/4 cup raw sesame seeds and toast in an oven at 350F for 8-10 mins, stirring every 2-3 mins to toast the seeds evenly. Allow to cool, then put in a mini-processor with 1/4 cup olive oil and blend until smooth. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to one week. Really tastes best fresh, so make in small quantities and use as fast as possible.

          • Tina

            Wow! Never knew about homemade tahini. Thanks, Dawn!

  8. Kate @¡Hola! Jalapeño

    Yep, I know exactly what your saying. I wait and wait all year for stuff to be ready to harvest and then I panic because I can’t keep up! This eggplant looks wonderful, I’ll be trying it once my beauties are ready!

  9. Ryan

    There are some absolutely delicious stir-fried eggplant dishes made with Japanese eggplant that are a standby for my wife and I. Eggplant with garlic sauce (yuxiang qiezi) is one… or you can slice thin, lightly bread, pan-fry and then serve with a fragrant sweet/spicy garlic sauce.

  10. Sally

    I just remembered Moussaka! It would be just as good with Japanese eggplant as with the regular sort. Ground lamb or beef, eggplant, onion, rather a lot of fresh parsley, canned tomato puree, with a topping of yogurt or sour cream mixed with eggs and parmesan. Yes, it’s a casserole, but it will freeze well until you’re ready to heat up the kitchen again in the fall. I don’t add the topping until I’m ready to bake it.

  11. Carol at Wild Goose Tea

    Wow I am impressed with your growing Japanese egg plant poweress!!!! I do something similar with zucchini, which is more my speed of what I am flooded with. Since I love egg plant, I think I would rather have your dish.

  12. Helen

    For the reasons you mentioned Japanese eggplants are my favorite. I often cut them into uniformed size chunks, season them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them in the oven. Delicious.

  13. Jeanne Horak-Druiff

    Oh I love grilled eggplant :) Have not come across Japanese eggplant before but I think I might deputise my other half to start growing it on his allotment!

  14. Rog

    hmmm very easy to prepare.. adding up with egg, its perfect for breakfast!

  15. Dawn

    We had some friends over to have dinner with us last night, and guess what they brought with them? Japanese eggplants fresh from their garden! They were amazed that I had a recipe immediately in mind, when I started to make this dish. I had my husband grill the eggplants while I put the sauce together. I had a little homemade hummus, so I mixed it one to one with the tahini sauce. It came together very quickly and was absolutely delicious. Our friends seemed very happy with it. Thanks Elise!

  16. RKLB

    I enjoy your website a lot and am very happy to see this post. Now I can contribute a little. :)

    The easiest and the best way to enjoy Japanese eggplants (well, at least for Japanese like myself) is to just grill them, skin on, until the skin is burnt (this can be done with the toaster oven). Then, peel the skin off and pour the soy sauce, citrus soy sauce, or Dashi soy sauce, with some bonito flakes or scallion on top. The amount of juice coming out from the grilled eggplants are just amazing and it’s a very important part of the sauce, too. Another my favorite dish is to slice and stir-fried them with butter (and garlic if you like), and add some soy sauce at the end. You can add some chopped herbs for garnish, like Shiso (Japanese basil) or even cilantro. Yummm.

    Eggplants that are harvested during the fall are considered to be a delicacy in Japan, BTW.

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