Eggplant Substitute: 9 Best Substitutes For Eggplant

Looking for an eggplant substitute? Whether you don’t have it on hand, can’t find it at the store, have an allergy, or don’t like the taste or texture, try one of these eggplant alternatives instead.

What’s An Eggplant?

Eggplant, also called aubergine, is botanically classified as a fruit but is used as a vegetable. It’s most commonly known in the U.S. as having a deep purple color (but this can change depending on the variety). It has a unique texture and earthy flavor. Because of its spongy texture, it absorbs the flavor of whatever you cook it with.

The seeds in many varieties are what contribute to an eggplant’s bitterness. However, the bitterness diminishes as it cooks.

Eggplant is used in a variety of dishes such as baba ganoush, eggplant parmesan, vegetarian moussaka, pasta alla norma, ratatouille, caponata, sandwiches, roasted eggplant slices with olive oil eaten plain or used as a base for appetizers, crispy eggplant chips, stir fry, stuffed eggplants, and many more.


There are many different eggplant varieties such as:

  • White eggplants – smooth white skin that ranges from thin to thick with a creamy color flesh.
  • Indian eggplants – squatty round eggplants that resemble a bell pepper shape with medium-thick dark purple skin.
  • Chinese eggplants – have a thinner shape than American and Italian eggplants, with thin, vibrant purple skin, and are less bitter due to fewer seeds.
  • Fairy tale eggplants – mini, tender palm-size eggplants with thin skin that’s vibrant purple with white streaks and has a sweeter flavor than other varieties.
  • Japanese eggplants – similar to Chinese eggplants, this seedless variety has a sweeter flavor and a longer/thinner shape. Its skin ranges in color from medium purple to a deep, almost black purple.
  • Italian eggplants – large, but slightly smaller than the globe variety with dark purple skin, a teardrop shape, and a sweeter flavor.
  • Globe eggplants (American eggplants) – the biggest and fattest variety of eggplants with thick, deep purple skin and a bitter flavor.
  • Thai eggplants – small, round eggplants with a crunchy texture and bitter taste with skin colors that range from green to purple to white.

Best Substitutes for Eggplant

1. Zucchini

Zucchini has a similar flavor and texture to eggplant, making it the best option. It can be cooked in a variety of ways and is the ideal choice for ratatouille, moussaka, eggplant parmesan, lasagna, rollatini (thinly sliced eggplant that is breaded and rolled with ricotta cheese and spices and then baked), or grilled vegetable skewers.

To use in dishes such as lasagna, eggplant parmesan, and rollatini, use a mandoline slicer to create consistently thin zucchini slices.

2. Yellow Squash

Like zucchini, yellow squash (also called summer squash) makes a great substitute. It has a mild taste and is widely available at most grocery stores throughout the year, although the peak season is during the summer months. You can use it for the same types of dishes you would substitute zucchini.

3. Portobello Mushrooms

Portobello mushrooms can provide a meaty texture similar to eggplant and have an earthy, umami flavor.

They’re a great addition to dishes where you want a vegetarian meat substitute such as eggplant parmesan, grilled vegetable sandwiches, stir-fries, and stuffed eggplant parm. Keep in mind that the cooking time may vary depending on the dish.

4. Cauliflower

Cauliflower is another good substitute for eggplant. It has a mild flavor that absorbs whatever flavors you cook it with. This versatile ingredient can be used in place of eggplant in curries, eggplant parmesan, and baba ganoush.

To use as a substitute for eggplant parmesan, cut the cauliflower into cauliflower steaks that create a flat surface for the rest of the ingredients. It can either be roasted or grilled to achieve a similar texture to eggplant.

5. Bell peppers

Cooked bell peppers are a great alternative to eggplant. Like eggplant, cooking the vegetable brings out its sweet flavor.

Use bell peppers as an eggplant substitute in ratatouille, stir-fries, grilled vegetables, and salads. Similar to stuffed peppers, you can use bell peppers in place of eggplant in stuffed eggplant dishes.

See bell pepper substitutes for more ideas.

6. Artichoke Hearts

If you’re looking for a unique substitute, try using artichoke hearts. Although they have a distinctive flavor, they have a similar soft texture that can work in various dishes such as pasta, moussaka, pizza, salads, and caponata.

More Excellent Substitutes

Root vegetables

Root vegetables such as celeriac root, carrots, rutabagas, and turnips are great substitutes for eggplant in soups, stews, sauces, and curries with longer cooking times since they have a firm texture that needs longer to soften.  

Green tomatoes

Green tomatoes have a relatively neutral flavor with a hint of bitterness similar to eggplants. They hold up well when breaded and fried and are an excellent alternative when used in eggplant parmesan.


Tofu is a great protein-packed alternative. It takes on the flavors of whatever you cook it with, so season it according to the recipe you’re using.

Choose a firm or extra firm tofu so it can withstand the heat and retain its texture and shape. Tofu can be roasted, grilled, or used as an eggplant substitute for curries, stir-fries, and vegetarian or vegan moussaka.

Frequently Asked Questions

What vegetable does eggplant taste like?

Raw eggplant is bitter and should be cooked to bring out its slightly sweet, earthy, nutty flavor. It’s comparable to zucchini or summer squash.

What’s a good substitute for ratatouille?

If making ratatouille, the best eggplant substitutes are zucchini, bell peppers, or carrots.

What vegetables are in the same family as eggplant?

Eggplant is in the nightshade plant family along with peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, and tomatillos.

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