This incredible Baba Ganoush recipe (eggplant dip/aubergine dip) is smoky and rich with the flavours of North Africa and the Middle East. Serve with flat breads, warm or cold. Gluten Free. Vegan.
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What is Baba Ganoush?
At its most basic, baba ganoush is a healthy dip made with mashed aubergine or eggplant, sesame paste, olive oil and seasoning. It is incredibly easy to make. Actually, it is much like making houmous, but with aubergine instead of chickpeas.
With its roots in North Africa and the Middle East, baba ganoush usually tastes lightly smoked, giving it a deliciously-rustic flavour. And with the aubergines traditionally cooked over an open flame, it is a dish which can be made anywhere… the kitchen, garden, camping on top of a mountain… As long as you have packed the ingredients (obvs). But it can also be made using simple oven-roasting with equally authentic results… Which is what I have done here.
The day I fell in love with Baba Ganoush
Like many people who love it, I absolutely remember the first time I ate baba ganoush… I was in my early 20’s and on my first Explore trip. 5 days of our Egyptian adventure were spent sailing down the Nile and living on a Felucca, sleeping under the stars and being fed the most amazing simple Egyptian food. The most memorable thing I ate was Nubian flatbreads and freshly made baba ganoush.
Lunch on the Felucca was a relaxed buffet, lined along the centre of the sailboat. Simply eaten lounging on colourful cushions… Without cutlery or care, we dipped the local breads and scooped out mounds of lightly spiced eggplant dip to accompany Egyptian falafels. Memory sealed!
Even home-made in Kent, eating baba ganoush still transports me to the warmth and exoticness of those meals on the felucca. A young woman in my youth, adventuring into the world and ALL it had to offer.
Smokiness is important for the best eggplant dip
One of the classic flavours in this middle-eastern eggplant dip is ‘smoke’. Traditionally, this comes from cooking the aubergine over the open flame of a firepit until it is charred at the edges. The easiest way to replicate, is to cook the beautiful shiny purple fruits on the barbeque or a modern garden firepit. But it takes time for the aubergine to reach the point of softness needed to scoop the flesh.
If you can at least part-cook over the glowing embers of the barbecue, so much the better. But I have taken to roasting in the oven.
The secret to oven-roasting aubergine AND still getting the best smokiness
Oven-roasting doesn’t exactly exude smoke. But I have discovered that the way you roast your aubergine and the ingredients you choose can make a huge difference to the ultimate flavour of baba ganoush. I’ve tried roasting eggplants whole… And scoring the skin… I’ve even tried slicing to see if it would make much difference… But the secret to getting a good smokiness in the Baba is two-fold.
1. How to roast
The easiest and most effective way to roast aubergine for flavour is to simply slice in half lengthways and place on a baking sheet, flesh-side down. Make sure the sheet is lined with baking paper for ease of removal once cooked. Roast until cooked and then roast some more! For the best baba ganoush, aubergine needs to be cooked until it collapses in on itself and is looking appropriately charred. It must be soft enough that when you scoop the insides, they yield willingly leaving just the saggy skin behind.
And I mean JUST the skin… The crusty charred surface of eggplant flesh that you will encounter when you lift the roasted fruit from the pan should absolutely be tossed into the bowl. It has the most incredible flavour and (in my humble opinion) gives a wonderful extra texture and taste dimension when mashed into the dip.
Of course the purists may be arguing over smooth versus chunky, but I love my baba ghanoush to give up its individual flavour components without hunting for them… and the ONLY way to really experience this is NOT pureed.
2. The choice of spice and seasoning
There is also another way to guarantee smokiness in your aubergine dip… The ingredients you choose for spice and seasoning can take your Baba to an incredible level. These are my tips to smoky success (however you cook your aubergine) :
I am a huge lover of sweet smoked Hungarian paprika. It doesn’t really add ‘heat’, but it always adds depth and earthiness to a dish. None more so than with baba ganoush. Adding a good heaped half to one teaspoon of this richly coloured spice, brings a smokiness to the bowl that rivals the best. Just be sure that you use SMOKED paprika and that it is fresh and smokily fragrant.
Other smoky tricks for eggplant Dip
If you are looking for extra smokiness, then you can also use smoked sea salt in place of the usual stuff. Again, I am a big fan of smoked salt. It’s not just to be used in baba ganoush either… It is incredible sprinkled on roasted vegetables, salmon and other fish and meat. It will even elevate chips from the local chippy to dizzy heights.
But for the serious foodies among you, Oak Smoked Water is one of the most amazing ‘out there’ ingredients I have in my larder. Made by Halen Môn, it packs a wonderfully smoky punch to bring a new dimension to so many dishes. And that includes baba ganoush!
How to eat Baba Ganoush
Like all dips, baba ganoush likes to be scooped, blobbed and spread. It is delicious eaten fresh and warm, but equally divine straight from the fridge. Go simple and dip with raw carrot sticks, or make some of my incredible, easy, soft Gluten Free Roti flatbreads for utter perfection. For extra special presentation, you can even cut the flatbread dough into pretty shapes before you cook them!
Alternatively, this amazing eggplant dip is wonderful spread on fresh, crunchy toast. If you need a good gluten free bread recipe that gives wheat a run for its money, my wholemeal Best Gluten Free Bread Recipe has been a game-changer for many people. And if you are vegan, we have a sister recipe : Wholemeal Gluten Free Vegan Bread.
Like my Caramelised Onion Hummus (which is also full of North African Flavours), baba ganoush can also be added to the list of additions for a lunch-time Buddha Bowl. Healthy and nutritious, it sits happily alongside other bowl ingredients such as Quinoa and Honey Roasted Butternut Squash.
Storing Baba Ganoush
This aubergine dip recipe makes a goodly amount. It is fine to halve the ingredients if you want less, but to be honest, I always make more than I need. That way I can enjoy it as part of my lunch for a few days.
To keep baba ganoush, simply spoon into an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 5 days (if you can make it last that long).
While it is technically possible to freeze it, I wouldn’t generally bother… It will need ‘re-whipping’, tends to lose some of its flavour and the texture is never quite the same.
Made Baba Ganoush?
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Baba Ganoush (smoky eggplant dip)
- baking trays
- baking paper
- large sharp knife
- medium-sized bowl
- measuring spoons
- garlic crusher/grater
- 3 to 4 medium aubergine (eggplant) See NOTES
- 4 to 5 tbsp tahini 80-100 g to taste
- 1 to 3 cloves garlic dependent on size and preference – minced
- 2 to 3 tbsp chopped coriander (cilantro)
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice 30 ml (or to taste)
- ½ to 1 tsp SMOKED paprika
- black pepper freshly ground – to taste
- sea salt smoked if available – to taste
- 1 tsp oak smoked water optional (see main post)
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Roast and drain the aubergine (eggplant)
- Heat the oven to 220 C/425 F/Gas 7. Line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
- Cut the aubergines in half lengthways and arrange face-down on the lined baking tray.
- Roast in the oven until they are very well done and collapsing in on themselves if poked. The flesh should be very soft. This will take about 40 to 45 minutes, but may be a little longer if using large aubergines.
- When roasted, remove from the oven and cool slightly (until still nice and warm but able to handle).
- Whilst cooling, get ready a sieve placed over a medium-sized bowl.
- Once you can hold them, use a spoon to scoop out all the flesh (including the dry, open, charred flesh) into the sieve, to drain any excess liquid. Discard the skin.
- Allow the roasted aubergine to drain for at least 20 minutes.
Make the Baba Ganoush
- Once drained, discard the liquid from the bowl and then tip the aubergine back into the bowl.
- Add all the other ingredients, EXCEPT the oil. For each of the ingredients, there are variations on quantity dependent on size of ingredient or personal taste preference. If unsure, start at a lower quantity and then adjust to taste at the end.
- Mix all the ingredients together by 'beating' vigorously with a fork. If you prefer, you can use a blender for a completely smooth dip, but the flavours are more distinct and the texture more interesting when left a little 'chunky'.
- Once mixed, taste and adjust for preference.
- Drizzle the olive oil over the top and garnish with a little fresh coriander and a sprinkle of smoked paprika.
- Serve either warm or cold with flatbreads, pitta, corn chips, on toast, in buddha bowls, etc
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