Lentil Stuffed Eggplant with Cardamom Sauce

5 from 9 votes
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You won’t believe how hearty and flavorful this Lentil Stuffed Eggplant with Cardamom Sauce and garlic tahini drizzle is. With layers of warm, fragrant spices, this vegan stuffed eggplant recipe will satisfy even the pickiest palates at the table.Lentil stuffed eggplants in a pan over tomato sauce

Why You’ll Love this Stuffed Eggplant Recipe

Words can’t possibly convey my love for this dish, which is truly an explosion of many of my favorite flavors. One of which is cardamom–an intense, slightly sweet spice that brings warm floral notes to any dish. While this recipe calls for ground cardamom, you can certainly use crushed cardamom pods instead.

This dish is tender, meaty (without the meat), bright, creamy, and oh-so addictive. And while the ingredients are relatively simple, their sum truly creates a masterpiece.

Now I won’t say this dish is the quickest or most streamlined meal to throw together, however the payoff is huge. It is, however, the perfect recipe to execute for date night in (or a fun girls night). Serve this vegan stuffed eggplant with a crisp green salad on the side and a glass of Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, and you have a restaurant-quality meal.

Ingredients and Substitutions:Recipe ingredients on a white board with blue labels

  • Eggplant: You need four small globe eggplants for this recipe, however thicker Japanese eggplants work great, too. If you can only find large globe eggplants, just slice them in half lengthwise. 
  • Lentils: It’s important to use either green or brown lentils for this recipe, as opposed to black or red. Green/brown lentils have about a 20 to 30 minute cook time, and still stay meaty and tender. They’re also super affordable and can be stored for YEARS in the pantry.
  • Onion: You can use yellow or sweet onion, or even shallots here. I personally love using shallots in the tomato sauce, and yellow onion in the lentil mixture.
  • Fennel: For sweet notes of anise, sautéed fennel adds flavor dimension to the lentil mixture. Also, just one cup offers almost 20% of your recommended daily value of vitamin C. You’ll also find plenty of iron, fiber, and potassium. 
  • Spices: Now THIS is where it gets exciting! This recipe calls for some of my favorite spices, such as coriander, cumin, and cardamom. The magic truly lies in the spices for this recipe, so I don’t advise swapping them for any alternative blend.
  • Tomatoes: For the tomato sauce, you can either use canned tomato puree, or whole peeled tomatoes that you blend/puree yourself. I prefer using a can of tomato puree for convenience. 
  • Broth: If making this dish vegan, use vegetable broth. Otherwise, chicken or bone broth works fine.
  • Tahini: Tahini adds a toasty, slightly sweet finish and unparalleled creaminess. In terms of brands, Soom is my go-to for its smooth texture and rich, nutty flavor. To try any Soom products for 10% off, simply enter code ‘dishingouthealth’ at checkout!
  • Lemon: Fresh lemon juice adds bright top notes to the tomato sauce. I also love adding a squeeze to the tahini sauce for extra zing.
  • Parsley: Fresh parsley or mint does a great job of adding a fresh finish to the vegan stuffed eggplant.

A bite being taken out of a stuffed eggplant

Step-by-Step Instructions:

Step 1: Sauté Onion, Fennel, and Spices

Heat oil in a large skillet with a fitted lid over medium-high. Once hot, add onion and fennel; cook 7 to 8 minutes, until soft. Next, stir in garlic, tomato paste, cumin, oregano, and coriander; cook 2 minutes, until aromatic.Onions, fennel, and tomato paste sautéing in a skillet

Step 2: Add Lentils and Simmer

Add lentils into onion mixture and cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring to coat in spices. Next, add broth and bring mixture to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and gently simmer until lentils are tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Season mixture with salt.Lentils and broth being added to skillet

Step 3: Prep and Roast Eggplant

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Use a knife to cut an angled divot out of the center of your eggplants. Then use a spoon to scrape out a hollow center, leaving enough eggplant flesh so it’s sturdy enough to hold the lentils (I leave about an inch of flesh all around, as shown in photo). Either discard additional eggplant flesh, or use for another recipe, such as Roasted Eggplant Dip

Place eggplant in a 13×9-inch baking dish, and generously coat both the skin and flesh in olive oil. Season with salt, and bake, flesh side down, for 30 minutes.4 globe eggplants being sliced into and arranged in a baking dish

Step 4: Make Cardamom Tomato Sauce

Meanwhile, prepare tomato sauce by heating 1 Tbsp. oil in an oven-safe skillet over medium. Once hot, add onion (or shallots), garlic, and chili flakes; cook 4 to 5 minutes, until soft. Next, stir in tomato paste, cardamom, and cumin; cook another 2 minutes, until aromatic.Shallots, garlic, and tomato paste being cooked in a black cast iron pan

Step 5: Simmer Sauce

Add tomato puree, broth, sugar, and salt, and increase heat to bring mixture to a simmer. Gently simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or until sauce thickens. Stir in lemon juice.Tomato sauce simmering in a black skillet

Step 6: Stuff Eggplant and Bake

Remove eggplant from oven and use a pair of tongs to transfer each piece to the pan of tomato sauce, skin side-down. Next, fill each eggplant boat with lentil mixture, and place pan back in the oven to bake for 10 to 15 minutes. (Note: if the pan you’re using isn’t oven-safe, spoon the cardamom tomato sauce into the 13×9-inch pan you used to roast the eggplant, and place the stuffed eggplants on top.)Eggplants being filled with lentil mixture

Step 7: Prepare Tahini Sauce

While the stuffed eggplant bakes, prepare tahini sauce by combining tahini, lemon juice, and garlic in a small bowl; mix well. Gradually whisk in 2 Tbsp. of water to thin tahini sauce to desired consistency.Tahini sauce being whisked in a gold bowl

Step 8: Top Stuffed Eggplant with Tahini Sauce and Parsley

Remove stuffed eggplant from the oven and drizzle tahini sauce overtop. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately. Stuffed eggplants being drizzled with tahini sauce and topped with parsley

How to Make-Ahead, Store, and Reheat:

  • To Make Ahead. Roast the eggplant up to 1 day in advance, and store them in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour prior to prepping remainder of recipe.
  • To Store. Place leftover stuffed eggplant in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. 
  • To Reheat. Gently rewarm the eggplant in a baking dish in the oven at 350ºF. Top additional tahini sauce prior to serving, if desired. You can also reheat the eggplant in the microwave in a pinch.

What to Serve with Stuffed Eggplant

While this recipe makes a complete meal on it’s own, I love serving something crisp and fresh on side. Here are a few of my favorite side dishes:

One filled eggplant in a white bowl topped with tahini sauce

More Stuffed Eggplant Recipes to Try:

Eggplant Lasagna Boats

Mediterranean Eggplant Boats

If you give this vegan stuffed eggplant a try, snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth on Instagram so I can see your beautiful creations. I also really appreciate readers taking the time to leave a rating and review! Lastly, follow along on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest recipe updates.

5 from 9 votes

Lentil Stuffed Eggplant with Cardamom Sauce

You won't believe how hearty and flavorful this Lentil Stuffed Eggplant with Cardamom Sauce and garlic tahini sauce is. With layers of warm, fragrant spices, this vegan stuffed eggplant recipe will satisfy even the pickiest palates at the table.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 4

Equipment

  • Large skillet with fitted lid
  • Large oven-safe skillet or 13x9-inch baking pan

Ingredients  

Lentil Stuffed Eggplant

  • 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small fennel bulb, finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 cup dry green lentils
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 4 small globe eggplants
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Cardamom Tomato Sauce

  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion (sub shallots)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups canned tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Garlic Tahini Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp. tahini, well-stirred (sub as Soom brand)
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
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Instructions 

  • Prepare lentils: Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet with a fitted lid over medium-high. Once hot, add fennel and onion; cook 7 to 8 minutes, until soft. Stir in garlic, tomato paste, cumin, oregano, and coriander; cook 2 minutes, until aromatic. Add lentils and cook 1 minute, stirring to coat in spices. Add broth and 1/2 tsp. salt; bring mixture to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and gently simmer until lentils are tender, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Prepare eggplant: Preheat oven to 400ºF. Use a sharp knife to cut an angled divot out of the center of each eggplant. Then use a spoon to scrape out a hollow center, leaving enough eggplant flesh so it's sturdy enough to hold the lentils (I leave at least a 1-inch border of flesh). Either discard additional eggplant flesh, or use for another recipe, such as Roasted Eggplant Dip
    Place eggplant in a 13x9-inch baking dish, and generously coat both the skin and flesh in 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Season with remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, and bake, flesh side down, for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare Cardamom Sauce: Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large, oven-safe skillet (such as a cast iron) over medium heat. Once hot, add onion (or shallots), garlic, and chili flakes; cook 4 to 5 minutes, until soft. Stir in tomato paste, cardamom, and cumin; cook another 2 minutes, until aromatic.
    Add tomato puree, broth, sugar, and salt, and increase heat to bring mixture to a simmer. Gently simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or until sauce thickens. Stir in lemon juice.
  • Remove eggplant from oven and use a pair of tongs to transfer each piece to the pan of tomato sauce, skin side-down. Next, fill each eggplant boat with lentil mixture, and transfer pan to the oven to bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the tomato sauce is bubbly. (Note: if the pan you're using isn't oven-safe, spoon the cardamom tomato sauce into the 13x9-inch pan you used to roast the eggplant, and place the stuffed eggplants on top.)
    While the stuffed eggplant bakes, prepare tahini sauce by combining tahini, lemon juice, and garlic in a small bowl; mix well. Gradually whisk in 2 Tbsp. of water to thin sauce to desired consistency.
    Remove stuffed eggplant from the oven and drizzle tahini sauce overtop. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately. 

Notes

  • To Make Ahead. Roast the eggplant up to 1 day in advance, and store them in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour prior to prepping remainder of recipe.
  • To Store. Place leftover stuffed eggplant in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. 
  • To Reheat. Gently rewarm the eggplant in a baking dish in the oven at 350ºF. Top additional tahini sauce prior to serving, if desired. You can also reheat the eggplant in the microwave in a pinch.

Nutrition

Serving: 1stuffed eggplant with 1/2 cup sauce | Calories: 398kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 845mg | Fiber: 15g | Sugar: 10g

I calculate these values by hand to ensure accuracy, however expect up to a 10% variable depending on food brands.

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19 Comments

  1. Jen says:

    Can’t wait to try this! Can you use a can of brown lentils? Or does that affect cooking time? Also can u sub fennel seeds for the bulb? If so how much?

    Love all of ur recipes!!!!