When I tell people where I am from, usually, the first thing that they tell me is that they love Turkish Food. Most of the time, they had it or heard good things about it and want to try it.
As I was recently in Turkey, I thought about putting some of the most popular Turkish dishes on my blog.
This, Stuffed Eggplant dish, is one of them. Its Turkish name is karniyarik. Essentially, it is made by roasting (or frying) eggplants, opening their belly area, and stuffing with a ground beef mixture mixed with tomatoes and peppers.
As usual, one of my mother’s best friends, Sevil, graciously helped me make it.
Well… I will be honest. She made it. I helped. We not only had a fantastic time together but also, ended up with a fantastic dish.
Karniyarik is one of the staple dishes of the Ottoman Cuisine. In general, eggplant and eggplant dishes are BIG in our cuisine. If you ever come across with an Ottoman Cuisine cookbook, you will see several recipes that use them as the main ingredient. They say, in Ottoman Cuisine, there are more than 280 original recipes made from eggplant.
This dish kept its popularity over the years and, is still one of the most cooked dishes to this day in Turkey. Especially during summer times, when aubergines are in their peak season.
As most kids grew up in Turkey, I ate this dish many times during hot summer months. That is why I associate Karniyarik with brutally hot summer days of Bursa, where I grew up.
Karniyarik – Fried vs Roasted Eggplants
In the original recipe, eggplants are supposed to be fried. However, since I am not a big fan of fried food, I was hesitant about putting it in my blog as a favorite dish. Thanks to Sevil’s geniusness, this version is made by roasting eggplants rather than frying them.
She places them on a gas stove and turns them over as they roast. Of course, you can also grill them when you have the grill on.
The secret here is to cook/grill them in an open fire. As they roast, the soften and as a result, it gets easier to peel them.
Once they are softened, you can peel them under cold running water and set aside.
The Ground Beef Mixture for Stuffed Eggplant
As the eggplants are roasting, make the ground beef sauce:
- Heat a combination of butter and olive oil in a large skillet.
- Add in onions, peppers, ground cumin, and ground beef. Cook until onions are softened and the beef is no longer pink.
- Add in garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Stir tomatoes, bring it to a boil and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- When cooked, stir in a cup of chopped parsley and set it aside.
Preparing The Eggplants For Filling
When the eggplants are cooled, place them in an ovenproof 9X13 casserole dish. Be sure to leave the stems intact.
Using a spoon, gently create a large pocket in the “belly” of each eggplant.
Stuff each belly with the ground beef mixture by letting it mound through the slit.
Garnish each stuffed eggplant with a slice of tomato and a small pepper.
Simple Tomato Sauce for Eggplant Ground Beef Recipe
Right before baking it in the oven, make a quick tomato sauce by mixing a tablespoon of tomato paste with water. Drizzle it evenly over the eggplants.
This is done to make sure (1) they don’t dry during the baking process and (2) there is some liquid (to steam) in the oven.
Cover it with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 15 minutes and then remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes.
Sprinkle them with fresh parsley as soon as they come out of the oven.
What To Serve with This Karniyarik Recipe:
It is customary to serve this karniyarik recipe with bulgur pilaf and tzatziki on the side. However, you can also serve it with lemon quinoa or a simple green salad like this Brussels sprout kale salad recipe.
Storage, Making Ahead, and Freezing:
You can make this Turkish Stuffed Eggplant recipe up to the point where you bake it, cover it with stretch film, and keep in in the fridge to bake it on the next day. Just make sure that it cools down a bit before you place it in the fridge.
You can also freeze it at that stage. If you do so:
- Be sure to bring it to room temperature.
- Cover it tightly to prevent freezer burn.
Thaw it in the fridge a day before you are ready to serve it.
Other Turkish Recipes You Might Like:
More Eggplant Recipes You Might Also Like:
Stuffed Eggplant (Karniyarik)
- 6 eggplants preferably similar in size
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1/2 lb ground beef 80/20
- 1 medium-size green bell pepper seeded and chopped (more for decorating, if desired)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 4 cloves of garlic thinly chopped
- 1 cup of diced tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup Italian Parsley chopped, more as a garnish
- 1 large tomato sliced to use as garnish
- 1 cup hot water
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
To Roast The Eggplant:
- Place eggplants on a gas stove (as shown in the photos). Roast, by turning regularly, until fully softened. Depending on the size, you can roast 2-3 of them at the same time.
- Place them on to a plate and set aside to cool.
- When cool enough to handle, gently peel them under cold running water. Be sure to preserve the flesh as much as possible and only peel the black skin.
- Place the now-eggplants in an oven-proof large casserole dish (I used a 9x13 pyrex) side by side.
To Make The Meat Sauce:
- Heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the onion, pepper, ground cumin, and ground beef until softened, for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
- Pour in the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the meat is fully cooked.
- Stir in a cup of chopped parsley and set it aside to cool.
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Using a knife, gently cut a small opening in the "belly" of each eggplant. Fill the opening of each eggplant with the meat mixture letting it mound through the slit.
- Slice the tomato into 6 thin slices and place one slice on top of each eggplant.
- Make a quick tomato sauce by whisking together tomato paste and water.
- Drizzle the stuffed eggplants evenly with the mixture.
- Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes.
Storage, Making Ahead, and Freezing:You can make this Turkish Stuffed Eggplant recipe up to the point where you bake it, cover it with stretch film, and keep in in the fridge to bake it on the next day. Just make sure that it cools down a bit before you place it in the fridge. You can also freeze it at that stage. If you do so: Be sure to bring it to room temperature and cover it tightly to prevent freezer burn. Thaw it in the fridge a day before you are ready to serve it.
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This recipe was originally published in July 2013 but updated with helpful notes in June 2020.