Eggplant Dirty Rice


When I declared my pescatarianism last week, I was mostly being tongue-in-cheek because I was pretty sure it wouldn’t stick. I’m still not sure it’ll stick. But so far, it’s stuck, and at the same dinner party when I made that spring pea puree, I needed a vegetarian entree that would impress in a way that didn’t make anyone think: “Vegetarian entree.” Rifling through a recent Food & Wine, I found a recipe for David Kinch’s Eggplant Dirty Rice and thought: “Ooooh.” Once I made it, that “oooh” transformed into a “whoah.” This is powerful stuff, one of the best vegetarian dinners I’ve had in a long time.

What makes it so dazzling is how flavorful it is. The base is a classic New Orleans combination (one I learned about when I visited there a few years ago), the trifecta of onions, celery and green peppers.


Chop that all up while listening to show tunes.


Now chop a few cloves of garlic; I always use more than the recipe calls for, so instead of 3 cloves I used about 5. Oh and look there’s an eggplant.


We’ll get to the eggplant in a second. First, start cooking your onions, peppers and celery in canola oil with a big pinch of salt on medium heat. You’ll cook that for a while because you want it to a brown.

Now the eggplant. The recipe has you cube it and add it to the browned vegetables before adding soy sauce and vegetable broth. I decided it would develop more flavor to brown the eggplant in a separate pan first. This was a bold thing to do since the recipe’s creator, David Kinch, is at the helm of Manresa, one of the world’s best restaurants. But I like my eggplant browned.

So I cubed it:


Heated canola oil in a non stick skillet until very hot, added the eggplant, sprinkled with salt and tossed until it was nice and brown all over.


While that was happening, I ground black pepper and white pepper in a coffee grinder (way easier than grinding it by hand; you use a lot more pepper this way).


Ok, so when the peppers, onions and celery turned brown, I added the eggplant, dried thyme, the black pepper, the white pepper and cayenne pepper (be generous here with all of it, it’s where the flavor comes from), the garlic and tomato paste.


At this point, I realized that cooking the eggplant first made it mushy and it broke up as I stirred it in here. Doing it again, I might not do it my way after all. Because you’re supposed to cook it at this stage for 7 minutes but because it was already cooked, I didn’t do that.

Then you add soy sauce, scrape up the bottom bits…


…and if you want to do this all ahead you can stop here, add the rice and wait for the final step until 30 minutes before you want to serve your entree (17 minutes to cook it, 10 minutes to let it rest, 3 minutes to sing the “Green Acres” theme song).


That final step is really simple: add 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth, bring to a boil, cover with a lid and pop into a 350 oven for 17 minutes. When it comes out, it looks really incredible (as you can see at the top of this post). My friend Zach was drawn in by the aroma.


And the taste!

All of that pepper, all of that soy sauce, adds up to something truly enormous. It’s spicy, it’s zesty, it’s exciting. Plus: because of the eggplant, it’s substantive… it really feels like dinner. Which is a big compliment for a vegetarian entree.


So try it my way, browning the eggplant first, or do it the way you’re supposed to and I bet it will still come out great with firmer pieces of eggplant in the finished product. Just don’t be shy with the garlic or the pepper; and do as David says and serve it with hot sauce. This could also be a side dish for a larger dinner with some kind of meat or fish but, really, it works well as a vegetarian entree. I couldn’t stop eating it.

Recipe: Eggplant Dirty Rice

Summary: Adapted from David Kinch’s recipe from Food & Wine.


  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 2 medium green bell peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • Salt
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper (I used more, at least a whole teaspoon if not more)
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground white pepper (also: I used more, about a whole teaspoon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I used 5)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups medium-grain white rice
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • Hot sauce, for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Heat the oil in a Dutch Oven until very hot on medium/high heat; add the celery, peppers and onion, season with salt, stir, cover, lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes (until the onion is translucent). Uncover, turn up the heat to medium/high and cook until the vegetables are lightly browned, about 10 more minutes.
  2. While doing that, you can either brown the eggplant separately (see my post) or wait. When the vegetables are brown, add the eggplant, thyme, black and white peppers and cayenne and season with salt. Cook for 8 minutes until the eggplant is soft. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute more. Add the soy sauce and scrape the bottom of the pan. At this point, if you want to make this ahead, you can stir in the rice and turn off the heat and wait to do the final steps when your guests arrive (just not too far ahead because the soy sauce will eventually break down the rice; think: an hour or two).
  3. Add the vegetable broth, bring the mixture to a boil and pop into the oven for 17 minutes (or until the rice is just tender). Remove from the oven and let stand, covered, for 10 more minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and serve with the hot sauce.

Preparation time: 45 minute(s)

Cooking time: 17 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

27 thoughts on “Eggplant Dirty Rice”

  1. Sounds really good. I love eggplant but for some strange reason hardly make it. This sounds super easy and know I’m picking up an eggplant on the way home tonight as I already have all the other ingredients.

    Another great vegetarian eggplant dish you should try are the Quinoa Cakes with Eggplant Tomato Ragu from late and dearly lamented Gourmet magazine ( These are fantastic. I’ve made them a few times and everyone who has had them loved them – even picky eaters including kids. The cakes are crunchy outside and creamy inside and the sauce is so flavorful. Depending on the size you make your cakes, they can be either a fist course or main course. Also, all can be prepared ahead of time – quinoa cakes formed & sauce made – so you just have to cook the cakes & reheat the sauce if you have company and have dinner on the table in 15 minutes. I’ve even made just the ragu and used it with pasta.

    Change: Use 2 eggs to help bind the cakes/patties together better. I found this out making it the first time and, as you’ll see from the comments, others also found 2 eggs helped.

    Personal Changes: omitted the roasted red peppers (I find the flavor often takes over a dish) and substituted fresh mozzarella for the smoked.

  2. Vegetarians annoy their families and alienate their friends. We cannot idly sit by and watch you destroy your life…

    1. Try to expand your consciousness just a bit…it’s insular mentalities like this one that shut down diversity. Grow a little!

  3. you know the onions, celery and bell pepper is called the “holy trinity” in creole cooking…

  4. It seems it’s all about the ‘dirty food’ now. Just wondered what you thought of this article. : ) 012/dec/28/worst-idea-2012-gourmet-junk-food

  5. What do you think about brown rice? The cooking time would be more like 40-50 min I think. Healthier.

    1. Adam Amateur Gourmet

      I dunno, I’d try it the original way first and then noodle around with the rice…doesn’t sound as good with brown rice (in my opinion).

  6. Wish restaurants thought more along these lines…so often the chef has no repertoire outside of meat! It’s like their brain is stymied by the word “vegetarian”. All restaurants should offer at least one sincere vegetarian effort. It’s so easy and there are an entire world of amazing recipes like this one!

  7. This was my favorite dish growing up. In fact, it was my “birthday meal” – the meal I’d request each year on my birthday. Which shocks me as I was pickier then than I am now, and I never eat eggplant these days.

    This dish, though, YUM. I think I may have to make this. Thanks for such a great veggie recipe!

  8. YUM. I love this recipe and I didn’t even make it right. I rarely have celery or green peppers on hands because I’m not fond of it either one. but I had some fennel and a bag of those little sweet red orange and yellow peppers. so I used those. I skipped the garlic entirely. and I didn’t bother with the oven – just finished it on the stovetop. next time I might throw in some mushrooms. thanks a million Adam!!

  9. Sounds yummy and I’m planning to try it. However, as a vegetarian main dish it’s lacking in protein. I think it would be best if you included some mildly seasoned black beans on the side. Perhaps beans for the vegetarians and a bit of roast chicken for those who insist that every meal include meat.

  10. We had some vegetarian friends over last night and I served this! It was fantastic. I only browned the eggplant for 2-3 minutes to avoid the mushiness you spoke of, and it held together just fine. :) Thanks for the recipe, Adam!!! This one’s definitely a keeper.

    P.S. I also pre-salted my eggplant for about 20 minutes to remove the bitterness.

  11. Just tried the recipe and it turned out great – I added some thick cut bacon in it and it was just lovely. Thank you :)

  12. This looks incredible! I had a vegetarian month recently (allowed fish when out, but nothing pescy or meaty at home), and it made me realise that vegetarian mains are so good to have even once the month is finished. I also LOVE eggplant, so think I will be making this very soon! And the name is intriguing :)
    Thanks! – Kiran,

  13. That was awesome.
    Oh dear I made as Adam’s instructions here.
    It is perfect and I ate up full dish myself.
    This is best and fresh out of Adams great ideas.
    If you wish to eat eggplant vegetable this is by far the best way.

  14. Stephanie Doublait

    In a food slump, but I knew I could search your site for something tasty. This is exactly what I was looking for and I will be making it tomorrow :) Thanks

  15. Hello so I tried this recipe sort of this evening, wonderful. I had to do some serious modifications, not because of the recipes but we live very far away from a good grochery store so had to revise for supplies on hand. I used fresh parsley and fresh basil, alot of it in place of thyme, did the more garlic of 5 cloves. I chopped some jalapenos into it along with the bell. I have fresh tumeric root so I peeled and finely chopped some into it during the stirfry the onuons and peppers faze. And here is something I learned recently about eggplant and how to not get mushy bits. Thick slice or chop them, toss them with salt (I use sea salt) lay them in a single layer on paper towels for about 2 hours, tutning once. This sucks eccess juice from and reduces the amount of oil and water they soak in. For sure going to try this again closer to your recipe.

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