This delightful spicy side dish is one of my favorite new recipes for a vegetable side, thanks to my husband’s successful gardening. I’ve only really had experience with regular grocery store eggplants until this summer. These beautiful purple eggplants grow quite easily and plentifully. I’m all about ease when it comes to cooking. If possible, I first try for the simplest cooking process possible. If you've never had air-fried eggplant, this is your chance! This spicy air fryer Japanese Eggplant recipe is a super easy recipe and doesn’t require a lot of prep or cooking time and it’s just so delicious. That’s why I’m a huge fan. Even if you’re not a fan of eggplants and you like spicy food, you might finally enjoy this delicious recipe.
What is Japanese Eggplant?
Japanese eggplants are small eggplants that are long and skinny. They are semi-sweet and milder in flavor than standard grocery store globe eggplants. Apparently there are quite a few varieties of Japanese eggplants, as shown in this great article on Gardener’s Path, “21 of the best Japanese Eggplant Varieties.” I didn't even realize there were so many different types of eggplants, and more specifically, Japanese varieties, it's amazing. The type we are growing and use in this recipe are Nagasaki Long. Such eggplants can be used to make standard eggplant recipes, but I’ve only stir fried and air fried them as of yet.
Is Air Fryer Japanese Eggplant Healthy?
Japanese eggplants are packed full of antioxidants, Vitamin C, potassium and naturally low carb. That's why eggplants have become one of my favorite vegetables. Check out the Dr. Oz article, “Japanese Eggplant: The New 'It' Food.” It’s also low in fat and calories, so eat up that eggplant! This recipe has no carbs, low in fat and full of flavor! Try this air fryer version for an easy, delicious healthy and light side dish to add to your repertoire.
How to make Air Fryer Eggplant?
The beauty of this recipe and Japanese Eggplant is that there’s no need to drain out liquids or anything like that this recipe. The fresh eggplant cooks in the air fryer 2 times, a total of 16 minutes and it’s on the table in under 30 minutes, thanks to the air fryer.
After you wash your eggplants, first thing is to cut the tops off and air fry them in a preheated air fryer for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. While you’re waiting for the eggplant to air fry this first time around, prepare your Asian inspired dressing. Mix together the rice vinegar, Chili Garlic Sauce, Sesame oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and half the chopped green onion.
Cutting & Dressing the Eggplant
Once the first cook is complete and the eggplants are cool enough to handle without scorching your hands, cut a slit lengthwise about ¾ of the way through so that you can open up the slit and flatten the eggplants with the back of a fork or spoon. This will make one large piece of eggplant vs 2 very small skinny pieces that will be harder to handle going in and out of the air fryer. Then generously brush the dressing on the “meat” of the eggplant area that you just exposed. Spray a little bit of avocado oil (or olive oil) on the air fryer basket to keep them from sticking. Gently place the eggplants as a single layer, skin side on the basket/rack of your air fryer and air fry another 6 minutes or until it’s cooked to your liking. If you over-cook this eggplant it will become tough and kind of rubbery. I think it’s best when the fleshy part is still a little soft and not dried out. Lastly, carefully remove the eggplants with tongs and enjoy immediately. I sometimes cut the eggplant into bite size pieces so it’s easier to enjoy. You can also dip your pieces into the spicy dressing if you have some leftover.
Can I only use Japanese Eggplants?
I cannot guarantee the cook on this recipe if you use anything other than a long slender eggplant. Their texture, skin and size are vastly different. Also, standard store eggplants can have a bitter taste if not prepared properly. As mentioned above, there are many variations of Japanese eggplants, so any that are long and skinny should work well for this recipe.
Spicy Air Fryer Japanese Eggplant Ingredients
- Japanese Eggplants- For best results, use any Japanese variety eggplants that are skinny and long. We happen to be growing Nagasaki Long.
- Rice Vinegar- I usually use seasoned rice vinegar which I always have in my refrigerator.
- Chili Garlic Sauce- I like to use Tuong Ot Toi Viet-Nam Chili Garlic Sauce. It's actually a Vietnamese style spicy garlic sauce that's made with red chili peppers. It definitely adds a bit of heat and it's the best part of the spicy dressing.
- Sesame oil- 100% pure
- Soy sauce- You can use tamarind if that’s your preference.
- Fish sauce- you can substitute with oyster sauce if that’s what you have on hand.
- Sugar- I just use standard granulated sugar, but you can substitute with honey or your preferred sweetener.
- Green onions- chives are great too, even better if you have it because of their size!
Optional Simple Ingredients to Add On
- Sesame Seeds- they are great to sprinkle on for looks and to add that little bit of sesame flavor before serving
- Lemon Juice- If you don't have rice vinegar and need to add that little bit of acid to your dressing, you can substitute the rice vinegar with lemon juice
- More Chili Garlic Sauce- If you like your vegetables extra spicy, go ahead and add more of this sauce than I suggested. I personally think it's well balanced this way, but go crazy if you require more heat!
Spicy Air Fryer Japanese Eggplant (Easy & Healthy)
- 3 Japanese Eggplants washed & unpeeled
- 1 tablespoon Rice Vinegar
- ½ tablespoon Chili Garlic Sauce like Tuong Ot Toi Viet-Nam
- ½ tablespoon 100% pure Sesame oil
- 2 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 green onions green parts only, finely chopped and divided in half
- Cut only tops off eggplants
- Air fry eggplants at 380 degrees for 10 mins, flip them half way through (If your air fryer does not have a pre-heat function, pre-heat for 3 minutes)
- While the eggplants are cooking, prepare dressing: In a small bowl, mix together rice vinegar, chili garlic sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and half of your chopped green onion.
- Once eggplant is cool enough to touch, transfer eggplants to a cutting board and grab some tongs. Trust me, you'll want them. Cut the eggplant lengthwise, just about ¾ of the way through (Not all the way through) to keep eggplant as 1 piece. Spread open the middle of the eggplant and flatten with a spoon or fork.
- Very lightly sprinkle just a touch of salt on the eggplant, then brush dressing generously onto the meat of the eggplant. (You will have a bit of dressing leftover and that will be used to baste onto the eggplant half-way through final cook and you can add more on before serving or serve some with the eggplant as a little dip.)
- Spray basket of air fryer with cooking oil (I prefer using avocado oil), then place eggplants back into air fryer, open side up.
- Raise Air fryer temp to 400 and air fry eggplants for 6 minutes, halfway through pause the air fryer and brush on more dressing.
- Remove eggplants from air fryer and enjoy immediately or cool enough to not scald your mouth. Serve with remaining green onion and remaining dressing.