Air fryer Chinese eggplant
This air fryer Chinese eggplant is a fast and easy side dish. I’ll show you how to air fry Chinese eggplant with the best seasoning and technique. It’s crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Coated with sweet and tangy garlic sauce, it’s satisfying in every bite!
If you don’t have an air fryer, I’ve got you covered. Try my stovetop recipe – Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce. It’s equally garlicky and delicious!
Ingredients for air frying Chinese eggplant
Making Chinese eggplant in the air fryer is so easy, you’ll only need simple pantry ingredients.
- Chinese eggplant: Look for firm eggplants with shiny smooth skin and no bruises.
- Coarse sea salt: Use this or kosher salt to help sweat the eggplant.
- Tapioca starch: Coat eggplant with starch to give them a crispy texture.
- Avocado oil: A high smoke point and neutral flavored oil, good for air frying.
- Coconut aminos: A great soy sauce substitute that’s naturally sweet and less salty.
- Rice vinegar and aged balsamic vinegar: To add sweet and tangy flavors to the sauce.
- Garlic, Spring onions, Toasted white sesame seeds, and Thai chili pepper (optional).
Substitutions and variations
- Eggplant varieties such as Japanese eggplants are the best substitute. Other types like Italian, graffiti, or globe eggplants also air fries well. See more information below.
- You can use different starch like potato starch or arrowroot starch to coat the eggplant, or whey protein isolate for a low-carb coating.
- If using soy sauce, start with half the recipe quantity and a teaspoon of sugar to balance the salty flavor.
- Chinese vinegar: Replace the aged balsamic vinegar with Chinese black vinegar or Chinkiang vinegar for an authentic flavor.
- Oil: You can also use light olive oil to air fry the eggplant or drizzle it with toasted sesame oil.
- Try out different sauce variations to brush on the eggplant. Choose from chili garlic sauce, umami-filled sha cha sauce, 5 different flavors from hot pot dipping sauces, or vegan oyster sauce made with shiitake mushrooms.
Can I substitute Chinese eggplant for regular eggplant?
The best alternative to the Chinese variety is Japanese eggplant or Taiwanese eggplant, called ping tung long (image). Both of them have a firm texture, thin skin, fewer seeds, and are sweet and mild in flavor.
You can also use Italian or graffiti eggplants without having to remove the skin. Italian eggplants are less sweet so the flavor will be a little different but still tastes good.
American or globe eggplants have thicker skin so please remove the skin first. Follow my recipe to salt the eggplants before cooking so that they will taste less bitter and have a better exterior.
How to cook Chinese eggplant in air fryer
Cooking eggplant in an air fryer is a healthier way to enjoy eggplants with less oil and the texture is excellent — perfectly crispy eggplant with caramelized color and buttery soft on the inside.
- Cut the eggplant at an angle into 2-inch wedges. See the section on cutting eggplant below.
- (Optional) Sprinkle some salt over eggplants, ensuring it is evenly distributed. Leave for 15 minutes. This will allow the eggplant to sweat, improving its texture. Pat dry using a paper towel.
- In a large bowl, toss eggplant with oil before adding starch. Coat all sides evenly.
- Spray the air fryer basket with oil. Arrange eggplants in a single layer with space in between. Air fry at 400°F (204°C) for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, put the sauce together while waiting.
- Brush the sauce all over the eggplants and air fry for an extra 3 minutes. Allow eggplants to rest before serving.
- Brush with more sauce and garnish with green onion, sesame seeds, and chili peppers. Serve them hot with extra sauce on the side.
Tip: Chinese-type eggplants taste sweeter and less bitter than other types of eggplant so salting the eggplant isn’t necessary. However, it helps improve the exterior with a creamier taste.
How to cut Chinese eggplant for air frying
To get the best texture for air fryer Chinese eggplant, I use a simple technique called oblique cut as opposed to slices or rounds. It’s a great way to cut long veggies like zucchini, carrots, and cucumbers at an angle. It not only makes the food look better but also improves the texture.
- Hold your knife at an angle of about 45 degrees to the ingredient.
- Make the first cut near one end of the ingredient, about a little less than 2 inches per wedge. This should result in a piece with a diagonal or oblique end.
- Next, roll the ingredient a quarter of a turn (90 degrees). Make another cut at the same 45-degree angle, roughly the same width down as the length of the first piece.
- Keep turning and cutting the ingredient at a 45-degree angle until it’s all cut.
You can use the same knife cut for zucchini so it won’t turn mushy in an air fryer.
How to make-ahead, store, and reheat
If you want to save time, you can even make this air fryer eggplant dish ahead. Here’s how:
- Make-ahead: You can prepare the sauce and dice the garnishes ahead. When you are ready to cook, simply dice, season, and air fry the eggplant.
- Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. Enjoy them within 3 days.
- Reheat: To reheat, air fry at 380°F (193°C) for 4 to 5 minutes.
What to serve it with
This Chinese style dish can be paired with other air fryer recipes. Here are some ideas to help you start:
- Chicken pairings: This dish goes well with crispy air fryer lemon pepper wings and air fryer teriyaki chicken nuggets, perfect for a quick dinner or snacking!
- Pair with salmon: Serve it alongside air fryer teriyaki salmon for a healthy meal or fun-sized air fryer salmon bites.
- Keep it vegetarian: Pair air-fried eggplant with golden salt and pepper tofu air fryer and air fryer bok choy for a wholesome veggie meal.
- Choose fresh, firm eggplants. Choose eggplants that are firm to the touch and have smooth skin.
- Slice the eggplants a little larger into wedges about 1/2 inch in width. This ensures they won’t turn mushy in an air fryer. You can leave the skin on for added texture and nutrition.
- About salting the eggplant: Salting eggplant is optional. However, it helps to improve the texture with a creamier taste.
- Toss the eggplant with oil and starch. This helps the eggplant slices get crispy in the air fryer. You can use olive, avocado, sesame, or other high-heat oils.
- Temperature and cooking time: Air fry at 400°F for 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway through. Check for doneness and crispness.
- Season the eggplant using a brush. A sweet and savory glaze or sauce adds lots of flavor. The eggplants are soft so use a brush to season the eggplant.
- Allow moisture to evaporate before removing the eggplants from the air fryer basket. When it’s done cooking, allow the eggplants to rest inside the air fry basket by the kitchen counter for 1 minute before transferring them onto a serving plate. This will prevent the eggplants from sticking to the air fryer basket.
Yes, you can put eggplant in the air fryer. Slice the eggplant, lightly toss with oil and starch, and air fry at 400°F (204°C) for 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway through. This results in crispy exteriors with tender interiors. Adjust timing based on slice thickness and desired crispness.
Chinese eggplant has thinner skin and sweeter, more tender flesh than regular (globe) eggplant. It’s less bitter and has fewer seeds. However, the choice between them often depends on the specific dish or personal preference. Some might prefer the meaty texture of globe eggplants, while others favor the delicate nature of the Chinese variety.
Chinese style eggplants differ from Japanese in their slender shape, smaller size, thinner and more tender skin, less bitter taste, and fewer seeds. Both varieties are tender and have a mild flavor, but their skin thickness and color differentiate them.
Air fryer Chinese eggplant recipe
- 1 Spring onions, chopped
- Sprinkle Toasted white sesame seeds
- 3 whole Thai Red chili peppers, sliced, optional
- Cut the eggplant into wedges by first holding your knife at a 45-degree angle and making a 2-inch long cut. Then, continue to roll the ingredient 90 degrees and make cuts of the same width and angle until it is all cut.
- [Optional step] Place the eggplants over a sheet pan and sprinkle with ¼ tsp coarse salt. Use your hands to gently rub and distribute the salt in on all sides. Rest the eggplants for 15 minutes. They will sweat a bit.
- Pat dry the eggplants with paper towel and place them into a large mixing bowl. Toss with oil and make sure it’s coated on all sides, then add the starch 1 tablespoon a time until you finish all 2 tablespoons. Coat all sides evenly.
- Spray the air fryer basket with avocado oil, add the eggplants in a single layer. Leave some space between them. Spray with more oil on top. Air fry at 400F for 5 minutes.
- In the meantime, put the sauce together in a small bowl.
- After 5 minutes, remove the air fryer basket and brush the sauce all over the eggplants a few times. You’ll have extra sauce left. Save it for serving.
- Spray with another thin layer of oil on top and air fry for 3 minutes. When it’s done, allow the eggplants to rest inside of the air fry basket by the kitchen counter for 1 minute before transferring them onto a serving plate.
- Brush with more sauce. Garnish with scallions, sesame seeds, and chili peppers, if using. Serve with the extra sauce on the side. Best serve at room temperature while it’s still hot.
- Cut the eggplants to slightly larger, about 2-inch in width wedges, so that they won’t turn mushy after air frying. See the section above on how to cut Chinese eggplant.
- Chinese eggplants taste sweeter and less bitter than other types of eggplant so salting the eggplant isn’t necessary. However, it helps improve the texture with a creamer taste.
- Be gentle when you brush the eggplants with the sauce. They are quite delicate!
- See the section above on what other types of eggplants you can use.
- This Chinese-style air fryer eggplants are perfectly crisp and caramelized outside and soft and buttery inside. Very satisfying bites!
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