Thai basil eggplant is a fast and easy vegetable side dish with deep Thai flavors. Tender Chinese eggplants are stir-fried with spicy Thai chili peppers in an umami-rich and subtly sweet garlic and basil sauce.

Follow our tips and tricks to cook perfectly tender and beautifully colored eggplant every time. This dish pairs well with a bowl of steamed rice.

Image shows Thai basil eggplant coated with sweet basil sauce, served with rice in a blue white color bowl.

Ingredients

This simple Thai eggplant recipe—called pad ma keur in Thai—uses few but flavorful ingredients to develop a beautifully balanced Thai flavor palate. We will need eggplant and some aromatics for the Thai eggplant basil stir-fry and some Asian pantry staples for the umami-rich sauce.

Image shows eggplants, Thai basil, sauce, and seasonings to make the dish.
  • Chinese eggplant: Or use Thai or Japanese eggplant. The color will be slightly different depending on which you use. Scroll down for tips on using Italian eggplant.
  • Distilled vinegar: Used to pre-soak the eggplants, which keeps them from absorbing too much oil and becoming dark in color during cooking.
  • Tapioca starch: Or use cornstarch or arrowroot. Used to lightly dust the eggplant after soaking.
  • Avocado oil: Or any neutral-flavored oil.
  • Garlic
  • Thai bird’s eye chili peppers: Or substitute red Fresno or serrano peppers.
  • Thai basil leaves: If you can’t find Thai basil (also called holy basil), use Italian. You’ll need a larger amount of Italian basil as the flavor is more mild.

For the sauce:

  • Oyster sauce: Or try my homemade vegetarian oyster sauce.
  • Fish sauce: An authentic Thai ingredient for building depth of flavor.
  • Light soy sauce: Or use coconut aminos or tamari for gluten-free.
  • Brown sugar: Used to balance the saltiness of the other ingredients. Omit if you used coconut aminos, which are naturally sweeter than soy sauce.

Can I use Italian eggplants?

Yes. Italian eggplants or graffiti eggplants can be a good substitute for this Thai spicy eggplant recipe if you can’t find Chinese, Thai, or Japanese eggplants. Just keep a few things in mind:

  • Cooking Time: Italian eggplants need a bit more time to cook. Sauté them until they turn soft before adding the garlic and sauce.
  • Flavor: Italian eggplants are less sweet and have thicker skin. Add a little more sugar to the sauce to balance out its slight bitterness when using it in an Asian eggplant basil recipe.
  • What not to use: Globe eggplants are not recommended as the skin is too thick and the flavor is more bitter.

Variations

  • Seasonings: Adjust the flavor with gluten-free hoisin sauce (for more sweetness) or Taiwanese thick soy sauce (for a less fishy umami flavor).
  • Add tofu puffs: Tofu puffs are fried tofu pieces with a spongy texture. It’s a popular ingredient to add to stir-fries, especially in vegetarian cuisine.
  • Add shiitake: Use either fresh or rehydrated dried shiitake mushrooms for added texture and umami flavor to the Thai eggplant and basil sauce.

How to cook Thai eggplant stir fry with basil

As with any stir fry, make sure your ingredients are prepped in advance for fast cooking. Here are the step-by-step instructions for this beautiful eggplant Thai basil stir fry.

Person demos how to prepare Asian eggplants before cooking.

Eggplant prep:

  1. Rinse and Trim: Slice off the tips and then rinse and drain the eggplants. Slice them into 2.5-inch sections then quarter each section lengthwise.
  2. Soak the eggplant: Fill a large bowl with tap water. Use a plate to keep the eggplant submerged in the water for 10 minutes.
  3. Dry and coat the eggplant: Pat them dry and toss with starch.
  4. Aromatics and sauce: Mince the garlic and dice the chili peppers. Mix the sauce in a small bowl.
Person demos how to make Thai basil eggplant.

Cook eggplants:

  1. Cook the eggplant: Heat the oil in a large saute pan or wok, add the eggplants and spread them out into a single layer over medium-high heat. Pan-fry the first side and then flip to finish cooking.
  2. Season the eggplant: Add the garlic and chili, and toss well. Pour in the sauce and toss in the basil. Stir and turn off the heat.
  3. Garnish and serve: Transfer to a large serving plate. Top the eggplant with Thai basil. Serve hot or warm with a bowl of steamed rice.

    Cooking eggplant with less oil

    Eggplants have a spongy texture that loves soaking up oil and sauces. You might have noticed that Chinese eggplants start with a beautiful light purple color, but they often turn dark and blackish once cooked. Here’s an easy fix for these issues:

    Soak the Eggplants:

    1. Vinegar Water Solution: Soak the eggplants in a vinegar water solution for 10 minutes. This helps preserve their beautiful purple color after cooking.
    2. Less Oil Absorption: Soaking also helps the eggplants absorb less oil later on.

    Don’t worry—pre-soaking won’t make the eggplants soggy. My Chinese Eggplant with Garlic Sauce uses this same technique, and just look at how vibrant they turn out!

    Make ahead, store, and reheat

    This dish comes together quickly, so it’s best to prepare the eggplants right before cooking.

    • Pre-soaking the Eggplants: Pre-soak the eggplants right before you cook to ensure the best texture.
    • Storing: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
    • Reheating: Reheat in a pan over medium heat or microwave until warmed through. You might need to add a splash of water to keep the sauce from drying out.

    What to serve with eggplant stir fry

    This stir-fried eggplant and Thai basil recipe is a delightful addition to any Asian-style meal! It pairs beautifully with jasmine rice. Round out your meal with a fresh veggie salad and a protein side.

    Umami Tips

    • Select Fresh Eggplants: Choose firm, glossy eggplants without any soft spots or blemishes. Fresh eggplants will have the best texture and flavor.
    • Pre-soak with Vinegar Water: Soak eggplants in a vinegar water solution for 10 minutes right before cooking. This preserves their purple color and helps them absorb less oil.
    • Use a Large Pan: A 12-inch or larger pan prevents overcrowding, allowing the eggplants to cook evenly.
    • Adjust Cooking Time for Eggplant Types: If using Italian eggplants, cook them longer until they soften. Adjust the sauce by adding a bit more sugar to balance their bitterness.
    • Fresh Thai Basil: Use fresh Thai basil for a stronger fragrance and flavor. If using Italian basil, increase the quantity and reduce cooking time.

    FAQs

    Can I make this dish vegan?

    Yes! Substitute the fish sauce with vegan fish sauce and use vegetarian oyster sauce to make this Thai eggplant with basil recipe vegan.

    What other vegetables can I use in this stir fry?

    Try adding bell peppers, zucchini, or mushrooms for extra flavor and texture in this Thai aubergine recipe.

    Can I make this dish ahead of time?

    Yes, but cook the eggplants right before serving to keep them from becoming soggy.

    How do I keep the eggplant from getting soggy?

    Pre-soak the eggplants for 10-15 minutes in a vinegar water solution, then dust with starch before cooking this Thai brinjal recipe.

    More Asian eggplant recipes you might like

    We hope you enjoyed this Thai eggplant dish! Here are some more recipes featuring this versatile and delicious veggie, also known as the aubergine or brinjal.

    A side close shot shows buttery soft Thai eggplants coated with sweet basil sauce in a bowl.
    Recipe image shows Thai eggplants stir fried with fresh basil, served with rice in a bowl.
    5 from 1 vote

    Thai basil eggplant recipe

    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Cook Time: 15 minutes
    Total Time: 30 minutes
    Servings: 4 servings
    Author: ChihYu Smith
    You'll love this bold flavored Thai basil eggplant! This fast and easy vegetable side dish is packed with umami and sweet garlic basil sauce.
    Print Pin Rate

    Ingredients 

    • 16 oz Chinese eggplant, 3 long ones, or Thai eggplant (makhuea)
    • 3.5 cups room temperature water
    • 3.5 tbsp distilled vinegar
    • 2.5 tbsp tapioca starch, or arrowroot or potato starch
    • 3.5 tbsp avocado oil
    • 0.75 oz Garlic, 6 cloves, finely minced
    • 2 whole Thai bird’s eye chili, or 1 medium red fresno, serrano peppers
    • 0.5 oz Thai basil, or 0.6 oz Italian basil (a little over 1 cup loosely packed), plus more for garnish

    Sauce:

    • 1.5 tbsp Oyster sauce, or Vegetarian oyster sauce
    • 1 tbsp Fish sauce
    • 1 tbsp light soy sauce, or 2 tbsp coconut aminos
    • 1.5 tsp brown sugar, omit if using coco aminos
    • 1 tbsp water

    Instructions 

    Eggplant prep:

    • Slice off the tip ends of the eggplants. Rinse, drain, and slice it crosswise into 2.5-inch sections then quarter each section lengthwise.
    • In a large bowl, add the eggplants and fill the bowl with tap water. Place a plate up-side-down on top of the eggplants to help them submerge under the water. Soak for 10 minutes.
    • After soaking, pat them dry and toss with starch.

    Aromatics and sauce:

    • In the meantime, finely mince the garlic. For small Thai chili peppers, you can either leave it in whole (less spicy) or remove the seeds and dice it. If using fresno or serrano peppers, remove the seeds and dice it.
    • Combine the sauce in a bowl.

    Cook eggplants:

    • Preheat a large saute pan or wok pan over medium heat until it feels hot, add 3 tbsp oil. Swirl it around then add the eggplant.
    • Turn heat up to medium-high. Add the eggplants and spread them out into a single layer. Pan fry the first side for 3 minutes. Flip the eggplants and add the remaining 0.5 tbsp oil. Fry for another 2 minutes. Ensure all sides are cooked evenly and the eggplants turn into a softer texture.
    • Add the garlic and chili, toss for 10 seconds then pour in the sauce and finally toss in the basil. Toss everything together for 30 seconds and turn off the heat.

    Serving:

    • Transfer them to a large serving plate. Garnish with more basil on top. Serve hot or warm with a bowl of steamed rice.

    Notes

    • If using Italian eggplants (graffiti eggplants), extend cooking time and saute until the eggplants turn softer before adding the garlic and the sauce.
    • Italian eggplants taste less sweet and have thicker skin than Chinese eggplants therefore add a bit more sugar to the sauce to compensate for the bitter flavor.
    • Make sure to use a large pan (12-inch or bigger) that can hold all the eggplants without overcrowding.
    • Thai basil has a sturdier texture and stronger fragrance. When using other types of basil (Italian basil), increase the quantity and shorten the cooking time to mimic the original flavor.
    • I recommend wearing disposable food gloves when handling chili peppers.

    Nutrition

    Serving: 1serving, Calories: 178kcal, Carbohydrates: 16g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9g, Sodium: 803mg, Potassium: 323mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 220IU, Vitamin C: 6mg, Calcium: 40mg, Iron: 1mg
    Course: Side Dish
    Cuisine: Thai
    Keyword: Thai basil eggplant, Thai basil eggplant stir fry, Thai spicy eggplant
    DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?Tag @iheartumami.ny on Instagram and hashtag it #iheartumami.

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