Baingan bharta is a popular Punjabi dish from the North Indian cuisine. It is made with a mash of roasted eggplant, onions, tomatoes, herbs and spices. The eggplants are roasted or grilled on direct flame or on red hot charcoal which gives them a smoky flavor and taste. I share a simply delicious family heirloom recipe that is not overloaded with spices so that the smoky flavors of the roasted eggplant and tanginess of the tomatoes come through in the dish.
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What is Baingan Bharta
Baingan Bharta is a popular North Indian Punjabi dish of smoky mashed eggplants in a sautéed, tangy, spiced base of onions, tomatoes, garlic, spices. The Hindi word Baingan means eggplant (or aubergine or brinjal) in English and Bharta means mashed.
You can compare baingan bharta to the Middle Eastern dish Baba Ganoush as the method of roasting eggplant is the same. But the seasonings, spices etc used are totally different and unique.
There are many regional Indian variations of making baingan bharta like the Maharashtrian Vangyache Bharit or Bihari baingan chokha or Tamilian kathirikai gothsu. The recipe that I have shared here is the Punjabi version that we make in our home.
We simply love this baingan ka bharta due to its simplicity and taste. I have learned this authentic Punjabi recipe from my mom-in-law who makes excellent Punjabi food.
How is Eggplant Bharta made
1. Roasting and mashing or chopping cooked eggplant
To make baingan bharta eggplants are roasted on a direct flame on a gas stovetop or on a bed of hot charcoal or in a tandoor. Later the charred skin is peeled and the aubergines are mashed.
In Punjab, the eggplant is often roasted in the tandoor. As a result, it would get infused with the distinct smoky charcoal aroma. This is not possible nowadays as we do not have charcoal-based tandoors or charcoal burners in our kitchens.
Roasting on a direct flame infuses a smoky flavor in the eggplant. You will only get this smoky aroma and flavor, when the eggplants are fire roasted on a stove-top and not grilled or baked in the oven. I have roasted eggplant in the oven once and the baingan bhartha did not have its distinct smoky flavor and taste.
In this recipe, I have also incorporated the dhungar method of infusing the smoky aroma of burnt charcoal. The method is shown in the step-by-step pictorial. However, this method is optional and you can easily skip it.
2. Cooking in onion-tomato masala
Later the mashed eggplant is added to a sauteed mixture of onions, tomatoes, garlic, spices and cooked further.
Tomatoes give a nice tang in this recipe and harmonizes with the sweetness of the onions and eggplant. Garlic also adds a lot of depth and flavor to this simple comforting baingan ka bharta.
I usually make the dish this way but I have also experimented by adding ground spices like turmeric powder, coriander powder, garam masala powder etc.
One point, I have observed is that the smoky aroma and flavor of the eggplant comes out very distinctly in this simple recipe where fewer ground spices are used.
But if you like a more bolder version of baingan bharta, then add your favorite Indian ground spices to it.
How to make Baingan Bharta
I share a method which I implement when roasting the brinjal. Using this method, you can be almost sure of not having any worms in the brinjal prior to roasting.
1. Rinse the baingan (eggplant or aubergine) in water. Pat dry with a kitchen napkin. Cut the eggplant from its base up-to an inch away from the stem without breaking it apart.
Cut on four sides or directions as shown in the photo below. The eggplant has to be whole when you place it on the stove-top. So remember to cut gently.
2. Gently pull apart.
3. Open the cut parts slightly more and check for worms or any black spots. Discard the eggplant if you see any worms in it.
4. If the eggplant looks clean and without worms, you can proceed further. Optionally rub a bit of oil all over it.
Keep it for roasting on direct flame on the stove-top. Keep the flame to medium-low or medium. You could also embed some garlic cloves in the eggplant prior to roasting it.
I place a round metal rack on the stove-top burner and place the eggplant on it. You can use a metal baking rack but make sure the metal won’t melt while roasting.
Note that as the eggplant cooks some of the juices and drippings will fall which you can wipe later. I don’t recommend placing or covering the sides of the stove-top with aluminum foil as they can burn and be dangerous.
You can also grill the brinjal or roast it in the oven. But then do keep in mind that you won’t get the smoky flavor in the eggplant.
5. With the help of tongs, keep turning the eggplant after 2 to 3 minutes on the flame, so that it is evenly cooked.
6. Roast the aubergine till it’s completely cooked and tender. With a knife or fork check the doneness. The knife should slide easily in eggplant without any resistance.
7. Remove the eggplant and immerse in a bowl of water till it cools.
Smoking Eggplant (Optional)
8. You can opt to do this dhungar technique of infusing charcoal smoky flavor in the eggplant. This is an optional step and increases the smokiness in the dish. But it is not an essential step and even without doing this step you will still get a delicious baingan ka bharta.
Use natural charcoal for this method. Heat a small piece of charcoal on flame till it becomes smoking hot and red.
4. Make small cuts on the roasted baingan with a knife. Place the red hot charcoal in the same plate where the roasted aubergine is kept. Add a few drops of oil on the charcoal. The charcoal would begin to smoke.
5. As soon as smoke begins to release from the charcoal, cover the entire plate tightly with a large bowl. Allow the charcoal smoke to get infused in the eggplant for 1 to 1.5 minutes. I just keep for a minute.
Alternatively, you can also do this dhungar method once the baingan bharta is cooked.
6. Now whether you have smoked the eggplant with charcoal or not, let it cool at room temperature. When cooled, peel the charred skin from the eggplant. You can rinse the eggplant in water if you prefer.
You can also scoop the eggplant flesh with a spoon instead of peeling the charred skin.
7. Chop the cooked eggplant. The water that you see are the juices of the roasted eggplant. If you see plenty of seeds in the cooked eggplant, then remove and discard them.
Making Baingan ka Bharta
8. In a kadai or pan or skillet heat 2 tablespoons oil. You can use peanut oil or sunflower oil or mustard oil. Sometimes I make the bharta in mustard oil which gives the dish its unique pungent taste.
Then add finely chopped 1 medium-sized onion (about ½ cup finely chopped onion). Also, add finely chopped 5 to 6 medium garlic cloves (about 1 heaped teaspoon of finely chopped garlic).
9. Sauté the onions till they soften and turn translucent, stirring often. Don’t brown them.
10. Add 1 chopped green chili (about ½ teaspoon of chopped green chillies) and mix. At this point you can add a pinch of asafoetida (hing), if you prefer. But if you follow a gluten-free diet, omit adding the asafoetida.
11. Add finely chopped 2 medium to large tomatoes (about 1 cup finely chopped tomatoes). Mix very well.
12. Sauté the tomatoes until the oil starts separating from the mixture. You have to keep on stirring often when sautéing tomatoes.
The tomatoes have to become softened, pulpy and you should see oil releasing from the sides.
13. Now add ¼ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne. Stir and mix well.
14. Add the chopped or mashed eggplant.
15. Combine, stir and mix the mashed eggplant very well with the onion-tomato masala mixture. Season with salt as per taste.
17. Sauté baingan bharta stirring often for about 4 to 5 minutes on low to medium-low heat.
18. The baingan bharta is ready. Finally stir in 1 tablespoon coriander leaves or garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
Serve baingan ka bharta with phulka or chapati or paratha. It goes well even with bread, toasted or grilled bread and plain steamed rice or jeera rice.
You can also serve it as a side veggie dish with any North Indian meal.
Expert Tips for Best Baingan Bharta
Picking up the right type of eggplant
The brinjal that is used to make bharta is the large dark purple variety of brinjal. This brinjal has more flesh and fewer seeds. Try to get an eggplant which is large and with a smooth skin.
The eggplant should feel light in your hands. Lightweight brinjal will have fewer seeds as compared to a heavy brinjal which will have ripe seeds and this may spoil the taste of the bhartha.
Secondly also check that there is no crack or hole in the skin. This would mean that some worm has gone inside the baingan.
Fire roasting eggplant
Roasting eggplant in a direct flame gives a really good smoky aroma and taste to the bharta. While roasting, keep on turning the brinjal after some minutes. This will ensure that the eggplant is cooked properly.
To check if the eggplant is cooked properly or not, pierce a knife or fork through it from a couple of sides. If it slides smoothly without any resistance, the eggplant is cooked well.
Best way to roast eggplant
- Firstly rinse eggplant with water and pat dry. Keep the stem as with the help of the stem you can turn the eggplant.
- Then give a cross slit from the bottom to the top and check for worms. Now you can roast the eggplant in direct flame.
- Keep flame to medium or medium-low. Take care while turning the eggplant. Use tongs to turn over the eggplant. Be careful while roasting.
- Turn the eggplant after every 2 to 3 minutes on the flame, so that its evenly cooked.
- Spread some oil on the eggplant before roasting. You can even skip this step.
- Optionally, embed a few garlic cloves in the eggplant before roasting for more flavors.
Roasting eggplant in the oven
For roasting eggplant in an oven, preheat oven at 180 degrees celsius for 10 minutes. Rinse and then cut into two parts vertically or quarter the eggplant. You can even keep the eggplant whole if you want.
If keeping whole, then give some slits on the eggplant with a knife. Line an aluminium foil or parchment on a baking tray. You can also spread some oil on the eggplant pieces. Place the chopped side of the eggplant facing down and touching the parchment or foil.
Keep the tray in the center of your oven or near the top heating element. At 180 Degrees celsius bake or roast eggplant for 25 to 35 minutes or more time till the pulp has become mushy and smooth.
Then later cool the eggplant and peel. Mash and use in the recipe. Do note that you won’t get the smoky aroma when roasting eggplant in an oven.
Cooking eggplant in a pan
For cooking on stove-top, add the chopped eggplants in a pan. Add water just about covering the eggplants. Cover and cook till the eggplant pieces have softened.
Then drain all the water very well and mash the cooked eggplant. You can also add a bit of salt when cooking the eggplant pieces. Also do note that cooking eggplant in water won’t give it any smoky aroma and flavor.
Checking for worms
Sometimes even despite your best efforts and intention, you may find a worm in the eggplant after roasting. If this happens, then discard the entire pulp and begin again.
To avoid this happening, you can also give a slit on the eggplant before roasting and check as I have shown above in the stepwise photo guide. But here too you can miss the worm if it is hidden in someplace not visible to the eye.
An alternative method is to chop the eggplants and roast them in an oven or cook eggplant pieces with some water in a pan. Mash later and make the bharta.
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- 1 eggplant – large purple variety known as bhartha baingan in India (aubergine or brinjal)
- ½ cup finely chopped onions or 1 medium sized onion
- 1 cup finely chopped tomatoes or 2 medium sized tomatoes
- 1 heaped teaspoon finely chopped garlic or 5 to 6 medium-sized garlic cloves
- ½ teaspoon chopped green chiles or serrano peppers or 1 green chilli
- ¼ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne or add as required
- 2 tablespoons oil – can use mustard oil or peanut oil or sunflower oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)
- salt as required
- Rinse the eggplant in water and then pat dry with a kitchen napkin. Cut the eggplant from its base up-to an inch away from the stem without breaking it apart.
- Cut on four sides or directions as shown in the step-by-step guide above. The eggplant has to be whole when you place it on the stove-top.
- Pull apart the cut sides gently and check for worms or any black spots. Discard the eggplant if you see any worms in it.
- If the eggplant looks clean and without worms, then proceed further. Optionally you can spread a light layer of oil all over it.
- Keep it for roasting on direct flame on the stove-top. Keep the flame to medium-low or medium.
- Note that as the eggplant cooks some of the juices and drippings will fall which you can wipe later. I don’t recommend placing or covering the sides of the stove-top burner with aluminum foil as they can burn and be dangerous.
- You can also grill the eggplant in the oven. But then do note that you won’t get the smoky flavor in the eggplant.
- Secure the eggplant between tongs and keep on turning it after 2 to 3 minutes on the flame, so that it is evenly cooked.
- Roast the eggplant till its completely cooked and tender. With a fork or knife check the doneness. The knife should slide easily in aubergine without any resistance. Remove the eggplant and immerse in a bowl of water till it cools.
Smoking Eggplant (Optional Step)
- You can also do the dhungar technique of infusing charcoal smoky flavor in the eggplant. This is an optional step. Use natural charcoal for this method. Carefully heat a small piece of charcoal on flame with the help of tongs or by placing it in a wired metal fire-proof rack above the flame, till it becomes smoking hot and red.
- Make small cuts on the roasted eggplant with a knife. Place the red hot charcoal in the same plate where the roasted aubergine is kept. Add a few drops of oil on the charcoal. The charcoal would begin to smoke.
- As soon as smoke begins to release from the charcoal, cover the entire plate tightly with a large bowl. Allow the charcoal smoke to get infused for 1 to 1.5 minutes.
- Alternatively, you can also do this dhungar method once the baingan bharta is cooked, just like the way we do for dal tadka.
- Whether you have charcoal smoked the eggplant or not, peel the charred skin when it cools. Chop finely or you can even mash it.
Making Baingan ka Bharta
- In a kadai or frying pan or skillet, heat oil. Then add finely chopped onions and garlic.
- Stirring often, sauté the onions till they soften and translucent. Don't brown them.
- Add chopped green chillies and chopped tomatoes. Mix well.
- Sauté the tomatoes stirring often, till the oil starts separating from the mixture. The tomatoes should become pulpy, soft and oil should release from the masala mixture.
- Now add the red chili powder. Stir and mix again.
- Add the chopped or mashed eggplant. Mix thoroughly.
- Season with salt. Stirring often saute for some 4 to 5 minutes on low to medium-low heat.
- Finally stir in the coriander leaves or garnish bharta with them. Serve baingan bharta with phulka, roti or chapati. It goes well even with bread, toasted or grilled bread and plain rice or jeera rice.
- You can also pair it with any North Indian meal or mains.
- Use the purple-colored large variety of eggplant having fewer seeds. When you hold the eggplant it should feel light. This is a sign that it has fewer seeds.
- To get the smoky flavor in the dish roast the eggplant on stovetop and not in the oven.
- Dhungar method is optional and increases the smokiness in the dish. But even without using the dhungar technique, the baingan bharta will still taste fabulous.
- Recipe can be doubled or tripled. When roasting more eggplants use the different burners of your stovetop.
- Mustard oil gives a really good taste and flavor. If you don’t like mustard oil then you can use any neutral oil.
Nutrition Info (Approximate values)
This Baingan Bharta recipe post from the blog archives (first published in August 2010) has been updated and republished on 24 June 2021.