Cornmeal Crusted Eggplant Fries

Dinner, Sides, Snacks

I’ve hated eggplant since infancy, I swear, so the fact that you’re seeing little baked/fried matchsticks of eggplant right now is just crazy business. But here we are…just looking at eggplant.

The shift happened a few weeks ago when I went to my favorite vegan restaurant, which I sort of hate. I like/hate this restaurant. I sort of hate it and I sort of love it. This place is like no other restaurant I’ve ever been to. Each dish is an affirmation. Hold the phone, let me explain.

Every dish’s name is an affirmation. A vegan BLT isn’t just a vegan BLT, it’s actually a “I Am Humble.” So, in order for you to place your order you have to look at the server and say, “I would like the ‘I AM GORGEOUS'” and then the server looks at you and says, “YOU are gorgeous.”

This is when I vom. After you’re done ordering they tell you the philosophical question of the day. This is when (internally, of course!) I’m all like, Dude, listen, can you just give me my damn cashew cream, raw cold-ass vegan enchilada thing without talking to me about my inner spirituality and positivity or whatever, because seriously now I AM ANNOYED.

Okay so, why do I go back? Because it’s the best vegan food I’ve ever had. Ever! They served me an eggplant sandwich, which I ordered out of pure curiosity, knowing very well I hated the stuff. I figured if anybody could prepare an inherently gross vegetable in an awesome manner it was them. And I was soooo right.

Eggplant gets a bad rap. Mainly because eggplants can be bitter and slimy.

The eggplant I had at my love/hate restaurant was neither.

After a ton of eggplant research I found some solutions to both problems.

Slimy problem: People cook eggplant for too long. It should be cooked in the oven for about 20 minutes, max. It should be soft, but not, like, mushy and slimy.

Bitter problem: Salting the eggplant before and letting it stand for 25 minutes cures this. Salting the eggplant not only takes out the water and makes the eggplant firmer, but the salt actually suppresses the bitterness. (Here’s the NY Times bit I found that explains it further. Pretty interesting.)

Also, when buying eggplant, try to go for recently picked, young eggplants. Look for ones with fresh looking green tops and that are firm to the touch.

I prepared these eggplant two ways: fried and baked. Obviously the fried tasted better. I mean, that’s a no-brainer, but I know that most of the human population hates frying things, so I figured I’d try it both ways.

I’ve included directions for both below. Disclaimer: The baked fries won’t be totally golden brown. Most of the ones pictured are fried. There’s a paler one mixed in there–that’s the baked one. But no biggie! You choose. You’re the boss!

And since every type of fry needs a dipping sauce, I whipped up this super-quick and easy sorta spicy tomato sauce. I did this all while a batch of fries were baking.

Like vegetable fries? Me too. Here’s a few more that are on this blog:

Zucchini Fries

Portobello Fries

Polenta Fries (not really a vegetable, but you know, whatever.)

Baked Green Bean Fries

Avocado Fries

Cornmeal Crusted Eggplant Fries

Print this recipe!

Eggplant Fries:
1 eggplant, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 large eggs, beaten

Quick Tomato Sauce:
1/4 yellow onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves
1 (14-ounce) can of diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

To bake the fries:

1. Lay eggplant matchsticks, in a single layer, on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and let stand for 25 minutes. At the 25-minute mark, pat dry with paper towels.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, cornmeal, breadcrumbs, crushed red pepper, garlic powder and oregano. Crack two eggs in a small bowl and beat.

3. One by one, dip the eggplant sticks in the beaten eggs, and transfer to the bread crumb mixture, being sure to coat the eggplant thoroughly. Place the bread crumb covered eggplant on a baking sheet and bake for 20-23 minutes, flipping them at the 15 minute mark.

To fry:

1. In a cast iron skillet, add enough vegetable oil so it reaches about 3 inches up the sides. Heat oil to 350 degrees F. Gently transfer bread crumb coated eggplant to the hot oil and fry on each side for about a minute, or until golden brown. Using tongs, take them out of the oil and place on a bed of paper towels to drain.

For tomato sauce:

1. To make the tomato sauce, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a skillet. Throw in diced onion, and cook until translucent, about 7 minutes. Place garlic atop onions and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the can of diced tomato and stir. Add the crushed red pepper and oregano. Next, salt to taste. Bring tomato mixture to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, until mixture is reduced. Carefully add to a blender and blend until sorta smooth, about 30 seconds. Serve with eggplant fries.

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  • Reply Averie @ Averie Cooks April 25, 2012 at 2:26 am

    You made these look amazing! Yes on the bitter and slimy, or rubbery, or just about any cooking problem that can happen with eggplant, I do it. I have to try this method!

  • Reply Sophie April 25, 2012 at 2:50 am

    Oh, this is genius. Eggplant is my favourite food and my husband’s least favourite, so I try to trick it into him by frying it and covering it with baked cheese. This sounds like a far better alternative! I also really want to go to the restaurant you were talking about with my most cynical friends and watch them squirm.

  • Reply Sell WoW Account April 25, 2012 at 3:07 am

    by the looks of the finished product, it can trick me into eating eggplant because it looks really good!

  • Reply Nicole Leigh April 25, 2012 at 3:09 am

    Oh man, I feel the same way about my favorite vegan restaurant. “Fabulous Mongolia” and “Passion Fries” etc., but I keep going back because the food is AMAZING.

    Also- can’t wait to try these eggplant fries, thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar April 25, 2012 at 3:52 am

    What a great idea for a snack! Yum!

  • Reply Blog is the New Black April 25, 2012 at 4:13 am

    Ummmm, I think I love you.

  • Reply Hither and Thither Girls April 25, 2012 at 4:53 am



  • Reply elizabeth @ chronic venture April 25, 2012 at 5:18 am

    yummmmm-y. I will definitely have to try these! it’s like having a mini eggplant parmesan!

  • Reply Sue/the view from great island April 25, 2012 at 5:31 am

    I’m definitely going for the fried version, and I’m just curious about why you have to bake the eggplant first, wouldn’t the raw sticks cook enough in the hot oil? Anyway, they look awesome ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply Adrianna April 25, 2012 at 12:22 pm

      Oh no no. It’s either baked OR fried. Not both. I just know that a lot of people don’t like frying so I gave two cooking options.

  • Reply Shawna @ CheekyChicFamily April 25, 2012 at 5:41 am

    Oh man, that vegan joint would never make it here in the state of TX….well, maybe Austin…maybe. Some of the dishes should be affirmations like, “I love my third nipple”, or “my bad breath makes me who I am”. If people still order them it can be confirmed, the food is in fact awesome.

    • Reply Adrianna April 25, 2012 at 12:23 pm

      I love you.

  • Reply DessertForTwo April 25, 2012 at 6:32 am

    Hah! It sounds hilarious & delicious all at once. As hokey as it is, I think some people do need to say ‘I am gorgeous’ once a day!

    Shawna (from above)–you crack me up!

  • Reply Allyn April 25, 2012 at 6:55 am

    I will so be trying this! I made your green bean fries with burgers one night and my husband and I INHALED them. Like, I wish I had made another pound. Can’t wait for my green beans to grow so I can do them for free.

    • Reply Adrianna April 25, 2012 at 12:23 pm

      Your husband is cool. And I love those green bean fries.

  • Reply Sarah K. @ The Pajama Chef April 25, 2012 at 7:01 am

    ugh, i hate when really good restaurants make you do stupid stuff when ordering, or have really dumb names for dishes that you have to say. just call it what it is! ๐Ÿ™‚ and this is a great way to make eggplant… definitively trying it this summer!

  • Reply Nura @ The Happenstance Gourmande April 25, 2012 at 7:15 am

    What a great recipe! I bet this would also be good with all the tender, light purple and green eggplant that will be coming out this summer. I bet to make this vegan, you could swap out the egg for 1 tbsp of ground flax seed mixed with 3 tbsp of water, and would add an extra nuttiness. Can’t wait to try ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply Adrianna April 25, 2012 at 12:24 pm

      Fo’ sho! Or you can use some energy egg replacer.

  • Reply Emilie @ Emilie's Enjoyables April 25, 2012 at 8:58 am

    haha that restaurant sounds kind of funny. I would be totally annoyed by it too.

  • Reply Elisse April 25, 2012 at 9:21 am

    Ahhh! I love/hate cafe gratitude too! Honestly I hate any restaurant with silly names for the food because I find it completely embarrassing to order. Last time I was there I tried to just order the “polenta puttanesca” and the server repeated the affirmation name back to me. Ugh. But seriously, it is the BEST vegan food. And I keep going back.

  • Reply Mary @ Bake Break April 25, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Hahaha I think I would react the exact same way you do in that kind of restaurant. I AM BEAUTIFUL! Yes, yes you are. Also, annoyed.

    These look good, but I do have that fear of slimy/bitter eggplant! I’ll give these a try and use your suggestions! Thanks!

  • Reply Amy April 25, 2012 at 9:35 am

    I crave anything fried and in stick form (as odd as that statement sounds, it’s true). This looks like a good alternative to mozzarella sticks (my all, time favorite). Eggplant seems like the perfect meaty veggie to bread-and-dip.

    mon amy

  • Reply Martha @ Weekend Doings April 25, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Never been a big fan of eggplant for the same reasons you described (slimy and bitter), it is good to know there is a “cure” for that. I will use you suggestions and give eggplant another try.

  • Reply Reformed Foodie April 25, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Haha! I love that eggplant dish at Cafe Gratitude – as a non vegan, I’ve got to agree, their food is BOMB. Great recipe – will give it a little Gluten Free make-under and give it a whirl:)

  • Reply Katie April 25, 2012 at 10:01 am

    A friend of mine posted pictures on Facebook from that vegan restaurant! I didn’t know about them having to tell you you’re the things you order though. I don’t think I’d be able to handle that without blurting out some sort of snarky 15-year old comeback like “yeah, well your FACE is humble!”

    All the eggplant & zucchini fries I’ve ever ordered at restaurants are usually soggy =\ These look like they hold up well though! Also, any recipe that has crushed red pepper in both the food and the dip is fine. by. me.

    • Reply Adrianna April 25, 2012 at 12:25 pm


  • Reply Margarita April 25, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Ok, I would hate that restaurant too… maybe you could just call in your order and pick it up or do they sound crazy when you order on the phone too? This eggplant dish looks really good, thanks for posting how to make it both ways.

    • Reply Adrianna April 25, 2012 at 12:25 pm

      Sometimes I just say, “I’ll take the BLT.” I’ve tried that and it works. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Reply Heather (Heather's Dish) April 25, 2012 at 10:20 am

    i’ve never been a big eggplant fan but these sound AH-mazing!

  • Reply Lynna H. April 25, 2012 at 10:52 am

    ohh.. these sound interesting.. ahah. i do not like eggplants though. LOL. but this makes them look tasty!

  • Reply Lauren Bux April 25, 2012 at 10:53 am

    So yummy! I actually LOVE eggplant! Parm, Lasagna, Babaganoush….mmmmm.

  • Reply breakfastatnatalies April 25, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Eggplant is not one of my favourite foods, but this looks great..I can definitely see how coating it in breadcrumbs would make it ten times better : )

  • Reply shirley April 25, 2012 at 11:03 am

    GREAT idea!

  • Reply Maggie @ A Bitchin' Kitchen April 25, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Hahaha, that restaurant sounds hilariously obnoxious. At least you’re kind of over your eggplant hate – these look delicious!

  • Reply russell April 25, 2012 at 11:27 am

    These look awesome! We had a really abundance garden when I was growing up, fried eggplant and fried okra are at the top of my list of fried veggies.

  • Reply Liz April 25, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Hey Polenta is a veg it just is a bit processed, it is corn ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Anne P April 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    If you can find it, try white eggplant. I felt the same way you did until I tried it. It’s much milder than regular eggplant and isn’t bitter at all–even without the salt. The only problem is that it’s much more seasonal than regular eggplant and isn’t easy to find even when it’s in season, especially in the South.

    • Reply Adrianna April 25, 2012 at 12:25 pm

      I need to try this!

  • Reply Dana B @ thebakingbooth April 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    I wonder if you added a teaspoon of sugar to the coating mix that it would solve the pale problem when baking. Just a thought ๐Ÿ™‚ Can’t believe I even read a post on eggplant. I’ll see if I can get the nerve up to try it. Maybe I can use it as a try new foods lesson for my youngest ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Living The Sweet Life April 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Weird enough – – I LOVE eggplants!! As soon as I read the title of this post, I knew it would be delicious!! It’s pretty cool, that this can be baked instead of fried ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Leisa April 25, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Wow, these look delicious!

    I totally know what you mean about the texture issue with eggplant–I have a bit of a love/hate (well, mostly hate) relationship with it too. I was vegan for years and I still could barely stomach the stuff!

    These, however, will be on my ‘try it soon’ short list ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Miss K April 25, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Yum! what a great idea!

  • Reply NicoleD April 25, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    I just love how you turn great things into fries! Oh goodness, I can’t wait to tell my husband about this vegan restaurant. He would not be able to deal. As it is, he refuses to order a “grande” or “venti” from Starbucks. He’s just all, LARGE, please.

    • Reply Adrianna April 25, 2012 at 1:46 pm

      I’m a brat. I say small, medium or large, too.

  • Reply Robin April 25, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Holy crap. I’m with you. Eggplant has always been on my sh**list. I may have enjoyed eggplant ONCE in Parmesan. SO- thank you for the tips. I think I’m going to risk it here and give these suckers a try. I may even get lucky and my kids might even like these. Excellent idea. Thank you!

  • Reply Julia {The Roasted Root} April 25, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    For quite a while now I’ve been thinking up non-breadcrumb/wheat or white flour crustings for fries…glad to see cornmeal! I wonder if it would work with all cornmeal…? I love egg plant, crispy crunchy food, and the cornmeal batter sounds just perfect!

  • Reply Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious April 25, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    I’m not much of an eggplant person but I will most definitely give this a try! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Mike @TheIronYou April 25, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    I’m definitely one of those that can’t stand frying…thanks for giving the option of baking. I have to try those asap!

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  • Reply Villy @ For the love of Feeding April 26, 2012 at 3:54 am

    I was hating eggplant the first 10 years of my life. And then, for unknown reasons, I fell in love. I love it. (We also tend to use it a lot in Greece).
    This is an amazing idea!

  • Reply dla seniora April 26, 2012 at 5:08 am

    Great recipe for fries. I never eat that before! Regards form Poland:)

  • Reply Lyndsey April 26, 2012 at 7:21 am

    My mom made fried eggplant or zucchini like this, but in silver dollar slices, when I was a kid. She’d serve them as a side with some ranch dressing for dipping. Most of the time though, I’d eat them off the paper toweled plate before she was done frying everything… I think I just drooled a little.

    Definitely making these soon.

    • Reply Sihaam May 15, 2012 at 11:58 am

      small fruit varieties of ttoeomas (Sun Gold does excellent in our weather, and they are delicious, tho it’s a huge plant, one per large pot), eggplant, and peppers will do well. As it gets very hot, try to shade them after 2 or 3 pm and water as soon as they get dry. Tomatoes usually don’t grow here after late June (it’s too hot and they die off) so plant them as soon as your weather permits, but the eggplant and peppers can go all summer. Yellow squash does well also, but it gets huge, so plant just one to a container. There is an excellent variety of Yellow Squash called Butterstick Hybrid Zucchini (it’s delicious and yellow). It’s good for containers because it grows upright and does not run like other squashes which can’t work in pots.

  • Reply [email protected] the Table April 26, 2012 at 8:16 am

    These look delicious! I made avocado fries and I thought those were cool, but these may be even better!

  • Reply From Cupcakes, With Love April 26, 2012 at 8:37 am

    these look delicious ๐Ÿ™‚

    From Cupcakes, With Love x

  • Reply Kim Bee April 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Love these. I will only eat eggplant that is fried this way. It’s a rule. They are really good dipped in sriracha too. Love your photos.

  • Reply hat methi April 26, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    What a great idea for a snack! thanks you

  • Reply hoteluri antalya April 27, 2012 at 5:43 am

    I`ve tried this recipe and i`m really impressed, it has a very good taste. My both child tried it and they like it a lot. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  • Reply the gannet May 1, 2012 at 4:46 am

    gosh. In NO way could I cope with that kind of restaurant banter without cracking up!

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  • Reply Diane August 23, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Haha, was this Cafe Gratitude in KC MO? I stumbled in there last week on a business trip. Loved the food, and learned that I Am Worthy of it :0)

    • Reply Adrianna August 23, 2012 at 3:45 pm

      HA! Probably owned by the same people. Sounds like it. And yes, YOU ARE DEFINITELY WORTH IT. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  • Reply Rachelel VanDerWyst May 14, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    I made these with asparagus 2 weeks ago. If you have any leftover egg, pour it over them on the baking sheet before baking. SOOO good!

  • Reply Laura @ porch&table September 21, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    We made these for a get together, and though I thought we were going to be faced with skepticism, everyone loved the different spin on fries. I’d definitely make these again.

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme September 21, 2013 at 2:23 pm

      This is awesome. I’m not a big fan of eggplant but do love them in this fry version. Glad it worked out for you, too!

  • Reply Teresa July 14, 2017 at 7:03 pm

    So… I had a few Japanese eggplants from the garden & searched your blog for recipes. I decided on this snack and it was delish. I think the eggplant actually tasted like chicken! Even the hubs who is not a big eggplant fan ate them. One piece of advice … get the eggplant to brown I sprayed a little olive oil on top. They still were not as browned as the fried version but they were not pale. Thanks for sharing!