Do you know that eggplant is a fruit? Yep, it is a fleshy fruit -- the seeds are the give-away! These bites are more like popcorn than fruit. You will not be able to stop eating them. They are a fun snack and a super tasty alternative to traditional croutons.
Here goes – the perfect little crispy bite! I’ve even included tips to save you time and clean up in the dredging process, and they really do work. I suggest making a big batch of these little poppers, because they go down like candy and might just be your new favorite go-to snack or crouton!
1 medium eggplant
¼ cup all purpose flour (I use gluten free)
2 eggs, whisked until smooth
1 and ½ cups panko breadcrumbs (I use gluten free)
Salt and pepper
A dash of your favorite hot sauce
Canola oil (about a cup)
Dipping sauce of your choice
Wash and dry the eggplant, cut off the ends, and dice in fun bite-sized cubes. Think of a medium sized crouton.
Next, set up a standard dredging station – flour, egg, and breadcrumbs. I use gluten free products because of my husband’s allergy, but you can use regular if you prefer. Season each station with salt and pepper, and I like to add a shake of hot sauce to the beaten eggs.
Here are two tips for keeping your station tidy and speeding up the breading process. 1) Put your eggplant cubes into a 1 gallon zip-lock bag, add the flour and seasoning, and shake until the cubes are covered. 2) Put the panko on a large piece of wax paper and have that be your final breading station. When you are done, all you have to do is roll up the paper and throw it away – no dishes! You can do this with the flour too! So many choices!
Bread the eggplant. Put it into the flour first, get a light coating, and brush or shake off any excess. Dip the cubes into the egg mixture (all sides) and let any excess drip off. Then toss into the panko and get a good coating all around. Spread out the eggplant on wax paper on a sheet tray, and put it into the fridge (on the tray) for at least an hour. Longer is fine. This helps the panko stick to the eggplant during the frying process.
When you are ready to snack, heat an inch of canola oil in a skillet. Use medium high heat to begin. Test the oil temperature with a panko crumb. When it bubbles, you know the oil is hot enough for cooking. Drop the temperature to medium, and carefully place the eggplant cubes into the pan. Cook for 2-4 minutes, stirring occasionally and flipping the cubes on all sides until they are golden brown. FYI – I have noticed that gluten free panko darkens more quickly than regular panko, which is why I fry on medium heat. Plus it allows a little extra time for the eggplant to warm before the breading becomes too dark. You definitely want the eggplant to cook! Knowing your stove and its temperature is important, and gets easier with practice!
When golden brown, remove the eggplant with a slotted spoon and let it sit on a paper towel so that excess oil is absorbed. Sprinkle lightly with salt. You can keep the cubes warm in a 200 degree F oven if necessary.
Serve with the dipping sauce of your choice. My favorites, depending on my mood, are seafood cocktail sauce, Buffalo sauce, tzatziki, hot mustard, or Ranch dressing. I also use these eggplant snacks as croutons on salads.
March 9, 2017
Crispy Eggplant Bites
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