Karniyarik is a classic Turkish stuffed eggplant recipe. Delicious eggplants are stuffed with a tasty ground beef, pepper and tomatoes filling and are baked to perfection.
Middle eastern and Mediterranean cuisines include many eggplant recipes that are all delicious and easy to make. From eggplant caponata and moussaka to baba ganoush, any recipe that uses eggplant can easily be my favorite! Today's recipe a Turkish cuisine classic called karniyarik and it's a family favorite. Bursting with flavor in every bite, this is going to be your favorite, too!
About this recipe
This Turkish eggplant recipe is a classic and well loved all around Turkey. The name Karniyarik translates as "split belly" which I think is because of the fact that the eggplants are split after they're fried and are stuffed with a delicious minced meat mixture and then baked to perfection.
Eggplant is very popular in Turkey and there are so many Turkish recipes that use eggplant as a main ingredient. People make this stuffed eggplant recipe at home frequently because it's packed with so much flavor and is a great way to add eggplant to your weekly meal plan.
For Karniyarik, the eggplant is usually fried, however, we are going to go through other methods of cooking as well.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Eggplants: I recommend you use smaller ones such as Italian eggplants for this recipe as they cook better. They are also softer and more tender compared to globe eggplants which are very large and have deep purple skin color.
- Ground beef: I recommend using lean ground beef for this recipe. You can also use ground lamb or a combination of both.
- Onions and garlic: Yellow onions or sweet onions would work in this recipe. It's best to mince garlic fresh instead of using packaged minced garlic.
- Green pepper: You can use either bell pepper or sweet Italian peppers.
- Tomatoes: Roma tomatoes or beefsteak tomatoes work well for this recipe.
- Tomato paste: To add color and a deeper flavor.
- Seasoning: This recipe simply calls for salt and pepper. If desired, you can add some dried oregano. For a more Middle Eastern flavor, use seven spice which is a combination of black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, coriander and other spices.
Choosing the best eggplant
To choose the best eggplant for this recipe, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
- Make sure the eggplant has a bright skin and no brown marks.
- The eggplant should feel heavy for its size.
- It should feel firm on all sides and not mushy or soft at all.
- It's best to buy the eggplant on the day you're going to cook the dish or a day in advance.
How to make karniyarik
Prepare the eggplant
Peel strips from the skin of the eggplants. Cut a slit in the middle of the eggplants without cutting all the way through. Fill a large bowl with water and add 1 teaspoon salt to it. Place the eggplants in salt water for 30 minutes to get rid of their bitterness.
After 30 minutes, gently squeeze the eggplants and dry with a paper towel. Fry the eggplants on all sides until cooked and brown. The eggplants will be pretty soft. Place the fried eggplants on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
Prepare the filling
While the eggplants are soaking in salt water, make the filling by sauteing onion in olive oil. Add garlic to the onion and saute until golden brown. Mix in ground beef and brown it completely, followed by chopped green pepper and tomatoes. Add the tomato paste, salt and pepper to the ground beef mixture and cook for about 10 more minutes.
Bake and serve
Put the fried eggplants in a baking dish and fill them with the ground beef mixture. Make a simple sauce by mixing tomato paste and hot water and spoon it over the stuffed eggplants and also pour it into the dish. Bake in the oven at 350°F for about 30 minutes until eggplants are fully cooked and soft.
Roasting the eggplants instead of frying
Traditionally, the eggplant is fried to make this recipe. However, you can also roast the eggplants. To do so, peel strips on the skin of the eggplants and cut a slit in the middle.
Brush with 1 tablespoon olive oil and roast in the oven at 400°F for about 45 minutes. Once the eggplants are roasted, place them in the baking dish and open up the slit to make room for the filling. Then proceed with the stuffing and baking as instructed.
Karniyarik is a delicious complete meal on its own, but it also goes very well with some side dishes. For starchy side dishes, you can try rice with vermicelli, Turkish rice pilaf with orzo or Turkish bulgur pilaf. For lighter sides, try Gavurdagi (Turkish tomato salad), Cacik (Turkish yogurt and cucumber) or Mediterranean salad.
Frequently asked questions
Another Turkish eggplant recipe is Imam Bayildi which is the vegetarian version of Karniyarik. We are going to publish a full recipe for imam bayildi in near future. But for now, let's just say that these are two different version of stuffed eggplant.
Yes, soaking the eggplants in salted water will help getting rid of their bitterness. This also helps the eggplants absorb less oil when frying them.
Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days. To reheat, place the stuffed eggplants in a baking dish and heat in the oven at 350°F for 15 minutes.
To freeze this dish, let the cooked stuffed eggplants cool completely, then place them in a container and freeze for up to 2 months. When ready to serve, thaw in the fridge and cook in the oven for about 15 minutes at 350°F.
Yes you can also grill the eggplants over open fire flame if you would like them to have a smoky flavor. Make sure to poke the eggplants with a fork a few times before grilling them.
More Turkish recipes
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Karniyarik Turkish Stuffed Eggplant
- 6 Italian eggplants
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 onion chopped
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 8 oz ground beef see notes
- 1 green pepper diced
- 1 large tomato diced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 4 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup boiling water
- Prepare the eggplants by peeling strips on their skin. Keep the top on. Cut a slit in each eggplant without going all the way through.
- Fill a large bowl with cold water and add 1 teaspoon salt to the water. Stir and place the eggplants in the salt water. Soak them for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoon olive oil in a pan over medium heat and saute onion until translucent. Add in minced garlic and cook until golden brown.
- Add in ground beef and brown it completely. Add diced green pepper and tomato to the ground beef mixture and cook for a few minutes.
- Add in tomato paste, salt and pepper to the filling and mix well.
- Discard the salt water and gently squeeze the eggplants. Dry them using a paper towel.
- Heat ¼ cup vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat and fry the eggplants on all sides until they're soft and brown.
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Place them on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
- Place the fried eggplants in a baking dish and stuff them with the ground beef mixture.
- Make the sauce by mixing the tomato paste in water and spoon it over the eggplants and into the dish. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the eggplants are completely cooked and soft.
- Serve warm with white rice and cacik.
- Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days. To reheat, place the stuffed eggplants in a baking dish and heat in the oven at 350°F for 15 minutes.
- To freeze this dish, let the cooked stuffed eggplants cool completely, then place them in a container and freeze for up to 2 months. To serve, thaw in the fridge and cook in the oven for about 15 minutes at 350°F.
- You can also grill the eggplants over open fire flame if you would like them to have a smoky flavor. Make sure to poke the eggplants with a fork a few times before grilling them.
- If you would like karniyarik to be spicier, add some Urfa or Aleppo pepper to the beef mixture.
- It's always best to purchase the eggplants the day you're going to make the dish as they're very fresh then. Fresh eggplants have fewer seeds which makes them more delicious.