If you’re a fan of za’atar you will love this golden brown and crispy za’atar roasted eggplant! It is super simple to make, vegan, and packed with flavor. I love to serve it on top of a mix of quinoa and chickpeas seasoned with coriander and cumin and a simple tomato-cucumber salad. Some tahini sauce and/or preserved lemon yogurt completes the meal – I have provided recipes for both below!
What is za’atar?
Za’atar is an ancient spice mix from North Africa and the Middle East (note: za’atar is also the name for hyssop an herb in the mint family. In this post I am referring to za’atar the spice mix). Za’atar is typically comprised of sumac, toasted sesame seeds, thyme, and oregano. Other versions contain the actual herb hyssop in lieu of the thyme but these are harder to come by. Za’atar is so tasty! It is nutty, herbal, bright, and tangy all in one. The mix can be used in so many different ways – bloom it in some oil and top salads, hummus, labneh, soups, and popcorn, coat chicken in it and cook skin-side down, spread it over pita or raw dough and cook in the oven, and on and on.
Za’atar is so perfect with eggplant because the flavors just compliment one another. Eggplant can take a lot of seasoning, so the za’atar makes it punchy and exciting. By cutting the eggplant into cubes, you get lots of surface area for the za’atar to cling to. Plus, the texture of roasted eggplant is such a dream – so creamy on the inside but nice and crisp on the outside. Za’atar is the perfect spice to coat it in to make a meal of it!
I love pairing the za’atar roasted eggplant with a falafel inspired quinoa and chickpea pilaf. Using cumin, coriander, and garlic gives this side those familiar falafel flavors that fit right in with the za’atar. Plus, it is easy to make this side while the eggplant is roasting. Both things finish at around the same time, which is always nice.
A super simple tomato and cucumber salad simply seasoned with salt, lemon juice, and olive oil is such a refreshing pairing with the savory flavors in the eggplant and quinoa and chickpeas. Summer is the best time to take advantage of juicy, sweet, ripe tomatoes as well!
I highly recommend serving this dish with either a classic tahini sauce or my favorite preserved lemon yogurt to tie everything together. Both are very easy to make and keep for a week in the fridge. The acid and salinity of both sauces makes this such an addicting meal. I have made it a few times a week with either sauce for like the past month and a half – can’t stop, won’t stop!
You can also prep the quinoa and chickpeas up to 3-4 days ahead of time. To cook, simply add some water or broth and bring to the desired temperature in a covered sauce pan. The eggplant, however, is really best fresh from the oven. That is when it is nice and crisp. As it sits it will soften which nixes that lovely texture roasted eggplant is all about. Likewise, the tomato-cucumber salad will get watery as it sits to it is best made right before to 30 minutes prior to serving.
Za’atar Roasted Eggplant with Quinoa and Chickpeas
Time: 45 minutes
- 1 large eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes (about 4-5 cups of cubes)
- 1/2 cup of quinoa, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup of chickpeas (cooked)
- 2 tbsp. za’atar
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- oil for cooking
- to serve: preserved lemon yogurt and/or tahini sauce and tomato-cucumber salad (see below)
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Put the quinoa, chickpeas, cumin, coriander, minced garlic, and half a tsp. of salt into a sauce pan with a lid. Add 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes.
- While the quinoa cooks, mix the 2 tbsp. of za’atar with 2 tbsp. of cooking oil and half a tsp. of salt. It should form a thick paste. Scoop the paste over the cubes eggplant and toss with your hands to coat the cubes.
- Spread cubed, seasoned eggplant evenly on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and place into the preheated oven. Set timer for 15 minutes.
- When quinoa is done, fluff, taste and adjust salt, cover, and set aside to finish.
- After 15 minutes on the eggplant is up, pull from the oven, toss, and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Keep your eye on it to keep from burning. If it starts to darken too much, reduce heat to 400.
- Serve the eggplant over the quinoa with preserved lemon yogurt and/or tahini sauce. Goes great with a simple tomato-cucumber salad seasoned with salt and lemon juice!
Preserved Lemon Yogurt Sauce
Servings: 1/2 of a cup
Time: 5 minutes
- 1/2 cup of plain, full-fat greek yogurt
- 1 large garlic clove, minced or grated
- 1 tbsp. of lightly packed minced preserved lemon rind (flesh removed and rinsed)
- Combine the preserved lemon rind, garlic, and yogurt. Stir, taste, and adjust seasoning.
- Preserved lemon yogurt will keep in the fridge for about a week.
Classic Tahini Sauce
Servings: 3/4 of a cup
Time: 5 minutes
- 4 tbsp. tahini
- 1 large garlic clove
- juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 6 tbsp. water (see note)
- Add all ingredients to a processor or blender and process until completely smooth.
- Add more water until desired consistency is reached.
- Taste and adjust seasoning.
- The amount of water will vary based on how runny your tahini is. Mine is thick like a raw almond butter, so I needed more water. If you are unsure, start with less water and add it, a tablespoon at a time, until the desired viscosity is reached.
- Tahini sauce will keep for one week in the fridge.
Servings: makes 4 cups
Time: 5 minutes
- 2 cups of chopped cucumber (you can scoop out the seeds if you like)
- 2 cups of chopped tomato (I used cherry tomatoes)
- juice of one lemon
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- salt, to taste
- Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and season to taste.
- The salt will release liquid from the veg, so it is best to prep this salad right before serving or the lemony flavor will dilute a bit over time.
- Feel free to add fresh herbs like parsley, mint, and cilantro or dried spices like black pepper and sumac (my fave).