You're gonna love this old fashioned Southern eggplant casserole! It's made with simple, all-natural ingredients and is always a favorite - even those naysayers of this purple veggie love this cheesy casserole.
Variations of the infamous mouthwatering Wyatt's Cafeteria eggplant casserole have been circulating for years and for a good reason! This recipe is easy and pretty straight-forward and no, you don't have to soak the it in salted water for six hours.
Why this recipe works
If you scour the internet, most other Southern eggplant casserole recipes recommend soaking it in salted water for hours. This is not necessary. Why?
- Back in the day, cooks soaked eggplant in salted water to ward off any bitter taste. The truth of the matter is, today's eggplants are grown differently and are not nearly as bitter as the heirloom eggplants of yesteryear.
- The total time of this recipe is about two hours; one hour for soaking and about 30-40 minutes cook time; prep time adds another 10 minutes
- A quick 1 hour soak in salted water works just fine in reducing any bitter flavor.
- The herb-seasoned breadcrumbs contain a variety of Italian seasonings and spices, so there's no need to use a bunch of seasonings.
- This easy casserole dish is very economical and can be served as a side dish, or a main dish. In fact, it's ideal for vegetarians!
Here's what you need
This cheesy eggplant casserole recipe uses the following ingredients:
- Eggplant - you'll need about a one pound. Larger eggplants are usually around a pound in weight, but you can use a few small or medium eggplant as well
- Salt - you're gonna need to sprinkle salt over the peeled and cubed eggplant; I use kosher salt and use about 1 - 2 tablespoons for the soaking water
- Butter - about two tablespoons to saute onions, celery and bell pepper and 1 tablespoon to butter the baking dish
- Breadcrumbs - I recommend Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Classic Stuffing; it comes in a bag and is usually on the aisle with the boxed potatoes at the grocery store
- Eggs - 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- Evaporated milk - for best results, use evaporated milk; you'll soak the breadcrumbs in the milk; if you don't have evaporated, use plain milk, 2% or whole
- The Holy Trinity - celery, onion and green bell pepper; about ½ cup each
- Diced pimento - the original Wyatt's cafeteria eggplant casserole had diced pimentos in it; this adds a slight acidic flavor; if you don't like pimemtos, you can omit them or substitute with chopped red bell pepper
- Cheese - I recommend using a block sharp cheddar cheese and grate it yourself with a cheese grater or food processor
- If you want to add a little Cajun or Creole flair to this hearty casserole, sprinkle in a little cayenne pepper
How to make Southern eggplant casserole
This recipe is pretty straightforward and simple for the home cook, but there are some prep steps you can do while the eggplant is soaking; this makes the recipe go faster:)
With a sharp knife, cut the purple skin off; then cut it into round slices and cut the rounds into quarters; place in a glass bowl and sprinkle generously with kosher salt; add enough water to cover the pieces entirely; place a piece of plastic wrap over the bowl and allow to sit for 1 hour
Meanwhile, dice the celery, green pepper and onion; set aside
In a small mixing bowl, lightly beat two large eggs; set aside
In a large mixing bowl, add breadcrumbs and combine with the evaporated milk; let this breadcrumb mixture sit for 10-15 minutes until the breadcrumbs are mushy
Butter the inside of a baking dish; set aside (you can use cooking spray but butter tastes better!)
In a large skillet, add butter and on medium heat, sauté onions, bell pepper and celery for 5 minutes
After the eggplant has soaked, pour the soaking water into a large stockpot or Dutch oven; add in the eggplant pieces and boil, uncovered, on medium to medium high heat until it's tender; (you might have to add a cup or two of water to the stockpot); once it's is fork tender, drain in a colander and place the pieces in a small mixing bowl; use a fork and mash it up; there will be excess water after mashing the eggplant, but don't worry about that
Add the mashed eggplant, beaten eggs, sauteed vegetables (with the melted butter), diced pimentos, Worcestershire sauce, shredded cheddar cheese and fresh ground black pepper to the large mixing bowl; combine well
Spread the eggplant mixture into the prepared baking dish; top with remaining shredded cheddar cheese
Bake @ 350°F, uncovered, on the middle rack for 30-40 minutes until the cheesy top gets a nice golden brown; remove and let sit at room temperature for 5-8 minutes before serving
- This makes a thin casserole when you bake it in a 9 x 13 baking dish. If you're feeding a large group, I highly recommend doubling the recipe.
- After you cut the eggplant, place it in a bowl, sprinkle salt on it and immediately add water and cover with plastic wrap; this keeps the oxygen out so your casserole won't turn brown
- If you don't have the herb seasoned stuffing mix, you can use crushed cracker crumbs (or plain bread crumbs) and add a tablespoon of dry italian seasoning
- This is a thin casserole that serves about 12 big spoon sized servings; I used a 9 x 13 baking dish and the casserole cooks down to about ½ " inch thick; if you want a "fluffier" or taller casserole, either make it in a smaller baking dish or double the recipe
You'll find this Southern eggplant casserole served at potlucks from Texas to south Louisiana! It's a perfect side dish and pairs beautifully with pan fried pork chops, meatloaf or fried catfish! It's also a very satisfying vegetarian dinner when paired with a simple side salad.
You'll often find this served at Thanksgiving dinner or Easter Sunday because it pairs beautifully with turkey and ham.
Storage and reheating
You can make this eggplant casserole in advance and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Place any leftovers an airtight container. The best way to reheat leftovers is in the microwave in a microwave-safe dish; cover with a paper towel and reheat for a few minutes until it's warm throughout.
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Southern Eggplant Casserole
- 1 pound eggplant (1 large or 2 medium); See Recipe Notes
- 1½ tablespoons kosher salt
- ¼ cup chopped yellow onion
- ¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
- ¼ cup chopped celery
- 2¼ cups Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing Mix See Recipe Notes
- 1 cup evaporated milk See Recipe Notes
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 large lightly beaten eggs
- 2 tablespoons drained, chopped pimento
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (1½ cups in casserole; ½ cup on top of casserole)
- Cut purple skin off eggplant; cut into ¼"inch rounds then quarter the rounds; immediately place in a glass bowl and salt generously; cover with water; place plastic wrap over eggplant and let it sit for 1 hour (it does not need to be refrigerated while soaking)1 pound eggplant, 1½ tablespoons kosher salt
- Meanwhile, pour the Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix into a big mixing bowl; add in the evaporated milk and combine well; set aside2¼ cups Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing Mix, 1 cup evaporated milk
- Lightly butter (or use spray oil) a baking dish; set aside
- In a small bowl, lightly beat eggs; set aside2 large lightly beaten eggs
- Shred a block of cheese. You'll use ¾ of the cheese in the casserole and ¼ of the cheese for the topping; set aside2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (1½ cups in casserole; ½ cup on top of casserole)
- Dice the onions, green bell pepper and celery; drain the pimentos and set aside¼ cup chopped yellow onion, ¼ cup chopped green bell pepper, ¼ cup chopped celery, 2 tablespoons drained, chopped pimento
- Heat a large skillet on medium heat; add butter; once butter melts, add in chopped onions, bell peppers and celery; saute for 5 minutes2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Once the eggplant has soaked, pour the soaking water and eggplant into a large stockpot. Bring heat to medium high and cook eggplant 15-20 minutes or until it is fork tender; then drain it in a colander and transfer to a small bowl; mash it up with a fork
- Add the mashed eggplant (and any residual liquid), sauteed vegetables and remaining melted butter to the breadcrumb/eggplant mixture; add in the lightly beaten eggs, diced pimentos, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper and ¾ of the shredded cheese; combine well and spoon into prepared baking dish2 large lightly beaten eggs, 2 tablespoons drained, chopped pimento, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- Smooth the eggplant mixture and top with the remaining shredded cheddar cheese; bake in a 350°F oven, uncovered, on the middle rack for 30-40 minutes
- When done, allow casserole to rest for 5 minutes then serve and enjoy!