Karniyarik – Turkish stuffed eggplant recipe

Let me take you on a journey through Middle Eastern cuisine and show you how to make Karnıyarık, a Turkish stuffed eggplant dish. Succulent eggplants skillfully split open and filled with a rich blend of savory ground meat, aromatic onions, and a blend of Middle Eastern spices. Baked to perfection, each bite will leave your taste buds craving more.

This post has extra tips to make sure the recipe comes out amazing on your first try. If you're in a rush, use the link above to jump to the recipe card at the end! 👩‍🍳🔝
4 baked eggplant halves stuffed with minced meat and yogurt on a baking tray

What is Karniyarik

Karnıyarık, a beloved Turkish dish with roots tracing back to the Ottoman Empire and Middle Eastern influences, boasts a name that literally translates to “split belly.”

This delicious creation features eggplants split open and filled with a tantalizing mixture of sautéed ground meat, onions, and aromatic spices, all baked to perfection.

Five reasons you will love this recipe

  • Rich Turkish Flavors: Isn’t it great to step out and try something new sometimes? Karnıyarık captures the essence of Turkish cuisine with its blend of warm spices, sautéed meat, and aromatic vegetables. The combination of flavors creates a dish that’s deeply satisfying and culturally rich.
  • Hearty and Satisfying: This dish is a complete meal in itself, offering a hearty combination of protein from the meat filling and the wholesome goodness of eggplants. It’s a comforting and substantial option for any meal.
  • Budget-friendly: Despite its impressive appearance and rich flavors, this dish is wonderfully budget-friendly, allowing you to savor a special taste of Turkish cuisine without straining your wallet.
  • Family-friendly. While your toddler might not ask for it daily, your older teens could become fans of this dish. With its delicious blend of spiced meat, veggies, and eggplants, you might find yourself adding this recipe to your weekly meal rotation.
  • Crowd pleaser: As you’ll discover, Karnıyarık is quite easy to prepare, and with a bit of meal prep, you can astound your guests with a delicious Middle Eastern dinner that’s sure to leave a lasting impression.
two Turkish stuffed eggplant on a plate

Ingredients for Karniyarik

This Turkish eggplant recipe might look complicated at first blick, but it is not. It also doesn’t require any unusual ingredients, nothing that you couldn’t find in your loal supermarket. Let’s see what we will need:

  • Ground meat: I use lamb meat to make this recipe, but you can use beef mince or even chicken mince if you prefer. 
  • Eggplants: Dark purple eggplants are the best. Look for medium-sized eggplants that have shiny skin and are firm to the touch. Make sure the eggplants are similar sizes to ensure even cooking.
  • Onions: Just your regular brown onions are great.
  • Garlic:  a couple of fresh garlic cloves.
  • Spices: Spices are incredibly important in this recipe, we will need cumin, coriander, sweet paprika, all spices, and cayenne pepper.
  • Extra virgin olive oil. Please avoid using vegetable oil in your cooking if possible. 
  • Sea salt and pepper: to season
  • Fresh herbs such as parsley or cilantro (coriander)
ingredients needed to make Turkish stuffed eggplant karniyarik

See the full list of ingredients in the recipe card below👇 

How to make Karnıyarık – Turkish stuffed eggplant dish

Making this classic Turkish dish might require some skills, but do not fear, I have step-by-step instructions so it will be easy.

  • We start by preheating the oven to 200’C (400’F) and line a baking tray or a large baking dish with parchment paper.

Prepare and bake eggplants:

  • Wash and dry the eggplants.
  • Place the whole eggplants on a large chopping board and halve them lengthwise.
  • With a small sharp knife, cut the eggplant along the skin (as shown in the picture), without piercing through the skin completely. You can also watch the video on the recipe card for a visual guide (coming soon).
  • Use a large tablespoon to scoop out the eggplant flesh, creating eggplant boats. Keep the scooped-out flesh.
how to scoop eggplant step. by step photos
  • Place the eggplant boats on the baking tray, sprinkle with a bit of sea salt, black pepper, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
  • Slide the tray into the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Prepare the meat stuffing:

  • Chop the remaining eggplant into small cubes and finely chop the onions.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil.
  • Sauté the chopped onions and crushed garlic until the onions soften.
  • Add the lamb mince and cook, using a spatula or flat wooden spoon to break up the meat into an even texture. Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Toss in the chopped eggplant flesh and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the spices, mix well, and let the spices develop their aroma for another minute. If your skillet seems dry, add a splash of water (about a tablespoon) to prevent sticking.
  • Mix everything thoroughly and remove the skillet from the heat.

Bring it all together:

  • Your baked eggplant boats should be done, so carefully remove them from the oven.
  • Use a large serving spoon to fill the eggplant boats with the meat stuffing.
  • Return the stuffed eggplants to the oven and bake for another 20-30 minutes until everything is fully cooked and the top turns golden brown.

Time to serve:

  1. Take the stuffed eggplants out of the oven and garnish with freshly chopped parsley or cilantro.
  2. Serve with a dollop of cacık on the side.
  3. Enjoy!

Top tips for making Karniyarik

  • Choose the Right Eggplants: Opt for medium-sized eggplants that are firm and glossy. Avoid ones that feel too soft or have wrinkled skin.
  • Scooping the Eggplants: When scooping out the eggplant flesh to create the boats, be gentle to avoid tearing the skin. Leave a thin border to maintain the boat’s shape.
  • Meat Mixture Texture: While frying the meat, use a spatula to break up the meat into small pieces. This ensures a consistent texture throughout the filling.
  • Spice Balance: Adjust the spices to your taste preference. If you like it spicier, you can increase the amount of red pepper flakes or other seasonings.
  • Meal Prep: Consider making extra stuffed eggplants and freezing them for later. This way, you’ll have a convenient and delicious meal ready to bake whenever you need it.
karniyarik, on a plate ready to be served

What to serve with Karniyarik

We have already discussed how this delicious dish is a complete meal on its own. However, in Turkish cuisine, you hardly ever get served one dish only.  You usually have a variety of dishes to choose from.

Karnıyarık is traditionally served with some plain rice or pilaf and a few other accompaniments to enhance its flavors. You can also serve it with:

How to store

If you have any karniyarik leftover or you cooked this tasty dish in advance you can store it for later.

In the fridge:

  • Allow Karnıyarık to cool to room temperature after cooking, preventing moisture buildup.
  • Place the stuffed eggplants in an airtight container, and store the container in the refrigerator, for 2-3 days.
  • For best results, gently reheat in a 360°F (180°C) oven until warmed through, about 20-30 minutes.

In the freezer:

  • Store the container in the freezer for 2-3 months.
  • Take the container out the night before you are planning on serving it to defrost naturally overnight. When ready to relish, reheat it in a 360°F (180°C) oven until warmed through, approximately 20-30 minutes.

Check out my other quick and easy dinner ideas 

Have you tried this recipe? If so, I'd greatly appreciate it if you could leave a star rating and share your thoughts in a comment. Your feedback means a lot to me, and it can also help others who are interested in trying it out. Thank you! 🌟👩‍🍳

Recipe

karniyarik Eggplant halves stuffed with ground lamb , served with yogurt and fresh cilantro leaves

Karniyarik – Turkish stuffed eggplant dish

Elena Elliott
Enjoy the rich flavors of Karnıyarık, a Turkish stuffed eggplant dish that captures the essence of Middle Eastern cuisine.
Succulent eggplants filled with spiced meat, baked to perfection, and served with traditional accompaniments make this a truly satisfying and flavorful experience.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Main Course
Cuisine Turkish
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 2 medium-sized eggplants
  • 500 gramm ground meat such as lamb or beef approximately 1.1 lbs
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 2-3 fresh garlic cloves, minced or finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons groundn cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspices
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro (coriander) leaves

Instructions
 

Preparation:

  • Preheat your oven to 200°C (400°F) and line a baking tray or large dish with parchment paper.

Preparing and Baking the Eggplants:

  • Wash and dry the eggplants.
    Halve the eggplants lengthwise and place them on a chopping board. Use a small sharp knife to carefully cut along the skin without piercing it completely (refer to the picture or video on the recipe card).
    cutting the eggplant flesh out
  • Scoop out the eggplant flesh with a large tablespoon, creating boats. Keep the flesh.
    scooping eggplant flesh
  • Arrange the eggplant boats on the baking tray, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.
    Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.
    eggplant halves on a baking tray

Preparing the Meat Stuffing:

  • Chop the remaining eggplant into small cubes and finely chop the onions.
    chopped eggplant on a chopping board
  • Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil.
    Sauté chopped onions and crushed garlic until softened.
    Add the lamb mince, breaking it into even texture with a spatula, and cook for 8-10 minutes.
    Add the chopped eggplant flesh and cook for 2-3 minutes.
    Mix in the spices and let them infuse for a minute. If the skillet becomes too dry, add a splash of water to prevent sticking. Remove from heat.

Bring it together:

  • Carefully remove the baked eggplant boats from the oven.
    baked eggplants on a tray
  • Fill the eggplant boats with the meat stuffing using a large serving spoon.
    Return the stuffed eggplants to the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes until fully cooked and golden on top.
    filling the eggplant boats with meat filling

Serve:

  • Take out the stuffed eggplants and garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro.
    Serve with a dollop of cacık on the side.
    Your Karnıyarık is ready to be enjoyed!

Notes

  1. Eggplant Selection: Choose medium-sized eggplants that are firm and glossy for the best results.
  2. Spice Level: Adjust the red pepper flakes according to your spice preference. Increase or decrease the amount for more or less heat.
  3. Meal Prep: You can prepare the stuffed eggplants ahead of time and freeze them for later use. Just follow the freezing and reheating instructions in the recipe.
  4. Leftovers: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. Reheat gently in the oven or microwave before serving.
Keyword karniyarik, Turkish stuffed eggplant
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