Vegetarian Khoresh Bademjan (eggplant stew) is made with baked eggplants and yellow split peas. What makes this khoresh incredibly delicious is the tangy pomegranate concentrate and a citrus blend made with fresh squeezed juices of oranges and lemons. The traditional khoresh bademjan is an eggplant and meat lovers’ stew with chunks of lamb or beef and it is served over steamed rice. There is also another Persian khoresh called gheymeh bademjan which is made with smaller pieces of meat called “gheymeh,” eggplants, and yellow split peas. The creation of this tasty khoresh was the result of combining the ingredients, flavors and techniques of several traditional recipes existing in Persian cuisine.
A few months ago one of my readers asked my recommendation for a vegetable to replace the chicken in my khoresh fesenjoon. I suggested using baked eggplants. Initially, I made a khoresh with eggplants and pomegranate concentrate and loved how well they worked together. On another occasion I added cooked yellow split peas because I love the combination with eggplants. Instead of using plain water or vegetable stock I used some fresh squeezed orange/lemon juice blend for the added flavor and some orange zest for the aroma. So this is how the Vegetarian Khoresh Bademjan was developed, and it has become one of our favorite and frequently prepared meals. The pomegranate concentrate and the orange/lemon juice blend is the secret to the overall sweet and sour flavor that I love in this khoresh.
Small eggplant varieties such as Chinese or Italian are the best choices for this dish because of their tender texture. The eggplants used in this Vegetarian Khoresh Bademjan are baked and then stewed in the flavorful sauce for only about 30 minutes. Both of these varieties of eggplants cook quickly in a short time with a delicious flavor and a beautiful color. The large Western globe eggplants would not be suitable for this dish.
The Vegetarian Khoresh Bademjan is served over a bed of saffron rice layered with a mixture of zereshk (barberries), fried onions and slivered almonds. Also pictured is my crispy Saffron Yogurt TahDig (bottom of the pot); you will find the instructions here. You may also serve this khoresh with the plain white steamed rice. This meal is sure to become a welcome addition to any menu, vegetarian (for the vegan version use vegetable oil instead of butter) or otherwise. I always make a point of including some vegetarian dishes on our weekly menu, and this wholesome and satisfying one is definitely a keeper!
The following pictures are to illustrate certain key steps. Please read the entire printable recipe for the detailed instructions.
Cook the yellow split peas until tender, drain and set aside. Bake the Chinese or Italian eggplants according to these instructions. Meanwhile thinly slice the large onions and saute until golden brown, add turmeric and continue sauteing until a rich golden brown. Remove some of the fried onion from the skillet and reserve it for the rice. Add tomato paste to the rest of the fried onions and saute over low heat until aromatic. In the same skillet add the cooked yellow split peas and spices, stir to combine and saute for 3-4 minutes.
Start making the steamed Persian rice according to these instructions. Choose your favorite tahdig recipe. This rice may be served plain, or mixed with the zereshk and almond mixture right before serving with the Vegetarian Khoresh Bademjan.
Add the pomegranate concentrate to the skillet and stir to coat the ingredients. Add the orange zest and the orange/lemon juice combination and water.
Bring the sauce to a low boil. Add the baked eggplants and bring it to another boil. Reduce the heat to the marking between low and medium low, cover the skillet and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the eggplants are tender and flavorful. Meanwhile add zereshk (barberries), slivered almonds and the optional pinch of saffron to the reserved fried onions and saute over low heat until the zereshk is plump and shiny. Zereshk tends to burn very quickly so don’t increase the heat.
Though the Vegetarian Khoresh Bademjan may be served with white steamed rice, this beautiful zereshk & almond rice is easily made with very little extra effort and is absolutely stunning. You also get a burst of flavor and crunch in every bite that simply brings this very special dish together. Enjoy it and please drop me a line to let me know what you think!
Preparation time: About 30 minutes
Simmer time: 30 minutes
- 4 Chinese eggplants peeled, sliced lengthwise and cut into 3 pieces (or 8 Italian eggplants, sliced lengthwise and cut in half)
- 1 cup slow-cooking yellow split peas (lapeh dir paz)
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced very thin, fried to golden brown (divided, ¾ for khoresh and ¼ for the rice)
- 3 TBSP butter, for frying the onion
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 2 TBSP tomato paste
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- ⅛ tsp saffron powder (optional)
- 2-3 TBSP pomegranate concentrate
- Zest of one orange
- 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (3 medium oranges)
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
- ½ cup hot water (more if needed)
- FOR THE RICE
- 2 cups uncooked basmati rice (2½ cups if making yogurt tahdig)
- ¾ cup blanched slivered almonds
- ⅔ cup zereshk (barberries)
- Dash of saffron powder (optional)
- Bake the prepared eggplants according to these instructions. Set aside.
- Pick through and wash the yellow split peas; drain and add to a small saucepan. Add enough water to cover the peas by 1 inch. Add ½ tsp salt. Bring it to a boil without covering the pan. Reduce heat to medium low and cook until the split peas are tender when you bite into one. Once the pomegranate paste is added to the khoresh the split peas stop cooking further and stay firm in this khoresh, so cook them to the consistency that you like to have in your khoresh. Drain and set aside.
- At this point start making the Persian rice with your choice of TahDig
- In a 12-inch nonstick skillet fry the thinly sliced onions in 3 tablespoons butter.
- When the onions start turning golden around the edges, add ½ tsp turmeric and saute until rich golden brown.
- Transfer ¼ of the fried onions to a small skillet and add the slivered almonds, zereshk and the optional saffron. Saute over very low heat for couple of minutes until the zereshk looks plump and shiny. Set aside.
- To the remaining fried onions add 2 tablespoons tomato paste, salt, the peppers, ¼ teaspoon saffron and the cooked split peas and saute for 3-4 minutes over low heat, stir several times.
- Add the pomegranate concentrate and saute while stirring for another 2 minute over low heat. Add the orange/lemon juice mixture (1 ½ cups), ½ cup hot water, and zest of one orange to the skillet and bring it to a boil.
- Add the baked eggplants, bring it to another boil. Cover and cook over the marking between low and medium low for 25–30 minutes, or until the eggplants are tender and very flavorful. The sauce will be thick. If you want a thinner sauce, add about ¼ cup hot water, stir and bring to a boil and continue cooking for couple of minutes.
- To serve the rice: Use a spatula to transfer some of the steamed rice to a serving platter, then add some of the almond and zereshk mixture on top. Continue this for two more times until you have used up the rice and the almond mixture. The top layer should be the almond mixture. You may also serve this khoresh with plain steamed Persian rice.
Zereshk is the tart red berries of the edible barberry plant and is also available online or at the Persian markets. If unable to purchase zereshk, you may substitute with dried cranberries, for a slightly sweeter, but nevertheless a delicious alternative.
For the vegan version: Add vegetable oil in place of butter