Make Ahead

Bhartha (Spicy Indian Eggplant)

February 27, 2015
16 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Bhartha (sometimes “bharta”) is a vegetarian Indian dish best served over a bowl of jasmine rice. My favorite iterations (including the one available up the road) include peas, which add a really good pop of color and texture. Make a huge batch -- you’ll be going back for thirds. —Kendra Vaculin

What You'll Need
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 pinch Black pepper, to taste
  1. Cook the whole eggplant (stem and leaves removed) over the open flame of your burner, turning often, until the inside is soft and the outside is charred, about 20 minutes. Conversely, you may prick your eggplant with a fork and bake it in a 350° F oven until soft, about one hour.
  2. Remove the eggplant from flame or oven, allow it cool, and chop it up; the eggplant will be mushy and it will completely collapse into a pulpy mess -- this is perfect. Help it along in this endeavor and then set it aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until nearly translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomatoes and all of the spices except for the salt. Reduce heat slightly and cook down for 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Add eggplant and peas and mix to combine, cooking until heated through. Use the back of a wooden spoon here to mash the whole mess together if you’d rather have a smoother mix (here I raise my hand), or just live and let live if you dig it on the chunkier side. Add salt to taste, as well as any additional spices to your liking. Season with black pepper.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • whym
  • Sonja Grevois
    Sonja Grevois
  • Christine Vining Cowen
    Christine Vining Cowen
  • Katie Menzel Ellis
    Katie Menzel Ellis
  • stephanieRD
A fan of female driven comedies, a good beat, your hair today, and making foods for friends.

25 Reviews

whym August 17, 2023
This was delicious! As other reviewers suggested, I subbed garam masala for half of the curry powder, but otherwise, I followed the recipe spot-on and LOVED it! An easy weeknight vegetarian dinner that tastes wonderful. It's definitely going in my rotation.
Jennifer B. July 12, 2023
I think the amount of dry spices made this dish taste a bit bitter as well as gave it a somewhat grainy texture. I added some more liquid, some extra salt and a bit of tomato paste. I also added some canned chickpeas for protein.
Sonja G. February 27, 2021
I received a surplus of eggplant so I tripled the recipe and it was perfect! I always put extra curry and it was AMAZING!
Alex S. November 17, 2019
I forgot to review this, until I was going through all my printed recipes, and the modifications. It’s a wonderful recipe, with everything my Food52 friends said :) peel the eggplant, less cumin, add the frozen peas at the end, sub curry powder for garam masala. With one more modification, julienned fresh ginger on top before serving. It’s the best. Thanks.
Christine V. October 15, 2019
making this right now...I decided I wanted to add a bit of clove so hopefully that will go well..ill update!
Katie M. February 5, 2017
Just made this last night for dinner with a few vegetarian friends, and it was delicious! I baked the eggplant at 350F for about an hour and 15 minutes, which allowed me to do all my prep, sauté the onion mixture for a long time on low (about 20-30- minutes), and clean my kitchen while waiting!

Like a few other commenters suggested, I subbed garam masala for the curry powder, and I also added 1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder and 1/4 tsp cayenne for some spice, and toasted all the spices before adding the oil/onions/etc. I love using fresh ginger root, so I used about 1.5" finely chopped in place of the powdered ginger, and also added in a very finely chopped carrot I needed to use up. We were making a coconut cake at the same time and happened to have about 3/4c full-fat coconut milk left over from that, so I added it at the end. The creaminess and sweetness made for a perfect balance! Finally, I liked the suggestion from a commenter of pouring over hot oil with garam masala before serving and serving with lemon wedges, so I did that too.

It was an easy recipe with room for some variation, which I love. It tasted like it was professionally made, and my friends and I loved it! Will definitely make it again.
food52fan January 24, 2017
Made this tonight and it was delicious! Definitely adding to my rotation. I used Indian eggplants and also added the garam masala as others suggested. It is one of my favorite spices so I really enjoyed the flavor! Thanks to others who commented here for their suggestons. I did carmelize the onions, toast the spices, and added the peas last. Served over basmati rice as that is what I had on hand. The dish was vibrant in color and a delight to the tastebuds! Thanks so much for posting it!
stephanieRD September 7, 2016
Wow, I was adamant about making this for dinner tonight, but I had to improvise as I didn't have turmeric or ginger or peas! So I took the advice of others and sautéed onions and garlic along with the spices (I added some amounts of garam masala and chipotle chili powder in place of the other stuff I didn't have). I also added spinach instead of peas, used canned crushed tomatoes instead of fresh. I threw the eggplant on the grill to soften. Really, I didn't use much of the recipe thinking back, but this has inspired me to create variations of this in the future. That's what recipes are, aren't they? Inspiration for more and more iterations!
Catherine R. June 24, 2016
You also need to brown the onions to get that sweet-savory flavor that you get in so many Indian dishes. I also don't add the peas until I'm almost ready to serve so that they don't over cook and lose their pretty bright green color.
Scott N. September 13, 2015
Excellent recipe. Great flavors. I reccommend toasting the spices first.
Pritha R. April 12, 2015
I am surprised this recipe does not mention raw chopped onions or chopped coriander.Usually both are added after you mash up the brinjal with the spice mix.You need to take off the skin and please dont blitz it,that will make it lose flavour just mash thoroughly to get rid of chunks.Its kinda like mashed potatoes,you can add whatever you feel would complement the dish.Every Indian family has their own variation of it,I have always seen my grandmum and mum sprinkle loads of fresh coriander over the dish.
janet March 15, 2015
I agree spices are flat when this first prepared (would fresh ginger vs powdered ginger help?) BUT when I add Garam masala, splash like, saluted onions/garlic (rather than raw) AND let it sit overnight for flavors to meld, the result is significantly more flavorful. Thanks to other cooks for suggestions.
Quinn March 10, 2015
This was an awesome quick and easy dinner to make after work. However, I thought that the spices tasted flat and muted. Any ideas on how to bring out the flavors? Thanks!
Sunita J. March 11, 2015
At the end finish it with some garam masala roasted in hot oil and a dash of lime juice.
Quinn March 11, 2015
Thanks! That sounds like a perfect idea.
Sunita J. March 11, 2015
Sure...Check out my site: if you wish.
Dana B. January 13, 2021
I added a couple splashes of white vinegar and a squeeze of half a lemon. Also added kosher salt.
I would serve it with lime and cilantro basmati rice to add a little ummph!
Andrew March 8, 2015
Just made this. I, too, would skin the eggplant. Although I grilled mine, so it wasn't necessary, I think it would be a better texture.

(P.S. The recipe is correct. You don't have to. If you look at the lovely pictures, the skins are there, as well.)
Christina D. March 5, 2015
Okay. Maybe it was me, but the balance of the spices to the rest of the ingredients was off. Too many, and Garam Masala would have done the job nicely. I also don't understand the recipe. There was no instruction about the skin of the eggplant. Did you all remove it? That was my instinct as it was charred, but the directions didn't indicate. I'm a bit of a stickler about directions like that. So I left it in, which leaves a nasty burnt inedible aspect to this dish. Any suggestions are appreciated. Where did I go wrong.
Mary P. March 4, 2015
Instead of chili powder I used chipotle chili powder for its smokey flavor and heat.
Noelle D. March 3, 2015
Nice recipe, but way too much cumin. It takes over the whole dish.
Sunita J. March 2, 2015
While curry powder will add flavor but if you are craving the Indian restaurant takeout you won't get the same taste and flavors. You need Garam Masala instead, which is more authentic!
food52fan March 9, 2015
I love to find ways to use Garam Masala, so which spices would I omit, and how much Garam Masala would I add instead? Making this tonight!
Pritha R. April 12, 2015
1.5 teaspoon for a smallish brinjal.:)
Shuchi March 2, 2015
You have to skin the charred Eggplant before making Bharta...the skin will otherwise taste like burnt paper in your curry!