Great-Great Grandma Anna's Romanian Eggplant Dip

November  5, 2018
16 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Prep time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 6
What You'll Need
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, minced (plus more if you're into onion, like me)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced into oblivion
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, plus more to taste
  • 1 pinch salt, plus more to taste
  1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
  2. Place the eggplant and bell pepper on the lined sheet pan and prick both with a fork. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the skin chars and the vegetables are very soft (I use a fork to check this).
  3. When done, remove the vegetables from the oven and immediately transfer to a large, heatproof bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for about 10 minutes—this helps the skin loosen, making it easier to peel.
  4. When the skin is loose and the vegetables have cooled a bit, use your fingers to peel away the skin. You want most of it gone but it doesn’t need to be perfect.
  5. Finely chop both the eggplant and bell pepper (my mom likes her potlagel super smooth, but I like mine a little chunkier). Add to a large bowl (you can use the same one you steamed in), along with the onion, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and salt. Mix and taste. It probably needs more salt. Maybe some oil or vinegar, too?
  6. Refrigerate for at least an hour, though this is even better the next day. Taste again and adjust the seasoning again. We like to serve this with pita chips.

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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

25 Reviews

The M. February 22, 2022
I recently stumbled across this recipe. I've been looking for potlagel for many years, but couldn't find it, perhaps because I spelled it differently. My father made it. (His mother was Romanian, born in the US.). Anyway, my recollection from many, many years ago is that my father used green pepper, lemon juice, and hardboiled egg whites in this, but otherwise it was the same. It may have been his tweak or maybe it was the recipe he knew. He used a single-blade hand chopper (which I still have) and a wooden chopping bowl. Thanks for the recipe; I can't wait to try!
judy October 23, 2020
I love this story and this recipe sounds terrific. I enjoy family food stories. I just wanted to add, that I have made eggplant in this manner fo many years, simply because I adore eggplant. I have not made this specific version, and am going to get an eggplant this week and try it. I make food from many cultures around the world, and many have a version of this eggplant cooking method, seasoning with their local spices. I have ben doing it so long I can do several almost in my sleep, depending on what flavor food profile I am pining for that week. Greek, Mediterranean, French, Mexican, Indian, Thai, Japanese. So many options. Now I have one more! thank you.
Sherry W. March 20, 2019
I just made this, its chilling in the refrigerator right now. It is so good! So happy to have a great spin on eggplant. My son is VEGAN and I try to be on board. He agrees, it is fabulous!
Mihaela L. January 23, 2019
I just want to add one more thing. I believe my grandma didn't put onion in this salad, only eggplant, red pepper and more garlic. I remember it had a garlicky taste but no onion.
Mihaela L. January 23, 2019
The traditional Romanian " salata de vinete" or eggplant salad is made with roasted whole eggplant on a grill, peeled the charred peel and left in a colander until all the juice is drained ( otherwise it will be bitter). Well chopped with a wood or plastic knife until it will be very smooth, not chunky, add chopped onion to taste, salt and oil and mixed well. Served spread in the middle of a plate with tomatoes slices around it. I left Romania before the end of the comunist era and on my time olive oil was very rare therefore it wasn't used much in cooking. I am also Jewish but never heard of potlagel. My grandma used to make it the traditional way but she also used to make the sour version that we used to eat instead of pickles with meat dishes and your potlagel recipe reminds me of that which we used to call it sour eggplant salad. I was looking for that recipe and the ingredients listed make it sound like this is the one only she used roasted red peppers ( gogosari in Romanian). I will try it and let you know. My mom also was making this potlagel but unfortunately she passed away and I never asked her how to make it but I asked some non Jewish friends about it and none heard about this salad. Probably was a specific Jewish recipe.
Adrian C. November 2, 2020
As a Romanian, I recommend not using olive oil for this recipe. Sunflower oil is better, in my opinion. I've tried it both ways and I feel the olive oil changes the overall taste too much. :)
Yanni B. December 18, 2018
This is a similar to melitzanosalata a Greek appetizer. Nothing new here.
K. B. November 11, 2018
Our next dinner party will have a new appetizer! This sounds perfect! Thank you for a wonderful story - I tell all of the stories and recipes to my kids from the old country. This just made my day!
Emma L. November 13, 2018
Thank you so much! That means a lot to me :)
Sara November 11, 2018
I had a Romanian secretary for a while and she used to make something that sounds a lot like this. Her husband would grill the eggplant in their backyard no matter what the weather was. When I asked her for the recipe, she was always vague as if I should just know how to make it without much guidance. She always called it eggplant salad but no one else there spoke Romanian, so that's not much guidance. It's been more than 20 years since I had it last but I've never forgotten it. I'm going to try this soon.
Emma L. November 13, 2018
Thank you for sharing this story, Sara. Grilling the eggplant sounds delicious!
Stephanie B. November 13, 2018
Sara I'm guessing your secretary brought in salata de vinete (literally translated to salad of eggplant). My dad will fire up the grill to make December. I would counter salata de vinete, not this recipe, is the greatest eggplant recipe that comes from Romania (sorry Emma L.) but of course I have much love for my mom's recipe so I'm not being objective at all lol.
jennifer November 22, 2018
Share the recipe, please!!
Stephanie B. November 18, 2019
I wish I could! Trying to pin my mom down on it is like pulling teeth! It's definitely different than what the rest of my family makes, which is more like what's shown above (no peppers but still chunkier eggplant). She puts mayo and mustard in hers. It sounds weird but it's really good. The closest thing I've found is the dressing in this wedge salad, but my mom's stuff is usually eat as a veggie dip or spread on bread:
sms November 11, 2018
I. too had a Romanian grandmother who made potlagel. She would char the eggplant on top of the stove while constantly rotating it over one of the burners. I avoided the mess by doing it in the oven...piercing it and roasting it in the 400 degree oven for 1/2 an hour on each side. Be sure to add the raw onions only after the eggplant has cooled or they will be bitter. I just received my Romanian citizenship through descent from my Jewish grandmother. Now I'm the Romanian grandmother preparing potlagel for my family!
RosiG November 11, 2018
Random question, but was it easy to get the citizenship? I am about to embark on attempting to do the same as my father was romanian but he has passed and inwas wondering if you have any tips? Thanks! And spery for the random question
sms November 12, 2018
Not random at all. It was a 3 1/2 year saga that was very involved and somewhat expensive. You'll need an attorney. If you feel like posting your email address I'll get in touch with you and give you more info.
Robin November 18, 2018
Hi sms, I'm interested as well! [email protected]
Tam O. March 25, 2021
I too am interested tammylavy at g mail

My mother was born in Romania!
Anna B. November 11, 2018
Do you brush the eggplant or pepper with oil before roasting? Do they not burn?
Emma L. November 11, 2018
We don't brush the eggplant or pepper with oil before roasting, but I suppose you could! This is just the way we've always done it. The vegetables should get sort of charred, but that skin gets peeled away, and it imparts great flavor.
Maggie November 7, 2018
This is pretty much my Greek recipe for eggplant salad (melitzanosalata) except that I add parsley. I generally prefer broiling the eggplant and pepper instead of baking. But it's the same technique. As a personal preference I use scallions instead of onion. I would imagine there are fun variations of the recipe throughout the region.
Emma L. November 11, 2018
Mm scallions sound delicious!
Amy L. November 6, 2018
Loved reading our family history! And had a good laugh because I always thought it was spelled "poplagel" We also sometimes cook the eggplant and pepper on the BBQ grill outside for an even smokier flavor!
Emma L. November 6, 2018
Ha! Now I'm laughing about "poplagel" too :)