5 Ingredients or Fewer

Roasted Eggplant Rolls

October  4, 2022
5 Ratings
  • Prep time 1 hour
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6 eggplant rolls, depending on how much you stuff them
Author Notes

This vegetarian take on the lobster roll skips lobster and uses eggplant instead. While these two ingredients seem different—like, very different—they’re both summery, with a subtle-sweet flavor and chewy-meets-tender texture. Not only is eggplant downright cheap in comparison, but it’s also a cinch to prep. Just chop into cubes, salt and drain, season and roast. (Yes, you could skip the salting step, but I wouldn’t. This seasons the flesh throughout, yields a creamier texture, and encourages better browning.) The rest of the recipe is just like the original: lemony mayo dressing, lots of crunchy celery, and a butter-toasted split-top hot dog bun. Split-top buns, also known as New England–style, have flat, versus rounded sides, which makes them a dream for buttering and griddling. (If you can’t find split-top buns, just use a knife to trim the sides of a standard hot dog bun.) These are best while the buns are still warm, with iced tea or beer alongside. —Emma Laperruque

Test Kitchen Notes

Not a lot can go wrong here, so feel free to play around, depending on what you have and are in the mood for. While this was developed with a globe (aka giant) eggplant, if another, smaller variety jumps out at you at the farmers market—say, zebra or fairy tale—go for it. Just stick with the same weight range of 18 to 22 ounces. Celery can step aside for any other crunchy vegetable that you enjoy in sandwiches: Think fennel, radish, carrot, red onion, shallot, etc. Mayonnaise is easy to swap out for fruity olive oil, or even melted butter for a Connecticut-style not-lobster roll. Likewise, lemon juice can make way for lime juice or any mild vinegar (sherry or rice would be especially nice here). Make it your own. And while the eggplant roasts, all you need to do is pick a side dish to turn this sandwich into a meal. Potato chips or watermelon chunks are a great pick for lunch—or, if you’re willing to spend just a few minutes more effort for dinner, try this:

Fresh Corn Salad With Brown Butter, Chives & Chiles: Raw corn is bright, crunchy, and delightfully sweet. All it needs is a little dressing and some friends. In this case, that means nutty brown butter, which warms up but doesn’t cook the kernels, plus oniony chives and zingy chiles.

This Big Little Recipe was originally ​published in 2019 and updated in 2022, just in time for another eggplant season.Food52

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Roasted Eggplant Rolls
  • 1 globe eggplant (18 to 22 ounces)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, plus more room-temperature butter for spreading
  • 1 1/2 stalks celery, very finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 4 split-top hot dog buns, white or whole-wheat
  1. Chop off the leafy top of the eggplant, peel it if you don’t like the skin, and cut it into ¾- to 1-inch cubes. Add these to a colander set in the sink, sprinkle with the 1 ¼ teaspoons salt, and toss with your hands. Let the eggplant hang out for 30 to 45 minutes, so the eggplant can sweat out its excess water.
  2. In the meantime, heat the oven to 400°F, and line a sheet pan with a silicone mat or parchment.
  3. After the eggplant is done being salted, dry it as much as possible with towels, then dump the cubes onto the sheet pan. Drizzle with the melted butter and toss with your hands until the eggplant is completely coated.
  4. Roast the eggplant for 15 to 25 minutes, tossing halfway through, until it’s as tender as you like. I like to lean toward al dente here, to mimic lobster chunks, but softer-smushier eggplant is delicious, too.
  5. Once the eggplant is out of the oven, let it cool for a bit while you work on the dressing. Take a spoonful of the diced celery and set it aside (we’ll use it in a bit). Now combine the rest of the celery, the mayo, lemon juice, black pepper, and celery in a medium bowl. Stir, then add the eggplant, and stir again. Taste and adjust the lemon juice, salt, and black pepper as needed.
  6. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Spread the outside of the buns with butter and sprinkle with salt. When the pan is hot, add the buns, one flat side facing down. Cook them for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until golden-brown and toasty, making sure to get the bottoms, too.
  7. Transfer the warm buns to a plate and evenly distribute the eggplant salad inside each. Sprinkle the tops with the reserved diced celery and eat right away.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Tara Wilkinson
    Tara Wilkinson
  • rosenivory
  • Stephen Robb
    Stephen Robb
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
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.

9 Reviews

Tara W. September 7, 2020
rosenivory October 6, 2019
What a great recipe, I've made it twice adding different spices (garlic powder, hot sauce, etc.) and both times very delicious Excellent addition to the lunch-making ideas!
Emma L. October 6, 2019
"Garlic powder" and "hot sauce" are four of my favorite words!
nvrm September 11, 2019
Would it be possible to substitute celery with something less celery-flavored that would still work?
Danielle July 6, 2021
Cucumber or pickles for crunch?
Kelsie September 4, 2019
This was better than I expected- super tasty and very satisfying! I added a little fresh cilantro, rosemary and lemon zest to the mayo mixture though for a little extra flavor :]
Emma L. September 5, 2019
Thanks, Kelsie!
Stephen R. September 4, 2019
I was never a fan of substituting veggies or tofu for meat (or seafood), but the eggplant really works. It gives you the same feel in your mouth as lobster chunks, and the mayo and lemon mixture does the rest.
Emma L. September 5, 2019
So glad you enjoyed, Stephen!