Toss Out the Takeout Menu: Kung Pao Eggplant Recipe
Who doesn’t love a good Chinese takeout meal? The savory, umami flavors and bit of heat have us crawling back each and every time. But what if I told you that you could easily re-create Chinese takeout at home for a fraction of the calories and fat?
That’s right: Today I have a recipe that will be ready in less time than it takes to wait around for takeout. Enter Kung Pao Eggplant. Substituting eggplant for chicken, you add another serving of vegetables to the plate, not to mention additional nutrients like fiber. This version is vegetarian (and vegan!) friendly and can be made gluten-free by using tamari in place of soy sauce and arrowroot flour instead of cornstarch.
This recipe is bursting with flavor — it’s rich and savory with a hint of spice from the ginger and a kick of heat from the dried chiles. It’s so tasty that you can toss out the takeout menu stuck to your fridge for good.
Kung Pao Eggplant
1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
6 dried red chiles, cut in half
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1/3 cup dry-roasted peanuts
2 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
4 cups cooked brown rice
For the marinade:
1 tablespoon mirin (rice wine)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
For the sauce:
2 tablespoons black Chinese vinegar (or substitute 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar plus 1 tablespoon rice vinegar)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Place eggplant in a large mixing bowl, add marinade ingredients and toss together until fully coated. Set aside.
To make the sauce, add black vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic and cornstarch to a small mixing bowl, then whisk to combine.
In a wok or large saute pan, melt 1 tablespoon coconut oil on high heat. Add eggplant and cook until lightly golden brown and tender, about 8 minutes, deglazing the pan as needed. Transfer cooked eggplant back to the large mixing bowl and set aside.
Turn heat down to medium-high. Add remaining coconut oil to the pan; add dried chiles and saute for 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the bell pepper and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until just tender. Add the cooked eggplant, peanuts, scallions and sauce, then toss to coat. Cook for 60 seconds, or until sauce is thickened.
Serve immediately with brown rice and additional scallions for garnish.
Per serving: Calories: 410; Fat 14 g (Saturated 8 g); Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 950 mg; Carbohydrate 62 g; Fiber 8 g; Sugars 16 g; Protein 9 g
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Kara Lydon, RD, LDN, RYT, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, yoga teacher and self-proclaimed foodie. She is the author of Nourish Your Namaste: How Nutrition and Yoga Can Support Digestion, Immunity, Energy and Relaxation and The Foodie Dietitian Blog, which features seasonal vegetarian and vegan recipes and simple strategies to bring more mindfulness and yoga into your life.