Grilled and marinated Italian eggplant antipasto is a traditional appetizer in Italian cuisine and for good reason. Slices of eggplant are bathed in a marinade of extra virgin olive oil, lemon, garlic, and herbs before being grilled to perfection. These tender bites of seasoned eggplant make a simple yet sophisticated appetizer for any meal or gathering.
Why I love this recipe
I love this Grilled and Marinated Italian Eggplant Antipasto for several reasons.
First, it only takes minutes to prepare, and I'm all about dishes that are both delicious and easy. The flavorful marinade transforms simple eggplant slices into a taste sensation, and the grill adds that perfect touch of smokiness.
Plus, it's an incredibly versatile dish – You can enjoy grilled eggplant antipasto as an appetizer, an addition to charcuterie boards, as a side dish, or in a salad for a burst of Italian-inspired goodness. Or go big and top polenta with this antipasto for a main dish.
Vegetable antipasto is an Italian classic and an easy appetizer that never fails to impress. This antipasto makes a great addition to any dinner party or gathering. If you've got kids, try serving with with some garlic and basil seasoned tomato sauce for dipping. (Read more about eggplant here.)
Love eggplant as much as I do? You should try my Baba Ganoush as well as Mutabal (a slightly different Middle Eastern eggplant dip). I've also made a similar antipasti recipe with zucchini, and they make a great combination together.
This eggplant antipasto is a fantastic way to showcase the versatility of eggplant in Mediterranean cuisine. These simple, fresh ingredients are healthy and bursting with vibrant flavors.
- Fresh Eggplant - When picking an eggplant, you want one that is slightly firm, but not hard. A perfectly rip eggplant will have about as much give as a ripe tomato.
- Parsley + Thyme - Fresh herbs are an absolute must for this recipe. If you don't have parsley or thyme, you can swap them for other fresh herbs like basil, mint, dill, or cilantro. If you only have dried herbs, remember that they are stronger than fresh, so only use a teaspoon of each.
- Chili Flakes - A small amount goes a long way. I like to use just enough to add a little extra flare to the flavor but not so much that they are noticeably spicy. I love wine with my antipasto and too much spice makes it hard to pair. Of course you can omit these or add more to taste if you like.
See recipe card for quantities.
Substitutions + Variations
This Italian-style eggplant recipe is big on flavor despite having only the simplest of ingredients. Have fun with it and try these easy variations.
- Vegetable Antipasti - This recipe would be great made with a variety of vegetables including red or yellow bell pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, or artichoke hearts.
- Top It - Add a sprinkle of flavorful toppings like toasted pine nuts, shaved parmesan cheese or some toast points for a crisp way to eat this eggplant.
- Broil or Pan Fry - I love this recipe grilled because of the beautiful grill marks and smoky flavor that grilling produces, but you can also broil or pan fry your eggplant if you prefer. Simply pan-fry the eggplant in a large skillet until soft and there are a few brown spots or place slices on a baking tray and pop in the oven until cooked through.
- Doubling The Recipe - Easily double (or even triple) this recipe for a crowd.
This simple marinade takes only minutes to mix. Sliced eggplant gets tossed with the marinade so it soaks up all the flavors until it's time to grill. While some recipes salt eggplant before cooking, this one uses salt in the marinade and excess liquid cooks away while it's grilling.
Step 1. Set aside some of the fresh parsley for garnish and then finely chop the rest. In a large bowl, combine the remaining parsley, garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, and freshly ground black or white pepper.
Step 2. Add the extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice and whisk to combine.
Step 3. Slice eggplant lengthwise into long, thin strips (about ¼" thick slices) and place eggplant in the bowl with the marinade.
Step 4. Toss the aubergine slices to coat and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
Step 5. On medium high heat, grill the eggplant slices in a single layer. (No need for more oil- there is enough oil in the marinade!) When eggplant begins to soften, flip and repeat. Cook 4-5 minutes on each side.
Step 6. Or you can pan fry the eggplant antipasto over medium heat.
Serving And Using Leftovers
Serve this grilled eggplant on an antipasto platter with crusty bread and your favorite grissini, green olives, and delicious cheese. Add small jars of your favorite tapenades and aioli to compliment these wonderful flavors. It's the perfect spread for a gathering during the summer months.
Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days and they are just as good the next day as they are fresh!
Leftovers can be used in sandwiches with fresh mozzarella, caramelized onion, and your favorite aioli, tapenade, or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
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Consider Prosecco or any dry sparkling wine for a refreshing choice. You could also opt for a light and herbaceous white wine such as Arneis, Albarino, or Soave, which harmonize beautifully with the eggplant. If you lean toward red wine, both Chianti and a light, fruity Valpolicella are excellent selections. For those who prefer aperitifs, Sherry, Vermouth, or Aperol make delightful choices to start your meal.
In Italian cuisine, antipasto (or plural, antipasti) simply means "before the meal" in Italian. You might also call this an appetizer.
Yes, you can use different varieties of eggplant, such as Japanese or globe eggplants. Just ensure they are fresh and a bit firm.
Yes, this antipasto can be made in advance and served at room temperature, making it a great choice for entertaining.
Cheers and happy cooking, Friends! Sabrina
Easy Grilled Italian Eggplant Antipasto
- 1 lb Eggplant 450 grams
- ¼ c Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
- 1 clove Garlic, minced
- ¼ c Fresh Parsley ¼ cup gently packed, fresh herbs total
- 1 teaspoon Fresh Thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- ¾ teaspoon Salt
- ½ teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- Reserve some parsley leaves for garnish and finely chop the rest of it. Combine all ingredients except for the eggplant in a large bowl. Whisk well and set marinade aside.
- Wash eggplant and trim stem end off. Slice lengthwise into long, thin strips, about ¼" thick each. Add aubergine slices to the marinade and toss well. Let sit to marinate for at least 15 minutes or up to 4 hours.
- Preheat your grill to medium high heat. Once preheated, place eggplant slices on the hot grill in a single layer. (No additional oil is needed.) Grill until there are dark grill marks and the eggplant is starting to soften. Flip and repeat on the other side. Approximately 4-5 minutes per side.Remove from heat and serve warm or at room temperature.