Spanish Fried Eggplant with Molasses and Rosemary is a delicious, easy appetizer (tapas) to enjoy in the summer sunshine.
Fried eggplant with molasses – or honey – is a simple but stunning tapas dish served all across Andalusia, in southern Spain. We have enjoyed it many times, both in Spain and at home. The sweetly-savory crisped disks of soft cooked eggplant are irresistible. But I never thought to bring it to Food To Glow. Because, you know, frying.
I’ve decided, however, that there are enough adamantly healthy recipes on here that I can get away with bringing you this only healthy-ish one. Berenjenas fritas miel de caña, to give it its Spanish name, is quite simply the best tapas. Please don’t argue with me. I know I’m right. 🙂 Freshly fried and dripping with honey or molasses, crisped yet soft, and with a shower of crunchy salt. It doesn’t get much better. Add a glass of chilled fino sherry and a setting sun and I’d say things are just about perfect.
In this post I will tell you about the flours I used in creating this recipe, as well as of course how to make it. Let me know if you fancy trying this more-ish little nibble.
Three flours. Three different results.
On the way to “perfecting” (I really use that term advisedly) my Spanish fried eggplant recipe I tried a few coating ingredients.
Plain flour is traditional, but I also pressed the eggplant slices into slighty-nubbly almond flour and into fine, golden cornmeal (affiliate link). As you will see in the images, various flours turned out various ways.
The almond flour was a finicky “sticker” with a tendency to burn in patches. At least when given the same amount of attention (ie negligible – I’m not a great multi-tasker) as the others. Wheat flour, as expected – and what I usually use – was great. It adhered well and fried evenly. But I love the extra texture that cornmeal gives. It more readily adhered than the almond, but less well than the flour. I kept the same temperature throughout, so I’m willing to bet that turning down the temperature for the almond flour would help it not to burn.
I am also very impatient, so I know that if I slowed down the almond flour might well have turned out just as good as the cornmeal ones. If you are not wanting to use any grains then almond flour would be fine. It gave a good flavour. I’m fairly certain, however, that an abuela would not be so happy with this choice. Perhaps not even the cornmeal.
How to make Spanish fried eggplant
First of all select young, firm eggplants to help reduce any chance that they contain bitter seeds. Slice them into rounds and soak in milk – I use almond milk. The soaking lessens any bitterness and helps keep the eggplant from absorbing quite as much oil. And of course helps the flour to stick.
Once soaked you shake off the excess milk and either toss or press the eggplant into cornmeal – or other flour of choice. Feel free to try this with a gluten-free flour blend, or perhaps the flour of one of the ancient grains, such as khorasan. Then you heat olive oil in a good skillet – an enameled cast iron skillet (affiliate link) is your best bet for even frying. I add a couple of sprigs of rosemary to flavour the oil. If you do this, remove them before the oil gets hot and burns the leaves.
Add the coated slices in batches, keeping enough room around each slice to flip them. Once browned on the bottom, flip and add colour to the other side. Drain on kitchen paper, carrying on until all slices are golden and crisped. To serve pop them all onto a serving plate, sprinkling over flaky salt and rosemary and finally drizzling well with the molasses (affiliate link) or honey.
Variations to try
Other than changing the flour, why not consider flavouring with the tiny leaves from lemon thyme, or with a sprinkle of lemony-tart sumac? Instead of rosemary I sometimes stud the fried eggplant slices with fruity-hot pink peppercorns. The taste of the latter not only gives a pop of complementing flavour, but gives a gorgeous pop of colour to an otherwise beigey-brown dish.
More tapas please: The Spruce Eats has a great list of vegetarian tapas recipes to try.
Have you ever had Spanish fried eggplant in Spain? Have you tried making it at home? What other tapas dishes do you like?
Recent eggplant recipes on Food To Glow
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plus, more in my Recipe Index!
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Fried Spanish Eggplant with Molasses and Rosemary (Berenjenas Fritas)
Rounds of eggplants, dipped in cornmeal or flour, fried until crisp yet soft then drizzled with dark molasses. It's a classic Spanish appetizer, and extremely delicious!
- 1 large eggplant or two smaller ones
- 300 ml milk of choice I use almond milk
- 120 g cornmeal maize meal/fine polenta
- 120 ml olive oil you may require less
- 3 sprigs rosemary divided use; leaves of 1 sprig minced
- 3 tbsp best quality molasses miel de caña is preferred
- Flaky salt
Slice the eggplant into 1/4-inch thick rounds. No need to get out the ruler though. Place them in a bag or shallow dish and pour over the milk. Leave to soak for half an hour. This draws out any bitterness but also helps the eggplant soak up less oil.
In a large enameled cast-iron skillet, heat about 1/3 inch of oil over a medium-high heat. Add one or two sprigs of rosemary for the first minute of heating, then remove them. This helps to flavour the oil. The oil is ready to fry when a flick of the cornmeal sizzles. On a plate, spread some of the cornmeal. Remove the eggplant from the milk, shaking off any excess liquid. Dredge in the cornmeal, pressing it to coat. Working in batches, fry the eggplant, turning a few times, until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Transfer the eggplant to a paper towel–lined baking sheet or plate and season with flaky salt.
When all of the eggplant rounds are cooked and crispy, place them on a serving plate and drizzle with the molasses/ miel de caña and sprinkle over chopped rosemary.
The nutritional values will include the milk that is mostly removed before frying. It also doesn't include added salt as that will be up to you how much to add.
Miel de caña - sugar cane honey - is a deep brown syrup with a slightly sharp savory-sweet taste. Of course use ordinary molasses - and indeed good honey - but get the Spanish version if you see it. It is a relatively unrefined sweetener (only evaporation to process it) used to top sweet flans, in biscuits (cookies) and is ridiculously good drizzled over popcorn.
I tried several flours to make these fried eggplants - cornmeal, plain flour and almond flour. The almond tended to burn quite quickly and didn't readily adhere to the slices. Flour worked very well - and is the most common coating. But we really like the extra texture from the cornmeal. In the UK it can be easier to buy fine polenta. It is pretty much the same product, but polenta is almost always a bit coarser, and yellow from yellow corn. Both cornmeal and polenta are made with dried corn.
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