Turkish Stuffed Eggplant with Ground Lamb and Pine Nuts

Rich roasted eggplant stuffed with an aromatic filling of spiced lamb, pine nuts and herbs. Our daughter-in-law, Figen, introduced us to Turkish cuisine many years ago. Here you can recreate her Aunt’s Turkish stuffed eggplant recipe, also known as Imam Bayildi, in your kitchen. It’s probably our family’s favorite eggplant dish.

Ground lamb and spice mixture ready for stuffing eggplant.
Ground lamb and spice mixture ready for the stuffed eggplants dish.

This is a simple recipe and easy to make ahead. It also reheats well, so you can make it early in the week and eat the leftovers for a couple days if cooking for two people at home.

The Best Eggplants for Stuffing

The many varieties of eggplant are highly valued in Turkish cuisine where slender, short, round, purple, white, yellow or green eggplants are common. Some varieties can be bitter unless cooked thoroughly. Oiling and roasting, as in this recipe, produces a velvety texture. It’s important to make sure you use globe eggplants or Italian eggplants. Japanese eggplants are too thin to stuff. Other eggplants like Thai eggplant can be stuffed but won’t hold as much filling as Italian eggplants.

That said, medium-sized eggplants are better than larger eggplants since they will contain less of the seeds, which are slightly bitter. In this recipe you’ll have leftover flesh scooped out from the inside of the eggplants which will help remove some of the seeds. You can save the leftover eggplant flesh to cook and put in the stuffing, or discard it.

How to make Turkish Stuffed Eggplant

First you take 2 medium sized eggplants and cut them in half. Some people soak the eggplant in salt water, we season the eggplant with salt, then pat dry. The middle of the eggplants are scooped out with a spoon and discarded, then the eggplants are oiled and roasted until tender, about 20-30 minutes.

Baked eggplant ready for filling
Baked eggplant ready for filling. You can also use fried eggplant.

It’s important to use globe eggplants and not Japanese eggplants which are too thin to stuff. Instead of baking, you can also fry the eggplants. To make the filling, you cook onion and ground lamb together with spices. Pine nuts are added and the mixture is spooned into the eggplants.

Pine nuts are expensive and optional, but even adding just a few will give a great flavor you’ll appreciate.

Stuffed eggplant with ground lamb and pinenuts on a baking tray.
Stuffed eggplant with ground lamb and pinenuts ready to serve.

What to Serve with Stuffed Eggplant

Stuffed eggplants filled with meat and pine nuts are a rich meal in themselves. Since the eggplants and meat are rich and filling, we like to serve it with sides of freshly cooked vegetables or a simple arugula or leafy green salad. A few slices of ripe tomato and sliced cucumber and a few leaves of fresh basil with olive oil can make a simple side dish too.

You would want to avoid serving this dish with a starch on the side like mashed potatoes as it would be too heavy tasting. There’s a number of traditional Turkish salads and refreshing vegetable side dishes you could serve this with. Here’s a few ideas.

Turkish Nettles

Turkish Chopped Vegetable Salad

Related Posts

Stuffed Lamb Hearts 

Stuffed Lamb Saratoga Roll

Goat Cheese Stuffed Lamb Meatballs

Ground lamb and spice mixture
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Turkish Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Pine Nuts

A family recipe for Turkish spiced, stuffed eggplant with ground lamb.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Turkish
Keyword: Turkish stuffed eggplant recipe
Servings: 4 People
Calories: 474kcal
Cost: 10


  • 1 Baking sheet


  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 2 fresh eggplants halved lengthwise brushed with olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil plus more for brushing
  • ½ teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1-2 onion finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove finely chopped
  • 4 Tablespoon pine nuts
  • 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp honey
  • Salt
  • Ground pepper
  • 2 Roma tomatoes cut crosswise
  • 1 green pepper seeded and cut lengthwise
  • Parsley sprigs


  • Preheat the oven to 425°.
  • Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Scoop out 1/3 of the eggplant center. Sprinkle salt over the flesh sides of the eggplants and set aside for 15 minutes.
  • Dry eggplants thoroughly and arrange in a large baking dish, cut sides up. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in oven for 20 minutes until browned. During this time prepare the filling.
  • You can also use fried eggplant. If you do, allow it to drain on a paper towel for a few minutes before stuffing.
  • Mix the cumin, red pepper flakes and paprika.
  • In a large skillet add 1 Tbs of olive oil and sauté onion and garlic with the spice mix until onions are transparent over medium heat.
  • Add the ground lamb and brown for about 4-6 minutes. Pour off any extra fat.
  • Stir in the pine nuts, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, chopped parsley and honey. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Spoon the filling into the eggplants.
  • Cover the dish with foil. Bake for about 40 minutes until tender and browned. (Optional: Add slices of tomato, green pepper and bake an additional 10 minutes).
  • Serve hot with rice garnished with chopped parsley and pine nuts.


  • Ground goat meat can be substituted for ground lamb.
  • While some recipes may call for a ground beef mixture, ground lamb or goat is more traditional and gives a much richer flavor. 
  • Some recipes call for chopped green pepper. If you want to add some, add it with the onion. 


Serving: 6oz | Calories: 474kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 83mg | Sodium: 285mg | Potassium: 702mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 749IU | Vitamin C: 37mg | Calcium: 70mg | Iron: 4mg