Vegan Karniyarik – Turkish Stuffed Aubergines (Gluten-Free)
Karniyarik is one of the most iconic Turkish Aubergine recipes. Tender aubergines are stuffed with vegan mincemeat, vegetables, and aromatic herbs and spices, and baked in a rich tomato sauce. This nutritious and delicious dish is gluten-free, easy to make and perfect for a family dinner!
What is Karniyarik?
The name Karniyarik literally translates as ‘a split tummy’ in Turkish. This popular Turkish aubergine dish dates back to the Ottoman Empire when aubergines were one of the most consumed vegetables in the Ottoman palace. It’s usually made during the warmer months when aubergines are in season and taste their best. The traditional way of preparing Karniyarik is by first shallow frying whole eggplants until they’ve softened, and then preparing the ground meat filling in a separate pan. The fried aubergines are then stuffed with the spicy ground meat mixture and topped with tomato sauce. They are then finished in the oven and baked until the veggies on top have caramelized, and the aubergine is beautifully tender.
Why you’ll love this stuffed aubergine recipe
Karniyarik is the ultimate Turkish comfort food! The aubergines are baked until the flesh is tender and creamy, which goes beautifully with the aromatic, spicy vegan meat filling and the luscious tomato sauce. This recipe is easy to make, and the best part is, you can prepare everything in advance. Simply place the stuffed aubergines into a baking tray with the sauce, cover and store in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. All you have to do bake for another 30 minutes or so and your stuffed aubergines will be ready. The fact that this recipe is so ideal for preparing in advance makes it the perfect hassle-free meal.
How to Serve Karniyarik
Serve it up as a standalone meal or pair with a side of rice and a Turkish-style salad. This dish also goes well with other sides such as Cacik, which is a Turkish cucumber, mint and yoghurt salad, or you can serve it with a side of simple roasted potatoes.
Ingredients For Karniyarik
Here’s everything you’ll need for this recipe – consider it your shopping list!
Aubergines: Try to use good quality, seasonal aubergines for this dish as with all fruits and veggies, they taste better when they’re in season. Make sure to use aubergines that are all roughly the same size. Variations in sizes will prevent them from cooking at the same time.
Olive oil: vegan mince can be a little dry at times, so the olive oil helps to moisten the texture. You’ll need some olive oil to fry the aubergines and also to fry the ingredients for the filling.
Soya mince: I’ve used dried soya mince for this recipe, but you can use the same amount of any vegan ground meat alternative of your choice.
Green pepper: you’ll need some green pepper for the filling and some to decorate the stuffed aubergines.
Tomato and red pepper paste: This will help to flavour the sauce and filling. I recommend you use a good quality, concentrated tomato puree and red pepper paste. If you don’t have any red pepper paste, you can just replace it will some more tomato puree.
Tomatoes: you’ll need some fresh tomatoes for the filling and some to decorate the stuffed aubergines.
Soya sauce: This will add an extra kick of umami flavour to the filling.
Onion and garlic: you’ll find that most savoury Turkish recipes call for onion and garlic. These two ingredients add a delicious depth of flavour to almost any dish!
Aleppo chilli flakes: The Aleppo chilli flakes add a slow-building heat and a delicious earthy, fruity taste to the dish. You could use different types of chilli flakes but bear in mind that different types of chilli will have different levels of heat, so make sure to add it accordingly.
Paprika: You need some sweet and smoked paprika. I find that the paprika gives a delicious, earthy taste and lovely colour to the filling.
Vegetable stock: You’ll need 1 crumbled vegetable stock cube, or alternatively you can use 1 tsp vegetable bouillon.
Salt and pepper: you’ll need some salt and pepper to season the filling.
Parsley: A bit of fresh parsley will add a lovely pop of colour and flavour to the stuffed aubergines.
How to make Karniyarik
Prepare the aubergines by peeling strips on their skin. Keep the top on. Cut a slit in each aubergine without going all the way through.
Fill a large bowl with cold water and add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the water. Stir and place the aubergines in the salt water. Soak them for 15-20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Heat 125ml of olive oil in a large, non-stick frying pan. Dry the aubergines and place them into the pan and fry over a medium heat for about 20 minutes, turning regularly so they’ve softened and browned on all sides. I would suggest using a frying pan with a lid as frying the aubergines with the lid on will help them to cook a lot faster. Arrange the fried aubergines into a medium baking dish and set aside while you prepare the filling.
To make the filling, pour enough hot water over the dried soya mince to rehydrate them without making them overly soggy. Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in the same pan you used to fry the aubergines. Add the chopped onions and peppers and sauté over a medium heat, until translucent. Add in minced garlic and cook until golden brown.
Add in the pepper paste, tomato puree and chopped tomatoes and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring regularly. Add the rehydrated soya mince, parsley, spices and seasoning and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring regularly. If the filling is looking a little dry, you can add 6-8 tbsp water to it.
Part the aubergines where there is a slit and spoon out any seeds. Add 3-4 heaped tbsp of the filling into each aubergine and press down with a spoon.
Make the sauce by mixing the tomato paste with the vegetable stock and pour it over the aubergines and into the oven dish. Decorate each aubergine with slices of tomato and pepper. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the aubergines are completely cooked and soft. Serve warm with a sprinkling of fresh, chopped parsley and a side of rice and salad.
Roasting the aubergines instead of frying
Traditionally, the aubergines are shallow-fried when making this recipe. However, if you’d like to skip this step you can also roast the aubergines. To do so, peel strips on the skin of the aubergines and cut a slit down the middle. Brush with some olive oil, place them in a baking dish and bake at 200°C for around 30-35 minutes, or until they’ve softened.
How to store and reheat Karniyarik
When preparing Karniyarik, you can make it a day or two in advance and store it in the fridge. You can also freeze it as it freezes very well, and still tastes just as delicious after thawing and reheating.
Storage: Store the Karniyarik in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat, preheat the oven to 200C and bake in an oven dish for 20-25 minutes.
Freezing: allow the stuffed aubergines to cool down completely and place them in an freezer-friendly container. Karniyarik can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Thawing: Remove the Karniyarik from the freezer and let it defrost overnight or for at least 6 hours. When ready to serve, preheat the oven at 200C and bake for around 20 minutes or until fully warmed through.
Notes and Tips
This dish tastes even better the next day as the flavours are left to marinate, so it’s great for preparing in advance.
You can adjust this recipe to suit your taste by adding different herbs and spices to the filling.
I would not suggest skipping the step where you fry the aubergines as it adds an extra depth of flavour and also helps to soften the flesh, making them easier to stuff.
Try to use seasonal aubergines for this dish as with all fruits and veggies, they taste better when they’re in season.
I’ve used soya mince for the recipe, but you can use any vegan mincemeat of your choice.
Make sure to use aubergines that are all roughly the same size. Variations in sizers will prevent them from all cooking at the same time.