Imam Bayildi (translation: the priest fainted) – stuffed eggplant

This is one of the classic dishes of Turkish cuisine, and it is also popular in Bulgaria. The name of the dish in Turkish – imam bayildi – literally means the priest fainted, or I would say, the priest went into a food coma. The dish is completely vegan.

serves: 8        difficulty: medium      prep time: 2 hrs


  • 4 large eggplants
  • 4 bell peppers – mix of red, yellow or orange (to give the dish a nice bright color)
  • 4 medium yellow onions
  • 2 large fresh tomatoes or 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 bunch of Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 bunch of basil, chopped


Peel the eggplants lengthwise in stripes – to form this zebra like pattern – i.e. you will peel a stripe, and then leave a stripe of skin on.


Then comes the messy process of frying the eggplants. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a fry pan and add the eggplants. If possible, cover with a lid or with a mesh lid to prevent splattering. The eggplants will release liquid while frying which will cause a lot of splattering. Turn the eggplants so that they are fried evenly on all sides. You may have to add more oil because the eggplants are a sponge absorbing a lot of oil. Fry them until they are soft and browned on the outside. Alternatively you can roast them in the oven at 400 degree temperature. Season them with salt and ground pepper.

After frying or roasting, the eggplants should look like this:

Next you need to prepare the stuffing. Slice each onion in half vertically, and chop the onion in crescents. Julienne the bell peppers. If you are using fresh tomatoes, peel them and chop them finely. If you are using canned tomatoes, puree them with a hand blender.

Heat 1/4 olive oil in a fry pan. Add the onions and garlic, and sauté for 5 min. Add the bell peppers, and continue sautéing until the vegetables are soft. Then add the tomatoes and sauté for another minute. Turn off the heat, and add the chopped parsley.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut each eggplant lengthwise to about 2/3 of its depth – i.e. be careful not to cut through it completely. Using a spoon, widen the cut that you made, and push the eggplant flesh to the side to form a boat-like shape out of each eggplant. Season the inside of the opened eggplant with salt and pepper. Then fill each eggplant with stuffing.

Place the stuffed eggplants in a baking dish, and put in the oven. Bake for 40 min. Take out of the oven, and let cool to room temperature. Once the eggplants have cooled off, you can place them in the fridge.

The dish is served cold or at room temperature. And it’s best the day after it’s cooked. It keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Depending on the size of the eggplants you used, serve half or an entire eggplant. Top with chopped basil. Optionally, serve with a side of yoghurt seasoned with salt and garlic.


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