Stuffed Eggplants (Aubergines) or Imam Bayildi is a very famous dish across several Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and European countries that were once under the Ottoman Empire. In my native country of Albania we call this dish Patellxhane te Mbushura or Imam Bajalldi. Be prepared to have your taste buds challenged!!!Jump to Recipe
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What is Imam Bayildi?
Imam is someone who leads prayers in a mosque, similar to a priest in a church. Ottoman Empire or Turkish Empire controlled a vast part of Mediterranean, South Europe, West Asia and North Africa for about 5 centuries. Since it was such a long occupation, the locals cultures got entwined with Turkish culture over the years. In my native country of Albania, we still have certain dishes that we inherited from Turkey as well as words, customs and traditions.
Imam Bayildi is one of those dishes. In Albania we call it Imam Bajalldi or Patellxhane te Mbushura (Stuffed Eggplants or Aubergines).
Imam Bayildi means The Imam Fainted. That’s where the similarities end and the legends start.I did a little research before publishing this post and found so many stories on why the imam fainted:). One story says that his wife put so much oil in it that he fainted from that. Another one refers to the cost of the dish and he might have fainted from that.
Update – Once i posted this recipe online, i shared in Twitter too and a friend of mine re-shared. A travel blogger, who had lived in Turkey before gave me her version of what Imam Bayildi means:). This is all so interesting and exciting!!!
I lived in Turkey for a few years and was always told the translation was more like the imam swooned – like the dish sent him. That I can believe because I hear the word and salivate. ❤️❤️❤️it is heaven.— Pam Alvarez🔝🌎 (@moxytraveler) May 25, 2019
The Albanian Version of Imam Bayildi (Imam Bajalldi)
The Albanian version of this lore is that a famous Imam was once visiting Albania. My country is known for its hospitality and it seems the locals invited the imam to their houses, where the women cooked this stuffed eggplant dish to honor the imam. He liked the dish so much that he kept eating and eating to the point of getting sick (bajalldi) so he fainted. Since then the dish became famous throughout the Ottoman Empire and took the name Imam Bayildi.
Variations of Stuffed Eggplant Dish
This eggplant dish transcends countries and continents. I can’t pretend to know all the variations of cooking this dish but I would like to share with you few options in addition to the recipe below.
- I tend to cook this dish with ground beef but you can use minced meat or no meat at all.
- Dish can be made vegetarian but increasing the quantities of onions, peppers, parsley and tomatoes and not include meat.
- It’s tradition to actually fry the eggplants in oil before stuffing them. Then the dish is baked. However, you can also bake the eggplants prior to stuffing them.
- You can also place the eggplants in water with some salt before baking them for the salt to seep through. There’s a belief that this will make the eggplants cook faster.
- I tend to use fresh soft tomatoes whenever possible when cooking this dish. You can also use canned tomatoes and tomato sauce. That will make the filling redder in color. If you like that red color of the stuffing but still want to use fresh tomatoes like I did, you can still do that but just add 1 tbsp of tomato paste for more color.
- I’ve seen recipes where carrots, bulgur, different salsas etc are included in the stuffing. Feel free to be creative and add your favorite ingredients to stuffing. Below is the recipe we cooked at home back in Albania.
- I do add potatoes to a lot of stuffed dishes because i love the taste of roasted potatoes mixed in with other vegetables. Potatoes are not traditional in this dish, it’s just a personal preference to me.
Stuffed Eggplants (Aubergines) Recipe
I usually tend to eye-ball the quantities of a lot of dishes from back home. If you remember to add lots of olive oil and lots of garlic, then you got this recipe right!!! Even if you think I used a lot of olive oil below, believe me back home this is nothing. This dish is seeped in olive oil:)). Especially when eggplants are fried in oil before they’re baked.
Something you might have an issue with this dish is weight of ingredients. I purposefully didn’t include weight of eggplants (aubergines) but instead put how many in the recipe. Please, please, please remember to buy small eggplants or what my store calls baby aubergines. In most European countries those are the normal size eggplants. However, here in Florida at least the regular eggplants are huge. There’s no way any one can make stuffed eggplants with those. So you’ll need to choose the right eggplant size!!
Usually this dish is served with a fresh summer salad!
Stuffed Eggplants (Aubergines) – Imam Bayildi
- 6 small eggplants (aubergines) baby eggplants or mini-eggplants if you live in USA
- 1 big red onion Other onions are ok too, i just prefer red
- 4 big red soft tomatoes if you don't have fresh tomatoes you can use a big can of crushed tomatoes about 32 ozs
- 3 green bell peppers peppers tend to vary a lot in size so you might have to use more or less than 3 depending on size. The ones i used were quite big.
- 1 bunch fresh parsley i buy the parsley pre-packed so i use the whole package. If i were to estimate, once it is chopped, it is about 1.5 cups of freshly chopped parsley.
- 11 cloves garlic yes, this dish requires a LOT of garlic!
- 1 lb small potatoes this is optional
- 1 lb ground beef
- 10 tbsps olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 0.5 tsp black pepper
- Clean the eggplants. Peel strips alongside them alternating. Put them in a baking tray with 3-4 tbps of olive oil and bake them at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. (Use a timer so you don't overdo it)
- While eggplants are going through the first phase, then you can do the other prep. Start by chopping onion, peeling garlic, chopping green bell peppers, chopping parsley etc. Peel potatoes and place them in water.
- Start by sauteing the onion with 5 minced garlic. (let the other 6 garlic cloves aside not minced).
- Once onion is translucent, add ground beef and start sauteing the meat until brown. Mix frequently so onion and garlic don't get burned. Add chopped green bell peppers once meat is browned.
- Cook for a few minutes mixing well. Lower the temperature so ingredients so get burnt. Add crushed tomatoes to mix. If desired you can add a little tomato paste to make the stuffing redder in color.
- Add chopped parsley and salt/pepper at this point. Let the stuffing cook for 5 more minutes in low-medium heat. The stuffing should be cooked by the time the eggplants are baked. Get the eggplants out and put them in a cooling rack. I shut the oven door but i leave it on at 400 degrees.
- Cut the eggplants in the middle. You can remove the insides with a spoon. Fill with stuffing and place on the baking dish. Add potatoes around the eggplants and then pour the remaining stuffing all around. Add 1 cup of water. Add the remaining garlic, one clove on top of each eggplant. It will roast beautifully!!!
- Bake for 1 hour at 400 degrees. (Baking time can vary on your oven. It can be anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hr 10 minutes – my most common one is close to 1 hr). You can cover with aluminum foil the last 20 minutes so the top layer doesn't get burnt.
If you would like to save this recipe for later, please pin the below image to Pinterest. Thank you:)