Creole Eggplant Casserole is a rich combination of eggplant stewed with onions and tomatoes in simple Creole seasonings. Shrimp provide that South Louisiana vibe and breadcrumbs tighten it up before baking to golden perfection. This eggplant casserole is an elegant side dish, simple to make, and just makes any meal more special.
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About the Eggplant
Eggplant’s popularity in South Louisana is seen in many Cajun and Creole dishes. An eggplant and shrimp casserole is a no-brainer. Sweet Daddy D’s Creole Eggplant Casserole recipe is just one example of the versatility of this vegetable. Its creamy texture and delicate flavor go well with other vegetables, meats, and seafood.
It’s common to see eggplant at roadside vegetable stands or grown in backyard vegetable gardens throughout South Louisiana. Introduced by the Spanish in the early days of Louisiana, our climate and soil conditions proved to be ideal for the eggplant to thrive. Its lofty position in South Louisiana cuisine is a tribute to the creativity of Cajun and Creole cooks as you’ll find it used in appetizers, side dishes, and entrees. Eggplant is rich in nutrients and antioxidants and provides many potential health benefits but, by definition, it is actually a fruit. Regardless, eggplant is special and this Creole Eggplant Casserole shows off just how special it is.
Here’s What You Need
Note on Shrimp: Either fresh or frozen shrimp can be used in this recipe. You don’t need large shrimp, medium size shrimp work well as you’ll give the shrimp a rough chop before adding them to the recipe. Shrimp sizes can be confusing, so check out my article What Size Shrimp Do I Need? for a little clarification on how that works.
Note on the eggplant: Use Purple Globe Eggplant also called American Eggplant, or their slightly smaller and thinner relative, the Italian Eggplant. These are what you will likely find at the grocery store and either is good.
Note on tomatoes: Use whole, peeled, and deseeded tomatoes, either canned or fresh. If using fresh tomatoes, make sure they are very ripe. Crush the tomatoes in your hand before adding them to the recipe. Make sure to drain as much of the liquid out as possible. Check out my article How to Peel Fresh Tomatoes to learn how to peel and deseed them.
Here is some of the equipment I used in making this recipe:
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Here’s What You Do
First...you have a beer. This very simple recipe is made even simpler with a little preparation. Pop the cap off a beer, sit down and read the recipe all the way through so you know what ingredients you need and what you’ll do with them. Before you start cooking, perform your mise en place: prepare the ingredients and get the equipment you’ll need together before you start. Cooking is much more enjoyable when your hair is not on fire!
Mise en Place
Peel, clean, devein and rinse the shrimp. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels, place them in a bowl and add mix in a generous sprinkle of creole seasoning. You should give the shrimp a rough chop, then set the shrimp aside.
Remove the stem and peel the eggplant with a vegetable peeler. Cut the eggplant into small cubes about ½ inch square; place the cubes in a bowl and mix in a little kosher salt. The salt will help draw out some of the moisture, so set the eggplant aside while this works.
Pro Tip: When preparing the ingredients, place each in its own prep bowl. Ingredients that are added to the recipe together should be placed in the same prep bowl.
Chop the yellow onions, green onions, and garlic. If using fresh tomatoes, peel them using the boiling water blanch method (see Hints and Tips for how to do this). Drain the tomatoes if using canned (you’ll want to get as much of the juice out, but reserve it in the event we need more moisture later). Measure the butter, creole seasoning, and bread crumbs.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. How’s your beer?
Smother the vegetables
What happens in this step? We start out by smothering all the vegetables together until they develop a cohesive flavor.
Add the butter to a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the butter starts to foam, throw in the yellow onions. Saute the onions in the butter until they start to clear, which should take about 5 to 8 minutes.
Next, add the garlic and saute until it is aromatic, which should take only about two minutes.
Add the green onions, kosher salt, black pepper, and 2 tablespoons of creole seasoning. Continue to stir for another couple of minutes.
Time to add the tomatoes. If you are using canned whole tomatoes, drain the liquid. Reserve the liquid in case we need more moisture later, but I kind of doubt we will. Crush each tomato by hand as you add them. If you are using fresh tomatoes, peel them according to the hot water blanch method (see Hints and Tips) and give them a rough chop before adding. Mix the tomatoes thoroughly into the eggplant and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Pro Tip: Before adding the eggplant, you can rinse off the salt, but this is optional. Use your hand to squeeze as much moisture out of the eggplant as possible. Discard all the water that came from the eggplant.
Increase the heat to high while you add the cubed eggplant by hand, a little at a time. Don’t include any of the water that may have accumulated in the bowl. Once all the eggplant has been added, reduce the heat back to medium-high and cook the eggplant, uncovered, until the eggplant starts to soften. This should take 10 to 15 minutes. Stir often and don’t let it stick. The eggplant will continue to give off a lot of water but this will evaporate while simmering. When the eggplant is soft and starting to reduce, smash the larger pieces with a wooden spoon.
Add the shrimp and breadcrumbs
What happens in this step? Succulent shrimp are added to the delicious vegetable mixture and then tightened up with breadcrumbs.
If you haven't already, give the shrimp a rough chop. Add the shrimp a handful at a time to the eggplant. Stir to thoroughly combine before adding more shrimp. Continue to cook for about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until the liquid is almost completely evaporated.
Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and add the bread crumbs. As you stir in the breadcrumbs, the eggplant will tighten to the consistency of a filling or stuffing. Be careful not to add too many breadcrumbs or it may overpower the flavor.
Bake the casserole
What happens in this step? Now it's time to bake the casserole and meld all the various flavors into one.
Prepare an ovenproof casserole or baking dish (approximately 3-quart size) by spreading a thin film of butter all over the inside.
Fold the eggplant mixture into the baking dish and spread out gently so that the top is even. Sprinkle a thin layer of bread crumbs and place about 6 to 8 small dots of butter on top.
Place the casserole in a preheated 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven for about 30 minutes or until it's bubbly on the edges and browned a little on top.
Remove from the oven and allow the casserole to cool for five to ten minutes before serving.
Pro Tip: Eggplant and tomatoes both have high water content. The cooking process should remove most of the moisture and the breadcrumbs should tighten up the mixture. If the casserole ends up more moist than you like, you can make adjustments next time you make this recipe. Regardless, the flavor will still be outstanding.
That’s it, all there is to it.
Hints and Tips (FAQs)
It's a pretty simple recipe, but I have screwed it up by allowing too much liquid in. Make sure to drain the tomatoes and squeeze the moisture out of the eggplant. Let the ingredients simmer uncovered until it looks like most of the moisture is eliminated. Don't worry, it won't be dry because it seems the moisture keeps coming. Breadcrumbs will also help, but be careful that the mixture doesn't turn out too "bread-y". We want the flavor of the eggplant to shine.
This eggplant casserole may even be more flavorful the day after you cook it. Keep leftovers in the refrigerator wrapped in airtight plastic wrap or aluminum foil for 3 to 4 days. It may also be kept in the freezer for up to six months. The best storage is in a zero-degree Fahrenheit freezer, wrapped in an airtight container. Defrost the casserole in the refrigerator for 24 hours, then cover with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until warmed through, probably about 30 to 45 minutes.
To peel fresh tomatoes, bring about 10 cups of water to a rolling boil. Slice a crosshatch over the stem of the tomatoes and lower them into the boiling water for about a minute to a minute and a half, then remove them to an ice bath for about 5 minutes. Once the tomatoes are cooled, the skin comes off easily. Give them a rough chop and set them aside. If you prefer a vegetarian style this recipe can be made without shrimp.
This recipe is fantastic using smoked ham in lieu of or in addition to the shrimp. If using ham, cut about 1 to 2 cups of smoked ham into small cubes. Begin by sauteing the ham in about 2 tablespoons of bacon renderings or butter until browning on the edges, then remove it from the Dutch oven and proceed with the recipe from the beginning. Add the ham back to the Dutch oven when you add the eggplant. Also, substituting bacon grease for butter is a flavor enhancer.
Nope, leave the tomatoes out if you prefer. This recipe will still be very delicious.
You can use Olive Oil (or Vegetable Oil) in place of the butter. Use about ¼ cup to saute the onions. To prep, the casserole dish, add a little olive oil to a paper towel and wipe the inside. Sprinkle a little olive oil on top of the breadcrumbs before backing.
You could also substitute about 4 to 6 tablespoons of bacon rendering for the butter to cook the onions. This is about 4 to 6 slices of bacon. You could even chop the bacon and leave it in for a nice flavor supercharge!
Leave out the shrimp. Use butter for a vegetarian and olive oil for a vegan version, but make sure that the other ingredients you may use align with those designations.
Here are some other Eggplant Recipes from Sweet Daddy D:
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Yeah You Right!
Creole Eggplant Casserole
Here's What You Need
- 1 pound medium shrimp
- 3 medium eggplants about 4 quarts-peeled and cut into small cubes
- 8 tablespoons Butter in all
- 3 cups yellow onion about 1 large onion-chopped
- 1 bunch green onions about 1 cup chopped
- 2 tablespoons garlic about 3-4 cloves-chopped
- 2 cups peeled tomatoes 28 ounce can
- 2 tablespoons Creole seasoning plus some for shrimp
- ½ cup seasoned bread crumbs
- To Taste Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
Here's What You Do
- Peel, clean, devein and rinse shrimp. Chop shrimp into a smaller size if desired. Pat dry with paper towels and place in a bowl. Add a generous sprinkle of creole seasoning, mix well and set aside.
- Peel the eggplant and cut into small cubes about ½ inch square; place in a bowl and mix in a little kosher salt. Set aside.
- Chop the yellow onions, green onions, and garlic. If using fresh tomatoes, peel them (see Hints and Tips). Drain the tomatoes if using canned. Measure the butter, creole seasoning, and bread crumbs.
Smother the vegetables
- Melt 6 tablespoons butter over medium heat in a Dutch oven until bubbling.
- Sauté the yellow onions in the butter until starting to clear, about 5 to 8 minutes.
- Add the garlic and saute until the garlic is aromatic, probably about 2 minutes.
- Add green onions, salt and pepper and 2 tablespoons of creole seasoning. Mix well and cook about 2 minutes.
- Crush the tomatoes by hand as you add them to the Dutch oven and mix well. Don't add any accumulated liquid from the tomatoes. Saute for about 5 minutes.
- Squeeze out any moisture that has accumulated with the eggplant. Add the eggplant cubes to the Dutch oven a little at a time but don't add any of the water that has gathered in the bottom of the bowl. Mix the eggplant cubes and sauteed onions together very well.
- Lower the heat to medium and simmer until the eggplant is starting to soften and the accumulating liquid is cooking off, which will take about 15 minutes.
- When the eggplant is soft and starting to reduce, smash it down with a wooden spoon.
- Add the shrimp and mix well. Continue to cook, uncovered, for about 10 or 15 minutes or while the liquid evaporates.
- Remove from the heat and add the bread crumbs a little at a time and mix well. The eggplant mixture should tighten up a little, but don't overdo the bread crumbs. Taste for seasoning.
Preparing to Bake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Spread a thin layer of butter inside of an oven proof casserole or baking dish.
- Pour the eggplant mixture into the baking dish and spread out softly.
- Sprinkle a thin layer of bread crumbs on top and place the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, cut into 6 to 8 small dots, on top
- Bake in a preheated 350-degree Fahrenheit oven for about 30 minutes or until it's bubbly on the edges and browned a little on top.