I think it's important to start this recipe with honesty. I hate eggplant. There, I said it. Whew! Weight off of my shoulders. Thanks for understanding guys, see ya later!
Just kidding! I'm still here. I can't very well make a anti-eggplant statement, and then leave you without some further explanation. So here I go. The truth is, no I really don't like eggplant. My mom always gets annoyed and tells me I have to like eggplant, because I can't be a veggieist while being vegan. That's too picky! ...Ok well she doesn't really call me a veggieist, but I thought it was pretty funny.
So far, I have only found one way I actually enjoy eggplant, and that is when it's turned into eggplant bacon. I think you could bacon-ify anything and it would taste pretty darn spectacular. It's rare that I make eggplant bacon, because it lasts for about 3.5 seconds in my house. So when I saw the shiny, purple eggplants sitting there all pretty, I felt guilty (yes I get vegetable guilt) and so I took that beauty home. ...Now to make it taste good.
Then it struck me, well, pinterest struck me, and I saw a recipe for coconut chicken nuggets. While there will be no chicken tasting on this blog, I knew I had found my inspiration!
Boy was I right! These things were so darn good, and I polished off the whole entire eggplant in one go! Crispy, panko and coconut on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside. The eggplant looses all of those mushy qualities that I hate, and becomes this gorgeous, light, munchy snack. These Crispy Coconut Eggplant Nuggets are the way to eggplant bliss. When you are looking for me at the grocery store, you can find me whispering sweet nothings to the eggplants.
To fry or not to fry, that is the question.
Now there is no doubt that frying these nuggets is delectable, because hello, frying! The exciting news (for me), is that they were basically the same amount of deliciousness when they were baked. They turn out just as crispy on the outside and dreamy on the inside. Both methods were so good that I gave instructions for each. So it's up to you what cooking method you choose. Either way, eggplant haters unite! This is your chance to not hate eggplant.
To make the nuggets, start by using a potato peeler to peel the eggplant. Eggplant skin is edible, but it doesn't work well in nugget form, so get rid of it!
Cut your eggplant into nugget sized pieces. Try to get them roughly the same size so they will cook evenly. Put them in a colander and put that colander in the sink or on a towel. Sprinkle the eggplant with the salt, and then use your hands to toss them to coat. Let the eggplant rest while you prepare the remaining nuggets. They might start dripping liquid, and that's a good thing.
Prepare your bowls! Get three medium bowls, in one bowl mix the flour and season with salt and pepper. In the second bowl, mix the flax and water. In the third bowl, mix the panko and coconut. The flax mixture will need to rest for about 5-10 minutes to thicken.
Use a fork, or your fingers (I found a fork was easier to use), to pick up a piece of eggplant. Dip it in the flour mixture and shake off excess, then dip it in the flax mixture, and finally coat in the panko and coconut mixture. Set on a plate and repeat the process with the remaining nuggets.
Choose your cooking method! If you are pan frying them, pour about ½" of oil in a pan. Heat up and test that it is ready by dropping in a small piece. If it bubbles and sizzles you are good to go! If the oil starts smoking, lower the heat. Careful! Working with oil is dangerous. Put several nuggets in the pan and fry them for about 2 minutes on each side, until they are golden brown all over. Set the fried nuggets on a plate covered in paper towel while you finish the rest.
If you want to bake them, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay the nuggets out in a single layer so they aren't touching. Bake at 450F (230C) for 18-20 minutes, flipping them halfway through, until they are golden on all sides.
Serve while hot with your favourite dipping sauce!
Crispy Eggplant Nuggets
- 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into nugget-sized pieces
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup all-purpose flour (gluten-free if preferred)
- Salt & pepper
- 3 tablespoons ground flax or ground chia
- ⅔ cup warm water
- ½ cup panko
- ½ cup shredded coconut
- Oil for frying (if needed)
- OVEN: preheat the oven to 450F (230C).AIR FRYER: preheat your air fryer to 400F (200C).
- Put the eggplant nuggets in a colander in the sink, or over a bowl. Sprinkle the salt across the eggplant and toss with your hands to evenly coat. Let the eggplant sit with the salt on them in the colander while you prepare the rest.
- In the meantime get three medium bowls ready. Bowl 1: add the flour, and season with a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Stir to combine. I used whole wheat flour but almost any flour will work here. Bowl 2: mix together the ground flax with the warm water and set aside. The flax mixture will need to rest for about 5-10 minutes to thicken. Bowl 3: mix together the coconut and panko.
- Now take your first eggplant nugget and dip it in the flour covering all sides. Shake off excess, then dip it in the flax. Shake off excess, and toss in the coconut and panko. Set the nugget on a plate and continue with this process for the remaining nuggets. I found it easiest to do this with a fork as your fingers will get all goopy. As you go the flax mixture might get too thick, so just stir in a bit of water as needed. If any of the bowls run out, just add more as needed.
- If you are baking your nuggets: line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay the nuggets out in a single layer so they aren't touching. Bake in a 450F (230C) over for 18-20 minutes, flipping them halfway through, until they are golden on all sides. Serve the nuggets while hot with your favourite dipping sauce.
- If you are frying your nuggets: pour about ½" of oil in a pan. Heat up and test that it is ready by dropping in a small piece. If it bubbles and sizzles you are good to go! If the oil starts smoking, lower the heat. Careful! Working with oil is dangerous. Put several nuggets in the pan and fry them for about 2 minutes on each side until they are golden brown all over. Set them on a plate covered in paper towel while you finish the rest. Serve the nuggets while hot with your favourite dipping sauce.
- If you are using an Air Fryer: Lay the nuggets in a single layer in the air fryer so that they aren't touching. Fry 14 -16 minutes, flipping them halfway through until they are golden on all sides.
Featured Ingredient: Eggplant.