Go into any lokanta in Turkey and you will be most unfortunate if you don’t see karnıyarık as one of the choices in the bain marie. Along with imam bayıldı, it’s a classic Turkish stuffed aubergine recipe.
Aubergines are a major ingredient in Turkish cuisine and are paired with meat and vegetables so that they either complement other ingredients or so that they are the star of the show. In the karınyarık, for us, aubergines are the star of the show. Both in flavour and in presentation.
When we go to a lokanta, I often plump for karnıyarık. So, a couple of years ago, we asked our Turkish friend for his mum’s recipe. This is the same mum whose fantastic lentil köfte recipe we use, too. So we knew she’d be a karnıyarık guru.
Karnıyarık – Is It Easy?
Our friend sent us over to his mum to get the recipe – she speaks lovely clear Turkish so we were okay with that bit. What made me nervous, however, was her opening sentence. “Oh, karnıyarık is really easy.”
Part of me thought, brilliant. The other part of me thought, if this goes wrong when it’s supposed to be easy, I’m going to look like a completely incompetent cook! I dutifully noted everything down. And, for the last couple of years, along with Izmir Köfte, karnıyarık has become our regular claypot, bake-in-the-oven dish.
Karnıyarık – Turkish Stuffed Aubergine
Karnıyarık is a stuffed aubergine dish that traditionally uses minced lamb. We love lamb. But you can use beef if lamb is not your thing. The meat filling is simple, and, for this dish, we like to keep it that way.
Keeping It Simple
A lot of the time, when we’re cooking we’ll play around and experiment with recipes but this karnıyarık recipe is one that we like to keep just as it is. It’s a real home recipe.
So, we resist the temptation for extra herbs and spices. Our karnıyarık filling is just a basic meat in tomato sauce – a bit of seasoning with salt and pepper. And, naturally, garlic.
Once we’ve made the meat filling, we need to concentrate on the aubergines. For this karnıyarık recipe, the way we begin the cooking process means the oblong aubergines are more suitable than the bulbous ones. We use 4 small-to-medium-sized stuffed aubergines for the two of us.
Preparing The Stuffed Aubergines
Using a vegetable peeler, you need to peel strips of skin away to create a striped pattern all the way around. You can leave the stems on your aubergines. The stems help to hold the aubergine in shape. And they’re also useful when you need to turn the aubergine in the pan.
We’re going to fry our aubergines in a frying pan with some sunflower oil until they start to brown and soften. Then we lie them in our clay pot (or an oven dish) and make a cut down the centre of each aubergine from the stem to the bottom, making sure not to cut the aubergines in half. Karnıyarık means ‘cleft belly’.
The aubergine is split down its belly.
We part the cut to make the aubergines resemble a canoe and then stuff them with the meat filling. Tomatoes and green peppers go on top. And then we dissolve a teaspoonful of salça (tomato or pepper paste) in around 100 mls of water and pour that into the dish.
Sometimes, depending on the size of our aubergines, once we have stuffed them, we have a bit of leftover meat filling. If this this happens, we just add it to our oven dish, filling in the gaps.
The karnıyarık is then going to go into the centre of a preheated oven until the peppers take on colour and the skin starts to blisters.
When your peppers have softened and blistered, your stuffed aubergines should be fully cooked, too.
Karnıyarık Recipe – Ingredients & Method
Okay, let’s get down to business – let’s make karnıyarık…
Karnıyarık Recipe - Classic Turkish Stuffed Aubergine
- 4 medium aubergines aka eggplants
- 200 g minced lamb or beef
- 1 medium onion peeled & finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic peeled & grated or finely chopped
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes 400g
- 4 long green peppers see notes
- 4 cherry tomatoes or 1 large tomato, sliced
- 1 dessert spoonful tomato paste or red pepper paste, plus 1 tsp for the oven later
- 5 tbsp sunflower oil 1 for cooking for your meat, 4 for your aubergines
- handful fresh chopped parsley to garnish
- salt & pepper to season
- Heat a little sunflower oil in a large saucepan and add your onions.
- As the onions start to sweat, add your lamb and stir around.
- Add your garlic.
- Give it all a stir and sauté until the meat is browned (around 10 minutes).
- Now add your tomatoes, salt & pepper, then simmer for 10 minutes.
- Stir in your tomato paste (salça), remove from the heat and place to one side.
- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
- Take your aubergines and peel stripes off them. Leave the stems at the top.
- Heat 4 tbsp sunflower oil in a frying pan on a medium-high heat.
- Place your aubergines in the pan and fry for 10-15 mins, turning occasionally so they brown on all sides and are partly softened.
- Now place your aubergines into an oven dish or baking tray.
- In each aubergine, make a slit down the centre from close to the top, almost to the bottom, making sure not to slice the aubergine in half.
- Part each aubergine so that they resemble canoes.
- Now stuff your aubergines with the meat filling.
- Place sliced tomato over the top of the meat and lay your green pepper over the top.
- Brush your pepper with a little oil.
- Dissolve a teaspoon of tomato paste in 100mls of water and pour that into your oven dish
- Place your karnıyarık into the centre of the oven for 20 minutes until the pepper is cooked.
- Top your karnıyarık with the chopped parsley before serving.
- In Turkey, we use long thin peppers known as sivri biber (pointed peppers). They're called carliston peppers. If you can't get those for your stuffed aubergine, you can use strips of any type of green capsicum.
- Traditionally, karnıyarık recipes use minced lamb but you can use beef if you don't like lamb.
- Serve your karnıyarık on its own or with a side of rice or bulgur pilaf.
- As with all of our recipes, calories are meant as a rough guide. They will differ depending on your choice of meat, its fat content and how much oil you use.
Once your karnıyarık is cooked, it is up to you how you serve it. First things first, we sprinkle the top of our stuffed aubergines with fresh chopped parsley.
Sometimes, we have two stuffed aubergines each. Other times, we will have one karnıyarık and have a side portion of Turkish rice or lokanta-style bulgur pilaf. If you want to get really lokanta-style, a creamy mashed potato is often added as a side, too.
Karnıyarık & Stuffed Aubergine Afternotes
- For all of you cheese fans out there, peynirli karnıyarık is also a thing. If you want a cheese topping, sprinkle some grated cheese over the top of your stuffed aubergine a few minutes before the end of cooking and continue to bake until the cheese bubbles and starts to brown.
- If you are a fan of the aubergine and meat combination, you could also try Turkish musakka or Hünkar Beğendi.
- For meat-free aubergine dishes, as well as the vegetable stuffed aubergine dish, imam bayıldı, you could also try baba ganoush or şakşuka.
- You can find these recipes and more on our Turkish recipe collection page.