Imam bayıldı; it’s one of those dishes – along with shepherd’s salad – that we always loved to eat when we first moved to Turkey. And then, for some reason, it released itself from our radar.
Hello Again, Imam Bayıldı
Well all that has now changed, mercifully. Thanks to many requests for an imam bayıldı recipe, we have reacquainted ourselves with this great vegetarian and vegan stuffed aubergine dish.
Don’t worry if you’re not vegetarian or vegan. Neither are we. Imam bayıldı is a famous dish of Ottoman cuisine and it’s a darling of modern day Turkish cuisine. Much loved because the flavours combine so well together. We love it, too.
Unlike its fellow aubergine-based Ottoman dish, hünkar beğendi, imam bayıldı has that cooling summer taste, perfect for hot days. The ingredients for the filling are very similar to zeytinyağlı dishes such as green beans in olive oil and barbunya pilaki – two other summer favourites.
And if you’re a lover of stuffed aubergines but fancy something lighter than meaty karnıyarık, imam bayıldı can be your ‘go to.’
It’s also versatile. Eat it alone or with accompaniments. Eat it warm (not sizzling hot) or at room temperature. For us, we’re fans of the room temperature imam bayıldı served with lokanta-style accompaniments.
Our Recipe For Imam Bayıldı
So, how do we make imam bayıldı? This is the process that takes place in our house for our imam bayıldı recipe.
As with our karnıyarık recipe, we’re making use of both the hob and the oven. The initial softening of the aubergines and cooking of the filling takes place in a frying pan. Afterwards, everything is transferred to the oven to allow our separate ingredients to combine and become one dish.
First of all, we peel stripes into our aubergines with a vegetable peeler. And then make a cut down the length of each one, from top to bottom, without allowing the knife to pierce through to the other side.
For frying your aubergines, use sunflower oil. Fry them for a few minutes on each side on a medium to high heat until they start to soften and colour. This takes about 15 minutes and your oil will sizzle and spit, so just be aware.
Once you’re happy that your aubergines have softened but still have a bit of firmness, place them onto a baking tray with the side where you made the cut facing upwards – and leave them to cool.
Peppers Or Not?
Then we can turn our attention to the filling. For some people, their imam bayıldı recipe is chopped tomato, sliced onion and garlic. For others, there’s also the inclusion of red and green peppers, and, sometimes, a little fresh chilli.
We fall into the latter category just because of the fact that every time we’ve had imam bayıldı in a lokanta or restaurant, peppers have been present.
Make Your Filling
You can use the same pan (most of your sunflower oil will have been absorbed by the aubergines) but this time, we’re using olive oil.
Don’t be shy with the onions or the garlic. We work with one large onion for every two aubergines and one clove of garlic per aubergine. The peppers are more of a suggestion. One red pepper and one small green pointy pepper (sivri biber).
We’re going to saute our onions and peppers in a generous amount of olive oil. And then, when they start to soften, we add two large summer tomatoes (or a 400g tin), garlic and a splash of water (50 mls or so). A sprinkling of sweet paprika and some salt and pepper. Then we simmer for 5-10 minutes while we preheat the oven.
The next stage of our recipe for imam bayıldı is to prepare and stuff the aubergines, ready to go into the oven.
Build Your Imam Bayıldı
Where you made the cut along the length of the aubergine, prise that open so that your aubergines resemble canoes. Once your filling is ready, carefully spoon it into each aubergine. You can pile it up a little and don’t worry about bits falling over the sides. It’s all part of the dish.
Once you have stuffed all the aubergines with your vegetables, mix one teaspoon of salça (tomato or red pepper puree) into 150 mls of water and pour this over the top of your aubergines and into the oven tray.
Now, your imam bayıldı goes into the oven for 15-20 minutes. Next, you can await the delicious results…
Imam Bayıldı – Ingredients & Method
Here’s what you need to make imam bayıldı. Our recipe serves two people if you’re eating just the aubergines or four people if you’re eating it with accompaniments. If you have leftovers, you can also put it in the fridge and eat it the following day.
Imam Bayıldı Recipe
- 4 medium sized aubergines
- 2 large onions peeled, halved & sliced into half moons
- 2 large tomatoes or 1x400g tin tomatoes
- 1 red pepper deseeded & cut into thin strips approx 1 inch long
- 1 green pointed pepper deseeded & cut into thin strips (optional)
- 1 green chilli finely chopped (optional)
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tsp tomato paste or red pepper paste
- 1 tsp paprika
- salt & pepper to season
- 1 handful parsley finely chopped, to garnish
- 1 lemon juiced, to garnish
- 3 tbsp sunflower oil for frying aubergines
- 2 tbsp olive oil for cooking your filling
- Use a vegetable peeler to peel stripes down your aubergines.
- Now take a sharp knife and make a cut from the top to the bottom of each aubergine without piercing through to the other side.
- Gently heat your sunflower oil in a frying pan and add the aubergines.
- Turn them occasionally with tongs so that they brown and soften on all sides. Be careful as they will spit and sizzle in the hot oil.
- Once your aubergines have softened after about 15 minutes, remove them from the pan and place on a baking tray with the side where you made the cut facing upwards.
- Leave to one side to cool.
- In the same pan, add your olive oil and gently heat.
- Add your sliced onions and peppers and sauté until the onions start to soften and turn translucent.
- Now add your chopped tomatoes, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper and mix together.
- Add a splash of water - about 50 mls - stir and leave to simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- Meanwhile return to your aubergines and carefully prise them open along the cut so that you have four canoe shapes.
- Now add your filling to each aubergine with a teaspoon - don't worry if some tumbles over the edge. It's all part of the meal.
- Dissolve your tomato paste (salça) into approx 150 mls of water and pour it over your aubergines and into the tray.
- Now place on the middle shelf of your oven and cook for 15-20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and leave until your imam bayıldı is warm or at room temperature.
- Squeeze fresh lemon juice and sprinkle a little finely chopped parsley over the top of your imam bayıldı before serving.
- Serve on its own or with accompaniments.
- Our recipe for imam bayıldı contains peppers. Some recipes use onions and tomatoes only. We use one red carmen pepper and one green 'sivri biber.'
- You can use as much or as little garlic as you like.
- Imam bayıldı is suitable for both vegetarians and vegans.
- As with all of our recipes, the calories in our imam bayıldı recipe are approximate. There are approximately 360 calories per aubergine serving, taking into account the oil used for frying.
And that’s it. You’ve made your delicious dish. Whilst we let it cool down, let’s answer a couple of questions:
What Does Imam Bayıldı Mean?
It translates as ‘the imam fainted.’ So tasty is this dish that the imam (a leader of Muslim worshippers) fainted when he tried it. That’s how good this is! Well, so the story goes.
How Do You Eat Imam Bayıldı?
Let’s get to the best bit. Time to eat. Imam bayıldı can be eaten on its own but it’s often eaten with accompaniments.
We love to eat our imam bayıldı with a serving of lokanta-style bulgur pilaf and, of course, a big dollop of süzme yoghurt (thick, strained yoghurt).
For these particular photos in the post, we took them when purple basil was in season. So we also tore this up and let it fall over the top of our food (after taking the photos, of course).
Our imam bayıldı had also been made the day before so all that extra juice had soaked into our aubergine. Yummy!
Our recipe for imam bayıldı is now added to our collection of Turkish recipes that you can follow and cook at home.
And if you can’t get enough of aubergines, check out our top Turkish aubergine recipes.