Imam Bayildi recipe

Imam Bayildi recipe

Imam Bayildi (stuffed eggplants) is a simple, delicious vegan dish, packed with so much flavor! An amazing combination of fresh aubergines stuffed with a juicy tomato based filling, caramelised onions, garlic with aromatic herbs and spices!

So, if you want to try something beyond traditional Greek dishes but stick with something that many Greeks enjoy, Imam Bayildi is a perfect idea. This dish is a classic of Ottoman and “Politiki” cuisine, that is the best way to serve eggplants (or aubergines if you like) and is really easy to make!

Imam Bayildi (stuffed eggplants)

What is Imam Bayildi?

Imam Bayildi is a classic vegetarian dish that can be served as a main or side dish. The story behind the name of the dish is that the first Imam to try it was so impressed by the flavor that he fainted! So the dish is called ‘the imam fainted’ in Turkish.

Vegan Imam Bayildi

What you’ll need to make Imam Bayildi the traditional way

You can make this Imam Bayildi recipe at any time of the year but to get the best results, it is worth using summer aubergines and the best tomatoes. But if you can’t get good quality plum tomatoes, you can use the tinned variety. You might find you need to add some sugar to the sauce as tinned tomatoes tend to be a bit more acidic and the sauce will be sharper.

Imam Bayildi Key Ingredients

Basics: For this imam Bayildi recipe, you will want 1 large eggplant per 2 portions you want to create. You’ll also want onion and garlic cloves along with plum tomatoes for the basics of the dish.

Seasoning: To add flavor to the ingredients, use cumin, smoked paprika, oregano and either a little fresh parsley or mint. Have some tomato puree to use to bind them together and a little black pepper to finish.

Imam Bayildi ingredients

Key Preparation steps 

There are three main steps involved with this Imam Bayildi recipe:

  1. Prepare the eggplant
  2. Make the filling 
  3. Finish the dish

Prepare the eggplant 

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees (300 F). Half the eggplant and score the flesh with a cross-hatch marking with the tip of the knife, being careful not to break the skin. Rub plenty of salt into the flesh and set it aside.

Imam Bayildi eggplant

Measure the olive oil in a cup or jug and keep it to one side by the stove. Add more oil to a large, non-stick frying pan over a high heat then fry the eggplant in batches, adding more oil as needed. The flesh needs to be golden.

Imam Bayildi-fry the auberginesPlace the cooked eggplant in a baking dish snugly.

Imam Bayildi prepare the eggplant

Make the filling for Imam Bayildi 

Reduce the heat under the pan to medium and cook the thinly sliced onions with a bit of oil and salt. Cook for 5-6 minutes until soft and starting to change color.

Imam Bayildi cook the onions

Finely slice the garlic cloves and add them to the pan then cook for another few minutes until soft and aromatic.
Roughly dice the tomatoes and add them to the pan, cooking for another 5 minutes until breaking down into a rough sauce.

Stir in the cumin, paprika, oregano and fresh herbs with tomato puree and season with salt and black pepper.

Imam Bayildi prepare the filling

Tip: If you don’t like tomato skins in your sauce, the easiest thing to do is make a small cross on the top of each tomato with a sharp knife. Then submerge them in some boiled water. Once the water is cool enough to put your hands in, remove the tomatoes and the skin will come off.

Finish the dish

Remove the filling from the heat and stir in 4 tablespoons of water.

Use a spoon to add the mixture over the cut sides of the eggplant then drizzle with olive oil and cover the dish with foil.
Bake in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes or until the eggplant is soft and has collapsed.

Leave to stand and serve warm or at room temperature.

Imam Bayildi ready to bake

Do you need to salt eggplants?

You may have heard that you need to salt eggplants before cooking them, but is this really necessary? Modern eggplant varieties are bred to be less bitter, so in most cases, there’s no need to salt them.

However, if you find that the eggplants you usually buy are bitter, or if you’re using an heirloom variety, it’s worth salting them.

To do this, simply season the eggplant halves with salt and leave them to sit for 30 minutes. This will help to remove any bitterness. Rinse the salt off and squeeze out any excess moisture before proceeding with the recipe.

It may seem strange to double-salt them, but the key to a delicious dish is to be bold with the seasoning!

Imam Bayildi

Making ahead of time and storing

If you have any leftovers, allow them to cool then store them in an airtight container and keep them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

You can freeze it once it is cold and use a freezer-safe bag or container. Store for no more than 3 months and allow to defrost overnight before reheating in the oven for 10-15 minutes.

Vegetarian Imam Bayildi

Serving suggestions

Imam Bayildi is great on its own but you can also serve it as part of a meze-style meal. You can serve it with some plain rice or steamed vegetables but avoid anything too spicy as this could make the meal too strongly flavored.

Imam Bayildi (stuffed aubergines)

Love eggplant? More recipes to try

Take a look at my some of my favorite Greek eggplant recipes like:

  1. Traditional Moussaka with aubergines and potatoes
  2. Stuffed eggplants with mince (Melitzanes papoutsakia)
  3. Eggplant dip (Melitzanosalata)
  4. Pan-fried battered eggplants (Melitzanes tiganites)
  5. Vegan Moussaka with Lentils 
  6. Vegetarian Moussaka with mushroom sauce
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Imam Bayildi recipe

Imam Bayildi recipe

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  • Author: Eli K. Giannopoulos
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes (plus cooling time)
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 pieces 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Politiki
  • Diet: Vegan


Imam Bayildi (stuffed eggplants) is a simple, delicious vegan dish, packed with so much flavor! An amazing combination of fresh aubergines stuffed with a juicy tomato based filling, caramelised onions, garlic with aromatic herbs and spices!


  • 2 large eggplant
  • salt
  • 150ml olive oil
  • 1 brown onion
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 4 large plum tomatoes
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree 
  • handful fresh parsley or mint, or a mixture of the two, plus extra to serve
  • black pepper, to taste


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees (300 fahrenheit).
  2. To make this Imam bayildi recipe start by preparing the eggplants. Half the eggplant and score the flesh on a cross hatch, trying not the break the skin with the tip of your knife. Rub a generous amount of salt into the flesh, and set aside. 
  3. Measure out the olive oil in a measuring cup or jug, and keep it by the stove. Add a generous splash to a large, non-stick frying pan set over a high heat. Fry the eggplant, working in batches and adding a little more oil if necessary until their exposed flesh is golden. As you remove them from a pan, nestle them cut side up in a baking dish just large enough to fit them snugly.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, thinly sliced into half moons along with another splash of oil and another pinch of salt. Fry for 5-6 minutes or so until they’re soft and just starting to colour.
  5. Finely slice the garlic cloves before adding them to the pan and cook for another couple of minutes until they’re soft and aromatic. 
  6. Roughly dice the tomatoes and add them to the pan, cooking for a further 5 minutes until they start to break down into a rough sauce. Stir in the cumin, paprika, oregano, tomato puree and the fresh herbs, finely chopped. Season generously to taste with more salt and a little black pepper.
  7. Remove from the heat and stir in 4 tbsp of water before spooning the mixture over the exposed cut sides of the eggplant. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the dish before covering with foil and baking for 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until the aubergines and soft and have collapsed. 
  8. Leave to stand and serve either warm, or at room temperature. Enjoy!

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  1. sorry its not Greek

    seriously????? GREEK recipe??? Which Imam in Greece? you want to claim its Greek at least bother to change the name in to a Greek word dont put a Turkish sentence with an Imam involved at it. Respect please and a bit of reading before posting…..

  2. We had Aubergine Imam in Kefalonia last week. Lush. Going to give yours a go. Greek or Turkish I don’t mind!

  3. I think the recipe should say to rinse the salt off the eggplant before frying

  4. I followed this recipe and it was fabulous. I add walnuts and raisins to the tomato sauce.

  5. I followed the recipe as written. The sauce was quite wonderful but scoring the eggplant deeply instead of scooping out the flesh and chopping it meant it took forever to cook. One and a half hours at 300 degrees did not soften the eggplant. I’m glad it worked for others but it was a disappointment for us.

    • Eli K. Giannopoulos

      Hi Ann

      I guess it will depend on how thick the aubergine was? As we don’t want to throw away the flesh we recommend scoring it so the temperature can rise inside the aubergine as fast as possible.

      In some cases it may take a bit longer to cook, depending on how big your aubergine is and how thick its scored, but if you’re in a hurry you could score deeper and more frequently, allowing for more surface area to cook it through.

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