I can’t get enough of Calabrian chilis. It’s one of those completely cravable and versatile things that I want to put on everything. For this Calabrian Chili Butter Eggplant with Crispy Chickpeas recipe, the Calabrian chili butter sauce is the highlight of the dish and what brings everything together in perfect harmony. The eggplant is smooth, soft and savory, while the chickpeas bring a special crunch and extra protein. And when served over white rice with fresh herbs, this dish is complete heaven. There’s nothing better than saucy vegetables over steamy white rice! Of course, you can adapt it to your house’s needs, add it in to a dinner party menu, or even serve it over toast. It’s really what you make of it. And if you leave it in the pan and serve as-is, it makes a pretty phenomenal eggplant side dish.
Table of contents
What is Calabrian chili?
Calabrian chili is a type of pepper that originates from Italy, traditionally called Peperoncino Calabrese. These peppers come from the Calabria region of Italy, on the southern end of the country. Calabria is sunny, hot in the summer and the perfect place for delicious peppers to grow. Calabrian chilis are known for being slightly sweet, spicy and sometimes smoky. They pair well with almost anything and are completely irresistible!
For this recipe, the eggplant serves as a great blank canvas for the savory Calabrian chili butter, and it’s the perfect opportunity for you to use that last bit of summer eggplant that’s been lying around your kitchen.
Preparing the eggplant
To start the recipe, one of the first things you’ll do is prepare the eggplant. To ensure getting that beautiful golden color while cooking in the pan, the eggplant spears will first be generously seasoned with salt to draw out excess moisture. Pulling out this moisture and patting the eggplant dry will allow the hot oil to work its magic in the pan. This will produce the softest yet most flavorful pan-seared eggplant you ever did taste!
Making the Calabrian chili butter
This Calabrian chili butter is the best part of the dish, in my opinion. I love the richness that the butter adds to the spicy Calabrian chili sauce. And here’s the best part: it’s so easy to make!
While the eggplant rests and the chickpeas cook in the oven, it’s time to make the sauce. In a small cup, mix together the chili paste, vinegar, honey, grated garlic cloves and a large pinch of salt. After the base of the sauce is made, it’s time to cook the eggplant and add the butter. Then, let everything cook together.
How to make the crispy chickpeas
Everyone knows by now that I’m a crispy chickpea girl, so here’s how I make my crispy chickpeas for this recipe:
While the eggplant is resting, add the chickpeas to a parchment-lined baking sheet and pat them dry. Drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil and season with a large pinch of salt and a few cracks of black pepper. Stir to coat and roast for 20-25 minutes or until the chickpeas are golden.
When the eggplant in Calabrian chili butter is done, serve over white rice and add the chickpeas to the top of the dish. Now it’s time to eat!
Separate the white rice, chickpeas and eggplant in Calabrian chili butter and store in airtight containers in the fridge. This will help the chickpeas and rice not get soggy while it sits in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat, just add everything back together and warm it up in the microwave!
No! Although I adore eggplant for this specific recipe, you can opt for zucchini, cauliflower or tofu. Note that each alternative will have a different cook time, so go with your gut on how long it will take your alternative to soften and brown.
Chickpeas can be tricky if they’re holding a lot of moisture while they cook. To make sure that your chickpeas come out crispy, pat them extra dry. You can even rough up the skins a little bit so that they flake off and get crunchy in the oven. The amount of oil you use also correlates with the chickpea’s crispiness, so don’t skimp!
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And that’s everything for this Calabrian Chili Butter Eggplant recipe!
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Calabrian Chili Butter Eggplant with Crispy Chickpeas
- 1 large skillet or sauté pan
- 2 medium eggplants about 2 pounds
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 1 (15-ounce) can of chickpeas drained and rinsed
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon Calabrian chili paste
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 large garlic cloves finely grated
- 4 tablespoons salted butter
- 1/4 cup fresh tender herbs, such as parsley, dill, chives for serving
- 2 cups cooked white rice optional, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Slice the tops off of the eggplant and cut them into thin spears. Sprinkle them with a liberal sprinkle of kosher salt and let them sit for 15 minutes to pull out excess moisture.
- While the eggplant is resting, add the chickpeas to a parchment-lined baking sheet and pat them dry. Drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil and season with a large pinch of salt and a few cracks of black pepper. Stir to coat and roast for 20-25 minutes or until the chickpeas are golden.
- In a small cup, mix together the chili paste, vinegar, honey, grated garlic cloves and a large pinch of salt. Set aside.
- Place a large pan over medium heat and add two tablespoons of olive oil. Cook the eggplant spears in batches. Let them sizzle, undisturbed for 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden. Flip and repeat, adding more olive oil as needed. When finished, add all the eggplant spears to a bowl on the side.
- In the same pan, add the butter. Let it melt and begin to softly foam, forming brown flecks on the bottom of the pan, about 4-5 minutes. Add in the Calabrian chili mixture and stir into a sauce. Let this cook for another 1-2 minutes or until thick.
- Add the eggplant back into the pan and mix to coat all the spears in the sauce. Turn off the heat.
- By now the chickpeas should be finished, so serve all together with white rice. Top with roughly chopped parsley, dill or chives and enjoy!