Original Imam Bayildi Recipe: Turkish-style stuffed eggplants (vegetarian)

stuffed aubergines turkish style imam bayildi recipe

Can a meal be so good that you faint? Obviously! Today's Turkish recipe has literally knocked people out. At least that's what they say. Because these Turkish-style stuffed eggplants are called "Imam Bayildi", which means: The Imam fainted. 


Imam bayildi recipe: Why did the imam faint?

There is not quite a consensus on this. Some traditions say that the stuffed eggplants were really so good that they knocked him out. Other traditions elaborate a little more:

The Imam married the daughter of a rich olive farmer, who gave all her liters of olive oil as a dowry. Every day she cooked the stuffed eggplants with the excellent olive oil. This went on until the olive oil ran out and her husband, the imam, fainted in dismay. 


We do not know which tradition is true and whether there is any truth to it at all. What we do know is that these Turkish-style stuffed eggplants really are so unbelievably delicious that they could knock your socks off. 


Apart from that, we also have a little theory about the name. The original Imam Bayildi recipe was not only so delicious because of the taste of high-quality olive oil. Onions and garlic are also key ingredient here - lots of them. So perhaps the imam only fainted because one day he looked over his wife's shoulders while she was cooking and couldn't believe how much onion and garlic she was using. Just another theory.


If you would like to see another Turkish recipe with a story behind it, take a look at our Ezogelin soup recipe (aka the lentil soup with bulgur, rice and drama).


Imam Bayildi original recipe: here's how it works

Of course, we don't know whether our recipe is really the original Imam Bayildi recipe. But we do know that it is incredibly good and simply beats all other vegetarian stuffed eggplants. Incidentally, stuffed eggplants with meat are karniyarik (English: "slit belly"...faint, slit open... the Turks take food seriously). The Imam Bayildi recipe is therefore basically vegetarian or even vegan.


The eggplants are either cooked in the oven or deep-fried. We always choose the first option as it contains less fat and tastes just as delicious. The filling is prepared separately with lots of onion and garlic, tomatoes, peppers and co. The cooked but still slightly firm eggplants are cut open, stuffed with the filling and braised.


Imam Bayildi recipe in the oven or in a pot? 

Imam bayildi is originally braised in a pot on the stove. A very common type of Turkish pot, which can be found everywhere, is the so-called "Karniyarik pot". Karniyarik or imam bayildi is stewed in this pot. But these pots are also ideal for Turkish rice. They are best compared to casseroles, although the Turkish version is slightly lower. Another method that is often used today is braising stuffed eggplants in the oven. You are welcome to try this too, but we have prepared our Imam Bayildi recipe in a pot.


Imam Bayildi recipe


  • 5 eggplants
  • 2 large onions (or 3 small ones) 
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 3 green peppers
  • handful of parsley
  • some dried mint ("nana")
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil + oil for rubbing
  • paprika powder
  • salt and pepper

For stewing

  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1,5 cups/300 ml water


Step 1: Peel strips into the eggplants (pajama style), rub them in a little oil and put them in the oven for about 15 minutes at 170 C/330 F until they are softer but still a little raw.

Step 2: While the eggplants are in the oven, prepare the filling. For this, halve the onions and cut them into thin rings. Sauté them in the oil. Add the crushed garlic, chopped peppers and tomatoes. Season and salt everything. Add the chopped parsley and cook for about 4 minutes until the tomatoes are slightly watery.

Step 3: Take the finished eggplants out of the oven, slit them down the middle and make a hollow in the belly. Place the open eggplants in a tall, large pan. There must be enough space for all the eggplants. Stuff the eggplants with the filling.

Step 4: Mix the hot water with tomato paste (if you use tomato puree, add less water) and pour the sauce into the pan. Simmer the Imam Bayildi with the lid on for approx. 20 minutes on a medium heat. 


Serving tip: You can drizzle the Turkish-style stuffed eggplants with good olive oil at the end!

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