Steamed Eggplant in Nutty Sauce (芝麻酱拌茄子)

5 from 6 votes
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Tender steamed eggplant is smothered in a gingery garlicky nutty sauce that is slightly sour and sweet. The dish takes no time to prepare, is addictively delicious, and so healthy. {Gluten-Free adaptable, Vegan}

Steamed eggplant in nutty sauce

There are many things that I took for granted back in China but appreciated so much more after moving to the US. Homemade dumplings, freshly made congee, and a simple veggie stir-fry are some good examples. This steamed eggplant dish belongs to the same category.

It’s a dish my mom often makes in the summer because it’s so easy to prepare. It requires very little hands-on time, it doesn’t require that you fire up the wok in the hot weather, it tastes great, and it’s super healthy.

The only downside is that it doesn’t look very pretty.

My mom’s steamed eggplant usually involves removing the eggplant skin and steaming it until super tender. Then she mixes it with the sauce, which results in a bowl of brown mess.

Cooking notes

When I was recreating the recipe, I did a few things slightly differently so you can easily make it in your home kitchen and it will actually look good:

  • Cut the eggplant without peeling the skin off. So it will look much better once cooked.
  • Make a bit more sauce so the dish tastes irresistibly good.
  • Use peanut butter to replace the sesame paste, making the dish more accessible.

What eggplant to use

Any eggplant will work in this dish, but long Asian eggplant generates the best result. Asian eggplant contains less water so the cooked eggplant won’t release too much liquid and make the dish watery. If you use another type of eggplant and it releases liquid during cooking, simply drain and discard the liquid before serving.

Sliced eggplant ready for steaming

Cooking time

The steaming time is largely dependent on the type of eggplant you use, the size of the cuts, and the doneness you’re looking for. You should always monitor the cooking process and judge the doneness by tasting the eggplant.

To give a general time frame, I usually cook for 10 minutes for a firm texture. The eggplant skin will still have some purple color and the fruit will hold its shape.

If you like very tender eggplant, steam for 15 minutes. The eggplant skin will turn brown but the texture will be tender and nice.

Steamed eggplant

Sesame paste and alternatives

Traditionally we use Chinese toasted sesame paste as the main ingredient to create the nutty flavor. You can find it in an Asian market or on Amazon.

Note, toasted sesame paste tastes very different from Chinese white sesame paste and tahini, which are made from raw sesame seeds. Do not use either of these products to make this dish.

I found the next best option is unsalted natural peanut butter, which you can find in almost any grocery store. In fact, I personally love its taste so much that I use it more often to make steamed eggplant, than I do the traditional Chinese sesame paste.

Consistency of the sauce

The consistency of the sauce can vary a lot depending on the sesame paste (or peanut butter) you use. The sauce requires none or very little extra liquid to thin it out if you use the paste from the top of the jar, which is runnier and mixed with lots of oil. On the other hand, your sauce might end up super thick if you use the paste from the bottom of the jar. Adjust the consistency by adding water, 1 teaspoon at a time, and mix until it reaches the thickness you like.

Homemade chili oil

It’s not required in the recipe, but I highly recommend adding it. If you used Chinese chili pepper flakes to make the oil, it will only add very little spiciness to the dish. All it does is add a rich and nutty aroma to the sauce, making it even better. It takes 5 minutes to make a batch of fresh chili oil using my recipe. Try it once and you’ll thank me later!


Steamed eggplant was not my favorite dish back in China, probably because my attention was always focused on meat dishes. Since we started cooking more vegan and vegetarian dishes in my American kitchen, I’ve started to appreciate steamed eggplant so much more. I love the fact that it requires no oil to cook the eggplant, and it tastes so good that I can finish a big plate of it in one sitting. You can double the sauce, top the eggplant on boiled noodles, and add the sauce. Then you’ll have a bowl of sesame noodles in no time.

Steamed eggplant in nutty sauce closeup

More recipes you might like

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

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Steamed eggplant in nutty sauce closeup

Steamed Eggplant in Garlic Peanut Sauce (芝麻酱拌茄子)

5 from 6 votes
Tender steamed eggplant is smothered in a gingery garlicky nutty sauce that is slightly sour and sweet. The dish takes no time to prepare, is addictively delicious, and so healthy. {Gluten-Free adaptable, Vegan}
To make the dish gluten-free, use rice vinegar to replace the Chinkiang vinegar, and use tamari or coconut aminos to replace the light soy sauce. 
Course: Appetizer, Side
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: home style
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 servings


  • 1 Chinese eggplant (about 9 oz. / 270 g)


  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened natural peanut butter (or Chinese sesame paste)
  • 2 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar (or rice vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic , finely minced
  • 1 green onion , thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons homemade chili oil , or to taste (Optional, but highly recommended)


  • Chopped green onion, and / or toasted sesame seeds , for garnish(Optional)


  • Cut eggplant into 2” (5 cm) long 1/2” (1 cm) thick sticks. Stack evenly on a plate that can fit into your steamer.
  • Set up your steamer by adding water to the pan and stacking the steaming rack on top. Place the plate of eggplant onto the steaming rack. Heat over medium-high heat, covered, until steam comes out of the steamer. Turn to medium heat. Let steam until eggplant reaches desired doneness, about 10 minutes for a chewy texture, and 15 minutes for a very tender texture.
  • While cooking the eggplant, combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. You might need to add 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of water to the sauce and mix again, to get the desired consistency.
  • When the eggplant is cooked, remove the steamer from your stove immediately. Carefully uncover the steamer and let the steam out. Remove the plate of eggplant from the steamer with your oven mitts on. Let the eggplant cool down for a few minutes. The eggplant can be eaten at room temperature, cold, or slightly warm. Drain the liquid from the plate if there is any.
  • When you’re ready to serve, pour the sauce over the eggplant. Garnish with more chopped green onion, toasted sesame seeds, and / or chili oil. Enjoy!


Serving: 1serving, Calories: 87kcal, Carbohydrates: 8.6g, Protein: 2.8g, Fat: 4.1g, Sodium: 228mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 6g
Did You Make This Recipe?Don't forget the last step! Leave a comment below, and tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!
Steamed Eggplant in Nutty Sauce - Tender steamed eggplant is smothered in a gingery garlicky nutty sauce that is slightly sour and sweet. The dish takes no time to prepare, is addictively delicious, and so healthy. {Gluten-Free adaptable, Vegan}

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Sonja says:

    If I were to steam in an instant pot, how long do you think it would take?

    • Maggie says:

      I’ve never tried steaming them in an Instant Pot, but I think 3 to 4 minutes will do the trick.

  2. Flower says:

    I made these with noodles as you suggested and it was delicious! I also added some julienned green beans right near the end of steaming the eggplant for some extra color and crunch. It was a perfect light lunch.

  3. Sonja says:

    Would this work in the instant pot? How long would you recommend steaming in the IP for?

    • Sonja says:

      Sorry – I just posted an old comment not realizing youve responded!

  4. kelly swette says:

    5 stars
    This is a delicious recipe, I recommend doubling the sauce and serving it Chinese noodles as suggested.

  5. Justine says:

    5 stars
    Hi Maggie,
    Loved this dish! What region is it from?

    • Maggie says:

      My mom has been making it when I grew up. I’m pretty sure it’s a Northern Chinese dish 🙂

  6. Bella says:

    5 stars
    Such a simple yet delicious dish. I served mine with crispy salt & pepper tofu.

  7. Rachel says:

    Holy cow this is so good! Now I’ll be eating healthy more often! The sauce is to die for. Thanks

  8. Caryn says:

    There is such a thing as toasted sesame tahini. If you have ever tried it, is it like Chinese sesame paste?

  9. Joyce Yeo says:

    Made this today. I love eggplants and I love savoury food , in addition I hate frying and messing up my kitchen .
    Perfect combination for me .
    Love the texture , love the taste .

  10. Jennifer Hemphill says:

    5 stars
    So simple and flavorful!!! I love eggplants and this one was wonderful.

  11. Marie m says:

    This is such a quick, brilliant and delicious recipe! It’s all in the sauce and you can’t mess it up!

  12. Jing says:

    5 stars
    This was delish!! Thank youuuuu

  13. Sally T says:

    5 stars
    Going more plant-forward with the WFPB lifestyle, this was perfect. I used the peanut butter as suggested but put roasted sesame seeds on top. Also, place on top of noodles for a complete meal cut the eggplant into bite-sized pieces. As the author said, not pretty but yummy, good cold as well!

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