Easy Imam Bayildi

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You’ll faint over this delicious Imam Bayildi recipe.

Imam Bayildi is a classic Greek recipe for eggplants stuffed with savory tomatoes, onions and spices. Its roots are in their Ottoman occupied past. The literal translation means “the imam fainted,” of course because this combo of tender eggplants and savory tomatoes tastes so incredibly delicious. This is my go-to dish for both a relatively easy weeknight vegetarian meal, and as a show-stopping meatless marvel at my pop-us dinners. It packs so much flavor, is gorgeous, and incredibly stunning. My Los Angeles personal chef clients absolutely love it.

Imam Bayildi tips

Many traditional recipes call for cooking the eggplants whole. However, it always made more sense to me to halve them, scoop out the flesh and incorporate that into the rest of the filling. That said, when you’re cutting out the middle of the eggplant make sure to leave enough of a lip — at least 1/4 to 1/3 inch — so the shell remains sturdy enough to hold the filling. Once you brush it with olive oil and roast it, it will become luscious and tender. Make sure to be liberal with olive oil in this dish. This recipe is one of Greece’s famous Ladera dishes, meaning that they are saturated in “lathi” olive oil.

When to make Imam Bayildi

This dish is best made in summer when eggplants and tomatoes are at their peak. If you can’t find decent fresh tomatoes, you could use canned/canned crushed tomatoes for the filling. I love using baby heirloom tomatoes, like the ones I received from Melissa’s Produce, because they are sweet and tasty all year round.

Easy vegan adaptation

This vegetarian wonder is mostly vegan. You don’t have to top the eggplants with Feta cheese. If you need another element, I would use toasted pine nuts right at the end for garnish along with fresh herbs like parsley or mint.


Join the Conversation

  1. The story behind this dish is: in ancient times an oil merchants daughter was married to an Imam. As part of her dowery, her father included 30 jars of the best olive oil. The jars were large enough for her to fit in. For the wedding banquet she prepared a dish of eggplant, tomatoes, onions, and olive oil. Th Imani, so pleased with the dish, told his wife that she must make it every night. For the following 29 nights the Imam feasted on his new favorite meal. However, on the 31st night the eggplant that he loved so much failed to appear. “WIFE,where is my eggplant?” “Husband”, she replied, “you will need to get more olive oil as the 30 jars are empty.” Hearing how much oil had been used in only 30 days, he promptly fainted from shock. Imam Beyildi

    1. Christina Xenos Author says:

      Thanks so much for that! There are so many wonderful versions of this story. I liked hearing this one.

  2. The opening line of this post says “ Imam Bayildi is a classic Greek recipe”.

    With respect, I was born in Egypt of a Greek mother and a father who was half Palestinian and half English so I am very familiar with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking.

    This is a classic Turkish dish so please respect a dishes heritage. Thanks.

    1. Christina Xenos Author says:

      Thanks for your comment, Derek. With respect, this dish was from Ottoman times, which I mention. Turkey didn’t exist until 1923. Up until the genocide of the Greeks in the region and subsequent population exchange in 1922, that area of the world was the home to around a million Greek speaking Greek Orthodox people. This dish existed prior to 1922 and was brought to present-day Greece by the Greek refugees of that region.

      1. Well cooked and served! says:


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