Russian Eggplant Caviar is a great side dish, spread, or a condiment. Perfect to add to a sandwich or eat on top of pasta. Delicious cold or hot. Can be made on the stove or in Instant Pot. It’s gluten-free and vegan.
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If you are Russian then most likely every time you hear the words Eggplant Caviar, you picture a scene from an old comedy film. The scene shows a 16th century feast where real sturgeon and salmon caviars are served in huge tub-like dishes and an Eggplant Caviar is such a rare delicacy that is is served in a tiny dish with a silver spoon.
I picture that scene every time I think about Eggplant Caviar and I say the words from that movie in my head or out loud. Well, it is 21st century and the roles of fish caviars and eggplant are reversed.
Vegetable Caviars are very popular in Russian cuisine. They are a great way to use up odds and ends of various vegetables. Also, great if those vegetables aren’t very ripe or flavourful.
Vegetable Caviars were also often canned and preserved in Soviet Union thus allowing you to enjoy summer vegetable bounty in the winter when it was difficult to buy fresh produce. You can read more about canning and preservation in Russia in my post about Russian Dill Pickles.
There are many different variations for Vegetable Caviars, the idea that using Eggplant or Zucchini as the main ingredient would give the name to that said caviar. So, there are Eggplant Caviars, Zucchini Caviars, or Vegetable Caviars when a variety of different vegetables is used.
This Russian Eggplant Caviar is a great side dish, main course, or a condiment. Amazing on sandwiches or with pasta. It is delicious both cold and hot. It’s really healthy, vegan, and gluten-free.
It will last in the fridge for a week and is great for meal prepping. You can make it on the stove top or in Instant Pot. The final results will be almost identical.
What are the ingredients for Russian Eggplant Caviar
Ingredients for this Eggplant Caviar are pretty simple but you do need to buy fresh produce.
- Italian eggplant
- Sweet bell pepper
- Canned diced tomatoes
- Cilantro (you could use Parsley or Dill instead)
- Olive oil
- Apple cider vinegar
- Salt and sugar
There are many different recipes with variations of these ingredients. Some call for 1/2 cup or even 1 cup of oil. Some add hot pepper. Other recipes use coriander and cumin to season the caviar. Once you master the basic Russian Eggplant Caviar recipe, you could experiment and change up the ingredients to better suite your tastebuds.
How to cut the vegetables for Eggplant Caviar
There are three very different and distinct textures for Russian Eggplant Caviar. They all depend on your tastes and, well, family recipe.
- Vegetables are cut into big chunks. This one creates more a very chunky vegetable caviar, not really a dip or spread, easier to eat with utensils.
- Vegetables are cut into very small and uniform cubes. This is the variation that I made here. The texture is still coarse but much more smoother and it can be spread over bread easily.
- Final eggplant caviar is blended in a food processor to create a smooth spread or dip. This variation is commonly canned and can be found in most Russian grocery stores.
How to make Russian Eggplant Caviar on the stove
The most difficult step in cooking Eggplant Caviar (or any other vegetable caviar) is chopping all the vegetables. There are a lot of them and unless you are making a blended variation of this recipe, they all need to be chopped relatively uniformly. Other than that, making Russian Eggplant Caviar on the stove is pretty straight forward.
- Sauté onions and carrots in a big pot (I prefer to use Dutch oven) in a little bit of oil until very soft but not coloured.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to boil. The liquid in the vegetables will leak as the pot heats up.
- Cook for 20 minutes on medium heat then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- If there’s a lot of liquid after an hour of cooking then open the lid and cook out the liquid on medium-high heat, making sure that the caviar doesn’t burn.
- Add the herbs, garlic (it could be added at this point if you prefer a bit more zing or it could be added earlier with all the other vegetables for a milder flavour), mix and serve either hot or cold.
How to make Russian Eggplant Caviar in Instant Pot
This is one of the recipes where making it in Instant Pot is actually faster, even with all the time it takes to bring electric pressure cooker to pressure and release the pressure. For me, it takes about 15 minutes to bring to pressure, 15 minutes to cook on high pressure, and 2 minutes to release pressure. So, total cooking time is 32 minutes.
Making Instant Pot Eggplant Caviar is super easy.
- Add all the ingredients to Instant Pot.
- Cook on high pressure for 15 minutes.
- Once cooked, you have a couple of options, either strain the Eggplant Caviar or sauté to reduce the liquid, stirring occasionally.
- Add the herbs, garlic and serve hot or cold.
Do you need to add water to Instant Pot to make Eggplant Caviar?
I have this model of Instant Pot and it never gave me a burn notice. The vegetables in this recipe have a lot of liquid. Onions, pepper, carrots, tomatoes, eggplant produce more than a cup of liquid once they are heated up.
So, all the vegetables are enough to create proper pressure in my model of Instant Pot. If you know that your Instant Pot displays burn message when you look at it funny then by all means, add a bit of water, maybe 1/2 cup. But remember that you’d need to let the water evaporate on sauté once the dish is cooked, or you’d need to strain it.
What about all the liquid in the vegetable caviar
The flavour of Stove top and Instant Pot eggplant caviar is pretty much identical. However, due to the physics of cooking on the stove top and in Instant Pot, electric pressure cooker version has a lot more liquid.
Stove top made eggplant caviar has the liquid evaporating as it cooks. Even with the lid closed, the steam still escapes the pot and the liquid evaporates bit by bit during an hour of cooking.
Instant Pot eggplant caviar has all the vegetable liquid in a sealed pot with no place to evaporate. So, once it’s cooked, there will be a lot of liquid (and if you added extra then it’ll be even more watery). At this point I usually sauté for about 10 minutes and then let it be.
Liquid in this Eggplant Caviar doesn’t bother me, I just leave it behind in a container and only eat the vegetable part. But you could also drain it if you prefer a firmer caviar.
More Vegetarian Instant Pot Recipes
- Instant Pot Beet Risotto
- Instant Pot Pumpkin Fettuccine Alfredo
- Instant Pot Tomato Orzo Soup
- Instant Pot Borscht
- More Instant Pot Recipes
Tips for making Instant Pot Eggplant Caviar
I almost never chop all my vegetables first before I start cooking. I find that it wastes time. I love the idea of just adding everything to Instant Pot and pressing a button but in reality I very rarely do that.
Instead, I start with onions and carrots and sauté them in my Instant Pot while I prepare the rest of the ingredients. I then add vegetables into the pot as they get prepped. This method serves two purposes.
First, sautéing onions and carrots first adds more flavour to the final dish as the vegetables caramelize slightly and their sugars concentrate. And second, sautéing the vegetables also heats up the pot and softens the vegetables, so Instant Pot comes to pressure a little bit faster this way.
Which method is better: Instant Pot or Stove Top? It’s difficult to say. I really like the convenience of using Instant Pot as there’s no need to bring to boil, simmer, reduce heat etc. Just set it and forget it.
On the other hand, I like that stove top method makes a much less watery Eggplant Caviar and it is easier to reduce the liquid even more with further sautéing. Flavour-wise, both methods make the same, delicious, luscious Eggplant Caviar.
Ingredients and variations for Russian Eggplant Caviar
As I mentioned earlier, there are many different variations for this recipe and it’s also very forgiving so if you have more of some ingredients or less of other, don’t worry about going to a store just adjust the recipe.
- I use Italian eggplant and I have not tried making it with any other kind. I think you might be able to do it with thin Chinese eggplants but I’m not sure.
- You can use half eggplant and half zucchini, although the resulting Vegetable Caviar will be a bit more watery, so you’ll need to either reduce the liquid more after the cooking is done or strain.
- You can use either regular yellow onion or sweet onion or purple onion or even shallots.
- I strongly urge you to grate the carrot as it melts into the Russian Eggplant Caviar as it cooks.
- If you don’t have a grater, finely chopping the carrot will also work but the texture will be different.
- Canned diced tomatoes
- I’ve only made this recipe with canned diced tomatoes but you should be able to use fresh tomatoes instead, preferably skinned.
- Feel free to use flavoured canned tomatoes also, the flavourings and spices will change the final flavour of the eggplant caviar though.
- There are two options on how to add garlic to this dish:
- Option 1. Add the garlic together with all the vegetables and cook. This will add a very mellow flavour.
- Option 2. Add the garlic once the Eggplant Caviar is already cooked. This will add a more pronounced and strong garlic flavour.
- There are two options on how to add garlic to this dish:
- I have seen recipes where 1/2 cup or even a cup of oil was used. I don’t think this much oil is needed so I use 1-2 tablespoons of oil.
- In this recipe I specify olive oil because it’s the most common one, however, if you have an access to unrefined sunflower oil then it’s great in this recipe.
- Apple cider vinegar
- This might seem like an off ingredient but Russian Eggplant Caviar is very often made with vinegar. It adds a nice zing to the recipe.
- I strongly urge you to use it but technically it could be omitted if desired.
- You can use regular white vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar if necessary but apple cider vinegar adds a more mellow flavour.
- To me, eggplant and cilantro are a perfect flavour pairing!
- If you don’t eat cilantro, feel free to use parsley or better yet, dill!
- For more pronounced herb flavour, cool the caviar first and add the herbs later.
- I don’t use too much salt in my cooking, so feel free to use more salt than the recipe specifies.
- Optional but highly recommended! It balances out the acidity in the vegetables and vinegar and rounds up the flavour!
How to serve Russian Eggplant Caviar
In Russia it is traditionally eaten cold as an appetizer. It is often spread over dark rye bread and eaten as a sandwich.
It can be used as a condiment and served cold alongside meats. You can also heat it up and mix it with pasta for a delicious vegetable sauce.
It would be great over rice or quinoa. You can add a couple of pieces of pita and a boiled egg to a serving of this Eggplant Caviar for a delicious and healthy lunch.
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Don’t forget to watch the video to see how I make this Instant Pot Eggplant Caviar
Russian Eggplant Caviar
- Finely dice the onion. Mince the garlic. Grate the carrot. Chop the eggplant and sweet bell pepper into small cubes.
Instant Pot instructions
- Add all the ingredients except for cilantro into your Instant Pot. (See note below about garlic and water)
- Close the lid of your Instant Pot and turn the valve to Sealing.
- Press Manual or Pressure Cooker button (depending on your model) and use the arrows to select 15 minutes.
- It should take about 14-15 minutes to come to pressure. Might be a bit less depending on your model.
- Once the Instant Pot beeps that the 15 minutes of cooking are done, do a quick release. This should take about 2 minutes.
- Take the lid off, mix, turn the Instant Pot on sauté mode and cook for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally until most of the liquid evaporates.Alternatively, mix and then drain the liquid.
- Add the garlic (if it was not added in the beginning), add the chopped cilantro, and mix.
- Serve hot or cold.
Stove Top instructions
- Heat up one tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven on medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook for about 7-9 minutes until very soft but not coloured.
- Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to boil and cook for about 20 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally. (See note below about garlic)
- After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for about 40 minutes.
- Open the lid, check how much liquid is in the Eggplant Caviar. If it's too much then turn the heat to medium and cook until it evaporated. Alternatively, drain the liquid.
- Add the garlic (if it was not added at the beginning), add the chopped cilantro, and mix.
- Serve hot or cold.
- Garlic can be added either in the beginning with most of the vegetables or at the end when everything is already cooked, this will result in a more pronounced and pungent flavour.
- If you are worried that your Instant Pot will display burn message, then add about 1/2 cup water. But in most cases, there should be enough liquid in all the vegetables for your Instant Pot to work correctly.
- You can also start sautéing onions and carrots in Instant Pot first while chopping the rest of the vegetables. This will add a bit more flavour and will speed up the time it takes for Instant Pot to come to pressure.