South Indian Curried Eggplant with a Spicy Coconut Gravy

This post has been a long time in coming.  I’ve made this a few times for friends and they’ve been asking for the recipe. This eggplant dish with a coconut gravy was something my mom made often when I was a kid.

South Indian eggplant curry with a spicy coconut gravy

And as I write this, I’m reminded of a recent article on CHOW titled 9 Words the Food Industry Killed. ‘Local’, ‘organic’ and ‘artisan’ made it on the list, understandably. ‘Mom’ is also on the list. While I agreed with most of the author’s argument, this point rankled with me at first. Until I realized I’d misunderstood the point.

The fast food movement, like many other industries I might point out, uses the image of mothers in ads to persuade people to buy something. And consumers, hello that’s us, we buy it. In a world where many moms are so busy that ‘food’ from McDonalds has become part of the family tradition, that’s all the more reason to celebrate mothers who took the time to hand down family recipes.  I never tire of reading posts from bloggers whose grandmothers were their biggest foodie inspiration. In my experience, most people consider their mom’s cooking to be the best. So keep putting out those recipes for flaky pie crusts from your grandma or your aunt’s out-of-this-world biryani. I’m a huge fan.

Of course, the day I see a treasured recipe that has been in the family for generations and calls for Hamburger Helper, will be the day I eat my words.

In the meantime, this recipe is from my mom. Of course, mine never comes out as good as hers. But I make it anyway. And it tastes good. And who knows, maybe one day, I will learn how to make it taste like the gold standard.

So I hope you’ll read on, cook the eggplant with coconut gravy and share this post with friends. Mom thinks it’s good!

The masala can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen. Because there are many ingredients involved, I’d recommend making a big batch and using as needed.

This dish is a quintessential way of making ‘curries’ from South India, especially the state of Karnataka. Unlike North Indian curries, different spices are used and the gravy is made separately and added to the curried vegetable. The local name for this curried eggplant recipe is Badnekayi Palya. Except for the urud dal and fenugreek seeds that I purchased from the Indian grocery store, all other ingredients came from my neighborhood supermarket.

Readily available dessicated coconut and eggplant used in dish

Dry roasting the spices and coconut

Making the masala

Recipe – Serves 4


To Dry Roast

  • 1-2 dry red chili, stalks removed and cut up into smaller pieces
  • ½ cup dessicated, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • ½ teaspoon white poppy seeds (can substitute black)
  • 2 teaspoons split black lentils (urud dal) or use any other dehusked lentils
  • ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (optional)

To Grind

  • 1 teaspoon jaggery or brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon tamarind juice (if you can’t find it, substitute 2 teaspoons lemon juice)
  • ½ cup cilantro
  • 2 small green thai chilis or jalapenos
  • ½ cup water


  • 1 Eggplant, cut into 2 inch x ½ inch spears
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons high heat oil
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 5-10 curry leaves

In a skillet heated to medium low, dry roast the spices for 5 minutes. Blend the roasted spices with the remaining ingredients to be ground.

Heat 4 tablespoons high heat oil in the same skillet over medium high heat till the oil starts shimmering. Throw in a mustard seed and if it sizzles, the oil is hot enough to proceed. Sizzle the mustard seeds till they start spluttering.

Add curry leaves and let them fry for 5 seconds before adding the onions. Saute the onions till slightly brown and then add the garlic and eggplant. The eggplant pieces will soak up a lot of oil. If they start sticking to the skillet, add a bit more oil.

Sauté the eggplant for 5 minutes or till the pieces start softening. Add the blended gravy. Lower the heat to medium low. Cover the skillet and cook for 15 minutes.

Salt to taste. Add lime juice if desired.

Serve with rice, dosas or ragi rottis!

Badnekayi palya or South Indian curried eggplant with coconut gravy served with ragi rotti!


Filed under India, Recipe

6 responses to “South Indian Curried Eggplant with a Spicy Coconut Gravy

  1. Pingback: Heavenly Curry Leaves | Veena's Market Blog

  2. I love coconut but would have never thought of it with eggplant. Id like to try!

  3. pk

    I just made this tonight…came out awesome! My only issue was that i find that it has a strongish cinnamon flavor. I think next time I will just add a pinch of ground cinnamon instead of using a whole stick and trying to break it down. Other than that, its a fantastic dish that i will be making again and again. Im gujarati and my husband is south indian and sometimes he gets sick of guju food, so this was right up his alley. THanks so much for posting a wonderful and relatively simple recipe!!!

    • I’m South Indian and I love Gujju food! Thanks for your comment. I’ve never had a strong cinnamon flavor with this dish. Did you use 1 inch or the whole stick? 1 whole stick would be too much. The cinnamon helps moderate the potentially bitter flavor from the coriander and eggplant rather than adding much of its own flavor in this dish.

      On a related note, I personally use true cinnamon rather than cassia (what is found in most supermarkets) as much as possible as it is a subtler and deeper flavor but it is a bit more expensive and harder to find.

  4. Pingback: Easy Eggplant | Veena's Market Blog

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