Ikra – Eggplant Caviar Spread
Ikra is a popular Slavic spread made with a delicious medley of eggplant, bell peppers, and caramelized onions. This eggplant spread is best served atop sliced bread, with pita chips, as a side salad to grilled meats, or an appetizer – part of a charcuterie board.
If you are a fellow eggplant lover, you’ll love some of my other recipes! Try out this grilled eggplant in a sweet chili garlic sauce, this eggplant chicken pepper salad, and my roasted eggplant spread.
What is Ikra?
Ikra is a Ukranian vegetable spread that’s made of eggplant, bell peppers, onions and carrots. Garlic is sometimes added too. This dish is sometimes served chunky, but other times it is served pureed. Whichever texture you prefer, it can be eaten both as a side dish and an appetizer.
This delicious ikra spread can sometimes go by the name of eggplant caviar. It’s a very popular dish in many Slavic countries and jokingly called a poor man’s caviar since eggplant is so commonly eaten.
I found it odd when I learned that eggplant was not commonly eaten here in the United States. I am convinced that if I could make a big enough batch of this yummy eggplant caviar and let everyone try it, eggplant would soar to popularity!
There is also something called “eggplant caviar” in French cooking, but this Ukrainian version is very different. The French make it with pureed eggplant, lemon, and herbs, while this version has eggplant, bell peppers, carrots, onions, and tomato sauce. There is a richness and depth of flavor to this eggplant caviar recipe—dare I say it’s better than the French one? 🙂
Tips for Making This Ikra Recipe
- Choose ripe eggplants: If you have never purchased eggplant before, look for one that has shiny skin and has a very slight give when you press on the skin.
- Roast your vegetables: Roasting rather than sauteeing the vegetables gives you all the flavor, without the added fat that you would otherwise need to add to saute them.
- Peel the skin: Once your vegetables are roasted, make sure to leave them covered in a bowl for 30+ minutes, which will make it easier to peel the vegetables for this ikra recipe.
- Cook until the ikra is thick and darker in color: After combining all ingredients together, continue cooking until the vegetables deepen in color, which intensifies all of those delicious flavors, 5-7 minutes should be enough.
- Leave chunky or puree: we prefer this vegetable appetizer slightly chunky, but you can run it through a food processor to make it more puree-like.
How long will Ikra spread last?
I rarely find myself with any of this yummy Ikra spread left. On the rare occasion that I do, I’ll store it in the refrigerator in a bowl with a lid. It’ll keep well for 4-5 days, but I highly doubt you’ll have it that long!
Can you freeze eggplant spread?
Eggplant on its own can be difficult to freeze as the vegetable tends to become watery and soggy. However, once it’s prepared in a form like this eggplant spread, it will work much better in the freezer.
To get the spread to freeze well, place it in a freezer-safe container. Put the container in the fridge first to chill it, then move it into the freezer. To thaw, take it from the freezer to the fridge, then let it come to room temperature and enjoy.
How to serve ikra?
I like to keep it basic and serve this ikra spread atop sliced bread or with pita chips. The flavors in this eggplant spread are out of this world! Fresh sliced bread is a great accompaniment to it.
You could even eat it straight with a spoon or serve it as a side dish to grilled meats and fish.
How to Make Ikra
*For detailed recipe instructions see the recipe card bottom of the post.
- Preheat the oven.
- Roast the bell peppers and eggplant.
- Let the roasted veggies sit in a covered bowl, then remove and discard the skin.
- Sautee onions and carrot in oil.
- Add the roasted veggies to the pan with the sauteed vegetables. Add tomato sauce.
- Season with herbs, then cook for an additional 5-7 minutes.
- Allow the Ikra to cool before serving with sliced bread or any other way you’d like.
More Condiments and Dips to Try:
Ikra - Eggplant Spread
Ikra is a popular Slavic spread made of eggplant with a tomato sauce base. Ikra is also a word that means “caviar” in Russian, and this recipe is commonly known as eggplant caviar.
Preheat oven to 450F° with the rack in the middle. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil for easier cleanup.
Bake the vegetables: Place 2 eggplants and 3 bell peppers on the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes or until soft. Rotate the vegetables several times to bake through on all sides. Next, remove the vegetables to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit for about 30 minutes. This will sweat the veggies and allow for the skin to come off easier.
Peel the skin off the eggplant and the peppers, discard the stems and seeds and juice.
Chop the eggplant and the bell pepper finely with a knife.
Saute onion and carrots:
While the vegetables are baking saute the vegetables. Dice 1 large onion and peel and grate 1 large carrot. Preheat a large skillet with 6 tbsp of oil, then sautee the onions over medium heat until slightly golden and translucent, stirring often. Next, lower the heat to low, add the grated carrots and continue to stir and saute, covering with a lid in between to cook the carrots thoroughly, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
Combine and saute: Add the roasted and chopped vegetables to the sauteed carrots and onion. Also add 1/2 cup of tomato sauce, 1 tsp of kosher salt and 1/2 tsp of black ground pepper and 2 cloves of pressed garlic (if using). Stir and cook over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes until the Ikra is thickened and darkened in color. The sauteeing deepens the flavor.
Lastly add 1/4 cup of finely chopped parsley, if using. Stir, taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. Allow to cool and serve.