This Vegan Eggplant Pulled Pork Burger is easy to make, just as tasty as the real thing, and packed full of plant-based goodness.
I’ve seen so many vegan “pulled pork” recipes using jackfruit, but I’ve never actually got round to trying it. So, I wondered if there were any other slightly more easily accessible ingredients I could use to create a similar effect.
This got me thinking about a very simple Japanese dish called nasu no mushiyaki. It consists of grilled eggplant (aubergine) that has the skin peeled off and is shredded up. It’s eaten seasoned with soy sauce and sesame, and most commonly eaten in the summer.
The texture is simultaneously tender, moist and melt-in-your-mouth soft, whilst also having a little bite and being a little chewy AND it has a rich, almost meaty texture –> sounds like pulled pork, right?
But there’s no need to get the grill out for my version here – just halve your eggplant and pop it in the oven and wait for it to soften. Meanwhile you can get on with other fun activities, like making a foolproof, maddeningly savoury, homemade vegan BBQ sauce.
And, if I’ve learnt anything from the past couple of years of meat-free recipe development, it’s that it’s not the meat that makes certain dishes taste good, but the sauce. So, I knew that the texture of the pulled aubergine paired with a delicious BBQ sauce would be perfect!
So, I got to work making a DIY BBQ sauce that would taste just as good as the bottled stuff – my version here is made with caramelised onions and garlic, smoked paprika for smokiness, cumin for a spicy hum, tomato sauce for an acidic tang, soy sauce (or tamari) for salty umami-rich flavour, and dates for a caramel-like sweetness.
You could also add a pinch of cayenne for heat, and maybe a dash of whiskey if a whiskey BBQ sauce situation is your kinda thing. Then just whizz it all up and you’ll have the most delicious BBQ sauce on your hands. You can make extra sauce and save (freeze) it for a rainy day, or if you’re pressed for time/feeling lazy, then just use your favourite shop-bought BBQ sauce instead.
I decided to bulk out the eggplant “pulled pork” with green lentils, which add protein and extra fibre, and help make it more of a proper meal. You can either cook your own green lentils from scratch (which is pretty quick and easy!) or use canned ones.
And what better way to enjoy this Vegan Eggplant Pulled Pork Burger than with a big dollop of creamy, crunchy, tangy coleslaw?
I made my favourite rainbow coleslaw to make the burgers look extra cheerful. You can either just use the chopped cabbage (white AND purple for extra colour) and carrots dressed with a dash of lemon juice, or you can go the extra mile (which I highly recommend) and make a creamy, dreamy vegan cashew mayonnaise to coat it. Though again, no judgement if you’d rather use your favourite shop-bought mayo instead.
Now you’ve made your Vegan Eggplant Pulled Pork Burger, why not devour it with a side of hot, crispy, fresh-from-the-oven baked fries! I kept up the rainbow theme and used a mixture of regular orange sweet potatoes, white-fleshed sweet potatoes and purple sweet potatoes, but you can see below some of my favourite recipes for baked fries:
I hope you’ll give this Vegan Eggplant “Pulled Pork” Burger a try! For more delicious meat-free sandwiches, check out my:
- Vegan Tofu Burger
- Lazy Falafel
- Mediterranean Chickpea “Tuna” Pittas
- Hummus Toasted Sandwich
- Chickpea Mayonnaise Salad Sandwich
If you try out this recipe or anything else from my blog, I’d really love to hear any feedback! Please give it a rating, leave a comment, or tag a photo #rhiansrecipes on Instagram! Thank you.
Helpful tools to make this Vegan Eggplant “Pulled Pork” Burger:
For the eggplant:
For the BBQ sauce/mayonnaise:
Vegan Eggplant "Pulled Pork" Burger (GF)
For the "pulled pork"*:
- 1 eggplant (aubergine), halved
- 1 tablespoon oil (olive, rapeseed, vegetable or coconut)
- 1 onion, finely sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 120 ml (1/2 cup) tinned tomatoes
- 3 pitted dates
- 1 tablespoon tamari (or soy sauce if not gluten-free)
- Salt + pepper, to taste
- 400 g (14oz) tin of green lentils, drained and rinsed
For the coleslaw:
- 1 carrot, peeled and grated or chopped into matchsticks
- 1 large leaf white cabbage, shredded or finely sliced
- 1 large leaf purple cabbage, shredded or finely sliced
For the mayonnaise:
- 50 g (1/3 cup) raw cashew nuts soaked overnight in cold water or in boiling water for 10 minutes
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (ensure gluten-free if necessary)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon (Dijon) mustard
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup (or sub any other sweetener)
- Salt + pepper, to taste
- 4 burger buns, halved (gluten-free if necessary)
- Oven-baked fries**
For the "pulled pork":
- Lay out the eggplant skin-side up on a baking tray lined with baking paper and roast in oven for around 30 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit), until soft
- Meanwhile, make the BBQ sauce by heating up oil in a saucepan
- Add the onion and garlic once hot and fry for around 10 minutes, until onion is very soft and slightly caramelised
- Add smoked paprika and cumin and fry for about a minute, until fragrant
- Add tomatoes, dates, tamari and salt + pepper to taste
- Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes on a low heat
- Remove from the heat and whizz in a blender or food processor (a hand-held stick blender also works well) until completely smooth
- Once the eggplant is cooked, use a fork to shred the flesh of the eggplant. The shredded flesh should easily fall out of the outer skin
- Add the shredded eggplant to the pan with the BBQ sauce, along with the lentils. Heat to warm through just before serving.
For the coleslaw:
- Place the shredded vegetables in a large bowl
For the mayonnaise:
- Add all ingredients for the mayonnaise to a blender or food processor (a hand-held stick blender also works well) and whizz until completely smooth, adding little splashes of water until you achieve your desired consistency - it should be fairly runny but not too watery
- Add mayonnaise to the chopped vegetables and mix well
- Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary
- Coleslaw keeps well in the fridge so can be made up to a day in advance
- Put a few generous tablespoons of the "pulled pork" into each burger along with a couple of tablespoons of coleslaw
- Serve alongside oven-baked fries of choice, if liked
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