Grilled Eggplant Wrapped Dates with Goat Cheese

Raise your hand if you read my guest post on Beantown Baker about crispy eggplant “bacon.” That should be all of you. If you didn’t, well, I’ll consider that your loss. Jen’s drool-worthy blog is more than worth a visit, and you’ll be much more competent to answer next time someone asks you for a vegetarian substitute for bacon. If you happen to hang out with those sorts of people.

I know a few vegetarians, sure. But mostly I wonder about these things for myself, despite being decidedly carnivorous. I don’t think I’ll reach a point in my life where I pass up a tender braised lamb shank or juicy chicken leg straight off the grill, and yet, more often than not I find myself pondering, “how can I make that vegetarian?” pretty much because I think vegetarian food is cool, and some of the time, healthier.

Most recently, “that” thing I wanted to vegetarian-ize was bacon-wrapped dates. Ironically, the idea came not from bacon-wrapped dates themselves, because I’ve actually never had one. Instead I was reminiscing about my crispy eggplant bacon and betting there was some other forms of deliciousness in which it could be featured. And that’s when I recalled that it’s apparently a pretty popular thing to stuff a date with some cheese and wrap it in bacon. Tangy, salty cheese with boozy dates and smokey meat. What’s not to love? And why should Jews and vegetarians (and any other folks averse to pork) miss out on all the fun?

We shouldn’t, and we won’t. Not when you can wrap a goat cheese-stuffed date in a paper-thin slice of spicy, smokey marinated eggplant and pop it on the grill. Not when you watch and smell as the eggplant becomes tender and charred, and its spicy marinade permeates the sugary, caramelized dates. Not when you catch a glimpse of warm goat cheese oozing out, and you know it’s time to eat before anything precious goes to waste.

Now, don’t try to fool or be fooled. As I learned when serving these, it’s rather frivolous to explain the concept behind these eggplant wrapped dates as the vegetarian spin-off of their bacon-wrapped cousins. No one really wanted to listen. Not because they didn’t believe me, but because I was too late. They were already busy savoring these spicy, sweet bites, hot off the grill. And they couldn’t really hear me anyway, as their exclamations of love for these trumped my attempts. No, they may not be a perfect stand-in for bacon, but they’re more than perfect in their own rite.

Clearly, no explanations were needed. So instead, I dove right in, and fought them all for the last piece.

Grilled Eggplant Wrapped Dates with Goat Cheese
Printable Recipe

Eggplant and Marinade
2 small eggplant, about 1/2 lb each
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper

Remaining Ingredients
26 pitted dates
2 1/2 ounces goat cheese

Large toothpicks or wooden barbecue skewers (tip: soak them in water for at least one hour before grilling, so that they don’t catch on fire.)


Trim the ends of eggplant. Using a mandoline, cut the eggplant into 1/8″ slices. (Discard the first piece, which will be all skin on one side.) You should get about 12-14 slices from each eggplant.

Whisk together the remaining marinade ingredients (water through cayenne pepper.

Arrange a single layer of eggplant slices in a baking dish and pour some of the marinade over it. Repeat with remaining eggplant and marinade, layering in the baking dish. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Meanwhile, carefully open each date (dates that have been pitted already should have a slit on one side.) Stuff each date with 1/2 teaspoon of goat cheese.

Preheat grill to medium-low heat, and oil the grates with cooking spray.

Pour the marinade off of the eggplant and discard. Take one slice of eggplant and carefully wrap it around a goat cheese-stuffed date, then push it on to a skewer. Repeat with remaining eggplant and dates.

Place the skewers on the grill, and cook for 3-5 minutes per side, until the eggplant is tender and lightly browned. Serve hot.

Note: only half the amount of marinade is accounted for in the nutritional information, since the eggplant does not absorb all of it.

Nutritional Information
Servings Per Recipe: 13
Serving Size: 2 dates

Amount Per Serving
Calories 76.0
Total Fat 2.4 g
Saturated Fat 1.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.2 g
Monounsaturated Fat 1.1 g
Cholesterol 2.5 mg
Sodium 70.2 mg
Potassium 175.1 mg
Total Carbohydrate 13.4 g
Dietary Fiber 2.1 g
Sugars 9.4 g
Protein 1.8 g

I am sharing this recipe with Marla and Dara for “Get Grillin’ with Family Fresh Cooking and Cookin’ Canuck, sponsored by Ile de France Cheese, Rösle, Emile Henry, Rouxbe and ManPans.” This recipe is also featured at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free for Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays, 6/14/2011.

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23 Responses to “Grilled Eggplant Wrapped Dates with Goat Cheese”

  1. 1

    Molly Parr — June 6, 2011 @ 1:18 pm Reply

    After having watched my husband and in-laws dive into a platter full of scallops wrapped in bacon at a wedding last week, nothing makes me happier than this recipe. Thank you!

  2. 2

    Emily — June 6, 2011 @ 1:50 pm Reply

    Excellent idea! I don't care for eggplant but I can see summer squash or zucchini being good stand ins. 

  3. 3

    junia @ mis pensamientos — June 6, 2011 @ 1:52 pm Reply

    i love the idea of using eggplants to wrap dates!!!! 

  4. 4

    Dara Michalski — June 6, 2011 @ 1:56 pm Reply

    These look so good!  What a great combination of sweet and savory flavors.  Thanks so much for sharing them in our Get Grillin' event!

  5. 5

    janet @ The Taste Space — June 6, 2011 @ 2:09 pm Reply

    Your description has me drooling! You are so creative, Cara, they look awesome!

  6. 6

    Kaytorade — June 6, 2011 @ 4:20 pm Reply

    I like the idea of goat cheese stuffed dates so much better than cream cheese stuffed dates!

  7. 7

    Vegyid2 — June 6, 2011 @ 4:37 pm Reply

    I'm a vegetarian visiting from Get Grillin and this recipe looks amazing!. Lots of your recipes look like my kind of recipes, so I'm now subcribing..thanks for sharing it

  8. 8

    Cara — June 6, 2011 @ 5:20 pm Reply

    Hi there and welcome! Thanks for the sweet comments, and for following!Looking forward to getting to "know" you :)Cara

  9. 9

    Shannon — June 6, 2011 @ 5:40 pm Reply

    omg i have to try these!!  i love bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with cheese (and almonds!), so this version sounds even better 🙂

  10. 10

    Susie Bee on Maui — June 6, 2011 @ 5:53 pm Reply

    Very creative; sounds wonderful!

  11. 11

    Megan — June 6, 2011 @ 7:40 pm Reply

    These sound awesome. I doubt I'd even miss the bacon with eggplant that flavorful.

  12. 12

    Joanne — June 7, 2011 @ 1:29 am Reply

    Um of COURSE I read that post! In fact, I think I read it multiple times.  Just to make sure it got ingrained in my brain.  This is such a fabulous idea!  At our Christmas potluck parties, there's always one girl who brings bacon wrapped stuffed dates and they are the best things ever.  It makes me so happy to know that I'll have a veg option now!

  13. 13

    beantownbaker — June 7, 2011 @ 1:46 am Reply

    Thanks for the shout out! We love bacon wrapped dates and I'm going to have to try these.

  14. 14

    Nic at The Fit Writer — June 7, 2011 @ 11:14 am Reply

    Over here we call dates in bacon "devils on horseback". We stuff them with blue cheese, mango (or other) chutney, or an almond. Just some ideas if you ever wanted to add to your repertoire using this recipe as a base! 😀

  15. 15

    megi — June 7, 2011 @ 11:47 am Reply

    Wow, these look great, you are so creative, I'll definitely try this recipe, I love cheese stuffed dates, add grilled eggplant to that combination and I am already drooling.

  16. 16

    Marla — June 7, 2011 @ 12:03 pm Reply

    Cara, thanks so much for including these in our Get Grillin' event – they look awesome!

  17. 17

    Cara — June 7, 2011 @ 12:41 pm Reply

    Thanks for stopping by and for the great ideas!

  18. 18

    Shawnda — June 8, 2011 @ 8:51 pm Reply

    I've come back to stare at this photo several times in the last day. It sounds absolutely fantastic!

  19. 19

    Cara — June 8, 2011 @ 11:29 pm Reply

    Shawnda, I want you to know that this makes my day! I always admire yourrecipes and photos 🙂

  20. 20

    Nicole, RD — June 10, 2011 @ 12:40 am Reply

    All things dates are right up my taste bud alley! Have you ever tried barhi dates? They're life-changing. Though, they're smaller so they wouldn't accommodate as much goat cheese! 😉

  21. 21

    Cara — June 10, 2011 @ 12:44 am Reply

    I have not, but I remember you posting about them! I'll have to look forthem.

  22. 22

    grace — June 10, 2011 @ 5:25 pm Reply

    this is such a fun and festive little appetizer.  the whole chewy-creamy-salty-sweet combination is quite exciting.

  23. Pingback: Eggplant…The New Red Meat « Live to Eat, Love to Cook

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