Emeril’s Eggplant Muffuletta Recipe

I tell you what, I sure have been enjoying being a part of the #SeriousSandwich cookalong for Emeril’s new book Kicked-Up Sandwiches. This roasted eggplant muffuletta recipe is actually one of the only three recipes that I’ll get to share with you.  Understandably, Emeril and his team only want select recipes published.  You’ll need the book for the rest.  Which frankly, you should buy.  Like now.  If you’re a sandwich lover or know someone who is, ya’ll need this book.  It could be called the Sandwich Bible.

Roasted Eggplant Muffuletta

Okay, off my soap box, and on to the recipe at hand.  The muffuletta is a classic New Orleans sandwich brought to us by the good people of Central Grocery and the taste buds of Sicilian immigrants back the early 1900’s.  Much like a po’boy, this mainstay is based on lots of bread, meat and cheese.  To me, the best part of a muffuletta is the olive salad.  It’s so oily, salty and downright delicious.  This particular muffuletta recipe here differs because instead of meat, we’re using roasted eggplant.  Plus leave it to Emeril to kick it up a notch (I had to) by adding a fresh basil spread to perfect this sandwich.

Bowl of olive salad with italian loaf and eggplant

Jeremy and I REALLY enjoyed this sandwich.  Probably as much as the spinach and artichoke dip sandwich.  Maybe more.  Hard to say. These sandwiches are like my children – I can’t pick a favorite.  I love them all equally.  There.  How’s that for diplomatic?  Well let’s just suffice it to say this sandwich is in the upper echelons of favorites.

Sliced Eggplant

What’s even better is that my local grocery store – Rouses – had some seeded Italian breads that were a bit smaller in circumference than you’d normally get so I was able to make TWO full round sandwiches!! Which means we had about 8 portions of this delectable treat.  Maybe I’ll share some… Nah, all mine.  I’m giving the recipe therefore showing the way.  What’s that old saying about teaching a man to fish?

Sliced eggplant ready for oven

So now let’s look at the individual parts of this sandwich and get to work here.  Let’s start with the bread – sesame seed covered Italian bread.  Traditionally, we use round loaves.  You may or may not be able to find these round loaves at your local grocery bakery or boulangerie, but fear not, it will taste much the same on a traditional oblong loaf.  Just make sure it’s whole loaf seeded Italian bread, and you’ll be set.

Roasted Eggplant

The best thing about this seeded Italian bread is that it is crusty on the outside yet soft inside.  Not dense soft, but more like a soft sponge, which is exactly what’s needed for this sandwich because olive salad is not know for its neatness or dryness.  This seeded Italian bread is porous and soft enough to absorb excess olive oil but still stay in one piece once that happens.  When baked, the bread forms a delightfully crispy exterior giving the muffuletta its signature crunch.

Basil Spread

An interesting aside here about these round seeded Italian loaves.  Here in New Orleans many Catholics (and food lovers) devoutly celebrate St. Joseph’s Day.  Part of this celebration involves basically building a food altar (yes, really).  One of the mainstays of this altar are the round seeded Italian loaves.  When it’s right around St. Joseph’s Day in New Orleans, you are hard pressed to find these loaves.  You’ve really got to have a close, loving relationship with your baker to ensure a constant supply.  So it has been known to happen that we have muffuletta shortages around St. Joseph’s Day. True story. Only in New Orleans.

Top half of muffuletta with olive salad

From the bread, we shall go into the second most sacred part of this sandwich – the olive salad.  Olive salad is a heterogeneous mixture of olives, olive oil and various pickled vegetables (typically carrots, celery, onions, pepperoncinis, and cauliflower).   Now if you’re really lucky – like me – you live in a place where olive salad is sold at the grocery store.  Yes, it’s much better if you make it yourself, BUT sometimes convenience reigns supreme, and store bought it is.  If you’re pinched for time or money and have the choice to do so, go with store-bought.  The brand I recommend is Boscoli.  It’s made in the New Orleans area so I do trust its authenticity.

Roasted eggplant layered on muffuletta bread

Be warned ahead of time that the olive salad recipe below calls for you to make it 24 hours in advance.  This will produce the best tasting olive salad.  However, fear not!  If you don’t have the time or inclination to wait, you can use it immediately. Just know that it is worth the wait to make it ahead of time.

Stacked muffuletta ready for the oven

The cheese featured on this particular version of the muffuletta is provolone and mozzarella.  While the authentic muffuletta has provolone and Swiss on it, mozzarella isn’t that far off.  Also, since we’re substituting eggplant for the meats, mozzarella makes more sense.

So now on the the two biggest departures for this sandwich – the roasted eggplant and the basil spread.  Let’s talk quickly about the basil spread.  Traditionally, oregano is used as the only herb seasoning in a muffuletta.  You can see that below in the olive salad recipe included here.  But again, Emeril – being famous for taking it up to notches previously unknown (sorry, I had to. again.) – uses a full cup of fresh fragrant basil leaves and makes a pesto-y sort of spread out of it.  It’s much thinner than pesto because of the lack of nuts and cheese, but it does make a fantastic spread for the base of this sandwich.  The fresh bright flavor of the basil complements the roasted eggplant and olive salad well.

Roasted Eggplant Muffuletta

Finally, my favorite part of this dish – the eggplant.  To be honest, I’ve been missing out.  I’ve barely dabbled in roasted eggplant before.  This changes now. I love eggplant, and it was so easy to roast this is my oven’s broiler.  The taste pay off versus time investment was way head on the winning side for me.  The roasted eggplant is soft and mild.  Leaving the skin on the eggplant gives it a more flavorful punch without being overpowering at all.  It’s a really good balance for the saltiness of the olive salad.

Roasted Eggplant Muffuletta

So now that you’re fully salivated, wipe your chin, and get to cooking!!

Yield: 4 servings

Roasted Eggplant Muffuletta Recipe

This vegetarian muffuletta recipe features roasted eggplant in place of meats. It also uses a fresh basil spread to round out the flavor profile. This recipe is featured in Emeril Lagasse's new book "Kicked-Up Sandwiches." It is presented on Culicurious with permission from the author and publisher. Enjoy!


For the Sandwich:
  • 2 medium eggplants (about 1.5 pounds), trimmed and cut into 1/2"-thick rounds
  • 1/2 cup light olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 loaf seeded Italian bread
  • 4 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 4 ounces sliced provolone cheese
  • 1 recipe Basil Spread (recipe follows)
  • 2 cups New Orleans–Style Olive Salad (recipe follows)
Basil Spread Recipe:
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
New Orleans–Style Olive Salad Recipe:
  • 1 quart large pimento-stuffed green olives, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups large Greek black olives, drained, pitted, and halved
  • 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup pickled cauliflower, drained
  • 3 to 4 ribs celery, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 2 medium carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1/2 cup pepperoncini, drained and halved
  • 1/3 cup cocktail onions, drained
  • 1/4 cup nonpareil capers, drained
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Emeril’s Original Essence or Creole Seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves


Make Ahead - New Orleans-Style Olive Salad:
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large nonreactive bowl and mix well.
  2. Place in a large nonreactive jar (preferably glass) and store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.
  3. The salad should be made at least 24 hours before using and only improves with age.
  4. You can keep it for up to 2 months in the refrigerator.
  5. Yield 2 quarts.
Basil Spread:
  1. In a food processor or blender, process the garlic and basil on high speed while adding the olive oil in a slow, steady stream.
  2. Continue to process until well blended. Season with the salt.
  3. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
  4. Yield: 1/2 cup.
Creating the Sandwich:
  1. Position an oven rack as close to the broiler unit as possible, and preheat the broiler.
  2. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on two lightly greased baking sheets. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush both sides of the slices with the olive oil. Season both sides with the salt and pepper. Broil the eggplant, in batches, until the slices are tender and lightly browned and have released most of their moisture, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and keep warm.
  3. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and move the oven rack to the center position.
  4. When you are ready to assemble the sandwiches, slice the loaf of bread in half horizontally. Using a pastry brush, spread the bottom half with a generous amount of Basil Spread.
  5. Spread the olive salad (with its olive oil -- do not strain) over the top half of the loaf. Layer the sliced mozzarella and provolone on top of the olive salad, and then layer the slices of eggplant. Place the bottom half of the sandwich on top and lightly press. Quickly and carefully turn the loaf over so that the olive salad side is on top.
  6. Place the muffuletta on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake until the cheese has melted, the muffuletta is heated through, and the bread is slightly crisp, about 12 minutes.
  7. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and carefully transfer the loaf to a cutting board. Press lightly, and cut the loaf into 4 sections. Serve immediately.

Prep:25 min

Cook:15 min

Total:40 min

Print Recipe