The Meatwave

Charred Red Onion, Eggplant, and Shishito Pepper Salad

Charred Red Onion, Eggplant, and Shishito Pepper Salad View Recipe

Ever since shishitos have become an item I can reliably find year-round at my local grocery, they've worked their way into many recipes from salads, sandwiches, and just on their own. That first salad I made with them really was built around the pepper as the main ingredient and I've been wanting to try one where they're more of a compliant, or equal weight, to the other components, which how they ended up living in this charred red onion, eggplant, and shishito pepper salad.

Charred Red Onion, Eggplant, and Shishito Salad

While the peppers and eggplant that went into this dish were both Asian in origin, I served the salad at a cookout filled with American-style chili dishes and wanted it to fit in, which I did by way of the dressing. I forgot to snap a photo of me putting it together, but the dressing was a simple mixture of tangy Mexican creama spiked with lime juice and seasoned with garlic, soy sauce, cumin, and white pepper.

For the veggies and fruits, I wanted fairly large chunks, so I prepped the onions in thick slices that I skewered so they would hold together on the grill; the eggplant I cut into one-inch pieces on a bias, and the shishitos I left whole.

Charred Red Onion, Eggplant, and Shishito Salad

The onions take the longest to cook, so they went over the hot direct fire first. I personally like the onions with a heavy char, which develops after about five minutes of cooking on each side. By the time the exterior was blackened, the interior of the onions were crisp-tender, which was the texture I was after so they would have a little sweetness to them, but also provide a crunch.

Charred Red Onion, Eggplant, and Shishito Salad

The eggplant and peppers cook at roughly the same rate, so they went on the grill together next. I wanted the eggplant to be able to hold together when sliced, so I was looking for texture that was semi-soft with a slight firmness still retained. This actually took a careful eye to achieve as the eggplant went from this ideal state to totally mushy very quickly and I lost a handful of slices by not paying close enough attention at first.

Charred Red Onion, Eggplant, and Shishito Salad

The shishitos were actually the easiest to cook, just needing to be blistered and charred all over, which took about five minutes total with occasional flipping. Once everything was done, I transferred the veggies and fruits to a cutting board, removed the pepper stems, and roughly chopped everything. Then I transferred the trio to a large serving platter and dolloped on spoonfuls of the dressing and garnished with cilantro and scallions.

Charred Red Onion, Eggplant, and Shishito Salad

Being served alongside various heavy and deeply flavorful chilis, this salad offered a welcomed light touch with a flavor that still fit in. The eggplant was fairly neutral and mostly added a heartiness, while it was the play between the sweet touch of the onions and the fruity peppers that was the real story. The common thought on shishitos is about one in ten are actually spicy, but when they're chopped up in a salad like this, that means there's often a little touch of heat in each bite, but the spiciness was never that harsh thanks to the cooling and tangy dressing. Then, with the notes of freshness that the cilantro and scallions provided, the salad felt very well rounded and complete, making it another successful use of shishitos in a manner I had not quite experienced previously.

Print Recipe

Charred Red Onion, Eggplant, and Shishito Pepper Salad

  • Yield 6 servings
  • Prep 10 Minutes
  • Cook 15 Minutes
  • Total 25 Minutes


  • For the Dressing
  • 2/3 cup Mexican crema
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic (about 1 medium clove)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Kosher salt
  • For the Vegetables and Fruit
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices and skewered horizontally so the rings lie flat on the grill
  • 3 large Chinese or Japanese eggplants, cut into 1-inch slices on a bias
  • 8 oz shishito peppers
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup packed roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced scallions


  1. To make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together crema, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, soy sauce, white pepper, and cumin. Season with salt to taste. Set aside.
  2. To make the vegetables and fruit: Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Brush red onion all over with olive oil. Place onions on grill and cook until softened and well charred on each side, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer onion to cutting board, remove skewer, and roughly chop.
  3. Place eggplant slices and peppers in a large bowl. Add in remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste; toss bowl to evenly distribute seasoning. Place eggplant and peppers on grill. Cook eggplant until lightly charred and softened, about 3 minutes per side. Grill peppers %u200B%u200Buntil blistered all over, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer eggplant and peppers to a cutting board and remove pepper stems. Roughly chop eggplant and peppers.
  4. Spread eggplant and peppers across a large serving platter. Add on onion slices and dollop on spoonfuls of dressing. Garnish salad with cilantro and scallions and serve immediately.

You Might Also Like