August 12, 2022

Grilled Eggplant Boats with Chickpea and Cherry Tomato Salad and Lemon Vinaigrette

Stuff veggie boats with your favorite fillings and you’ve got a meal perfectly packaged up in its own colorful, nutritious bowl—and if you’re doing a Plant-Based Whole30 or incorporate chickpeas into your Food Freedom, then these meat-free eggplant boats are for you. They combine perfectly cooked eggplant with a refreshing chickpea salad and a zingy dressing for a summery take on your usual meaty veggie boat.

It all starts with baking halved eggplants in the oven until they’re soft and caramelized. Then, you’ll transfer ‘em to the grill (or a grill pan) for a few minutes on each side to finish them off.

While you wait for your eggplants to get all ooey-gooey and tender, you’ll whip up a bright plant-based salad that combines cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, fresh herbs, and a few simple seasonings, as well as a zingy vinaigrette featuring both lemon juice and zest, apple cider vinegar, and olive oil.

Once the boats are ready, getting a delicious plant-based meal on the table is as simple as nestling your chickpea salad into the eggplant halves and finishing everything off with however much vinaigrette your heart desires.

From the grilled eggplant to the fresh herbs to the bright, lemony dressing, every element of this simple and delicious meal radiates summertime vibes.

Though you’ll have plenty of time to whip up your vinaigrette while the eggplant halves cook, you can always opt for a quick drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice if you want to keep things as easy as possible. Of course, using canned chickpeas will also save you from having to soak and cook the little guys before prepping this meal.

And, speaking of those chickpeas, feel free to swap them out for another legume, such as white beans, black beans, or lentils, if you like! Crumbled tofu or tempeh also work well, as do classic shredded chicken or ground beef, if you eat animal protein. This salad is a great way to use up any leftover proteins or legumes in a fresh way.

Not a fan of eggplant? Don’t sweat it. You can use halves of roasted butternut squash or zucchini instead. Heck, you can even ditch the veggie boat concept altogether and serve your salad over a bed of grilled Romaine lettuce!

Photo Credit: Sarah Steffens

Grilled Eggplant Boats with Chickpea and Cherry Tomato Salad and Lemon Vinaigrette

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes



  • 2 medium eggplants ,halved lengthwise
  • 2 tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper

Chickpea and Cherry Tomato Salad

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes ,quartered
  • ½ cup fresh parsley ,minced
  • 5 fresh basil leaves ,minced

Lemon Vinaigrette

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Zest from ½ fresh lemon
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp dried garlic powder


  • PREHEAT your oven to 400 F (205 C).
  • PLACE halved eggplants on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Rub with avocado oil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
  • MIX all of the chickpea and cherry tomato ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
  • WHISK the lemon vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl and pour into a serving jar. Set aside.
  • REMOVE the baked eggplants from the oven and heat a grill or indoor grill pan to medium heat. Place the baked eggplants flesh-side down on the grill and allow to further cook and soften until grill lines have formed, about 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook the skin-side of each eggplant half until grill lines have formed, another 3-4 minutes.
  • REMOVE from the grill and place on a serving platter. When cool enough to handle, mash the flesh of each eggplant with the back of a fork. Season with sea salt and black pepper and mash again so that the seasonings are absorbed.
  • SPOON the chickpea and cherry tomato mixture into each eggplant.
  • DRIZZLE lemon vinaigrette over each eggplant and serve.
  • STORE any leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • Enjoy!
Sarah S.

Sarah Steffens

Sarah Steffens, our Recipe Developer, has a B.A. in Business Administration, Public Relations from The Master's University in Southern California. After years of experimenting with nutrition and recipes in her own kitchen, she now works as a Personal Chef and Food Photographer in Sacramento, creating meals that support her client's intention to physically and mentally thrive. She has catered several independent film sets, making it her goal to optimize the energy and well-being of each creative crew. You can find many of Sarah's recipes in various Whole30, Paleo and Keto cookbooks. When Sarah is not cooking and styling recipes, you can find her enjoying a long walk, working on creative projects with loved ones or exploring beautiful Northern California.