Here we go: All the makings of the best baked eggplant parmesan. I’ve tried it many ways over the years and this is the method that has worked best. No spongey texture, no bitterness in the eggplant, and none of that “Yeah, it’s good…for a baked version.” It’s just plain good, I promise.
Salt Your Eggplant
Years ago, I made baked eggplant parm and didn’t salt my eggplant first. It was bitter; it was spongey; it was…yes did I say sponge already? Disaster. Then I talked to my grandmother, who makes an Italian feast on Christmas Eve, and her tip? Salt your eggplant before cooking it.
Salting helps to draw out the liquid in the raw eggplant (much of which carries bitter flavors) and collapses the air pockets in the eggplant’s sponge-like flesh, which prevents it from absorbing too much oil–a great tip if you’re sauteeing the eggplant. (source: Fine Cooking)
The Breading Secret
Breaded eggplant is essential to baked eggplant parmesan. One time I ordered an eggplant parm sub in Seattle and when I unwrapped the white parchment, I was flat-out ready to flip a table when I found grilled eggplant. No breading, just naked, lonely eggplant with sauce and cheese. I have nothing against grilled eggplant–as a side dish. I even love the taste of plain eggplant in eggplant rollatini. But not in my eggplant parmesan.
I ate a few bites, really tried to find the good in it, but alas, I just couldn’t. I gave up.
Eggplant parmesan is too nostalgic for me. Whether it’s in a sandwich, a casserole, or simply stacked with sauce and cheese, it has to have some crispiness.
How many bread crumbs is negotiable. I don’t need a lot. I don’t even need it to be fried, which you might expect, given how absolutely out-of-my-mind I’m coming across. I just need a little tradition in place. So the key:
Only bread ONE side of the eggplant: the top. I picked up this tip from my friends at Cooks Illustrated, and thought it was genius. It’s perfect when you want some crispy, bready heft, but don’t need a lot of it to feel satisfied. Breading only the top of the eggplant means I use about half the amount of bread crumbs that I’d typically use, saving us half the calories.
Now, we all have our sauce preferences–salty, sweet, lots of herbs, plain and simple…but the quality of your sauce stands out here. My favorite is PJ’s. It’s hands-down the best sauce on Earth and anyone who has ever had it says the same. But if you’re not making your own, it’s absolutely worth the price to spring for Rao’s. It’s $6 or $8 depending on the size of the jar, but it’s the closest thing I’ve found to a homemade Sunday sauce.
The reason I use fresh mozzarella is because it has this gooey, melting quality that stays soft. Because of its higher moisture content, its naturally more tender than the firmer, low-moisture kind you find near the dairy and butter. And I love that, too. Feel free to use it here, but be sure to get a ball or a log of it and slice it or shred it yourself. The pre-shredded kinds you buy in the package–they’re convenient, yes, but they have anti-caking agents added to them to ensure the shreds don’t stick together. Anti-caking agents, like cornstarch, don’t melt well.
One of the best tips I ever learned was to buy blocks of cheese (say, cheddar, for example) and grate them myself. It’s more work, but it’s night and day how well the cheese melts. And even if you’re buying feta, goat, or blue cheese, buy it in the block and crumble it yourself. You’ll notice–especially with the feta–that it tastes an awful lot more like the feta in restaurants: creamier and less chalky. Can you tell I’m passionate about cheese?
I’m crazy about this whole meal. Let me know if you try it, and if you love it!
Healthy Baked Eggplant Parmesan
- 1 large eggplant about 1 ½ pounds, peeled and sliced into ½-inch thick rounds (12 to 14 slices)
- 2 large eggs
- .6 c Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- 1 c homemade tomato sauce or Rao's brand, plus more for serving
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese sliced thinly into as many slices as your eggplant
- Line 2 baking sheets with a double layer of paper towels and spread the eggplant slices among the sheets evenly.
- Liberally salt the eggplant slices, using about a teaspoon total of salt, and let them sit at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour. Using fresh paper towels, wipe the tops of the eggplant to remove excess salt and firmly press to release any remaining liquid. Dry on both sides and transfer to a plate.
- Wipe the baking sheets and line them with parchment paper or aluminum foil and spray well with cooking oil.Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- In a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Place the breadcrumbs in another medium shallow bowl. Dip one slice of eggplant into the egg, coating both sides, and then press ONE side into the breadcrumbs. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat the process with all remaining slices.
- Spray the tops of the eggplant slices well with cooking oil and bake until the eggplant is soft and the crust is crispy, about 15 minutes.
- Remove the pans from the oven and spoon a heaping tablespoon of sauce on each, followed by a slice of mozzarella. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Top with fresh basil and serve.
Really excellent tips about cheese and eggplant. Will try this recipe. Thank you, Andie. Hope you are doing well!
Thanks Janet! I am doing well! I can’t believe summer’s over already–but I guess I’m really ushering it out with this eggplant parm, aren’t I? :)
Wow! Just tried his recipe. The salt idea was really interesting, thanks to Grandma. It really soaked up excess moisture. My husband said it was delicious, he loved the flavoring. I took pictures and sent to family members and they were impressed. I stacked the eggplants In 3’s.
Yum!! I will definitely make this again. Thank you.
What do I use instead of egg as I ama vegetarian
You can use unsweetened almond or cashew milk mixed with cornstarch. It coats well. 1/2 cup milk plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
This looks like a great recipe. Hubby doesn’t like eggplant so I will make a solo yum for myself.
I have two questions. You mentioned using the block blue cheese or whatever instead of crumbled for you. I agree it is MUCH better but I have a terrible time sealing it until the next time. It will have blue mold on top of the original mold. What is a good solution to keep it fresh? Also, please tell me Daniel has moved to New York! Right? Nosy here just wants you to be together and happy!!!! You have written a lot lately. I think it is because of Daniel and your being happier. ‘Nuf said.
Anne, you are the sweetest. Daniel lives close, yes. And he contributes to a lot of my happiness and that just makes me really feel like I can do anything, honestly, but also? I just really missed blogging. I missed this part of my life.
For the blue cheese storage–I’ve read so much about how to store blue cheese…”don’t ever use plastic wrap!” “Use foil” “Use parchment then plastic wrap!”…But honestly, I find the best thing for me has always been to just take the blue cheese out of what it came in and put it in a fresh ziploc bag, press the air out of the bag and seal. You’ll know when it’s no longer fresh.
I put all of my cheeses that I use for cooking in the freezer after shredding. Works great for me
Sounds delicious! I also agree with Janet (above) about the great tips about cheese. I’m going to try blocks of cheese. I assume it would be more expensive. What is range on how long blocks of cheese last? Do they have a long “shelf life”…i.e., “refrigerator life”?
Thanks Vicki! Surprisingly, it’s not more expensive to buy blocks of cheese, actually–or, I should say, you get more cheese for your money. A lot of times, you’re paying for the convenience factor of the shredded/crumbled cheese. The block, if you look at the unit price, is often less! Check out the unit prices next time–I get kind of into it :)
My knowledge of how long open cheese lasts (covered, sealed, in the fridge) (I’m not an expert):
Hard cheese (Parm, Asiago, Romano) 3-6 weeks
Semi-Hard cheese block (Cheddar, Swiss) 3 to 6 weeks (cheddar closer to 3)
Soft cheese (feta, goat, blue) 1 week (feta and goat can go closer to 2, but blue is 1)
Again, not an expert :)
Looks so yummy!!! Nice combination of cheese and eggplant. will give it a try later. Thanks for the recipe!
Thanks so much George!
I can’t wait ti make this! I have been craving it lately! Question I noticed your notes about calorie counting…have your thoughts changed on that? Do you still calorie count everyday? or are you more relaxed especially when dining out?
Thanks Sam! I always like to share calorie information for recipes and explain how I lighten things, because I find it helpful. For me, personally, I’m always aware of the numbers (too many years of counting to forget), but I’m loose to the point where I’m never hitting a number; I just tend to fall within a range. And when I’m dining out–I’m almost never really counting then.
I originally read the line “salt your eggplant” as “salt yo eggplant,” and I thought, “bout to get all thug kitchen up in here.”
ONNNNNN another note. 100% agree with the grate it yourself philosophy.
No YOU are right. It most definitely should be “Salt Yo Eggplant” xo
Oh, girl. You always know the way to my heart. We’ll be eating this ASAP. Did I tell you how happy I am you’re posting recipes again? I’m really happy. :)
Love how supportive you are–that is truly a gift. Thank you so much, Morgan xo
I am drooling right now. This looks like an excellent recipe, and the pics?….just wow!
This looks so good! I’ve tried baked eggplant twice since my boyfriend and I have lived together and while he loves my cooking in general, he hated my “healthy” eggplant parm. *sad face* Consequently, he made me promised never to make eggplant parm again unless I fry it… but I want to try this! I wonder if it would work without the skin? I can’t get on board with eggplant skin.
Also, I so know what you mean about disappointing eggplant parm. There’s nothing worse than looking forward to a sandwich SO HARD and then you get it and it’s one big, soggy, textureless, unbreaded, wet mess. Gah.
I hear you–some people just need it fried, and I get that! Eggplant parm is so nostalgic for many of us :)
But removing the skin might make the difference! I say give this recipe a shot, and one thing that really helps is spraying the coated eggplant rounds well with olive oil cooking spray and cooking them as long as you need to in (even longer than I recommend if necessary!) in order to get the eggplant very, very soft. If you do try it, I’d love to hear how it went :)
I too love fried eggplant and found that if you lightly oil the pan and put it into the oven while the oven preheats, then put the eggplant on the hot tray, you get the same crunchiness of fried with out the oil. You just have to be sure that you use a high heat oil or the oven will start to smoke. This is the only way that I make eggplant now and it is great.
Such good advice, Tim! You know, this is exactly how I like to make my chicken cutlets, too–I think it’s brilliant. SO glad you brought it up! Thank you!! And great point about using a high heat oil!
More things I have zero experience with smh however, I made that delicious salmon salad today added the smallest amount of mayo plus green onions and put it in a whole wheat wrap and…yes ma’am! So…I totally trust that this would be amazing but it is hilarious to read your passion regarding something I know nothing about! You are awesome. Glad to have you back! It feels so nice to make your recipes again, it always feels like I am being kind to myself when I do because even if it is a heavier recipe it still seems fresh and like it has love in it :) xo
This is so kind I can’t stand it. Love you, H!
can’t wait to try this one out! 100% agree on grating your own cheese it just tastes better! i grate when i can!
Thanks April!! YES to grating!
Hi Andie! This looks delish. I can’t wait for your cookbook to come out. I have been making your other recipes and they have been awesome. Also, love your book – it has been a wonderful inspiration to me and I read it when I need a boost in my confidence and need to stay on track with my health goals.
Carrie–that means so much to me. Thank you! The cookbook is coming in March 2016 and I honestly cannot wait either…feels like a dream to have made it :)
LOVE Eggplant parm….I too am Italian so I’ve always done the breading and the frying, it’s just soooo yummy. So I don’t eat it as often as I would like. I am DEFINITELY going to try this. Thanks for lightening it up!! I haven’t checked your blog in quite some time so I’m so glad you are back. I read your book earlier this summer and it was AMAZING!! I can see myself in ALOT of what you wrote. Thanks so much for sharing!! Any new Youtube videos coming soon?? I watched your Ted talk and it was great, would LOVE to see you more often!
Mamey, thank you! And thanks for the kindness about the Ted talk too! You know, I just might start making YouTube videos :) I’ve been kind of thinking about that and it sounds fun to just be able to talk to you all in a less structured way! I’d be able to do a lot of things that I can’t do in writing, too…so I don’t know! We’ll see :) Thanks, though! That’s very kind xo
Yet another fantastic recipe! Maybe I can get my fam on board with eggplant with this recipe. Also agree on buying the blocks of cheese (though I have bought the pre-shredded variety on occasion when I know I’m pressed for time–shh, don’t tell anyone!).
Thanks Christina! Oh my gosh, yes, I have totally bought the pre-shredded–and I’m not even saying I wouldn’t buy it today if in a pinch–I just think grating is ideal :)
Last night I went to my sons kick off pep rally….you know the scene..the band playing, cheerleaders doing tricks white tents set up with spirit gear and food..hot dogs, hamburgers, popsicles, etc..I just giggled because I had sliced eggplant sweating on a cookie sheet waiting for me to make this dish…..SO MUCH BETTER. I, of course, stayed later chatting it up with people, so I got home later than I planned. I thought it may take to long to make the Parm..but I wanted the Parm…I went for it. I was so easy and fast…and DELISH!!!! OMG, I can’t wait for lunch..would have had it for breakfast but my sweet hubby made me a breakfast taco:)
I LOVE to cook, but I appreciate the ease of your recipes yet they are so elegant and pretty..I like pretty food…it speaks to the artist in me:) Another keeper! XOXOXOXO
Thank you, Carol! I’m so happy seeing this!!
Andie! What a fabulous post!! So many tips and hints!!! I never once saw that sauce in the stores!!! Great tip about the salting of the eggplants too!!! I learned that from an Italian chef I had in school! This looks so crispy and delich! Pinned!
Thanks Mila!! I appreciate it! If you make it, let me know :) xo
I am so ready for fall (even if that means winter’s on its way…) and I love eggplant, grilled, fried, rollatini…very excited to try this out. Only thing worse than getting a “bad” eggplant parm is being in line all psyched to get your eggplant sandwich at a great Italian deli/market and have the guy in front of you clean the place out of its cutlets before you can place your order….
That man at the deli counter is everyone’s nightmare. Only solution is to follow him home and eat dinner with him. xo
Following your directions to the letter! Mine are baking in the oven as I type this! Can’t wait to have this for dinner tonight! Looks and smells so good!
You should definitely write a cook-book, or have you already done that, and I am behind the news?
Love you, love your blog!
Thanks for making them Joanne!! I hope you liked them!
I am writing a cookbook (or, I should say–I wrote it!)! It’s coming out in March 2016! I cannot wait for you all to see it, honestly :)
I never knew eggplants could look this good. Will definitely have to try out your recipe.
Love eggplant parm! This looks delicious. I love that I’m seeing recipes on your blog again. You should post about cooking in an NYC kitchen! My kitchen is so small!
Heidi–I ABSOLUTELY should. My kitchen is truly the size of an airplane bathroom. I mean, you should see it. I’ll have to take pictures and write a post, especially since I wrote the whole cookbook in there :)
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Andie, this is the first recipe of yours I have cooked. There will be many more. I made this for my Italian husband and it was fantastic! Thank you for a healthy and easy to make eggplant parm recipe
SO great to hear!! I’m glad it was a hit! Thanks Melissa! xo
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I love this! I have ordered Eggplant parm for years, not ever trying to make it (seemed like a lot of work) but this is fantastic, I can handle this recipe. Thanks so much :)
Thank you so much Dawn!! This makes my day :)
Andie, this is the first time I have made one of your recipes. I have made eggplant parm for many years , this is indeed a great recipe!
Not only is it simple to make but very tasty. Your helpful hints shared are so appreciated and made it so worthwhile. Thank you very much you are so talented!!
lol….. flip a table :-) This was so good!! What a difference salting makes.
I never in a million years would have believed that I would be eating dinners without meat in it. However, because of people like you who share these delicious recipes, I can eat healthy while not torturing my stomach. Thanks a lot for sharing this awesome meal. :)
Is it possible to make the dish ahead of time?
Or have you ever tried to?
What are your thought on freezing and reheating it? I love eggplant parmesan and would love to eat it as lunch throughout the week at work, but don’t know how well it’ll hold up frozen – or how long it would stay good just in the fridge?
This is a great recipe; one of those staples that I intend to make today. I have all of the ingredients! Thanks for the tip with salting the eggplant–never knew! I’m grateful to the things that have inspired you Andie. That brought you to “us”. Your book was wonderful….so many can resonate with the same feelings.
This was fantastic! Thanks for such a great recipe! With Eggplant being in season right now, I will be making this again for sure!
I made this last night and OMG it was the best eggplant I EVER tasted! Nothing was left except the empty tray! The fresh mozzarella made a huge difference. This is a recipe that I will use again and again and again. Thanks for sharing Andie!
Thanks for the great recipe. I’m going to try it tomorrow for Sunday dinner. I don’t mean to be a dummy, but what side ( breaded or plain) do you put down on the greased pan? I’m not sur the oven or the pan prowls the bread crumbs better. Thanks
Debbie Combs.. Did you get an answer for this question?
Hi Lisa! The breaded side goes up! Thanks for making the recipe :)
Thank you for asking this question. I felt like an idiot for getting on here to ask, so I decided to scroll through the comments to see if anyone else had this same issue. Lol. I saw in the pictures that the breading was on top, but I wanted to make sure before cooking it.
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Where is the Parmesan cheese – I did not read all the responses but did anyone else catch that there is no Parmesan in the recipe? How can you possibly have Eggplant Parmesan with no Parmesan????????
I put this dish on my weekly menu a few weeks ago, and it was a huge hit! I loved it and received rave reviews from my subscribers!
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This looks delicious! I am going to try this tonight! When do I put the fresh basil on? When I put it in the oven the 2nd time with the cheese to melt or after the cheese has melted? THANK YOU! :)
Hi Kim! You bread the eggplant on one side with the panko, bake them until the eggplant is tender and the breading is crispy. Remove them from the oven, add a little sauce and a slice of mozzarella to each slice. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted, 3 to 5 minutes. Top with fresh basil and serve! Thanks for trying the recipe!! :)
This was delicious! I salted my eggplant and it stayed sponges and was absolutely delicious! Also loved the tip about only breaking one side of the eggplant. I will definitely make this again. Super easy, fairly healthy and yummy!!
Thank you so much, Kelly!
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This looks super delicious. Looking forward to more similar articles. Please keep the awesome recipes coming.
I’ve made this recipe at least 3 times now and every time, it comes out perfect and totally delish! Making it again tonight!!!
Does the breaded side go up or down on the baking sheet?? Sounds yummy, trying it tonight..
sighhh.. nevermind.. saw it in the photos!
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The eggplant came out perfect. I used the recipe for the marnara sauce. I used “ground” oregano (1tsp) and the flavor was a little too peppery. I added 1tsp pepper too. Next time I will cut back on both. My husband really liked it too. Will make it again!
Andy, this recipe was outstanding. I usually do not leave comments but the eggplant tonight was the best…thank you.
I was hesitant at first because my son is not a great fan of eggplant. He had seconds, and he asked me to do this recipe again. The highlight though was my 13 month old grandson who devoured 1 1/2 slices. Thank you for a delicious dinner.
P..S. I added a little bit of goat cheese and Parmesan.
FYI to any interested readers, I made this with a low-fat mozerella, Rao’s marinara and itallian breadcrumbs (all I had on hand) and inported the recipie into MyFitness Pal. This calculated the nutrition info as calories 599, carbs 91, fat18, and protien 31. This is absolutely delicious recipieso no compliants on that, just a word of warning to anyone making this who also watching their macros- might want to cut to a smaller portion size, use less cheese/breadcrumbs…
You can’t call this Eggplant Parmesan considering there is no Parmesan in the recipe!
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So I made this for dinner last night and did everything, we don’t usually use salt at all, so maybe that was the problem, but even after brushing the salt off I think the eggplant absorbed the salt, like a lot of the salt it was too much. How do you avoid that? Otherwise it would have been a great recipe, but the salt killed it for me and my family. Any other methods of getting the excess water out?
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One of the best one I have tried, thank you this awesome recipe
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Do you salt both sides?
No, you only need to salt one side!
Can you make as a casserole?
It says turn on the oven but doesnt seem to say what temp. . 350, 400 what?
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