Vegan Eggplant Parmesan
Lighter baked Vegan Eggplant Parmesan with warm layers of grilled eggplant, pomodoro sauce, fresh herbs, and cheesy flavor is a delicious family-style Italian dinner.
Eggplant Parmesan has always been one of Yummy Hubby’s favorite dishes. I can count on him ordering it whenever we go out to Italian restaurants. It was a dish also loved by his father, whose family was originally from the Basilicata region of southern Italy. Eggplant parmigiana originated in southern Italy, so this love must be in his blood.
While delicious, many eggplant parmsan recipes are quite greasy. Eggplant slices are breaded and fried before getting layered in sauce and mozzarella. I learned a new lighter method recently, while enjoying Jamie Oliver’s cookbook, Jamie’s Italy on a rainy day by the fire. Indeed, many American-Italian recipes are far heavier than they started in Italy. Rather than breading and frying the eggplant slices, they are simply charred on the grill or griddle. And unlike breaded eggplant that doesn’t stay crisp for long, this one has the breadcrumbs on top where they remain dry and un-mushy. I’ve used dairy-free cheese in this vegan eggplant parmesan, and it would be very easy to make gluten-free as well. Just like my BEST Vegan Lasagna, this classic tastes just as good lightened up.
Vegan Baked Eggplant Parmesan Ingredients
Eggplant is a summer crop, but to be honest we make baked eggplant parmesan year-round because it’s so warm and comforting. For this recipe you’ll need:
- 2 Italian globe eggplants
- 1 batch Pomodoro Sauce, which you can use chunky or puree
- Vegan cheese: I recommend Follow Your Heart Parmesan, and/or Miyoko’s Fresh Mozzarella. Dollops of my homemade vegan ricotta would be amazing between the layers too.
- Homemade or store-bought breadcrumbs + fresh oregano + olive oil for the crumbly topping. If you’re gluten-free, try Ian’s panko breadcrumbs.
Do I Have to Salt Eggplant?
I was taught that globe eggplants can be a little bitter and one should always slice, salt, and let eggplant rest for an hour while the salt draws out any bitterness. The salt is then rinsed off and eggplants patted dry. For this recipe I completely skip this step, and that’s how Jamie’s recipe is written too. I’ve never noticed any bitterness.
How to Make Baked Vegan Eggplant Parmesan
Sear the eggplant. This is the most time-consuming step, so you’ll want to use the largest cook surface, or several pans. In the summer I plan on doing this on the outdoor grill, but in the winter I use the griddle.
The eggplant will continue cooking in the oven; for now we just want a nice brown sear. You can do this dry or with a little olive oil. I like to season along the way with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, make your sauce. This baked eggplant parmesan uses few ingredients and most of the flavor comes from the sauce, so make sure it tastes amazing before proceeding. Use this Pomodoro Sauce chunky like you see here, or puree. This is a simple sauce to make year-round, but in the summer you could use my Fresh Tomato Marinara here too.
Layer the eggplant parmesan. Start with a layer of sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish.
Then add your eggplant slices in a single layer.
Top with sauce and cheese. You can use vegan Parmesan or mozzarella, or both.
Depending on the size of your eggplants and casserole dish, you may have two or three layers. After the last layer or eggplant, top with the last of your sauce.
Top with breadcrumbs. This is where that great texture is coming from. Stir the breadcrumbs with some olive oil to moisten, and season with salt, pepper, and fresh oregano.
How to Serve Vegan Eggplant Parmesan
I’ve made this dish for dinner parties and served it with Risotto with Peas & Artichokes and a big Beet Salad. Alternatively, cook up a batch of spaghetti aglio olio to serve with the baked eggplant parmesan. Serve with some good crusty Italian bread for sopping up any extra sauce.
Vegan Eggplant Parmesan Tips & Tricks
- The eggplant itself isn’t very flavorful, so be sure your sauce and breadcrumb topping are well seasoned, flavorful, and delicious. Taste them before adding to the dish to check seasonings.
- You can layer the casserole early and bake just before serving.
- If you like traditionally melty cheese on top, use a vegan Mozzarella. For a lighter version, a sprinkle of Parmesan is fine.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 large globe eggplants, sliced 1/2" thick crosswise
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 batch Pomodoro Sauce
- 1 1/2 cups shredded vegan Parmesan (Follow Your Heart recommended)
- Vegan mozzarella, optional (Miyoko's recommended)
- 1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs (panko or homemade sourdough recommended)*
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped
- Coat the largest grill, griddle, or skillet you have with a little olive oil or cooking spray and set to high heat. Carefully place the eggplant rounds on the hot surface and cook, turning with tongs, until both sides have nice dark grill/char marks, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- To start layering the eggplant Parmesan, coat a casserole dish with a layer of the pomodoro sauce (about 1/3 of it)
- Lay the grilled eggplant slices on top of the sauce, then sprinkle generously with the vegan Parmesan. Repeat with a second layer of sauce, then eggplant, Parmesan, and an top layer or sauce. Sprinkle a final layer of Parmesan over the sauce, and torn mozzarella, if using.
- In a small bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon olive oil, fresh oregano, and a little salt and pepper. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top.
- Bake for 30 minutes, until bubbly and golden on top. Check frequently and cover with foil if the top gets too brown. Enjoy warm.
You can easily make this dish gluten-free by using gluten-free breadcrumbs.
For extra gooey cheese, add slices of Miyoko's mozz to the top before the breadcrumbs.
Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 267 Total Fat: 11g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 6g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 579mg Carbohydrates: 36g Fiber: 7g Sugar: 9g Protein: 9g