One of my all-time favorite dishes is eggplant parmesan. I’m not sure which part I like best—the combination of crispy fried batter with soft and creamy eggplant inside, the savory tanginess of the tomato sauce, or the heavenly garlicky aroma teasing your smell buds as you wait out the 15-minute bake at the end.
This is one of those dishes that might seem to require way too much prep and cook times to justify the 10 minutes it takes to devour it all. But trust me—it’ll rank up there as the best 10 minutes you can remember from your kitchen table.
There was a time when I didn’t think eggplant parmesan could be made with anything other than the traditional ingredients of dairy-based cheese and egg batter. When I switched to a vegan diet a while ago, I thought it meant saying goodbye to a lot of my favorite dishes. Luckily, I’ve learned that it’s really not that hard to veganize just about anything, including eggplant parm.
This recipe for Vegan Eggplant Parmesan shows you how. The sauce, consisting of a can of diced tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and some herbs, is naturally vegan already. Instead of dairy-based mozzarella and parmesan, I use plant-based versions. These vegan products can be found in most grocery stores and are becoming more widely available by the day. My favorite brand of vegan parmesan so far is Violife. For mozzarella, I like to use Daiya.
The “egg” batter is a little more complicated, but nothing unmanageable. Vegan baking often uses what’s known as a flax seed “egg,” which is basically ground flaxseed meal mixed with hot water. It’s a wonderful substitute for true eggs.
So for this vegan “egg” batter, I mixed up the equivalent of two flax seed “eggs” and added some non-dairy milk to thin it out a little. It made for a beautiful crispy batter. My omnivore husband didn’t notice any difference in taste or texture between this vegan batter and the egg-based batter of old.
In the past, I’ve been known to cave to moments of laziness and skip the fresh basil mentioned in the last step of the recipe. Less to wash, less to prep. But shame on me, because the basil is a magical addition. There’s something about its fresh, aromatic flavor that really complements the savory garlicky tomato sauce and the saltiness of the cheese.
It’s also nice to have something green and fresh to go with a dish in which the main component is fried. And the dainty dark green ribbons of fresh basil sprinkled on top of fried eggplant, with deep red marinara underneath it all creates a stunning visual effect. If you’re at the grocery store shopping for all the ingredients and you find yourself on the fence between picking up the fresh basil and walking past it, I highly recommend it.
A. Vegan Eggplant Parmesan Instructions
Yield: about 4 servings
Total prep time: 1 hour
Total cook time: 20 min to fry; 12 – 15 min to bake
- Sauce (adapted from Eggplant Parmesan recipe by America’s Test Kitchen):
- Prep time: 10 minutes
- 1 14 ½ ounce can of diced tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon fennel
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
Step 1: Strain the diced tomatoes, reserving the liquid.
Step 2:Transfer the tomatoes to a food processor.
Add garlic and olive oil. Process until the consistency resembles pureed tomatoes.
Step 3:Transfer the pureed tomatoes to a mixing bowl.
Add the fennel and oregano. Stir to mix.
Step 4:Add the reserved tomato liquid to bring the volume of the sauce up to 1 ½ cups. et aside.
B. Breading Mix (adapted from Eggplant Parmesan recipe by America’s Test Kitchen)
Prep time: 10 minutes
- About 4 ounces white bread (stale bread works better than fresh)
- ½ cup grated vegan parmesan cheese
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
Step 1: Transfer the bread to a food processor.
Pulse until you get fine bread crumbs. Transfer to a bowl.
Step 2: Add vegan parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.
Stir to mix well. Set aside.
C. “Egg” batter
Prep time: 10 minutes
- 4 teaspoons flax seed
- 6 tablespoon hot water
- 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk
Step 1: Using a spice grinder, grind the flax seed to a fine meal.
Transfer to a small bowl.
Step 2: Add hot water to the flaxseed meal.
Stir to mix well. The consistency will thicken and resemble a beaten egg.
Step 3: Add non-dairy milk.
Stir to mix. Set aside.
D. Assembling the eggplant
Prep time: 30 minutes.
Cook time: 20 minutes. Bake time: 12-15 minutes.
- 1 medium eggplant, sliced to ¼-inch thick rounds
- ½ cup all-purpose flour, in a gallon-size plastic sealable bag
- “Egg” batter, in a small bowl
- Breading mix, in a medium bowl
- Canola oil, enough to fill your skillet to a depth of ¼-inch (about ½ cup for a 10-inch skillet)
- 1 cup grated vegan mozzarella
- ½ cup grated vegan parmesan
- ½ cup small-chopped or chiffonade of fresh basil
Step 1: Preheat oven to 400F.
Step 2: Working with one eggplant slice at a time, toss the eggplant inside the bag of flour until both sides are coated.
Step 3: Dip the flour-coated eggplant in “egg” batter, coating both sides.
Let excess drip back into the bowl.
Step 4: Coat both sides of the “egg” battered eggplant with bread crumb mixture. Set aside.
Step 5: Repeat until all eggplant slices have been coated with flour, “egg” batter, and bread crumb mixture.
Step 6: Transfer the oil to a large skillet. Place over medium-high heat until oil shimmers.
Step 7: Add eggplant in a single layer, as many as you can without crowding.
Cook until both sides are golden brown, flipping halfway through the cook, about 1 ½ minute each side.
Step 8: Transfer the fried eggplant to a wire rack.
Step 9: Repeat until all eggplant slices have been fried.
Step 10: Transfer generous ½ cup sauce to a clean 10-inch skillet or baking dish and spread evenly.
Place eggplant on top, lining the skillet, and overlapping slightly at the edges.
Step 11: Add dollops of sauce on top of the eggplant.
While the sauce is yummy, it does soften the crispy batter of the eggplant. If you want to preserve the crispiness of the batter as much as possible, keep the dolloping to a minimum and place the rest of the sauce around the edges of the skillet or baking dish, between the slices of eggplant.
Step 12: Sprinkle vegan mozzarella on top.
Step 13: Sprinkle vegan parmesan on top of the mozzarella.
Step 14: Transfer to oven. Bake 12-15 minutes, until sauce bubbles and cheese melts.
Step 15: Remove from the oven.
Let cool for 10 minutes.
Step 16: Sprinkle basil on top.
Eat to your heart’s content and keep your lip-smacking to a maximum.
Alice Mesa is an environmental scientist turned foodie. She followed her heart away from a 10-year career in the water quality industry and into the kitchen, where she spent the next few years as the owner and operator of a handcrafted vegan chocolates business. Alice combines her passion for cooking with her vegan lifestyle by creating and writing about dishes that are not only delicious, but plant-based as well.