Thin slices of eggplant are lightly fried in a crispy Parmesan breadcrumb mixture and baked with chunky marinara sauce and warm, gooey mozzarella. See ALL of the steps here, plus, make-ahead tips!
I can’t imagine the first person who grabbed an eggplant and said, “I know. I’m going to make a Parmesan creation out of this thing.”
But that person is a genius.
Now, this recipe does take a bit of prep work, but it’s totally, 100% worth it. And necessary. Don’t skimp out on the first step. You have to remove the moisture from that Eggplant.
I’m saying it once, and I’ll say it at least two more times during this post. Ready?
Eggplants are 92% water.
…which means that you need to remove the majority of it before you start in order to avoid having soggy Eggplant Parm.
It’s easy enough, you just a little extra time. Read on!
How to Make the Best Eggplant Parmesan
- Remove excess moisture from the Eggplant slices prior to breading them. This is key. Eggplants are 92% water. Failure to remove some of this water will results in soggy Eggplant Parmesan.
- Assemble just before you’re ready to bake it and serve.
Quality is Key
- Choose Italian breadcrumbs with a flavor that you know and love.
- Mix fresh, finely grated Parmesan into the breadcrumbs for superior flavor.
- Use a high-quality marinara sauce. (Rao’s Marinara is hard to beat.)
- Choose a high-quality block of mozzarella and be sure to grate it yourself. Low Moisture Mozzarella melts the best.
- Ensure that the eggplant is fresh, otherwise the skin will have a bitter taste.
Removing Water from Eggplant Slices (PRO tip!)
- Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch slices and line them on paper towels.
- Salt each side of the eggplant.
- Top the slices with paper towels and let them sit for one hour. The paper towels will absorb the excess moisture during this time.
How Thick to Cut Eggplant for Eggplant Parmesan
-Eggplant slices should be sliced 1/4 inch thick for Eggplant Parmesan.
Making Eggplant Parmesan Ahead of Time
-Eggplant Parmesan can be a time-consuming process, and the vast majority of the leg work can be done ahead of time.
-Begin by removing the excess moisture from the eggplant slices. Move on to breading each slice, and then fry or bake them.
-From here, you can store them in the refrigerator for 1-2 days prior to assembling and baking.
-You can also flash freeze them on a plate and then store them in a labeled freezer bag for up to 3 months. Place them in the refrigerator overnight prior to assembling and baking.
Frying Eggplant the Slices
-I prefer to go all out and fry my eggplant Parmesan so that each slice is just barely half submerged in vegetable oil.
–Fry in batches of about 4 at a time. Leave breathing room around each slice to allow them to crisp up as well.
–Cast Iron skillets conduct heat the best and give you a nice golden brown, crispy surface.
Baking the Eggplant Slices
-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line the breaded eggplant on lightly greased baking sheets and bake for 20 minutes, flipping them halfway through.
Best Mozzarella for Melting
–Low moisture mozzarella melts the best.
-It’s best to purchase a block and grate the mozzarella at home. That melts much better than packaged grated cheese.
Try These Next!
- Bobby Flay’s Meatball Recipe
- Copycat Longhorn Parmesan Crusted Chicken
- The Pioneer Woman Meatloaf
- Ground Beef Stroganoff Casserole
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Thin slices of eggplant are lightly fried in a crispy Parmesan breadcrumb mixture and baked with chunky marinara sauce and warm, gooey mozzarella. See ALL of the step-by-step pictures here, plus, make-ahead tips!
- 3 medium eggplants ripe
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 3 large eggs
- 1-2 splashes milk optional
- 2 cups Italian breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese separated
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- 8 oz. Part Skim Mozzarella grated
- Basil to garnish (optional)
- Slice the eggplant into ¼ inch slices.
- Season each side with salt and lay them in between paper towels. Let them sit for one hour to allow the paper towels to absorb excess moisture. See Note #1
- Create an assembly line to bread the eggplant. Station #1: Combine the flour, seasoned salt, and pepper on a large plate.
- Station #2: Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl. Add an optional splash of milk to thin it out slightly. It’s easier to dunk and lightly coat the slices this way.
- Station #3: Combine the breadcrumbs, garlic powder, and ½ cup Parmesan cheese on a large plate.
- Dip each slice into the flour and ensure it’s thoroughly covered.
- Next, dip into the egg mixture, and then into the breadcrumb mixture. Stack the breaded slices on a plate as you go.
- To Fry: Heat vegetable oil over medium heat in a cast iron skillet. Add enough vegetable oil to submerge just barely half of each slice. Add more as needed while they cook.
- Use kitchen tongs to gently place about 4 slices at a time into the heated oil. Fry for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown.
- To Bake: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line the breaded eggplant on lightly greased baking sheets and bake for 20 minutes, flipping them halfway through.
- Set the cooked slices on a wire cooling rack to allow air to circulate and keep them crisp. Continue to fry the remaining batches. Reduce the heat if the pan starts to get too hot.
- You can stop here if you are preparing this ahead of time. Let the eggplant slices cool completely and refrigerate for up to two days, or flash freeze for an hour before stacking them in a freezer bag.
- To proceed with baking and serving, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish.
- Spread a small amount of marinara onto the bottom of the baking dish and top it with a layer of breaded eggplant slices.
- Top the eggplant with marinara sauce, then with grated mozzarella. Repeat with another layer of eggplant slices, then with marinara, then with mozzarella. Continue until you’ve used all of the eggplant.
- Sprinkle the top layer with the remaining Parmesan cheese.
- Bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, until the top is hot and bubbling.
- Top with chopped basil or parsley if desired and serve!