When growing up, my grandma made a killer eggplant parmesan. If I had seen an eggplant as a kid, I don't think I would have been so eager to eat it, but once covered in cheese and marinara sauce, eggplant certainly didn't look anything like it does when I buy it in the grocery store. As an adult, however, I learned to appreciate how versatile eggplant is and decided to make grandma's classic eggplant parmesan into this vegan eggplant parmesan recipe. Even though my vegan eggplant parmesan is 100% vegan without using any vegan cheese or processed foods, it tastes just as crunchy and cheesy as grandma's recipe.
Eggplant is a nightshade fruit, not a vegetable.
My grandma used eggplant in various Greek dishes throughout my childhood, such as eggplant moussaka and baba ganoush, a greek dip. Later in life, I learned eggplant isn't even a vegetable at all. Eggplant is a fruit, also called aubergine, a part of the nightshade family.
For example, eggplant is a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamin B-1, B-6, and K. Eggplant, uncooked, is quite bitter, however.
How to cut an eggplant for eggplant parmesan
First, cut the ends off each side of the eggplant. Then, slice the eggplant in 1/4 inch-1/2 inch slices, making sure all the slices are equal in size.
Once sliced, sprinkle the eggplant slices generously with salt and leave them to rest in a sink to bring out the bitterness. As a result, you will see water droplets all over the eggplant.
Don't worry about the salt, though, because the eggplant is rinsed thoroughly before baking.
How to make eggplant parmesan vegan
Traditionally, the eggplant is fried in eggplant parmesan recipes. Instead, my vegan eggplant parmesan is baked, not fried. If you prefer, you can also air-fry the eggplant, which works just as well.
To get the eggplant's crunchy texture, I use a combination of panko bread crumbs and my Vegan Parmesan Cheese. Instead of dipping and dredging in cow's milk, I use almond milk. And, instead of wheat or white flour, I use gluten-free flour. But, again, this is a choice.
Although you can add vegan cheese and melt it, I find this step unnecessary. The Vegan Parmesan Cheese is cheesy enough for me, but feel free to add vegan cheese if you want it even cheesier.
Adding fried green tomatoes, prepared the same way I prepare the eggplant, adds acidic flavor, which I love. The eggplant, combined with the green tomatoes, fresh marinara sauce, and gluten-free pasta, makes for an incredibly savory dish. And I am all about savory!
Baking or Air-frying Vegan Eggplant Parmesan
Once the eggplant is coated, I bake both on my Copper Crispr Pan. Similar to using an air fryer, this pan air-fries in the oven.
However, choosing to air-fry is an option, as long as you remember to cook the eggplant in batches, with a single layer of eggplant rather than stacking the eggplant.
Also, I chose one of my favorite new gluten-free kinds of pasta, Andean Dream Quinoa Spaghetti. For example, I used this same noodle in my Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe, and I fell in love. The Gluten-free kinds of pasta today are yummy!
In the past, gluten-free pasta, in my opinion, was gummy and disintegrated when cooked. However, over time, I think gluten-free products have been perfected, and I am a fan!
Of course, you can use any pasta or spaghetti you wish, so if you can't find a great gluten-free version, regular whole grain spaghetti works just as well.
What pasta sauce to serve with eggplant parmesan
Without a doubt, homemade vegan marinara sauce is always the best route. Although I use jarred marinara sauce, often as a shortcut, we all know the homemade version is the best! Because vegan eggplant parmesan does not require a large amount of sauce, I make my marinara ahead of time and freeze the extra for Vegan Lasagna or Vegan Stuffed Shells Recipe.
Food prep, in my opinion, is the key to easy cooking. A batch of vegan marinara sauce, for instance, can be used for a variety of recipes throughout the week without the need to freeze. Or, you can freeze it in small batches to use at will. Either way, the vegan eggplant parmesan recipe tastes great with homemade sauce or your favorite store-bought sauce.
Then, when I plate my vegan eggplant parmesan, I start by placing a small amount of sauce in the bowl's base.
I don't like my vegan eggplant parmesan floating in sauce, so next, I plate the spaghetti, add two pieces of eggplant and one fried green tomato.
What does with eggplant parmesan?
Next, I top with a little more sauce and then sprinkle with Vegan Parmesan Cheese. Of course, a little vegan garlic bread on the side helps to soak up the extra sauce. But, I also love a nice big salad with a pasta dish.
I watched my husband dragging his bread all around the bottom of the plate to get every last bit. At my house, that is a winner's dinner!
What pasta is served with eggplant parmesan?
- Traditionally, spaghetti or linguini is served with eggplant parmesan. I used whole-grain spaghetti, but linguini works well too. Because the eggplant is the star of the dish, the pasta is an accompaniment.
What does eggplant parmesan taste like?
- Eggplant absorbs the flavors of seasoning and sauces like a sponge. For that reason, vegan eggplant parmesan tastes savory and delicious. Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, vegan eggplant parmesan tastes precisely like traditional eggplant parmesan without the fat and calories.
How to freeze eggplant parmesan
- To freeze vegan eggplant parmesan, freeze the air-fried pieces separate from the sauce. I suggest freezing the pieces in a single layer to last freeze the pieces, so they don't stick together. Then, thaw completely and reheat in the oven or air fryer before adding the sauce and pasta.
- Always salt the eggplant slices on both sides and rinse before preparing the eggplant for the breading. Salt removes the bitterness and decreases the amount of water in the eggplant before cooking.
- Remember, if air-frying to cook in single layer batches. The second and subsequent batches take a little less time because the air-fryer is already hot.
- Use unsweetened, unflavored plant milk of choice. I used oat milk, but any plant-based milk works.
- If allergic to plant milk, use aquafaba whisked with a small amount of water as a plant-milk substitute.
If you enjoy Italian comfort food but want to eat healthily, this vegan eggplant parmesan recipe is the perfect meal.
And, if you are a comfort food fan, try these yummy Italian recipes:
- Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs
- Veggie Stuffed Shells
- Vegan Stuffed Shells Recipe
- Zucchini Stuffed with Veggies and Tofu Ricotta
- Oil-Free Vegan 20 Minute One-Pot Wonder Pasta
- How to Make Healthy Lasagna With Vegan Bechamel Sauce
- Butternut Squash Lasagna
- Vegan Lasagna
- Italian Potato Salad
- Creamy Italian Dressing
- How to Make Your Own Oil-Free Italian Salad Dressing
- Italian Wedding Soup
Hi! My name is Kathy, I am a retired high school English teacher & vegan enthusiast and blogger. My entire blog is fully plant-based vegan. I truly believe what we eat & how we live determines our health & the preservation of our planet! 🙂