Baked Eggplant Parmesan
This Baked Eggplant Parmesan recipe is lightened up a bit with baked (instead of fried) panko-crusted roasted eggplant, and layered up with a zesty combination of marinara, cheeses and fresh herbs.
I will be the first to admit that I’m still on the fence about how much I really love eggplant.
But when it comes to eggplant Parmesan, count me in anytime. ♡
Yes, all of those layers of cozy marinara sauce, gooey melted Mozzarella, sweet fresh basil, and of course, lots and lots of freshly-grated Parmesan probably have something to with my love of this eggplant Parm. But I’m also especially partial to the zesty toasted breading used to coat the roasted eggplant rounds in this particular recipe. It’s not authentically Italian (melanzane alla parmigiana in Italy actually doesn’t include any breading for the eggplant), but it’s the delicious American-style version of eggplant Parmesan that I grew up loving. And — bonus — this crispy breading in this recipe is baked instead of deep-fried. And most importantly, super delicious.
Over the years, thousands of our readers have made and loved this baked eggplant Parmesan recipe. So now that eggplant season has begun again here in Barcelona, I thought I would snap some fresh pics and bump this recipe back to the top of the blog for any of you who have yet to give it a try. Trust me, it’s a winner!
Baked Eggplant Parmesan Ingredients:
To make this baked eggplant Parmesan recipe, you will need the following ingredients:
- Eggplant: 2 medium fresh eggplants (about 2 pounds), sliced into 1/2-inch rounds.
- Panko breadcrumbs: Which I recommend briefly toasting on a baking sheet in the oven before adding to the casserole, so that the breadcrumbs are extra-crispy and golden.
- Seasonings: A mixture of Italian seasoning, garlic powder, fine sea salt and black pepper.
- Eggs: Which we will use to help bind the breadcrumb mixture to the eggplant rounds.
- Marinara sauce: Either homemade or store-bought. My original recipe here called for 3 cups (approximately one 25-ounce jar) of marinara, but I typically use a double batch of my homemade recipe which yields closer to 4 cups.
- Mozzarella cheese: I typically just use shredded mozzarella, but sliced fresh mozzarella balls would be extra-delicious too.
- Parmesan cheese: The more, the merrier! I recommend grating a generous layer to add in the middle of the casserole. And then don’t forget to also grate or shave extra Parmesan to sprinkle on top of each serving.
- Fresh basil: The same goes for the fresh basil as for the Parmesan. I recommend a generous layer in the middle of the casserole, plus extra to sprinkle on top of each serving.
How To Make Eggplant Parmesan:
Here is a basic overview of the steps for how to make Eggplant Parmesan. Detailed instructions in the recipe below!
- Sweat the eggplant (optional). If you have the extra time and would like your eggplant to taste a bit less bitter, I recommend slicing, salting, and letting the eggplant “sweat” out its potentially-bitter juices before adding it to the casserole. Just leave the salted eggplant slices to rest on paper towels for 30-60 minutes, then rinse off the salt with cold water and pat dry.
- Toast the Panko (optional). This step is also optional, but if you would like the panko to be more golden and crispy, I recommend spreading it out on a baking sheet and briefly toasting until golden.
- Bread the eggplant. To bread the eggplant slices, dip them in an egg wash followed by the seasoned breadcrumb mixture. (I have included a pro tip in the recipe below for how to do this without getting your hands too messy!) Then bake until the eggplant has softened and is mostly cooked through.
- Layer the casserole. Next, we will layer everything up in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish! The basic order for this casserole is: marinara sauce, eggplant, marinara sauce, Mozzarella, Parmesan, basil, eggplant, marinara sauce, and Mozzarella.
- Bake. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and starts to turn slightly golden around the edges and the eggplant is cooked to your liking. Sprinkle with extra basil and Parmesan.
- Serve. Then dish it up nice and warm…and enjoy!
Possible Recipe Variations:
Want to customize this easy Eggplant Parmesan recipe a bit? Feel free to…
- Make it spicy: I love sprinkling some crushed red pepper flakes into this casserole to give it a bit of extra heat.
- Make it gluten-free: Use gluten-free Panko. (And as always, double-check that all other ingredients are certified gluten-free too.)
- Make it faster: If you are in a hurry, you can skip the step of sweating the eggplant and toasting the breadcrumbs. The eggplant may just be a touch more bitter and the breadcrumbs less toasty.
- Use long eggplant slices: Instead of cutting the eggplant into rounds, you are also welcome to cut it lengthwise into long slices. Then bread, bake and add to the casserole as directed.
- Use traditional breadcrumbs: If you don’t happen to have Panko breadcrumbs on hand, traditional plain breadcrumbs will also work.
More Classic Italian Recipes:
Looking for more classic Italian recipes to try? Here are a few of my faves:
This Baked Eggplant Parmesan recipe is made lighter by being baked with a crispy Panko breading, yet still has all of the delicious and comforting flavors of the classic dish!
- Sweat the eggplant (optional). If you have extra time and would like to remove some of the bitterness of the eggplant, line a large sheet pan (or two half sheet pans) with paper towels and place the eggplant rounds on the sheet in an even layer. Sprinkle evenly and generously with salt, then let the eggplant rounds rest for 30-60 minutes so that the sometimes-bitter liquids inside can sweat out. Transfer the eggplant rounds to a colander and rinse with cold water to remove the salt, then pat the eggplant dry with a clean paper towels.
- Toast the Panko (optional). If you would like your Panko breadcrumbs to be extra crispy and golden, spread them out in an even layer on a sheet pan. Bake at 400°F for 4 minutes or until golden, then remove the baking sheet and give the Panko a stir. Bake for another 2-3 minutes or until golden, then remove, stir and set aside. (The Panko will start to brown quickly, so keep a close eye on it while cooking to ensure that it does not burn.)
- Prep the oven and baking sheet(s). Heat oven to 425°F. Line a large sheet pan (or two half sheet pans) with parchment paper, and set aside.
- Bread the eggplant. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the Panko breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, garlic powder and (1 teaspoon) fine sea salt and black pepper until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs with 2 tablespoons water. Dip an eggplant round in the egg mixture so that is evenly coated on all sides, then transfer to the breadcrumb mixture and coat on all sides, then place it on the prepared baking sheet.* Repeat with the remaining eggplant rounds until they are all coated and evenly spaced on the baking sheet(s). Bake for 25 minutes, until the eggplant is softened and mostly cooked through. Transfer baking sheet(s) to a wire rack and set aside.
- Layer the casserole. Spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce evenly across the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Place half of the eggplant in an even-ish layer along the bottom of the dish, topped evenly with 1 cup marinara sauce, 1 cup Mozzarella, all of the Parmesan, and half of the basil, the remaining eggplant, remaining marinara sauce, and the remaining Mozzarella.
- Bake. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and starts to turn slightly golden around the edges and the eggplant is cooked to your liking. Transfer pan to a wire cooling rack and sprinkle with the remaining basil and extra Parmesan.
- Serve. Serve warm, garnished with extra Parmesan (and basil, if desired).
Marinara sauce: If using store-bought marinara sauce, you can purchase one (25-ounce) jar which will yield closer to 3 cups, which will still work great for this recipe. If using homemade, I recommend making a double batch of this marinara sauce recipe.
Pro tip for breading: In order to avoid getting your hands super messy while breading the eggplant rounds, I recommend setting up an assembly line going right to left. With your right hand, pick up an eggplant round and dip it in the whisked eggs until coated, then transfer with your right hand to the breadcrumb bowl. With your left hand, gently scoop the breadcrumb mixture on top of the eggplant and press it down lightly so that it is coated on all sides and sticks, then transfer the eggplant with your left hand to the baking sheet. Or — you can just do all of this with a pair of tongs, whichever works for you!
Recipe updates: When updating this recipe in the spring of 2020, I have included recommendations for toasting the Panko (to make it extra golden and crispy), I have added garlic powder to the seasoning, and have increased the recommended amount of marinara sauce and basil used.