Eggplant Parmesan

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Settle in for the evening with this cozy and classic eggplant parmesan.

Eggplant Parmesan is a comforting layered casserole similar to lasagna, only with breaded and fried slices of eggplant replacing the noodles. The eggplant is shingled and layered in a baking dish with marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, béchamel sauce, and Parmigiano Reggiano and then baked until bubbly and golden. The traditional preparation takes some time – particularly salting, breading, and frying the eggplant slices – but you can save time by using good-quality jarred marinara sauce. It’s very important to salt the eggplant for at least 90 minutes before frying – this not only seasons the eggplant from the inside out but also draws out the liquid so it absorbs less oil and gives it a creamy, silky texture.

You may be wondering if you can bake the eggplant instead of frying it. It will work if you use enough oil on the baking sheets, but I strongly recommend sticking with the traditional frying method, as it will give you the best result in terms of both flavor and texture. I serve eggplant parmesan as a main dish with a Caesar or green salad, but it can also be served as a side dish to meatballs, grilled steak, or Italian sausage.

slice of eggplant parmesan

What You’ll Need To Make Eggplant Parmesan

eggplant parmesan ingredients

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Salt the Eggplant

In a large bowl, on a baking sheet, or directly on a cutting board, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt evenly all over the eggplant slices.

salting eggplants on cutting board

Lay out a few layers of paper towels on a large cutting board or baking sheet. Arrange about one-third of the eggplant slices in a single layer and cover with more paper towels. Continue stacking the eggplant and paper towels, finishing with a final layer of paper towels. Let sit for 1½ to 2 hours. Press on the paper towels to absorb any excess liquid before proceeding.
stack of paper towels and eggplant slices

Step 2: Make the Béchamel Sauce

Béchamel sauce is not necessarily traditional in eggplant parmesan, but I love the richness it adds. It counters the acidity of the marinara sauce and also prevents the melted mozzarella cheese from turning rubbery.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, then add the flour.

melted butter and flour

Cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes.

whisking butter and flour

Add the milk and whisk until evenly combined.

whisking in milk

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Add the Parmigiano Reggiano, salt, and pepper.

whisking in parmesan cheese, salt and pepper

Whisk to combine and set aside.

finished bechamel sauce

Step 3: Bread and Fry the Eggplant

Combine the flour and ¾ teaspoon salt on a large plate. Whisk the eggs with 2 tablespoons cold water in a wide bowl. Mix the breadcrumbs with ¾ teaspoon salt on a large plate.

Lightly coat each slice of eggplant in the flour, shaking off excess.

dredging eggplant slice in flour

Dip in egg mixture, letting any excess drip off.

dipping eggplant slice in egg

Then dredge in the breadcrumbs, pressing with your fingertips so the crumbs adhere. (Use one hand for the dry ingredients – the flour and breadcrumbs – and one for the egg mixture – it’s much neater this way!) Set the breaded eggplant slices on a baking sheet.
dredging eggplant slice in breadcrumbs

Line another baking sheet with a few layers of paper towels. Pour enough oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to measure about ¼-inch deep and heat over medium heat until hot (if you dip a piece of eggplant into the oil, it will sizzle immediately). Working in batches, add as much eggplant as will fit in a single layer.

frying eggplant slices

Fry, flipping once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.

golden brown eggplant slices in oilTransfer to the paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat, frying the remaining eggplant and layering it between sheets of paper towels to drain.
draining fried eggplant on paper towels

Step 4: Assemble and Bake

Preheat the oven to 425°F and set an oven rack in the middle position.

Spread ¾ cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish.

first layer of sauce in baking dish

Layer in one-third of the eggplant slices, overlapping the slices to fit.

first layer of eggplant in baking dish

Cover the eggplant with another ¾ cup of marinara sauce.

more sauce over eggplant

Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, then spoon one-third of the béchamel sauce over the cheese (if the béchamel has solidified a bit, it’s fine to add it in dollops; no need to spread it around).

cheese and bechamel layer

Repeat two more layers, leaving the edges of the eggplant exposed on the top layer to create crispy edges. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano Reggiano.

assembled eggplant parmesan ready to bakeBake until bubbling and golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool, loosely covered with foil, for about 20 minutes, then scatter the basil over top (if using), cut into slices, and serve.

Make-Ahead/Freezer-Friendly Instructions

Eggplant parmesan can be assembled up to 2 days before baking; it can also be frozen, baked or unbaked, for up to 3 months.

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Eggplant Parmesan

Settle in for the evening with this cozy and classic eggplant parmesan.

Servings: 6 to 8
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour 10 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes, plus at least 90 minutes to salt the eggplant

Ingredients

For the Eggplant Parmesan

  • 2½ pounds eggplant (2 to 3 medium), trimmed and cut crosswise into ¼-inch thick slices
  • 2½ teaspoons salt, divided
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups seasoned Italian bread crumbs
  • Vegetable oil, for deep-frying (about 3 cups)
  • 1 (24-oz) jar good-quality marinara sauce, such as Rao's or Victoria
  • 3 cups (12 oz) shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigianno-Reggiano
  • Fresh chopped basil, for serving (optional)

For the Béchamel Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups milk
  • ½ cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Salt the eggplant: In a large bowl, on a baking sheet, or directly on a cutting board, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt evenly all over the eggplant slices. Lay out a few layers of paper towels on a large cutting board or baking sheet. Arrange about one-third of the eggplant slices in a single layer and cover with more paper towels. Continue stacking the eggplant and paper towels, finishing with a final layer of paper towels. Let sit for 1½ to 2 hours. Press on the paper towels to absorb any excess liquid before proceeding.
  2. Make the béchamel sauce: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the milk and whisk until evenly combined. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Whisk in the Parmigiano Reggiano, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Combine the flour and ¾ teaspoon salt on a large plate. Whisk the eggs with 2 tablespoons cold water in a wide bowl. Mix the breadcrumbs with ¾ teaspoon salt on a large plate.
  4. Lightly coat each slice of eggplant in the flour, shaking off excess. Dip in egg mixture, letting any excess drip off, then dredge in the breadcrumbs, pressing with your fingertips so the crumbs adhere. (Use one hand for the dry ingredients – the flour and breadcrumbs – and one for the egg mixture - it's much neater this way!) Set the breaded eggplant slices on a baking sheet.
  5. Line another baking sheet with a few layers of paper towels. Pour enough oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to measure about ¼-inch deep and heat over medium heat until hot (if you dip a piece of eggplant into the oil, it will sizzle immediately). Working in batches, add as much eggplant as will fit in a single layer and fry, flipping once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to the paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat, frying the remaining eggplant and layering it between sheets of paper towels to drain.
  6. Preheat the oven to 425°F and set an oven rack in the middle position.
  7. Spread ¾ cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish. Layer in one-third of the eggplant slices, overlapping the slices to fit. Cover the eggplant with another ¾ cup of marinara sauce. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, then spoon about one-third of the béchamel sauce over the cheese (if the béchamel has solidified a bit, it's fine to add it in dollops; no need to spread it around). Repeat two more layers, leaving the edges of the eggplant exposed on the top layer to create crispy edges. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano Reggiano. Bake until bubbling and golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool, loosely covered with foil, for about 20 minutes. Scatter the basil over top (if using), cut into slices, and serve.
  8. Make-Ahead/Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The eggplant parmesan can be assembled up to 2 days before baking; it can also be frozen, baked or unbaked, for up to 3 months.

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Comments

  • Wow, this was delicious! It does take awhile, so read through the recipe first and plan accordingly. I’ll definitely be making this again, thank you!

    • — Donna on September 22, 2022
    • Reply
  • Delicious!!!!!
    So very tasty!!!!!
    My whole family absolutely loved it!
    Give yourself some time to get it all together…..I don’t like to rush through a recipe and I got a little late start tonight so I told my gang to hang in there! It’s Once Upon a Chef so it’ll be well worth it! It surely was worth it!!!!
    Excellent dish!!!
    Thank you Jen! ❤️☺️

    • — Lisa on September 19, 2022
    • Reply
  • It is difficult to find eggplant parm in restaurants these days, so I thought I would give this recipe a try. It was the Best Eggplant Parm I have ever eaten. My husband has never ordered eggplant parm. He said, “I didn’t realize what I was missing” as he got seconds. I used plain GF panko adding 1 TBL of Italian seasoning per cup of panko for the eggplant, and GF flour in the béchamel sauce. Do NOT omit the béchamel sauce. As I was making this, I swore I would never make it again, because it was laborious and messy. Guess what. I will be making this again.

    • — Elli Freihofer on September 19, 2022
    • Reply
  • Every recipe that I have made from Jen is spot on and delicious. This Eggplant is the best I have had in years. Thank you Jen

    • — Amy on September 19, 2022
    • Reply
  • Is the salting of 1 teaspoon over all the pieces meant to be over all the pieces in one layer and then repeated on the next layer as you stack them on paper towels between? nice looking recipe

    • — Denise on September 18, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Denise, I’m not sure I understand your question. You will be using a total of 1 teaspoon of salt on all of the eggplant slices. Does that give you the answer you need?

      • — Jenn on September 19, 2022
      • Reply
  • I’m very eager to try your recipe! Just one question would seasoned Panko work as a substitute for the Italian breadcrumbs? Thanks 😊

    • — Laura on September 16, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Laura, Yes, that should work fine. Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on September 17, 2022
      • Reply
      • As it turns out I ended up using Italian breadcrumbs this first go around. And the Eggplant Parmesan recipe was absolutely wonderful both in terms of flavours and presentation. Thank you, thank you, thank you❣️😊

        • — Laura on September 19, 2022
        • Reply
  • Jenn, I tried your eggplant parmigiana. Delicious! Thank you. I am looking forward to try some more of your recipes.

    • — Lori on September 15, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this for my family last night and it was excellent! Well worth the time and effort to prepare.

    • — Lynne on September 15, 2022
    • Reply
  • For years I’ve been hoping you’d add an eggplant parmesan to your site! Cannot wait to make this, thank you!

    • — Adrienne on September 12, 2022
    • Reply
  • Mom made eggplant parmesan and it was good. Thanks for the great tips here. I can’t wait to try

    • — Bri on September 9, 2022
    • Reply
  • I notice that you do not peel the eggplant prior to slicing and cooking. I usually peel them for other recipes, so I was curious. Also – that is a lot of salt! Can it be reduced?
    Thanks

    • — Carol on September 9, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Carol, Peeling the eggplant is optional – I actually like the skin so I leave it on. Some recipes call for removing strips of peel about 1-inch wide from the eggplants, leaving about half the peel intact. It’s up to you. 🙂

      • — Jenn on September 9, 2022
      • Reply
  • I have baked the eggplant and gotten it very crisp using non stick spray. I line a baking sheet with foil and spray it. I salt and bread the eggplant slices like you do and then place them on the foil. I spray the tops also. I bake them at 400 degrees till brown, turning once. Then I proceed with the rest of the recipe.

    • — Joan Cohn on September 8, 2022
    • Reply
  • This was the best eggplant parm I’ve had. The additional of bechamel and fresh basil at the end was quite good. Thanks!

    • — Stephanie Nolan on September 8, 2022
    • Reply
  • Sounds delicious! I’ve eaten this at restaurants with pesto sauce instead of marinara and it was delicious! Served with a side of spaghetti with pesto sauce also! Have you ever made it this way? Would love to know how! Any suggestions?

    • — bev Richman on September 8, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Bev, I haven’t tried it this way, but it sounds delish! My only concern is that it might be too oily with the fried eggplant and so much oil in the pesto.

      • — Jenn on September 8, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jennifer, how thick should you cut the eggplant slices?

    • — Anna on September 8, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Anna, They should be cut 1/4-inch thick. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on September 8, 2022
      • Reply
      • I have a better recipe it’s the best Eggplant Parmesan you will ever have. First of all don’t use Flour just use Italian breadcrumbs and dip them into egg make sure you cut the egg plant real thin and remove skin You can fry them or bake l prefer baking no grease and more healthy but if frying use Extra virgin olive oil after your done frying them put them on a long pan with paper towels to soak grease off get your casserole glass dish Put your Favorite Red Gravy on the bottom. Then you put a layer of egg plant across like Lasgna we put in each layer Ricotta cheese Gravy mozzarella cheese and put Locatelli or Pecorino Romano we put att least 3 to 4 layers stacked high like lasagna keep repeating that the top layer will be eggplant Ricotta Gravy mozzarella cheese n.Romano that’s it Then cover with aluminum foil bake 425 about 50 mins just keep a eye on it . When top of cheese is melted it’s done take it out Let it sit before eating very HoTT it should be real tender The best Eggplant you will ever have As far as the Tomato Gravy we as Italians put up are own tomatoes we jar them if done right they càn keep up to ten years shelf life It is alot of work but you can use a good brand Tutturosso l recommend or San Marzano. I will be posting how to Can your own tomatoes .l hope you all enjoy

        • — Frank DeAngelo on September 22, 2022
        • Reply
  • Can I use the air fryer instead of pan fry?

    • — Chan on September 8, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Chan, I don’t recommend it – sorry!

      • — Jenn on September 8, 2022
      • Reply
  • One question I always consider when making eggplant parmigiana … do you rinse the salt off the eggplant after it sits to draw out bitterness?

    • — Diana on September 8, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Diana, Great question. It really depends on the recipe. I do not rinse the eggplant after salting – much of the salt gets absorbed and seasons the eggplant, and I’ve accounted for the salt in the rest of the recipe – but many recipes do have you rinse after salting.

      • — Jenn on September 8, 2022
      • Reply
  • Instead of deep frying, would air frying the eggplant work instead?

    • — Sara on September 8, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Sara, I don’t recommend air frying in this case. Sorry!

      • — Jenn on September 8, 2022
      • Reply

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