This Easy Eggplant Parmesan is a taste of home, straight from the oven. Crispy rounds of fried eggplant are smothered in gooey cheese and tomato sauce. No matter what your experience is in the kitchen, you can make this Italian eggplant parmesan recipe just like Nana used to!
Easy Eggplant Parmesan
My mom used to make eggplant parmesan every year for Christmas dinner.
I remember she would use a milking pot filled with water to help the eggplant slices release their moisture.
I have since updated and adapted her easy eggplant parmesan “recipe” and method, as we do all so often. Her idea of a recipe was more like an idea with bullet points!
While this fried eggplant parmesan recipe requires a good chunk of prep, you’ll soon forget your time in the kitchen once you taste that first incredible bite.
My roasted vegetable penne pasta is a simpler alternative if you don’t have hours to make this Italian eggplant parmesan recipe, and it can be made in advance for busy weeknights.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Eggplant – This vegetable should be firm but not hard — similar to a perfectly ripe tomato or peach. It should also have deep purple skin and feel heavy for its size.
- Tomatoes – Use really high quality crushed tomatoes, or simply mash whole ones first. You’ll also need tomato paste to flavor and thicken the sauce.
- Panko Breadcrumbs – Regular breadcrumbs tend to cake to the surface and don’t crisp up as nicely as the panko.
- Cheese – Provolone and mozzarella both melt down really nicely and create a lovely flavor in the easy eggplant parmesan.
I like to include parmesan too, of course, in both the breading and over the tops of the veggies.
Be sure to shred fresh cheese yourself — it melts so much better than bagged shreds.
Tips for Making Pan Fried Eggplant
- No need to peel.
Simply slice the eggplant into ¼ – ½ inch thick rounds, keeping them as uniform as possible for even cooking.
- Salt the veggie slices.
Not only does this help prevent the pan fried eggplant from becoming soggy, but it also removes the bitter liquid for a better tasting dish.
- Don’t forget the seasoning!
Although the vegetable steaks are salted to draw out the moisture, the salt doesn’t actually season the slices.
Be sure to season both the breading and sauce according to the fried eggplant parmesan recipe, or the dish will be bland.
- Want a thicker sauce?
Simmer the liquid uncovered until it reaches the desired consistency.
- Tip for frying with oil:
Use a candy thermometer to ensure the oil is the correct temperature (350°F), or the centers will be overcooked by the time the outside is browned.
Also, allow the temp to recover between each batch for consistency.
This easy eggplant parmesan is quite filling on its own, so you shouldn’t need much more than a simple salad and some garlic knots.
If you’ll be feeding a crowd, my antipasto pasta salad can help stretch the servings so there’s plenty of cheesy fried eggplant for everyone.
And don’t forget the tiramisu for dessert!
Fried Eggplant Parmesan Recipe FAQ
You can, but fried eggplant with sauce really is best fresh out of the oven.
Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days when stored in an airtight container. Reheat for 10 to 15 minutes at 350°F or until warmed through.
First, be sure to pat dry the rounds before breading to remove as much moisture as possible.
When you start to fry, heat the oil to the right temperature — aim for 350° F. Also, allow the oil to come back to temp in between batches.
Then, place pan fried eggplant slices on paper towels to absorb excess oil before baking with the cheese and sauce.
San Marzano are the preferred choice because they have a rich flavor without being too acidic.
If these aren’t available, choose a high-quality brand of crushed tomatoes and add a little extra sugar to the sauce if needed.
With love, from our simple kitchen to yours.
Other Dinner Recipes
Easy Eggplant Parmesan
- 2 large eggplants, sliced into 1/2” steaks
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- Extra virgin olive oil for frying
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 28 ounce 28-ounce can san marzano tomatoes , (use potato masher to mash them up, or just used good crushed tomatoes)
- 1/2 can of water, 14 ounce
- small handful basil leaves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 2 dried bay leaves
- pinch sugar, takes the edge off the acidity
- salt and freshly ground black pepper , to season sauce plus more for breading, see below
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 large eggs
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 cups panko bread crumbs
- 2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 cup freshly grated provolone
- 2 cups freshly grated mozzarella
- Place a cooling rack on top of a sheet pan. Lay out eggplant slices on this rack or on a plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle on both sides with kosher salt. Continue to layer salted eggplant slices with paper towels between each layer. Top with paper towels and place a sheet pan (or second plate) on top to add some weight. Set aside for at least 2 hours. After eggplant has set for 2 hours, remove the wet paper towels and pat each eggplant steak dry.
- Over medium heat, cook the onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until soft and translucent. Add the minced garlic to the pan and cook 1-2 minutes longer.
- Add the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, 14 oz. water, basil, oregano, bay leaves, and sugar to the pan and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer sauce for 30-60 minutes.
- Meanwhile, set up a standard dredging station for breading the eggplant. Place 1 cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a wide and shallow bowl. Whisk together the eggs and 1/3 cup water in a second shallow bowl. Combine panko crumbs and 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese in a third shallow bowl.
- Dip each slice of eggplant into the flour mixture, lightly coating both sides completely. Next, dip the coated slice into the egg mixture, and then into the breadcrumb mixture. Make sure the slice is fully coated in the crumb mixture. Set aside.
- Fill a large skillet with 1/2” of olive oil. Heat over medium. Fry the breaded eggplant slices in the oil until browned on each side (about 2 minutes on each side). Work in batches and place the fried eggplant on a few sheets of paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
- Mix together the remaining cup of parmesan cheese, the provolone cheese, and the mozzarella cheese in a bowl.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Scoop a ladle or two of the sauce into the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish. Arrange one layer of prepared eggplant over the sauce in the dish. Spread half of the remaining sauce over the eggplant.
- Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of the cheese mixture over the sauce. Layer the remaining eggplant and sauce and top with the remaining 2 1/2 cups of cheese.
- Cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and broil the top for 2-3 minutes until the cheese is browned and bubbly.
- Garnish with freshly chopped herbs.
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
Originally published September 2021, updated and republished September 2023
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