A healthy Eggplant Parmesan recipe? Yes, it is entirely possible! Such a delicious comfort dish that is made from a nutrient-dense and low-calorie vegetable deserves to be prepared in a creative way that doesn’t compromise on your health goals.
No doubt some of you have tried restaurant-made Eggplant Parmesan that was delicious, but laden with frying oil that left you feeling bloated. As an example, a popular American chain, Olive Garden’s eggplant Parmesan clocks in at an impressive 1070 calories per serving and 58 g of fat as well as 2440 mg of sodium.
The secret to revamping this classic Italian dish is to bake the breaded eggplant slices instead of frying them. Additionally, limiting the cheese content to reduce saturated fat levels and watching out for added sodium.
Eggplant Parmesan ingredients, tips and substitutions
Here’s what you’ll need to make the best low-calorie eggplant Parmesan:
- Eggplant: chose smooth and shiny globe or Italian eggplants that have fresh looking stems. Avoid giant eggplants as they will have more seeds that can create bitterness.
- Eggs and milk: this will be the glue that helps the breadcrumbs adhere to the eggplant. Any kind of milk is fine, and you can also use water instead to thin out the egg wash.
- Whole wheat panko breadcrumbs. Panko breadcrumbs create a wonderfully crisp texture that can be unbeatable when compared to regular breadcrumbs. To get the most out of them, I recommend giving them a whirl in a blender, grinder or food processor to reduce their size and make them easier to work with. Whole wheat panko is ideal for the extra fiber content, but regular panko will do just fine in a pinch – the difference won’t be too significant.
- Part-skim mozzarella cheese: We’re opting for a lightened version of Eggplant Parmesan here. If you want to go all out and get full-fat fresh mozzarella, go for it – just be aware that the saturated fat content of your dish will rise. Preferably chose block cheese, as pre-shredded cheese may contain added starch that affects the texture.
- Parmesan cheese: freshly grated for the highest flavor punch. Use a fine grater so it blends well with the breadcrumbs. Pecorino Romano is also a good substitute.
- Marinara sauce. pick out a good marinara sauce, ideally the lowest in sodium you can find. Better yet, make your own, it’s easy enough and can be made exactly to your taste. How much you use is a matter of personal preference. My husband likes a lot of tomato sauce, so I tend to use 32 oz instead of 24. I chose to write this recipe with 24 oz since most commercial sauces are sold in 24 oz jars. Tip: If your tomato sauce has large tomato chunks in it, I recommend blending it briefly in a blender or food processor or with an immersion blender to remove them.
- Fresh basil: this is an essential component of the best Eggplant Parmesan recipes. There’s no real substitute for it, but in a crisis you could add some dried basil to your tomato sauce, or fresh oregano.
- Extra virgin olive oil. You will only be using 2 tablespoons at the bottom of your dish, hence the quality doesn’t matter much. My go-to is Partanna Sicilian extra virgin olive oil. This is a no-fry eggplant Parmesan, so you will not need any more oil than that. Some recipes call for drizzling the eggplant slices with olive oil before baking to help them brown. I find that step is really not necessary as the eggplant gets covered with tomato sauce and cheese anyway, it doesn’t really matter how brown it looks. All you want is for the edges to become nice and crispy, and they will do that thanks to the panko breadcrumbs mixed with grated Parmesan.
Making Eggplant Parm
Have you gathered all your ingredients (it’s called mise-en-place)? Ready to make this delicious baked eggplant Parmesan?
This is a 4-step process:
- First, you bread the eggplant slices with an egg wash and breadcrumbs mixed with some of the Parmesan cheese.
- Next, you bake the eggplant slices on baking sheets.
- Then, you assemble eggplant, tomato sauce and cheese into your baking dish.
- And finally, you bake again.
I won’t lie to you. This is not a quick meal. The whole process will likely take you over an hour an a half, of which about 45 minutes is prep time. You’ll get faster as you get more practice. But this mouthwatering meatless dish will leave you feeling full and satisfied and is sure to become one of your family’s favorites!
Serve with a small amount of whole wheat pasta and a green salad for a complete and nutritious meal.
So go ahead and put this on your menu now!
Try these other delicious recipes
Eggplant, zucchini and tomato gratin
- 2 eggplants medium (about 2 pounds total)
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp milk
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp Freshly ground black pepper
- 24 oz marinara sauce
- 1/4 cup slivered fresh basil leaves
- 4 oz grated part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Oil a 9-by-12-inch baking dish with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
- Slice eggplants into 1/4-inch-thick slices. You need to get 24 nice round slices (keep the thinner end and the tip to use in a stir fry or something else).
- Whisk eggs and milk in a shallow dish until frothy. Combine breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, salt and pepper in another shallow dish. Dip the eggplant slices into the egg mixture, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture.
- Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake until crisp and golden, about 15 minutes longer.
- Stir basil into tomato sauce. Spread about 1/2 cup of the sauce at the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
- Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce. Spoon 1 cup of tomato sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the mozzarella cheese.
- Add a layer of the remaining eggplant slices and top with remaining sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan.
- Bake, uncovered, until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Let the dish rest for 5 minutes before eating as the tomato sauce will be very hot…
This is AMAZING! Compares to the best Italian-American restaurants I have eaten in NYC! Must have!
You scared me a little bit with the “it takes a while” comment. And we were hungry, and there were 3 different games we wanted to watch on TV.
So I sauteed the eggplant, sorry. And I used the open can of non-whole wheat Panko… but I did use my homemade marinara (the NY Times recipe, where you cook down San Marzano’s with some butter and an onion), and a few ounces of my previous PR wedge (and some bagged Mozz). Grated Kraft Parmesan in the breadcrumbs.
She loved it. Said it’s better than her standby Eggplant Parm from the local red checked tablecloth corner takeout place. That’s high praise coming from her.
Tutti a tavola!
Well, that’s quite a compliment, Randy! Prego! And high five to the chef! All acceptable substitutions, but you made this your own and it sounds like a winner! Sautéing just adds a bit of calories and fat but you can handle it!
Oops, “precious”, not “previous.
This is so delicious! I made this for the second time this evening and each bite makes me feel warm and nourished. Thank you for such a fabulous recipe! This will be the dish I prepare whenever someone I love needs a little extra TLC.
Thank you so much, Colleen! It always makes me happy to see my recipes appreciated outside of my own family!