This easy Baked Eggplant Parmesan is a lighter version of the Italian classic. Crispy eggplant slices are smothered in cheese and a mushroom sausage marinara sauce for the ultimate comfort food. You’ll want to have this for dinner at least once a week!
Wanna know a secret? I’ve actually NEVER ordered eggplant parmesan before. I’ve always figured, if I was gonna get a “parmesan” recipe of some sort it was gonna be Chicken Parmesan.
Well, that all changed after I was in Colorado earlier this year. We had just come off the mountain from a full day of skiing and I could smell the deliciousness being whipped up in the kitchen. And it was … you guessed it. Eggplant Parmesan. When this stuff came out of the oven and was sitting on the stove I devoured it with my eyes first, then the smell and then I finally tasted it.
It was seriously the most epic flavorful eggplant parmesan I had ever had in my life. I have been dreaming about it ever since and have been on a mission to recreate the sensational taste I had earlier this year. PS. In case you don’t know yet. I did, I won’t post this if it was crap so get ready for the best eggplant parmesan recipe of your life!
What is Eggplant Parmesan?
Eggplant Parmesan is an Italian dish that’s called Parmigiana Di Melanzane in Italian. It’s made with deep-fried sliced eggplant that’s layered with cheese and tomato sauce, then baked.
This dish tastes similar to regular chicken parmesan. Eggplant itself doesn’t really have much flavor so it soaks up the taste of the surrounding ingredients. In this recipe, a rich sausage marinara sauce adds deep flavor that’s paired with melty cheese.
What You’ll Need
Before I made eggplant parmesan I thought it was gonna be super complicated. Turns out you just need an awesome knock your socks off sauce loaded with flavor and easy healthy baked eggplant then smother it with cheese. Voila… perfect eggplant parmesan. Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.
- Egg Whites
- Pasta Sauce
How thick do you cut eggplant for eggplant parmesan?
For Eggplant Parmesan, the eggplant should be sliced about 1/4 inch thick although I like mine a little more on the 1/2 inch size.
Do you have to peel eggplant before you cook it?
The skin of an eggplant is completely edible, it is also loaded with nutrients so it’s a great thing to keep on if your eggplant is fresh.
Note: the bigger and more mature your eggplant gets the skin can start to become a little tough or bitter. So I recommend leaving the skin on for smaller eggplant and peeling it for larger eggplants. Honestly, it’s all about what you prefer.
How to Make Baked Eggplant Parmesan
Take a breath even though the “how to” on this might look like a lot it’s actually super easy. I broke everything down for you so you can follow each step and make this eggplant parmesan flawlessly. Here’s how to make the Best Baked Eggplant Parmesan Recipe.
Prepare the Eggplant
Slice eggplant into 1/4″ to 1/2″ slices or coins. Place eggplant on a paper towel lined baking sheet. Lightly salt eggplant slices. Let sit for at least one hour, or longer if you have time. The salt will draw the water out of the eggplant. Pat eggplant dry with a paper towel and gently rub excess salt off.
Make the Mushroom Sausage Sauce
Heat a large saucepan to medium high heat. Add avocado oil to the pan along with onion. Saute until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Next, add in garlic. Saute for 30 seconds, stirring the entire time. Then add in mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms are slightly browned, about 4-6 minutes, stirring throughout. Once mushrooms are browned add in your ground italian sausage. Cook until sausage is browned, about 5 minutes, chopping up with a wooden spoon to make the pieces smaller. Then add in marinara sauce and bring to a boil. Set aside.
Coat and Bake the Eggplant
Preheat oven to 400°F. To a flat bowl add egg whites that are beaten. Set aside. To a medium flat bowl add panko, garlic powder, basil, oregano and parsley. Mix gently. Working one at a time, dredge both sides of eggplant in egg white mixture and then coat in the panko mixture.
Place coated eggplant onto a baking sheet in an even layer. Continue process until all eggplant are coated. Bake eggplant slices for 20 minutes, flipping half way through.
Assemble the Eggplant Parmesan
Now that your sauce is done and eggplant is done. It’s time to assemble. Add 1/4 cup of sausage pasta sauce to the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish. Spread out evenly. Layer half of the eggplant slices on the sauce. Top each eggplant slice with 3 tablespoons of sauce, 2 tablespoons of mozzarella cheese, a pinch of parmesan and 1 whole basil leaf. Place remaining eggplant slices on top and cover with remaining sauce and cheese.
Bake uncovered in 400°F oven for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and slightly browned. Garnish with chiffon basil and serve.
Tips for Success
- Leave the Skin on. Despite what people think, you do not have to remove the skin of the eggplant before cooking. It actually has tons of nutritional value and when it’s cooking with all the other ingredients the texture of it will be non-existent. So just leave the skin on, it saves you a step and gives you the added nutrients.
- Salt the Eggplant. If you don’t want a soggy eggplant parmesan make sure that you salt your eggplant slices ahead of time and let them rest of a paper towel. The salt pulls the moisture out of the eggplant so that when you cook it it keeps it’s firm texture.
- Crush the Panko. In this recipe I use gluten free panko breadcrumbs. The size and texture of the gluten free panko is a little different than the regular. Therefore, I usually put it in a a ziplock bag and pound on it a little bit to break them up and create more of a powder. Doing this helps the panko stick better to the eggplant.
- Make the Homemade Sauce. If I can give you any advice at all, it is to make this mushroom sausage sauce. It is the KEY element that takes this dish over the top and what makes it the BEST Eggplant Parmesan you will ever have!!!! Hear me. Do NOT buy or make a plain jane marinara, you’ll regret.
Can I Freeze Eggplant Parm?
No. I would recommend not freezing this eggplant parmesan. It will get soggy and lose it’s texture. You could make a freeze the sauce if you are wanting to “work ahead.”
In my opinion you don’t need much with this Eggplant Parmesan it is good on it’s own. However, if you’d like to have a full meal I’d recommend serving it with the following.
- Best Spinach Salad with Apples, Pecans and Gorgonzola
- Healthy Cranberry Apple Brussel Sprouts Salad
- Simple Spinach & Arugula Salad
- Honey Soy Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus
- Maple Dijon Glazed Carrots
This dish has a classic parmesan flavor with a tomato base and loads of cheese, but the sauce is this dish is where the magic is at filled with italian sausage, aromatics and earthy mushooms for the ultimate umami flavor. Because of all the flavors and fat content, I’d recommend pairing bold red, fruity or spicy reds with this eggplant parmesan. Here are a few we love!
- 2018 Middle Jane Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2018 Fieldhouse Pinot Noir
- 2017 Fieldhouse Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2018 The Resident Zinfandel
- 2018 Fiddleneck Syrah
Best Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Italian Sausage Sauce
- Prep Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Total Time: 2 hour 20 minutes
- Yield: 8-9 1x
- Category: Pasta
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: Italian
- Diet: Gluten Free
The Best Baked Eggplant Parmesan – a lighter version of the Italian classic. Baked crispy eggplant slices smothered in cheese and a mushroom sausage marinara sauce for the ultimate comfort food you’ll want to have for dinner at least once a week!
- 2 large eggplant, sliced into 1/4” to 1/2″ slices
- 2 egg whites, beaten
- 1 1/2 cups gluten free panko
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon parsley
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan
- 3 tablespoons fresh basil, chiffon
- 6–8 whole basil leaves
Mushroom Sausage Sauce:
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups baby bella mushrooms, finely diced
- 1 lb. ground sausage (I use jimmy dean, natural)
- 2 jars of marinara sauce (use different brands for variety of flavor)
- Slice eggplant into 1/4″ to 1/2″ slices or coins.
- Place eggplant on a paper towel lined baking sheet.
- Lightly salt eggplant slices. Let sit for at least one hour, or longer if you have time. The salt will draw the water out of the eggplant.
- Pat eggplant dry with a paper towel and gently rub excess salt off.
Mushroom Sausage Sauce:
- Heat a large saucepan to medium high heat.
- Add avocado oil to the pan along with onion. Saute until translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
- Next, add in garlic. Saute for 30 seconds, stirring the entire time.
- Then add in mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms are slightly browned, about 4-6 minutes, stirring throughout.
- Once mushrooms are browned add in your ground italian sausage. Cook until sausage is browned, about 5 minutes, chopping up with a wooden spoon to make the pieces smaller. Then add in marinara sauce and bring to a boil. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- To a flat bowl add egg whites that are beaten. Set aside.
- To a medium flat bowl add panko, garlic powder, basil, oregano and parsley. Mix gently.
- Working one at a time, dredge both sides of eggplant in egg white mixture and then coat in the panko mixture. Place onto a baking sheet in an even layer. Continue process until all eggplant are coated.
- Bake eggplant slices for 20 minutes, flipping half way through.
Prepare Eggplant Parmesan:
- Now that your sauce is done and eggplant is done. It’s time to assemble.
- Add 1/4 cup of sausage pasta sauce to the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish. Spread out evenly. Layer half of the eggplant slices on the sauce. Top each eggplant slice with 3 tablespoons of sauce, 2 tablespoons of mozzarella cheese, a pinch of parmesan and 1 whole basil leaf.
- Place remaining eggplant slices on top and cover with remaining sauce and cheese.
- Bake uncovered in 400°F oven for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.
- Garnish with chiffon basil and serve.
- Serving Size: 1 eggplant parmesan stack
- Calories: 384
- Sugar: 9 g
- Sodium: 759 mg
- Fat: 22 g
- Saturated Fat: 7 g
- Carbohydrates: 25 g
- Fiber: 8 g
- Protein: 22 g
- Cholesterol: 43 mg
Keywords: baked eggplant parmesan, easy eggplant parmigiana
DON’T MISS A RECIPE ->
We love this dish! Delicious!
Your instructions are easy to follow – I would say to anyone making this to be sure to read all your steps completely. Crushing the panko crumbs and beating the egg whites makes all the difference in the world for getting that crisp coating for the eggplant. I used the Italian seasoned Panko crumbs and it turned out wonderful.
Thank you so much! It’s all in the details; I am thrilled this recipe was a hit for you!
I’m wanting to make this tonight but just slightly ahead and wondering if this will ruin the texture like freezing it does? I want to make everything as instructed EXCEPT… after I get it all layered a d in the pan, I’d like to put it in refrigerator and then toss it in oven about 3-4 hrs later when my husband is on his way home.
hmm… It might take away some of the texture from the eggplant and make it soggy. I would almost just cook it and then reheat in the oven when it gets home.
I’ve never tried anything with eggplant before but this looked too delicious not to try it! Needless to say, I loved it, my husband loved it and my super picky eating stepson ate it! This will be a new favorite staple in our household from here on out!
So glad you enjoyed this dish! Eggplant often gets a bad wrap, but is so tasty!
Sounds delicious! What size jars of pasta sauce did you use?
I use the 25 ounce