I know every single eggplant parm recipe post says “this is the best eggplant parmesan, ever!” But, THIS ONE really is. Seriously, my husband said so and he’s the pickiest person ever, so I believe him. You should too.
Several years ago I learned how to make eggplant parmesan for the first time at a family meal. Ever since then, I’ve been making it myself and it has evolved with some of my own tweaks over the years, to get it to the point where my family begs for it. Let me tell you, there are only a few things that I cook that my husband actually asks for. Molasses cookies and my family’s famous prune cake are on the list with a few other things and this baked eggplant parmesan.
I know you may be tempted to scroll way past all the reading and go straight to the recipe, but for this recipe I suggest you read all the way through because I’m sharing some important tips that make this dish even better. Let’s dive in to awesome eggplant-ness.
Don’t forget to pin this recipe on Pinterest so you have it for later!
What’s So Good About This Eggplant Parmesan Recipe?
For starters, any recipe that feeds my family for at least two nights is a winner for me. But this, this recipe is even better the second day. When you look forward to the left-overs more than the original meal, now that’s good. My husband doesn’t even eat left-overs normally, but he’s always excited for day two of eggplant parm.
I’ve mentioned my husband a few times already in this post, and that is because he’s sort of an eggplant parmesan connoisseur. It’s the dish he tries at almost all Italian restaurants we visit. And still to this day, he is always disappointed by them and says my baked eggplant parmesan recipe is better than any restaurant he’s had yet.
My Secret Weapon to Making Amazing Baked Eggplant Parmesan
Three words: cast iron skillet. Now, don’t stress out and think you can’t make this recipe because you don’t have one. For one, you can. You can still make amazing eggplant parm today without a cast iron skillet, don’t fret. Also, you can just order a cast iron skillet now, so the next time you make it, it will be even better.
There is something about a cast iron skillet that just makes food better, and that is why I use mine every chance I get. You can learn more about why I love cast iron and how to care for it here. So tip number one: make your fried eggplant in a cast iron skillet if possible. But let’s back up. Frying is not the first step to amazing eggplant parmesan.
Should you Peel Eggplant Before Frying?
The first step for this eggplant parmesan recipe is to, of course, cut your eggplant. So here begs the question, should you peel eggplant before frying it?
My answer: that is totally up to you. I have done it both ways, and honestly, I still switch back and forth and really don’t notice a difference in the end product. Some people really don’t like the skin, so if that’s you, just cut/peel off the layer of skin from your eggplant before you slice it.
How to Slice Eggplant for Frying
The most important trick to slicing the eggplant is to keep the sizes as uniform as possible. You don’t want some thin slices and some thick. Each layer of your eggplant parm should be pretty uniform and even. Also, if you have a bunch of different size slices, the cook is going to vary from piece to piece. We don’t want that. We want nice, relatively thin, but not too thin, slices.
Disclaimer: I had a picture of my freshly sliced eggplant pieces to show you how I do mine, but apparently all of my images did not upload when I thought they did, and then I deleted them all to make room on my Macbook. So, next time I make this dish I’ll snap another pic and replace this annoying disclaimer paragraph.
Should You Salt Eggplant Before Frying?
Yes! Yes, you should definitely salt eggplant before frying it! For years I made this dish without salting my eggplant first. I honestly didn’t even know it was a thing. Now I know, fried eggplant is so much better if you salt it first. I happened upon some info about salting eggplant randomly, and it changed this eggplant parm recipe for the better.
Eggplant, like most fruits and vegetables, contains a lot of water. Soaking your sliced eggplant in salt prior to frying pulls out all of the excess moisture.
I had a picture of this for you too, but that also got deleted. So, picture to come.
How to Salt Eggplant
Salting your eggplant is easy! You’ll want to start this process early though, because it’s best to leave it sitting for at least half an hour, up to 1 hour is great! Here’s how I do it:
- Place sliced eggplant in a larger strainer.
- Pour a generous amount of salt over the eggplant, and toss with your hands to make sure it coats all of the slices nicely.
- Place the strainer on top of a sheet pan, in a bowl, or something that will catch the liquid. (I made the mistake of leaving it on top of a cutting board once and came back to eggplant juice all over my counter, dripping into the floor.)
- Leave soaking for 30 minutes to 1 hour (1 hour is best).
- Discard of liquid and you’re ready to fry!
How to Fry Eggplant
Now we’re cooking! Here’s my process for frying the perfect eggplant slices for my eggplant parm:
- Pour oil into your cast iron skillet or whatever skillet you’re using.
- Turn the heat on medium-high so the oil can begin to warm.
- While the oil heats up, set up your space:
- Crack 3 eggs into a bowl and mix with salt and pepper.
- Pour a generous amount of Italian bread crumbs into a second bowl.
- Set these bowls close to your skillet
- Place paper towels on a plate to the right of your stove and skillet (this is to place the finished fried eggplant as you go)
Now you’re ready to start frying! The skillet will only hold 3-4 pieces of eggplant at a time, so this part takes a little bit of time. It’s so worth it though, so grab your glass of wine, tell Alexa to play your favorite tunes, and fry yourself some eggplant. (Now you can picture, this is exactly what I do!)
Easy and Perfect Fried Eggplant
To make the perfect fried eggplant, follow these steps:
1.With your strainer full of salted eggplant to the left, pick up a slice of eggplant and coat in egg, then coat in Italian breadcrumbs. (Prepare for messy fingers.)
2. Place a slice into the heated oil, and then repeat until you have 3-4 slices in your skillet.
3. When you see that the edges are starting to brown, use tongs to flip the slices over until browned on both sides.
4. Place the finished fried eggplant slices on the paper towel lined plate one layer at a time, with paper towels in between to soak up any excess oil.
5. Continue this process until you have fried all of your eggplant slices.
Tip: If you end up with extra fried eggplant slices that you don’t need for your eggplant parm, they can be eaten just as they are! My son loves to eat my extra fried eggplant pieces.
Bonus Tip: How to Cool Oil While Frying
Because there are a lot of eggplant slices to fry and that takes a while, your oil will continue to heat up. You don’t want to boil your oil. Repeat after me: don’t boil your oil. You want it hot enough to fry your eggplant to a nice golden brown, but not to be boiling and popping like crazy, and then burning your eggplant pieces.
As you start to notice your oil is getting too hot, you may be tempted to turn your heat down. Take it from me who learned this the hard way, that doesn’t work. You’ll find yourself in a vicious cycle of oil that is not hot enough and oil that is too hot and back and forth and back and forth. I used the word vicious, can you tell I’m passionate about this eggplant frying business?
So how do you properly cool the oil and keep it frying just right? Simply add a small amount of oil to your pan when you start to notice it getting too hot. This will instantly cool it just enough, but not too much. So simple, yet key to a successful eggplant parmesan recipe.
Assembling Baked Eggplant Parmesan
You’re approaching the finish line now! Assembly is the next step, and it’s an easy one. Grab your casserole dish and follow these next steps:
1.Scoop a couple of tablespoons of your favorite tomato sauce into the bottom of your casserole dish.
SAUCE TIP: I use Rao’s and really feel like it elevates this dish way more than when I was using other random, cheaper brands of whatever was on sale that week. Now I only use Rao’s Marinara because it makes that much of a difference.
2. Add one layer of fried eggplant, slightly overlapping but keeping your layer as even as possible.
3. Next, sprinkle a layer of cheese.
CHEESE TIP: I used to make this with just mozzarella cheese, until a time came that I didn’t have enough mozzarella and I subbed half of it for parmesan. We call that a happy accident, because it made the recipe even better. Ever since then, I have done a combo of mozzarella and parmesan on every layer. Sprinkle a little mozzarella, sprinkle a little parmesan, and bam. Magic cheese goodness.
4. Add another layer of sauce, but this time enough to cover the top evenly. Don’t go crazy, just enough to cover. It’s okay, and good actually, if this layer of sauce is not too thick.
5. Repeat this process with another layer of eggplant, cheeses, sauce, then eggplant again.
6. Once you have repeated the process so you have a layer of eggplant on top, then do the next steps back-wards so you have the rest of your sauce evenly coating the top, and then cheese sprinkled on top.
Baking Eggplant Parmesan
This eggplant parmesan has always been good, but in the recent past it got even better. I don’t know if that’s just because I am finally becoming a halfway decent cook after so many years of figuring out this domestic diva stuff, or if I figured out a new secret, by accident of course.
I am going to lend towards the latter, because I have tried it several times now and I swear it works. Then I also just tried it this last time without doing this, and it wasn’t as good. Don’t get me wrong, it was still really, really good. But I think there’s at least a noticeable difference in flavor depth.
So what’s the big final eggplant parm secret?
Make your fried eggplant and assemble your eggplant parmesan in the morning, cover it and refrigerate it all day, and then bake it.
That’s it, and I believe it makes a big difference. Think of it as marinating, letting all of those good flavors meld together all day before they bake.
Then preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and bake the covered dish for 35-45 minutes (until the sauce is starting to bubble around the edges), then uncover and bake another 10 minutes or so until the cheese on top gets turns into melty, browned goodness.
You, my friend, have now just made the best eggplant parmesan ever.
Recap: Key Secrets to The Best Eggplant Parmesan Recipe Ever
- Make your eggplant parm ahead of time, ideally as early in the day as possible (or even the night before) and refrigerate it until it’s time to bake.
- Slice your eggplant uniformly so all slices are the same size.
- Salt your eggplant for 30 minutes to an hour.
- Fry your eggplant in a cast iron skillet.
- Use mozzarella and shredded parmesan cheese on each layer.
- Use Rao’s Marinara Sauce.
- Take your time and cook with love. (Cheesy, but true.)
What To Eat With Eggplant Parmesan
We normally eat Caesar salad and garlic bread with our eggplant parmesan. Okay not normally, every time. I never change it up. However, here are a few more ideas for sides to go with your eggplant parm:
- Caesar salad
- Garlic bread
- Caprese salad
- Shaved brussel sprout salad
- Antipasto salad
- Italian green beans
- Sautéed spinach
- 2-3 medium-large eggplants
- Italian Breadcrumbs
- 3 Eggs
- Salt & Pepper (to taste)
- Shredded Mozzarella Cheese, 8 oz
- Shredded Parmesan Cheese, 8 oz
- Rao's Marinara Sauce (or your favorite brand)
- Canola or Vegetable Oil (amount will vary)
- Read the full blog post for this recipe for all the tips and tricks I use to make this the best eggplant recipe ever!
- Slice eggplant evenly, then place in strainer.
- Coat with salt and soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour
- Pour oil into cast iron or your favorite skillet/pan until the oil reaches about half way up the side of the pan. Turn on med-high to heat oil.
- While oil it heating, mix 3 eggs with salt and pepper in a small bowl.
- Pour a generous amount of breadcrumbs into a separate small bowl.
- Coat slice of eggplant in egg, then breadcrumbs, then place in skillet to fry (3-4 pieces at a time).
- When eggplant slices start to brown around the edges, flip and continue to fry until golden brown.
- Lay on paper towel lined plate in a single layer.
- Repeat steps 6-8 until all eggplant slices are fried.
- Scoop a couple of tablespoons of Rao's or your favorite tomato sauce into the bottom of your casserole dish.
- Add one layer of fried eggplant, slightly overlapping but keeping your layer as even as possible.
- Sprinkle a layer of cheese (a combination of parmesan and mozzarella). Don't use all of the cheese, you'll need more for the other layers.
- Add another layer of sauce, but this time enough to cover the top evenly.
- Repeat this process with another layer of eggplant, cheeses, sauce, then eggplant again.
- Once you have repeated the process so you have a layer of eggplant on top, then do the next steps back-wards so you have the rest of your sauce evenly coating the top, and then cheese sprinkled on top.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Bake the covered dish for 35-45 minutes (until the sauce is starting to bubble around the edges),
- Uncover and bake another 10 minutes or so until the cheese on top gets turns into melty, browned goodness.
- Serve warm with your favorite salad and garlic bread.
This recipe makes enough to feed my family of 4 (baby not included) for 2 nights and still have a little left-over.
NUTRITION FACTS ARE AN ESTIMATE AND WILL VARY.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 697Total Fat: 50.1ggSaturated Fat: 13.3ggCholesterol: 66mgmgSodium: 816mgmgCarbohydrates: 44.5ggFiber: 8ggSugar: 11.5ggProtein: 20.2gg
Hi, I’m Jessica! I am wife to Chris, and mom to Kaiper, Alana and Koa. I am a freelance website & blog developer and aspiring author. I share about everything from parenting, how to make money from home, tutorials for my fellow bloggers, work-at-home mom life and being a homeschool family. Learn more about me here.