Recipe: Healthy Eggplant Parmesan

Casserole Recipes, Dinner Recipes, Vegetable Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes

By: Deborah Murphy, MS, RD, LDN


We’re giving eggplant parmesan a makeover with this healthy eggplant parmesan recipe. Bake the eggplant slices to crisp rather than frying and using lower fat cheese make this dish healthier than the original but still packed with flavor!

Who doesn’t love eggplant parmesan? Crispy breaded slices of eggplant layered with creamy cheese and topped with a flavorful tomato sauce.

Unfortunately, classic eggplant parm can be pretty heavy since it is higher in fat and calories with all the cheese and fried eggplant slices.

That’s why we created this healthier crispy baked eggplant parmesan! This healthy eggplant parmesan is an easy way to enjoy eggplant while it’s in season and benefit from this nutrient-dense vegetable.

It still tastes as delicious as classic eggplant parmesan but with much fewer calories.

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    Why We Love Eggplant

    We all know that eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables is good for you, but did you know that the different colors of produce carry health benefits?

    There are 4 major categories of plant pigments that give color (and benefits to foods). Red, blue, and purple foods like eggplant are rich in anthocyanins

    Anthocyanins are antioxidants, or molecules that help the body neutralize free radicals. Although free radicals are a normal byproduct of metabolism, if they accumulate they can cause cell damage and increase your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease or cancer.

    Filling up on fruits and veggies like eggplant helps keep those free radicals in check. 

    Eggplant provides 10% of your daily value of fiber and 7% daily value of copper and vitamin B1 per 1 cup serving. Plus, it’s only 132 calories for the entire vegetable.

    Eggplant is also a good source of manganese, vitamin B6 & B3, vitamin K, potassium, and folate.

    Ingredients You’ll Need

    • Eggplant: use one large eggplant or 2 small ones. Choose an eggplant that is firm to the touch with no bruising.
    • Breadcrumbs: we create crispy eggplant slices by coating them in breadcrumbs before baking. Use gluten-free breadcrumbs to make this dish gluten free. We like panko breadcrumbs for extra crunch, but traditional breadcrumbs work as well. 
    • Parmesan and Mozzarella: lighten up this dish by using reduced fat or low fat versions of parmesan and mozzarella. They still have great flavor, but are lower in calories. 
    • Marinara Sauce: use your favorite pasta sauce. Since this is a pretty simple recipe, make sure to use a sauce that has lots of flavor – bonus points if you have a homemade marinara sauce you can use.

    Tools For This Recipe

    How to Make Healthy Eggplant Parmesan

    split image with two photos showing prepped and cooked healthy eggplant parmesan in baking dish
    • How to Cut Eggplant for Eggplant Parmesan: cutting up the eggplant for eggplant parmesan is straightforward. You’ll want nice slices that are about ⅓ to 1/2 inch thick. Lay eggplant on its side on a cutting board and slice off the top and bottom. Hold firmly and slice into ⅓ to ½ inch thick slices with a sharp knife. After slicing, we recommend salting the eggplant for 10-15 minutes and then patting dry – it helps remove excess moisture from the eggplant before baking.
    • Prep the Eggplant Slices: dip the eggplant slices in the egg wash then the breading and transfer onto a sheet pan with parchment paper. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. 
    • Layer: Once the breaded eggplant slices are ready, add a thin layer of sauce to the bottom of a baking dish and then create eggplant stacks with a slice of eggplant, mozzarella cheese, and sauce. Repeat and then top with some parmesan cheese. 
    • Bake and Serve: bake the assembled eggplant stacks for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling. Top with fresh basil and serve!
    • Storage: store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. You can also freeze this baked eggplant parmesan recipe for up to 6 months in the freezer. Allow to thaw overnight before reheating.

    Do You Actually Need to Salt Eggplant?

    Most recipes that include eggplant (including this one!) tell you to salt the raw eggplant and let it sit out for a while – but is this really necessary?

    According to this Bon Appetit article, eggplant used to be very bitter and salting helped draw out the bitter flavor. 

    However, current varieties of eggplant available in the store have been bred to be much less bitter. So, you can technically skip the salting step. However, for dishes like this stacked eggplant parmesan, the salting helps draw out excess moisture from the eggplant.

    up close image of healthy eggplant parmesan plated with fork

    Is Eggplant Parmesan Healthy?

    Traditional eggplant parmesan can be quite high in calories and fat since you fry the eggplant slices and then use plenty of melty cheese between the layers.

    We used a few shortcuts like using low fat cheese and baking the eggplant slices instead of frying to make a low cal version of this classic Italian dish.

    Total Time: 35 minutes

    Ingredients

    • 1 large eggplant, sliced into rounds
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tablespoon water
    • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat panko bread crumbs
    • 1/4 cup reduced fat parmesan cheese
    • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
    • 8 oz skim milk (reduced fat) mozzarella cheese, sliced
    • 1 large (26 ounce) jar of marinara sauce
    • 4-6 fresh basil leaves

    Directions

    1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
    2. Start by preparing the eggplant: Slice the eggplant and lay the pieces out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and set aside for 10-15 minutes.
    3. After the eggplant has sat for 10-15 minutes, pat dry with paper towels - brushing off any excess salt.
    4. Whisk together the eggs and water in a small bowl and set aside.
    5. In a shallow bowl or plate, stir together the breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons of parmesan, Italian seasoning, salt, and black pepper.
    6. Dip each piece of eggplant in egg wash and press each side into the breadcrumb mix. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
    7. Bake eggplant at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes flipping over 1/2 way through cooking to make sure each side gets crispy.
    8. Assemble the eggplant parmesan: In a baking dish, spread about ½ cup of the sauce into a thin layer on the bottom of the dish. Create 4-5 stacks of eggplant by layering 1 slice of oven-baked eggplant, 1 slice mozzarella, 2-3 tablespoons spaghetti sauce, another piece of eggplant, 1 tablespoon spaghetti sauce, 1 slice mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/2 tablespoon parmesan cheese. Pour any remaining sauce over top and in between the stacks.
    9. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbling, and garnish each eggplant parmesan with a leaf of basil to serve. We like pairing this easy recipe with a simple side salad.

    Nutrition Information Per Serving

    Calories: 292

    Protein: 28 gram(s)

    Fat: 4 gram(s)

    Carbohydrates: 38 gram(s)

    Fiber: 8 gram(s)

    Sugar: 13 gram(s)

    From the kitchen of:

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