By Jennifer Provenza at Good Food From The Heart
Whole food plant based, oil free, sugar free, soy free
This hearty, satisfying plant based eggplant parmesan has all the comfort and rich flavor of the Italian classic without all the calories and oil.
This plant based eggplant parmesan is the ultimate comfort food! As an Italian woman, I grew up eating eggplant parmesan at holidays and on special occasions. In fact, eggplant parmesan is actually my favorite food of all time! (Not including cake. That’s a dessert. And my favorite favorite). Anyway, there is just nothing like my Grandma Rose’s eggplant parmesan. For one thing, she used to make it more like a lasagna, in that it was layered with at least three layers of very thinly sliced eggplant. It is so much better than the thick single layer type you usually get at restaurants! I can still remember driving as a family to visit her in Las Vegas (a two day drive from our house). I would be practically drooling by the time we got to her condo, knowing that I was about to be treated to some homemade eggplant parmesan. (She always had it ready and waiting when we arrived). And, the best part, was lunch the next day. Cold eggplant parmesan sandwiches. So good. Mmmm…
Back then, my grandma fried those eggplant slices in oil and used lots of mozzarella and parmesan cheese, along with her homemade tomato sauce. Over the years, my mom lightened up the recipe by baking the breaded eggplant instead of frying it. Even my grandma began to cook it this way. However, after trying to eat a plant based diet, I needed to find a way to still be able to enjoy my favorite food. But, I wanted it to be kinder to animals and the environment (and my health)! My solution is this delicious plant based eggplant parmesan. It tastes every bit as delicious as the original, but doesn’t leave you with that heavy feeling after eating. In fact, it’s completely healthy! What could be better than that?
Eggplant: Be sure to choose fresh eggplant. Check for mold around the stem. When you slice it, you want to be sure it is not brown inside. If it is, throw it out. Unfortunately, this has happened to me so often that I buy 1-2 extra eggplants in case. If they are all good, I just cook extra and freeze it.
Cashew Mozzarella: For this recipe, you will need my Best Cashew Mozzarella. You could also use a store bought plant based mozzarella, but you will want to use my recipe for an oil free and healthy version.
Nut Parmesan: You will also need a recipe of my So Good It’s Nuts Parmesan Topping. You could also use a store bought plant based parmesan, but you will want to use my recipe for an oil free and healthy version.
Tomato Sauce: You will need a recipe of my Best Homemade Oil Free Tomato Sauce. You could also use a store bought sauce, but this will definitely give you the tastiest results.
Bread Crumbs: For this eggplant parmesan, you will want to use whole wheat breadcrumbs (or gluten free if necessary). Store bought breadcrumbs can definitely be used, but can be hard to find. You may need to make your own by pulsing stale whole wheat bread in the food processor.
Ground Flax Seed: This stands in for your egg when you bread the eggplant. I buy pre-ground and mix with water to create the “egg.” Mixed with plant milk, this will help the breadcrumb mixture stick to your eggplant.
Seasonings: Don’t skip the seasonings and salt in the breadcrumbs, as they really add to the flavor.
How To Make This Plant Based, Oil Free Eggplant Parmesan
I am not going to pretend that this recipe is not time consuming. This is something I would save for a weekend or a special occasion. Actually putting together the eggplant parmesan is pretty easy, but you will need to make three other recipes before you are ready to begin. You could also definitely break up the preparation over a few days. For instance, you could bread and cook the eggplant and refrigerate until the next day when you are ready to assemble it. You could also make the sauce or parmesan ahead of time (they keep for a few days in the refrigerator and months in the freezer). I would recommend making the mozzarella right before you plan to use it, however.
Before you begin, make sure you have your tomato sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan on hand. Start by peeling and slicing your eggplant into rounds. Be sure to use a sharp knife and slice very thin rounds. Ideally, you want 2-3 layers in the finished dish so you can’t have too thick of eggplant slices. Next, prepare your breadcrumb mixture and your flaxseed and plant milk mixture. Then, set up a little assembly line for yourself. On the left will be your plate of eggplant slices. To the right of this will be your bowl of plant milk and flax seed mixture. Next will be a dinner plate full of your breadcrumb mixture. Finally, on the far right will be your cookie sheet with parchment paper on it.
Take each eggplant round, dip it in the plant milk and flax seed mixture, covering both sides, and then place the round on the plate of breadcrumbs. Using your hands, thouroughly coat both sides of the eggplant slice with the breadcrumb mixture. Then, place the eggplant round on the cookie sheet. Repeat until you have finished with all of the eggplant rounds. If necessary, you may need to cook these in a couple of batches. Optionally, you can spray the eggplant rounds with a spurt of non stick spray. Otherwise, put in your 350 degree oven and cook until soft and lightly browned.
Once all of your eggplant slices are done baking, you are ready to assemble the eggplant parmesan. Pour some of your tomato sauce on the bottom of a lasagna pan, being sure to coat it with sauce. Follow with a layer of eggplant rounds. Top these with more sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan. Next, do another layer of eggplant and again top with sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan. Make as many layers as you can until you run out of ingredients or room in the pan. 2-4 layers will give you good results. Once the eggplant parmesan is assembled, place it back in the oven and cook until it is warmed throughout. Enjoy eating your delicious Italian comfort food!
- Food Processor
- baking sheet
- lasagna pan
- large bowl
- shallow bowl
- dinner plate
- parchment paper
- 2 1/2 cups whole wheat bread crumbs or small loaf stale whole wheat bread, crusts removed
- 2 tablespoons oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 large eggplants
- 1 1/2 cups plant milk
- 1 tablespoon ground flax seed
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 recipe tomato sauce
- 1 recipe cashew mozarella
- 1 recipe So Good It's Nuts Parmesan
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel the eggplants and slice into thin rounds (1/4 inch or so). Put the ground flax seed and water in a shallow bowl and let sit for a minute or two. Then, add the plant milk.
- Take your small loaf of stale whole wheat (or gluten free) bread and cut off the crusts. Cut into large pieces and put into the food processor. Pulse until you have a breadcrumb consistancy. Alternatively, you could use store bought whole grain or gluten free breadcrumbs.
- Measure out 2 1/2 cups of breadcrumbs and put into a large bowl. Add the salt, garlic powder, and oregano. Stir. Pour the breadcrumbs onto a large plate.
- Dredge each eggplant slice in the plant milk mixture, then place on the breadcrumbs in the plate and cover each side of the eggplant slice in breadcrumbs. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat for each eggplant slice. Bake the eggplant slices for about 15 minutes or until soft and cooked through. You may need to use two baking sheets or to do a second round of baking. Remove from the oven.
- Pour some tomato sauce into the bottom of the lasagna pan. Cover with a layer of eggplant slices. Pour half of the tomato sauce over the eggplant slices and cover with half of the cashew mozzarella. Place the remaining eggplant slices on top of the first layer. Top with the rest of the tomato sauce, the rest of the cashew mozzarella, and top with a layer of the So Good It's Nuts Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes or until warmed throughout. Top with some chopped basil and additional nut parmesan.
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