Crispy, Panko-Crusted Eggplant
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A few weeks ago, as I stood at the counter flouring, egg dipping, and breading two pounds of eggplant rounds, a little dolly screaming at my feet wanting nothing more than to be held at the height of this witching hour, I found myself asking “WHY?!” I know better than to make this sort of thing at this sort of hour. I shouldn’t be so stubborn. But a craving for eggplant parmesan left me inflexible, and I pushed on until crumbs and parmesan covered every slice, trying to stay composed through every piercing cry. Oiy.
But as soon as those rounds entered the oven, I relaxed. And this is the beauty of The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook eggplant parmesan recipe. Once the breading is done, the hard work is over — there is no standing at the oven, frying the eggplant in batch after batch. The Test Kitchen’s recipe calls for baking the eggplant on preheated baking sheets, a technique they developed to solve the oil-laden, pan-fried eggplant problem that leads to heavy, greasy eggplant parmesan. Oven-frying saves time to boot.
If you’ve made eggplant parmesan, you know, however, that no matter what time-saving tricks you’ve devised, it is still a labor of love. The eggplant should be salted and drained for about 40 minutes, which makes the slices less prone to soaking up gobs of oil. Breading takes time, too, and if you make your own sauce and breadcrumbs, you’re going to be spending some time in the kitchen.
But this time of year, there is nothing more comforting than a cheese-and-sauce bubbling casserole, and the Test Kitchen’s recipe is so good. I’ve shared the full recipe over on Food52, and I’ve included a little variation here in case exhaustion gets the best of you, and upon seeing those crispy eggplant rounds emerge from the oven, you throw in the towel and call dinner done — I’ve stopped here on more than one occasion. These crispy rounds are irresistible, and with a few slices of cheese, some bread, sauce, maybe some prosciutto or other cured meats, you can make a meal out of them. Little ones, teary eyed or otherwise, seem to like them, too.
A few other favorite eggplant recipes:
Chez Panisse Eggplant, Caramelized Onion and Tomato Pasta
Eggplant Caviar on Grilled Bread
Burnt Eggplant with Za’atar Flatbread
Making the sauce:
Crispy Panko-Crusted Eggplant
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: Serves 4 as an appetizer
- Diet: Vegetarian
This is a long-time favorite recipe from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. What I love about this recipe is that there is no standing over the stove frying the eggplant in seemingly never-ending batches. This step is eliminated by baking the breaded eggplant slices on preheated baking sheets. The eggplant emerge from this step crispy and golden and are irresistible. I love serving them with homemade tomato sauce (this one or this one), fresh mozzarella, and basil.
- 2 globe eggplants, about 2 pounds total, sliced into 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick rounds
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup flour
- 4 eggs
- 4 cups dried breadcrumbs, such as panko
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- homemade tomato sauce, for serving
- fresh mozzarella
- fresh basil (optional)
- Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on each rack, and heat oven to 425° F. Combine the flour and about 1 teaspoon pepper in a large ziplock bag and shake to combine. Beat the eggs in a shallow dish. Combine the breadcrumbs, 1 cup of the Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a second shallow dish. (Alternatively, you can season the eggplant rounds once they are breaded with salt and pepper to taste.)
- Working with about 8 eggplant slices at a time, place them in the bag with the flour, seal, and shake until thoroughly coated. Remove the eggplant, shaking off any excess flour, and dip it into the eggs. Remove the eggplant from the eggs, allowing any excess egg to drip off, and coat evenly with the breadcrumbs, pressing them to adhere. Lay the breaded eggplant on a wire rack. Flour, dip in egg, and coat the remaining eggplant in breadcrumbs in the same manner.
- Remove the preheated baking sheets from the oven. Pour 3 tablespoons oil onto each sheet, tilting to coat the sheets evenly. Spread the breaded eggplant in a single layer over the hot sheets. Bake until the eggplant is well browned and crisp on the first side, about 15 to 20 minutes. Flip the eggplant slices over. Switch and rotate the baking sheets, and bake until the second side is brown, about another 10 minutes.
- Serve with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Appetizer
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: eggplant, parmesan, crispy, summer, appetizer
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34 Comments on “Crispy, Panko-Crusted Eggplant”
I love eggplant and this looks like a perfect fall meal. Thanks for sharing! Beautiful photos too!
Thank you, Kelly!
I have a few sad eggplants in my fridge. Will give these rounds a go this weekend. Thanks!
I found this recipe to be very forgiving with tired looking eggplants 🙂
Eggplant parm is my favorite, and I never make it because it is SO time consuming. This looks a little less so, but as you say, there aren’t too many shortcuts you can take. It’s faster to make a lasagna! lol
So true. Kind of like the way cookies are the time drain at the holidays? It’s so much easier to bake a cake 🙂
This is a childhood recipe for me. Makes me think of my Mom. Yours turned out definitely nicely brown and crispy. Totally delicious.
sad about eggplant season ending soon here…I will give them one last hurrah with this recipe!
That sheet pan with all the differently-sized slices…. it’s just so pretty! You did good Ali! Gosh, you and your writing were instrumental in eggplant becoming a True Love in my life. I have never seen a white one! I would love to try it! I am obsessed with putting eggplant on pizza right now, almost mashing it, like a sauce. But suddenly I only have eyes for those eggplant parmesan SANDWICHES! Yum!
I love eggplant on pizza, too — it gets so soft and creamy. And yes re sandwiches…yum!
Yum! I don’t know what’s better – the crispy rounds themselves or the complete casserole dish! I guess I’ll have to eat both….:-)
Yes! Thanks, Liz!
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Holy cow are these eggplant rounds delicious! I have two enormous racks of them cooling off in my kitchen right now and I really hope that there are some left for dinner tonight. These might just be my new obsession. Thanks for the great recipe!
Yay! I’m so happy to hear this. Aren’t they addictive?
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Ali!!! In my past cooking endeavors, I’ve managed to mess up jello, mac and cheese and muffins from a box…. but I tried this and it is delicious!!! (Okay, sauce was from a jar and I was short a few ingredients…. but, it WAS successful!!!) THANKS!
Wikki!! It’s soooo great to see your name here. Hi. I am so happy to hear that this one worked out well for you. Ain’t no shame in jarred sauce! Thanks so much for writing in. Hope you are well! xoxo
Do you think the crispy eggplant rounds could be made in the morning, and then assembled in the casserole with sauce to bake for dinner? I just didn’t have the guts to try it, fearing it would dry out the rounds if left uncovered, or ruin the texture if covered after cooling. Would have given 5 stars, except for that I had more than half of the bread crumbs left over, and probably half of the eggs too.
Definitely can be made in the morning. Once the eggplant enters the pan with the sauce for the casserole, it starts losing its crispiness. In other words, the crispy eggplant rounds on their own are so different than the final product of the casserole, which is still delicious, just different in texture. So yes, make the rounds ahead of time!
These eggplant rounds were fantastic, perfectly crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. I did feel like the rounds were under seasoned (personal preference I guess) and maybe next time I’ll rub a spice mix (My mom makes an amazing Indian spice mix when we grill eggplants) on the rounds before the breading. Love this recipe though, thank you!
Wonderful to hear this, Aryaa!
Hi there! Quick question – I have made the eggplant rounds before and they are wonderful – thoughts on breading, then putting in the fridge overnight and baking the next day? I’m wondering if the breadcrumbs will hydrate then not get crispy or if they will just need a few extra minutes – thanks!
I think they’ll be fine! They might look a little soggy when you pull them from the fridge, but I think they’ll crisp up beautifully in the oven. Go for it!
I loved this recipe; even my husband loved it, and he doesn’t care for eggplant. I only had regular bread crumbs and also put some mozzarella on the tops just before they were done.
I ended up making that quick tomato sauce with chopped veggies.
Yay! So great to hear this, Linda! I don’t think anything makes me happier than when a recipe converts a non-eggplant lover into a believer 🙂 Thanks for writing!
We’re trying to eat less meat for health reasons, so I decided to give this recipe a try tonight and it was AMAZING! I’ve never cooked with eggplant before, but it turned out great and even my 9-year-olds loved it! I only made a few changes – I used a little less panko bread crumbs (I only had about 3C on hand), and I added two tsp of an Italian herb seasoning blend to the breadcrumb mixture. I used vegan parm cheese (came shredded, but I made it “grated” in the blender and it worked wonderfully). I also used less oil on the pans – 2T for each pan instead of 3, and then I soaked up some of the puddles, so probably 1.5T each would have been enough. They came out super crispy and good enough to eat without pasta or sauce! And they reheated great in the air fryer at 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Will definitely be adding this recipe to the regular rotation!
Wonderful to read all of this, Felicia!! Thanks so much for taking the time to write and to share your notes — so helpful for others. Great to hear vegan parm worked well, too!
Another adapted hit…. I have a ton of eggplants in the garden. Ended up using the heated pan technique with the long asian eggplants and this recipe… AWESOME! so crispy with some wasabi aoli and japanese food!!! Thanks the finished product was more than I could ask for. A great subistute for deep fried tempura and just as good if not better… Love your site!Take good care and happy harvest to all!!!
So nice to read all of this, Tracy 🙂 🙂 🙂 Thanks so much for writing and sharing all of your notes. Happy Harvest indeed!!
Soooo yummy! The eggplant puffs up a bit and gets super crispy. My family does not like eggplant, but they gobbled this up. I had a zucchini that needed to be used from my CSA box so just did the same thing and added to the pan with the eggplant. Also wonderful prepared this way.
Great to hear, Suzanne! My family loves these breaded rounds, too, and they generally do not like eggplant or zucchini. So glad to hear it was a success 🙂 🙂 🙂