The best Healthy Eggplant Parmesan that has a crunchy coating, plenty of melted cheese, and a rich tomato sauce without all the calories and fat of the traditional fried version.
This Lightened Up Eggplant Parm is part of our monthly rotation as a plant based version of our beloved healthy chicken parm or spaghetti squash chicken parm. It has tons of flavor, is easy to make, and freezes well for a make ahead meal.
I have always loved eggplant parmesan and when I was a vegetarian it was something I ate all the time when I was out. However, between the breading, oil from frying, and all the cheese, the traditional preparation is anything but healthy. This healthy eggplant parm uses roasted eggplant instead of fried and uses less breading and cheese than a restaurant version. Don't worry though, this quick and easy healthy eggplant parmesan still tastes indulgent and no one will guess it is a lighter option.
It all starts with the eggplant. You want to make sure to choose a flavorful, fresh eggplant so look for one that has shiny and smooth skin that is vibrant purple. If it has wrinkled skin or a dull color, it is probably old. The flesh should feel slightly firm to the touch. Finally, the stem shouldn't show any signs of mushiness or mold.
Once you have an eggplant, the next step is roasting it. Using a healthy baked eggplant instead of a fried version is the main way to make this dish healthier. Plus it ensures the eggplant has great texture since fried eggplant can get really mushy. Roasting it also can help remove some of the natural bitterness. If you have time, I recommend salting the eggplant for 20 minutes before roasting and removing all or most of the skin. Both of these steps will severely cut down on any bitterness naturally found in the eggplant.
After the eggplant is roasted, the rest is easy. All you need is a really flavorful marinara sauce and cheese. Pop everything into the oven and a delicious dinner is on its way.
What does eggplant parmesan taste like?
I was surprised to find out how many people asked what eggplant parm tastes like. Since everyone knows how delicious sauce and cheese are, let's talk about what eggplant tastes like. The closest comparison is a slightly more bitter zucchini. The texture is similar, although eggplant can be more firm and spongy. The taste is also less sweet than zucchini. The most important thing to making sure you enjoy eggplant is removing the bitterness, which is discussed below.
Is eggplant good for you?
The short answer - yes! Eggplants are naturally packed with fiber, minerals, and phenolic antioxidant compounds. These antioxidant compounds help fight free radicals, bad cholesterol, and inflammation. Eggplants are also known to be good for brain, heart, and cardiovascular health.
How do you prepare eggplant for eggplant parm so it isn't bitter?
The most common reason that people don't enjoy eggplant parmesan is because the eggplant tastes bitter. There are three key ways to minimize the bitterness that work when preparing any eggplant dishes. First, you always want to remove some or all of the skin. The skin tends to be tough and bitter. Next, you want to salt your eggplant. Sprinkling your sliced eggplant with salt and letting it sit out for 20-30 minutes will remove a lot of the natural bitterness. The easiest way to do this is to toss the eggplant pieces with salt, let them sit out, and then rinse them with cold water. Lastly, you can avoid a bitter eggplant by making sure to pick out fresh eggplant that is firm with smooth skin. Also smaller eggplant varieties tend to be less bitter.
More Tips for Making Baked Eggplant Parm
- To make it without breading, you can leave out the breadcrumbs completely from the recipe. You could also coat the eggplant in almond flour, crushed almonds, or parmesan cheese.
- If you want to make it in the slow cooker, you can roast the eggplant as the recipe instructs and then add everything to the slow cooker. Cook on low for 1-2 hours.
- If you love ricotta cheese, consider adding some ricotta mixed with fresh herbs to each layer. This creates kind more of an eggplant parmesan casserole.
- When it comes to side dishes, you can serve this with spaghetti squash, zucchini noodles, whole grain pasta, high fiber pasta, or a big green salad.
Here are some products and tools I used to prepare this recipe:
- Glass baking dish: I use this Pyrex glass baking dish all the time. They last forever and are super affordable.
- Marinara sauce: Since the marinara sauce is a main component of this recipe, you want one that tastes really good. Usually I make a homemade version or this one from Rao's, which is made with natural ingredients, has no added sugar, and taste just as good as homemade.
Healthy Eggplant Parmesan
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- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 medium eggplant, cut into rounds
- 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
- 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
- 16 oz. marinara sauce (look for low sugar)
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh basil
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* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
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