Best Eggplant Parmesan Recipe
This eggplant parmesan recipe is my father-in-law’s signature dish and it always receives rave reviews, even from people who are sworn eggplant-haters. With multiple layers of fried eggplant, pasta sauce and tons of cheese, you can’t go wrong!
It’s here! Quite possibly the most requested recipe since I started sharing our Sunday dinner menus a few years ago; so many of you have begged for my father-in-law’s eggplant parmesan recipe, and I’m excited to finally share it with you!
Now full disclosure here before we jump into the recipe… I am NOT an eggplant fan. Which is to say, I really don’t like it much at all. So the very first time my father-in-law ever served this when I was dating my husband, I took a small piece to be polite, but truly was not expecting to like it. But, OMG, I actually LOVED it. And other people in our family who have sworn off eggplant have fallen in love with this eggplant parm, and declared it the best they’ve ever had.
There are no special ingredients, but layers upon layers of thinly sliced, fried eggplant, homemade pasta sauce, and lots of cheese is certainly hard to beat!
How Do You Prepare Eggplant for Eggplant Parmesan?
This is probably the most vital part of preparing eggplant parmesan, and also the most time-consuming part of the process. My father-in-law swears by thinly-sliced eggplant that has been salted to remove the bitterness, then breaded and fried.
How thick do you cut eggplant for eggplant parmesan? His recipe calls for 1/8-inch thick, but basically, as thinly as you can safely get it! My mandoline and food processor are both too narrow for the bulbous eggplants, so I sliced by hand and just went slowly and got them as thin as possible.
Some additional notes on the eggplant prep:
- My father-in-law swears by 4C brand Italian bread crumbs; he says that they have more flavor and more garlic than other brands.
- Do not crowd the pan when frying; if you have large slices of eggplant, you may only be able to fit four slices at a time.
- If you have a deep fryer, you could use that, too.
- Be sure to place the fried slices on a paper towel-lined pan to drain the oil.
I only did one thing differently than my father-in-law’s recipe.. he does not put a layer of mozzarella cheese on top, but adds more in the interior layers; he just puts sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano on the top layer. However, I love a cheesy, browned, bubbling top layer on something like this, so I veered slightly. I couldn’t help myself!
There’s no denying that this dish a definite labor of love. The preparation of the eggplant takes a good bit of time, so you could totally break up the prep work. I prepped and assembled everything the day before serving, but my father-in-law sometimes spreads it out over three days:
Day 1: Prep and fry the eggplant, then refrigerate once cooled. Can also make the sauce this day, as well.
Day 2: Assemble the eggplant parmesan.
Day 3: Bake and eat!
This is also a great baked casserole to freeze both before and after it’s been baked. Simply cover tightly in foil and freeze for up to 2 months.
I so hope that you’ll give this eggplant parmesan a try and that your family loves it as much as we do!
And I promise, if you’re not an eggplant fan, there is a huge chance that you’re going to love this anyway!
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For the Eggplant
- 1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick, 1½ pounds
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 cups (216 g) Italian breadcrumbs
- 1 cup (216 ml) olive oil
- 1 cup (218 ml) vegetable oil
For the Eggplant Parmesan
- 3¾ cups (918.75 g) pasta sauce, divided
- 20 ounces (566.99 g) mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 5 cups), divided
- 1 cup (113 g) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
- Prepare the Eggplant: Place the sliced eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with the kosher salt. Allow to sit for 15 minutes, then rinse and place on a double layer of paper towels and pat dry.
- Place the lightly beaten eggs in one shallow bowl, and the bread crumbs in another (I like using pie plates for this!). Dip the slices of eggplant into the egg, allowing any excess to drip off, then coat in the bread crumbs. Place the breaded eggplant on a baking sheet while you prepare the rest.
- Pour the olive oil and vegetable oil in a large, deep skillet (I use a 12-inch cast iron skillet) and heat over medium-high heat. Add a pinch of bread crumbs to see if the oil is ready - if they begin bubbling and sizzling the oil is ready.
- Add the eggplant slices a few at a time (do not overcrowd the pan, four is about the max amount per batch) and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain.
- Assemble the Eggplant Parmesan: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Spread ¾ cup of the pasta sauce over the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish. Cover the sauce with slices of eggplant (the pieces can overlap), then spread 1 cup of sauce over the eggplant slices, sprinkle with 2 cups of the shredded mozzarella cheese, and 1/3 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Repeat another layer of eggplant, 1 cup of sauce, 2 cups shredded mozzarella and 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. For the last layer, add the sliced eggplant, 1 cup of sauce, remaining 1 cup shredded mozzarella, and 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
- Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees F, and continue to bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese on top is melted, browned and bubbling. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
- My father-in-law has tried some different variations with breaded eggplant that had been baked, and everyone agreed that it wasn't nearly as delicious.
- He's also tried panko bread crumbs, but again, everyone was in agreement that regular Italian-seasoned bread crumbs were best.
- Use your favorite spaghetti sauce, whether it's homemade or jarred. Of course my favorite is my father-in-law's meat sauce; if you want to keep this totally vegetarian, just omit the meat from the sauce.
- You can assemble this in stages - prepare the eggplant day 1 (refrigerate), then assemble the eggplant parmesan the next day, cover and refrigerate, and bake on the third day.
- This can also be frozen before or after baking; cover tightly with foil and freeze for up to 2 months. Reheat in 350 degree oven.
Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!
This is the first time I have thinly sliced and fried eggplant, I did like the texture very much compared to the thicker slice. I feel the complaints from readers about the saltiness of this dish come from the 4C Seasoned bread crumbs. They are crazy salty. I used plain panko and seasoned with kosher salt after frying. Definitely the way to go. I tried using about 1/4″ of oil in the cast iron pan for frying instead of the suggested 2 cups. I would not do this again as it puts the eggplant too close to the flame and the slices would overcook in the zone above the burner. Please consider reality when defining your prep time for this recipe. If your father chose to spread the prep for this dish over a three day period, it is likely that your stated preparation time of 90 minutes is way off base. By the time I finished with cleaning up after the frying portion ( 4 eggplants ) I seriously considered quitting cooking altogether……. Thank you for posting this recipe.
Definitely the best! Made your FIL’s meat sauce. Half was served with spaghetti the day of and the other half was stored for this parm dish for another night. Lightly salted eggplants in both sides and rinsed off. Store ran out of Italian bread crumbs so used plain but added some seasoning (dried basil, garlic powder, black pepper, etc). Layered as instructed and dish came out beautifully. Seasoning was just right. Huge hit with family. Thank you!
Wow. This recipe is perfect! I followed all the steps (I appreciate the photos of the various phases.) I don’t ever deep-fry but I decided to do it. I love eggplant parm and as it all came together it smelled better and better. I wish I could post a photo. The thin layers of eggplant ensure that creamy – melty thing is perfect. Ate one piece of eggplant after it was fried so I’d have an even number of slices on each layer (LOL). The only thing I suggest is that you add what temperature to have the oil at – I am an inexperienced fry cook and I did the breadcrumb test – turns out my oil still wasn’t hot enough. Checked online and one recipe recommended 375 degrees. Eggplant slices crisped up nicely then. Aside from that… this is a perfect recipe! Did it all in one day just took my time between steps. Thanks to you and your father-in-law for sharing this.
Have made this recipe several times and it’s so delicious!! Totally worth every step. Thank you for sharing.
Tried this recipe for my wife who’s a vegetarian and loves eggplant She said this was the best eggplant parm she’s ever had.
I’ve made this several times and it’s delicious!!!
After my wife (who I adored) left me, I begrudgingly drug myself back into the dating scene. I soon met a woman online who was educated, intelligent, good humored, accomplished, and absolutely beautiful, I invited her over for dinner for our first date. Among all of her interesting (and mostly wonderful) characteristics, she also happens to be a vegetarian. A carnivore myself, I wasn’t very well acquainted with vegetarian dishes. Knowing I’d have but one chance to impress her, I threw caution to the wind and decided that this dish that I had never prepared before would be our first meal together. I built it exactly as prescribed. That meal was four months ago and now I proudly introduce her as my girlfriend. She still sings the praises of that first meal together to whoever will listen. Thanks for the recipe.
This recipe is good but way to salty!!
Way to Salty, when you soak in the salt even if you rinse good it still absorbs the salt. Parmigiana Reggiano is very salty. Never,Never add salt to this recipe.
Hello..your father-in-laws eggplant parm, you said you assembled the entire casserole the day before. do i need to leave out to get room temp before cooking or straight from the fridge to the oven. Looks easy and wonderful
Hi Maria, You can bake it straight from the fridge, but may need to add 10-15 minutes to the baking time. Enjoy!
Heartbroken after my wife whom I adored left me, I decided to drag myself by the heals back into the dating scene. Eventually, I met a beautiful, sweet, accomplished young woman who also happens to be a vegetarian. A hobbiest and carnivorous chef, I had little experience with vegetarian dishes. Knowing I’d have only one chance to impress her, I threw caution to the wind and cooked a dish I had never done before. It was this recipe that I served her on our first date. She couldn’t stop raving over my culinary acumen and today, she calls herself my girlfriend. Thanks for the recipe. I’m never looking back. 🙂
This was so freakin good!!!! I fallowed the recipe exactly and it worked.
Delicious , my husband thought it was lasagna.
Delicious! A lot of work but easy at the same time. Thanks to your father-in-law and you for sharing this recipe! The eggplant itself has a touch of flavor so it’s not just a bland thing inside the breading. This is the first time I have come across olive oil+vegetable oil for cooking, which makes such a difference in flavor–and also really, really difficult to burn, lol.
I made this eggplant parm and thought it might be similar to one I’ve made before, but, OH, was this good! Everyone loved it! It had a great flavor, held together well, had lots of cheese, and the eggplant was soft and tasty! Thank you for the great recipe! It’s a keeper!
Made this tonight and it was delicious! Even though it took a bit of time to prepare, it was really easy and the recipe was straightforward. I used my favourite homemade bolognese sauce and it was so good.
This recipe was AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS! My meat loving family and picky toddler gobbled it up. I’ve never been a big eggplant fan and I ate this for dinner and then had leftovers for breakfast. I used my own homemade sauce and it was perfect.
Made as directed but used jars of chunky mushroom sause (2 jars and addded extra garlic). We’ve never had eggplant before but this was amazingly good! Paired it with angel hair pasta with butter and parsley. Our 8 year old loved it too! It will go in the family favorites recipe book. Thanks for sharing!
What is the cooking time if it’s frozen before baking?
I’m not an eggplant fan either and this is delicious!
Hi Sharon, I would recommend thawing in the refrigerator overnight before baking if it has been frozen. I’ll be sure to add that to the instructions! You still may need to add another 10-15 minutes.
TBH, I must admit that I’ve never had eggplant Parmesan in my 50 years (don’t judge😮). But I’ve tried numerous recipes of yours and I’ve never been let down. Plus it uses your FIL’s sauce recipe which is amazing in and of itself. I just made your eggplant Parmesan tonight, and holy cow is it amazing!!! Definitely going in the rotation — thanks!
We loved this! I had enough Parmesan “chips” left over to eat them like Chips!
I have had you for quite a long time , lost you, and you started up again but lost you a while ago and would love to get you back! I think you had just had your youngest. The boys were a surprise that they are getting so big! Anyway this is the only way I could reach you ! I am not good at this thing!!! Come back!!!!!!!
This was delicious, 3 of us finished the entire pan in one sitting, and I ate far too many pieces of deep fried eggplant while assembling this.
Yay so thrilled that you enjoyed this eggplant parm recipe!
The BEST eggplant parm I’ve ever made ! Never thought to fry it. I even ate the eggplant like that plain fried. Delicious so happy
Ahhhh I’m so happy to hear this!! And yes, so totally tempting to just munch away on the fried pieces!
How can you prevent the eggplant from becoming soggy with the sauce and cheese?
You really can’t. It doesn’t get totally soggy, but there’s really no way to keep it crisp when you’re covering it in sauce and cheese!
My husband and I made this for dinner Friday night and it was so so so good!! I was thrilled when you posted this recipe because he had just purchased 2 eggplants! Thank you for sharing all of your delicious recipes!!!
You are so welcome, I’m glad you enjoyed it!!
Michelle, this is pretty much the exact recipe I have been making for years and everyone loves it. The only thing I do differently is I do not salt the eggplant. I stopped doing it years ago and no one has complained. We do not find it tastes bitter at all. Thanks for your recipes and inspiration!
I forgot to mention in my previous post that I have a friend who baked the breaded eggplant slices instead of frying them. It tasted good to me, and I wondered if anyone else had tried it that way?
Hi Pam, I can’t remember if I mentioned this above or not, but my father-in-law has tried that, but everyone agreed that the fried eggplant made a much better eggplant parmesan, even though it’s more labor intensive.
I love, love, love a good eggplant casserole, and this casserole looks absolutely amazing and I can hardly wait to make it. Yummy!
From an eggplant-loving gal, this looks and sounds SCRUMPTIOUS! But can you clarify how to properly salt and rinse the eggplant slices? Is a couple of shakes from a shaker to each slice adequate (or too MUCH salt?) And would a quick dip in a bowl of water work for the rinse? I never seem to get this part right — too salty, the force of a sink sprayer can poke holes in thin slices, or I’m never sure how long to wait after drying the slices. Sorry if I’m a dope – thanks for your help!
Hi Stephanie, I measured the salt (see recipe above – 1 teaspoon kosher salt) and just sprinkled it evenly over the slices. To rinse, I used the spray feature on my faucet and gently picked up the slices to ensure they all got rinsed. As for waiting after drying them, as long as they are patted dry and not wet, you’re good. It was probably 15 minutes or so for me, because then I prepped everything else for frying. I hope that all helps!
What a great supper for a Lenten Friday night (especially one as dreary as this!) I’ll have to keep this in mind and try it next week. I SWEAR by your FIL’s sauce recipe, I have been making it for years and have been told to bottle and sell it! This eggplant parm looks like the perfect compliment to the sauce (minus the meat if we’re keeping it Lent friendly!!) You know what else would compliment this? A big ol’ slice of milk bread!
It’s looking so yummy at 1st sight , i will try to make this on coming weekend. Such a great satisfaction when i try your recipes and succeed:) Thank you for sharing this.
Whoaa Michelle this looks absolutely incredible!! I love the whole eggplant cheese combo and canNOT wait to try these! thanks sooo much for sharing your familys recipe :)
God bless you and your family xxx
My mother (Irish) worked in a girls’ dress factory in the 1950s and early 60s. THere were many Italian women immigrants, maybe second generation , worked there also. They shared these wonderful Italian recipes with her, including pasta sauce (gravy), meatballs,, and this’ wonderful eggplant 🍆 parmigiAna. It makes a delicious sandwich the next day, on ITALIan bread with butter, hot or cold. Sorry about the capitalization errors, my phone is not cooperating.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This looks like everything I hoped it would be. I’m looking forward to making this. “Parmesan” dishes (eggplant, chicken, veal) amuse me because there’s always way more mozzarella than Parmesan. One question: when you make the sauce meatless, do you still cook it for 2+ hours?
Aww you are welcome, Sally! And yes, so funny that they all have way more mozzarella! You certainly can’t go wrong with lots of cheeeeeeese :) I do still cook the sauce for a few hours, whether I use meat or not.
I can see why this is so good. I love eggplant parmesan, but this thinly sliced and breaded eggplant has to make it amazing! I can’t wait for the first Sunday I have to make this and the sauce!
Hi Teresa, I hope you enjoy it whenever you get the chance to make it!
Did you know there are male and female eggplants ? You can tell the difference by the shape of a mark on the bottom where it was connected to the vine. The female eggplant has more seeds. I could give a better explanation if you would be interested ? No it is not April Fool’s day. Maybe your farther-in-law already knows this. You have to compare two eggplants together to see the difference. I love eggplant cut like thick french fries, breaded, and fried and served with stewed tomatoes.
Hi Nancy, I did not know that! But I bet my father-in-law does! And love the idea of eggplant fries, I bet I would like those, too :)
I’d love to know how to tell the difference and which you prefer.
You didn’t mention what size pan to bake it in. Is it a 9×13? Thanks! Recipe sounds great!
Ahhh I’m so sorry, Joy, yes, it is a 9×13. I will go back and edit it to include that detail.
Oh WOW! Does this look fabulous! It’s now at the top of my to-do list. I have to say that eggplant parm is really the only way I truly enjoy eggplant. I’ve had it roasted, and it’s ok; I won’t turn up my nose at it. However, eggplant parm is right in my wheelhouse. In the spring when I plant my garden, I put in eggplant specifically for making eggplant parm. The grocery had some really nice looking eggplants yesterday. I just may need to stop back to day to pick up a few to make this dish. Thank you for sharing this recipe. It’s definitely worth the wait!
Hi Michelle, I agree – it’s the only way I like it, too! And how awesome you can get homegrown eggplant for yours, I love it!
You use a meat sauce in your eggplant???
Hi Michelle, That’s the base sauce recipe I use for everything. Usually we leave the meat out if making it specifically for eggplant parm, but if we have some in the freezer that needs to be used up, I’m totally not opposed to using meat sauce.
Hi there! A few people who have made eggplant parm told me you have to let the eggplant “sweat” overnight and under pressure (ie: laying a brick or heavy pan on top of the eggplant while it’s in something that can strain the juice from it. This is done after salting.
Did you do this step too? Do you think it should be done? Wondering how much of a difference it makes and wasn’t sure if you had any thoughts on it.
Hi Dianna, I did not do the “sweating” step, and haven’t heard my father-in-law talk about it, so I don’t think he does it. That said, I am far from an eggplant expert!
OMG! Eggplant parm. is my favorite meal. My good friend Ann makes the best eggplant parm. I’ve ever tasted! I can’t wait to try your father-in-laws version! My birthday is Monday, it’s supposed to be rainy here in No. Cal so I think whipping up a batch of this beauty sounds like a done deal! I’ll let you know how it compares!
Thank You so much for sharing!
Hi Rose, I definitely am excited to hear how it compares! And Happy Birthday! Enjoy your weekend and your special day :)
I too am not an eggplant fan but this recipe may convert me! The thin slices of eggplant is so much more appetizing to me than other recipes I have seen. Can’t wait to try this recipe – thanks for sharing.
Also the Insta Stories of your boys with Judith are so adorable 😀
Thanks so much, Terri! I hear you on the eggplant, totally, but I do love this dish! It’s like magic, ha! And so glad you’ve been enjoying the Insta Stories :)
You omitted one crucial ingredient: ricotta cheese. Spread ricotta between the eggplant layers, along with the mozzarella cheese. Trust me. Once you try it this way, you never go back.
Hi PJ, I’ve never had it with ricotta, I’ll have to ask my father-in-law if he’s tried it like that!
Definitely need ricotta!
These look absolutely divine. I am not an eggplant fan unless it’s used as an accent in the dish. This preparation looks like it compliments the texture of the eggplant along with loads of gooey cheese ad tomato. Yum!
Thanks Analida! This is definitely one of the only ways I like to eat eggplant!