Using the air fryer to make eggplant parmesan gives us that delicious crispy crust we all love with a soft and tender eggplant middle, without any deep-frying! It's a healthier version of the classic dish that doesn't miss a beat!
Air fryer eggplant tastes like it's been fried but without all of the heavy grease. It's a delicious dinner the whole family will love, especially when served with a side of pasta or whole wheat spaghetti!
The crust is made from seasoned Panko breadcrumbs which are then smothered in a delicious marinara sauce and melted mozzarella and parmesan cheese! It's one of my go-to meals when I'm looking for a quick and easy meatless recipe or when I am serving vegetarian guests.
To be honest, it's also awesome to throw together when I've forgotten to take the chicken out of the freezer! Turns out, this is just as filling and comforting as the classic chicken parmesan. A total mom win if I do say so myself!
Why This Recipe Works
- This recipe is quick and easy with just 12 minutes of cook time. The entire dish is ready and on your table in under 1 hour.
- Using the air fryer gets you that deliciously crispy crusty exterior and tender middle without the use of heavy oils and deep-frying.
- There is so much flavor in the seasoning, the parmesan cheese, and the sauce. A total kid-friendly meal that everyone loves. The fact that it's healthy is a major bonus!
- Eggplant - These come in different sizes. You'll need about 1 lb total. This could mean 1 big one, 2 medium ones or 3 small ones, whatever you can find.
- Salt - This is listed twice because they're used two different ways. Initially, you will sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt to draw out as much water as possible to avoid a soggy eggplant. It also helps with flavor as it will draw out the liquid that tastes quite bitter.
- All-purpose flour - The first part of the dredging station. The flour coats the eggplants slices which allow the rest of the coating to adhere to it without falling off.
- Eggs - Will help the breadcrumbs stick to the eggplant.
- Panko bread crumbs - I like to use Panko for the crust because it's coarser, larger crumbs that are also lighter and flakier. You can use whatever breadcrumbs you prefer.
- Parmesan cheese - To be used to add sharp flavor to the breadcrumbs, but also adds to the cheesy topping. When possible, grate fresh parmesan from a block. It tastes better!
- Italian seasoning, salt & pepper - A simple seasoning combination that adds the perfect amount of taste to the breadcrumbs.
- Marinara sauce - Since we're using a store-bought marinara sauce, try finding a good quality jar. Typically it should taste simple, fresh, and without added sugars.
- Mozzarella - Freshly grated from a block! When you grate your own you're avoiding the anti-clumping agents that come in a bag of pre-shredded cheese, which make it harder to melt. Freshly grated not only tastes better but melts better too.
- Chopped basil - An amazing way to finish off the dish with a fresh vibrant herb garnish!
How to Make Eggplant Parmesan in the Air Fryer
Step 1: Slice the eggplant(s) to ⅓” thick and sprinkle both sides with salt. Lay them on a baking sheet and allow the salt to draw out the bitter liquid for 30 minutes. Once it is done sweating, pat them dry with a paper towel. Preheat the air fryer to 375 degrees F.
Step 2: Set up 3 separate shallow dishes for the dredging station. The first will contain the flour, the second, the whisked eggs, and the third the Panko crumbs, ⅓ cup of parmesan, and the seasoning.
Step 3: Dip the eggplant slices into the flour, then the eggs, then the breadcrumb mixture, allowing any excess to drip off in between. Do this with one slice at a time. Place each coated slice onto the air fryer tray.
Step 4: Spray the eggplants lightly with cooking spray and air fry for 8-10 minutes. Flip halfway through cooking time.
Step 5: Add a layer of marinara sauce, followed by mozzarella cheese and remaining parmesan on top. Air fry for another 1-2 minutes until the cheese has melted.
- Don't skip the initial salting. It's important to the taste and texture of this recipe that you get rid of as much of the bitter excess water as you can. It does take a bit of extra time, but trust me, it's worth it.
- Be sure to coat each slice well! You want to get an even layer of crust on the outside so that every bite has a bit of it.
- Do not overlap them in the air fryer basket. To get that delicious crunch they need to cook evenly on all sides. For this reason, you may find working in batches easier.
- Serve this eggplant parmesan as a starter on its own, as part of the main dish with your favorite pasta. You could also add it to a bun and make an eggplant parmesan sandwich. Sometimes, I'll enjoy leftovers the next morning with a fried egg and some home fries. So good!
How to Store Cooked Eggplant Parmesan
Keep any leftovers stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. When you're ready to enjoy it again, heat it in the microwave, back in the air fryer, or on the stovetop in a pan.
There are some things to keep in mind when shopping for eggplant, in particular for this recipe. Look for one that is a deep purple and has glossy skin. It should be nice and firm to the touch with no mushy spots to it and has some weight to it.
When considering your slices, you want to look for an eggplant that is relatively similar in size all along its length. Otherwise, you might end up with small rounds and much larger rounds.
Eggplants don't need refrigeration, especially if you're going to be using them within a couple of days of purchasing. You can keep it in a cool dry area for 1-2 days. For extended freshness, place it in the fridge for an extra day or so. Keep it whole and uncut until you're ready to use it.
You bet! Use gluten-free breadcrumbs as well as gluten-free flour and you've got yourself a gluten-free eggplant parmesan!
It's quite similar to the air fryer, but with a different cook time. Lay the eggplant slices onto a prepared baking sheet and bake in a 425-degree oven for 10 minutes before flipping for another 7 minutes. Then once you've added the sauce and cheese, you want to continue baking for another few minutes.
Air Fryer Eggplant Parmesan
- Air Fryer
- 1 pound egglant (1 large, 2 medium, or 3 small)
- ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1 ½ cup panko bread crumbs
- ⅔ cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
- ½ tablespoon Italian seasoning
- ⅓ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 24 oz good quality marinara sauce
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- fresh cropped basil, for garnishing
- Slice the eggplant ⅓ inch thick. Sprinkle salt on both sides of the eggplant slices and lay them on a baking sheet. Let it sweat all the bitter liquid for 30 minutes. Then, pat with a paper towel to dry.
- Preheat the air fryer to 375°F
- Set up a dredging station with 3 shallow dishes: In the first one, all-purpose flour. In the second dish, whisk the eggs. In the third dish, mix together panko breadcrumbs, ⅓ cup grated parmesan (save the rest for later), Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Dip the eggplant slices into the flour, then eggs, then panko mixture.
- Place the breaded eggplant onto the air fryer tray and spray lightly with cooking spray. Air fry at 375°F for 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway through.
This recipe was tested with the Instant Omni Plus toaster oven and Cosori Pro XL. Temperature and time may vary depending upon the air fryer model you have; this is why there is a range in the cooking time in the recipe. Adjust to your specific air fryer.
- Don't skip the initial salting. It's important to the taste and texture of this recipe that you get rid of as much of the bitter excess water as you can.
- Be sure to coat each slice well while dredging! You'll want to get an even layer of crust on the outside.
- Do not overlap them in the air fryer basket. To get that delicious crunch they need to cook evenly on all sides. For this reason, you may need to work in batches.