Vegan eggplant parmigiana

Vegan eggplant parmigiana

vegan eggplant parmigiana

In anticipation of two hot days kindly bestowed on us by the British weather system, I cranked my oven up and made a delicious summery dish – vegan eggplant parmigiana as it’s typically eaten at room temperature with a mountain of salad and it feeds a crowd.

As I am on my own when it comes to eggplants and tomato sauce-based dishes (they don’t agree with Duncan much), this should sustain me over the next two days, during which I don’t intend to move from my hammock other than to make myself my makeshift espresso freddo or use the toilet 😉 . This is what living in the UK does to you, the moment there is steady sunshine on the horizon, you clear your diary as this amount of vitamin D may not happen for a long while, so you gotta make the most of it.

This beautiful dish of layers of meaty aubergines baked in a sweet and herby tomato sauce and topped with cheese is an Italian classic and it’s poetically known as ‘parmigiana di melanzane‘. My version is obviously vegan and definitely healthier than most and certainly healthier than the original, as instead of coating eggplant slices in flour or breadcrumbs and frying them, I bake them in the oven without a drop of oil and it really works a treat. It’s a trick I used before in my very popular vegan moussaka that is loved by everyone and no one ever complains that it isn’t indulgent enough.

The thing about eggplant is that it is incredibly thirsty and capable of soaking limitless amount of oil, so the resulting bake can easily turn greasy. Also, frying this many slices of eggplant does add a lot of work and standing over a pan compared to this fairly effortless meal. So instead of frying, I bake my aubergine slices in batches until softened, knowing that they will get cooked further in the tomato sauce later. Plus, I don’t see the point of breading the aubergines if it’s then layered with tomato sauce that is bound to stamp out any attempt at crispiness.

The second difference is an obvious one, the lack of cheese. I am not massively keen on commercially available vegan cheeses and I have not yet found one I buy again and again. Many of them are made out of a lot of nasty stuff and a lot of coconut oil, which turns them into an oily, insipid mess in high temperatures. If you found a brand you enjoy, feel free to use that to top this bake. I went for a simple cashew cheese sauce, which is made of a few natural ingredients and acts as a as creamy topping, which balances the dish nicely. I went for aesthetically pleasing puddles of this stuff, but you are welcome to double (or even triple for a thicker layer) the amount of ingredients and have it cover the entire dish for added creaminess and an extra bit of indulgence, if you wish. Enjoy!

vegan eggplant parmigiana ingredients

vegan eggplant parmigiana assembling

vegan eggplant parmigiana whole

vegan eggplant parmigiana side

vegan eggplant parmigiana cut slice

serves
9
PREP
30 min
COOKING
30 min
serves
9
PREPARATION
30 min
COOKING
30 min
INGREDIENTS
GENERAL INGREDIENTS

  • 8 medium eggplants (approx. 2.5 kg / 5.5 lb)
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp coarse breadcrumbs (optional)

TOMATO SAUCE

  • 2 tbsp olive oil, more to drizzle
  • 1 very large onion, finely diced
  • 6 large garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 3 x 400 g / 14 oz tins quality plum tomatoes
  • 120 ml / ½ cup red wine
  • 1 fresh bay leaf or 2 dry leaves
  • 2 large stalks of fresh basil
  • 1½ tsp Italian herb mix
  • ¼ tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp date nectar (I use homemade) or sugar
  • salt and black pepper, to taste

TOPPING (double the amount to cover the entire dish)

METHOD
EGGPLANT LAYER

  1. Preheat the oven up to 200° C / 390° F and grab a metal (ideally an old-fashioned one rather than non-stick one as I found that the latter one browns them too much) baking tray.
  2. Top the aubergines and cut them into 1.25 cm / 0.5″ slices lengthwise. You may want to discard skin-covered ends (they would work great in vegan meatballs). With regards to salting eggplants, please see NOTES.
  3. Place the aubergine slices on the baking tray (no need to grease them) and into the hot oven for 20-25 minutes, flipping them gently once halfway through the baking time. Bake until they are soft and lightly browned. You’ll need to do this in batches or you can bake several trays at once but you will need to bake them a bit longer as increased oven humidity will slow things down a bit.

TOMATO SAUCE

  1. Heat up 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan.
  2. Add the finely diced onion and fry until translucent and slightly browned, stirring from time to time.
  3. Add in the garlic and fry for another minute or two, until softened and fragrant.
  4. Add in the tomatoes, wine (if using), bay leaf, whole basil stalks, dried herbs and chilli (if using) and 360 ml / 1½ cups of water. Simmer, stirring every 10 minutes, until the tomatoes break down completely and the sauce thickens – about 40 minutes.
  5. Season with salt, date nectar (or sugar) and black pepper. Set aside.

TOPPING

  1. Place the drained cashews and 120 ml / ½ cup of water in an upright blender. Blend until super creamy and smooth.
  2. Add garlic, miso paste, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  3. Finally, add in tapioca starch and blend once again.

ASSEMBLY

  1. Preheat the oven to 200° C / 390° F (no fan) and grab a large baking dish (see NOTES for dimensions).
  2. Spoon a little bit of tomato sauce at the bottom of the dish (remove basil stalks – they’ve done their job of flavouring the sauce and discard).
  3. Follow with a layer of tightly arranged eggplant slices. Season the eggplants with salt, pepper and some extra dried Italian herbs if you wish.
  4. Follow with another thin layer of tomato sauce and eggplant. Continue until you’ve used up all of the sauce and eggplant slices, but remember that the top of the dish also needs a smattering of tomato sauce unless you intend to cover the entire bake with cheesy sauce.
  5. Finish off the last layer with dollops of cheesy sauce, drizzle with olive oil (I used 15 ml / 1 tbsp), scatter with pine nuts and breadcrumbs (if using).
  6. Bake for 20 minutes then increase the oven temperature by 20° C / 70° F and bake for a further 5-10 minutes, until the top is nicely browned.
  7. Allow the bake to set for an hour or so before cutting or else the slices will come out messy. Store the leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days or portion and freeze. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. I like to have this with a big green salad and pan fried potatoes or grilled sourdough bread for a more filling meal.

NOTES
The baking dish I used is a square 25 cm / 9.5″ dish, 6.5 cm / 2.5″ tall.

SALTING EGGPLANTS: Some people advocate salting eggplants / aubergines to draw out the bitterness, but I’ve forgotten to do that a few times and I totally got away with it. Since then, I’ve read that the varieties of eggplants grown nowadays don’t have any bitterness genes (black rather than white seeds indicate a bitter tasting eggplant apparently). If you do decide to salt yours, apply salt to the slices on both sides (for about an hour) and make sure you rinse the salt off really well and pat all the slices dry before baking.

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NUTRITIONAL INFO
calories
206
10%
sugars
15 g
17%
fats
8 g
12%
saturates
1 g
7%
proteins
6 g
13%
carbs
28 g
11%
*per serving
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5.0
14 reviews, 20 comments
REVIEWS & QUESTIONS
Marie:
This is sooo good! Perfect on a summer day. Loved it.
Thx xoxo
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you, Marie! I am so happy to hear that you loved it and I really appreciate you taking the time to review. x Ania
Stacey:
Hi, thanks for the lovely recipe. I’m wondering if l could make it the day before, then bake it the next day. Thanks.
    Ania
    Ania:
    My pleasure, Stacey! I am glad you enjoyed it. Yes, I think it would work just as well. x Ania
Mrs. Smith:
I LOVED it and will make again, thank you so much for sharing this delicious recipe.
My partner disliked the skin on the aubergine, so put the skins on my plate, we were both very hungry still after eating this meal. I am eight months pregnant and he is an MMA fighter, so will require more side dishes next time.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Great to hear that you loved this recipe, thank you. x Ania
Claire B:
Made this yesterday and it was ‘amazing’.
First time I’ve made my own cheeze too!
This will now become a staple and I’m so looking forward to the leftovers today.
Thanks for sharing x
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks so much, Claire! I'm delighted to hear that you enjoyed it so much and the cheese topping as well! And I really appreciate you taking the time to leave this lovely review – it helps my work reach more people, thank you. x Ania
Jessica:
This is our number one recipe for aubergine!! Thank you so much :) we absolutely love it! Really versatile too... we added courgette and it was delicious. Can highly recommend this recipe - oh, and don’t forget to make lots of extra sauce to cover the top! The breadcrumbs add an extra level of yummyness too! Can’t wait to make this recipe again x
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you for your kind words, Jessica! I'm delighted to hear that this dish was such a hit with you and your family. And thank you for much for taking the time to leave this review - I really appreciate it! x Ania
Paul:
Is the miso paste obligatory?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Paul,
    No, it definitely is not, you can safely skip it in this recipe - it simply adds a bit of a depth of flavour but there are so many other flavourings going on that it should not be missed. Hope this helps! Ania
Jane Higginbottom:
Hi Ania
I was preparing this dish for my son as he was due home from University today. Unfortunately one of his house mates has COVID (mild symptoms). My son has to self isolate for 10 days.
Could you tell me if this dish can be frozen either with or without the topping? Thank you. Jane H
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Jane,
    I'm sorry to hear about your son's visit getting curtailed by COVID, hope he won't catch it. Yes, it certainly can, probably better with the topping but if you have poured it on already that's not the end of the world either. x Ania
Eva:
Hi, thank you for this lovely recepie, can't wait to try it :) Quick question, can you substitute the cashews with a different nut/seed (my partner is allergic to cashews)? Do you think pumpkin seeds would work? Thank you very much in advance :)
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Eva,
    My pleasure, I hope you'll enjoy it. Yes, I am pretty sure sunflower seeds will work just as well. I often use them to make creamy sauces and dressings, like in this recipe. x Ania
Alina:
Excellent recipe - so tasty, better than the original eggplant parmigiana - the cashew toping turned into a crust that made the whole dish special
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you so much for your kind words, Alina! I'm delighted to hear that you enjoyed it so much and thank you for taking the time to leave this review - I am so grateful! x Ania
CLARA:
Awesome, delicious recipe. I thought that it would't be filing on its own but it actually is. Very good, thank you for sharing :)
    Ania
    Ania:
    I'm delighted to hear that, Clara! And thank you so much for taking the time to leave a review - much appreciated. x Ania
Helen:
Made this for the second time now! It tastes even better the second time - Don't scrimp on the chopped tomatoes as you need quite a lot of sauce! Vegan cheese topping is on point, super healthy and delicious.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Glad to hear you enjoyed this dish, Helen. Thank you for taking the time to let me know - much appreciated. x Ania
Christopher Bossano:
In your photos, a culinary masterpiece, not otherwise. Looks awesome. My family loves eggplant. I will definitely cook! Thanks!
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks, I hope you'll enjoy this dish! Ania
Alyssa:
Made this today, and my husband and I LOVED it!!! Thanks for the awesome recipe! :)
    Ania
    Ania:
    That's brilliant to hear, Alyssa! Thanks so much for taking the time to let me and other readers know that you did - much appreciated! Ania
Don Pezzano:
This is awesome!! Thank you.
    Ania
    Ania:
    My pleasure! Ania
Yvette:
Holy Moly this was meant to last 6 days and will do 4 at the most. It's sooo good. I doubled the sauce to get a good layer as I'm quite over the top with sauces abut apart from that it was true to recipe. Perfect as always for Ania's recipes. Another great success!
    Ania
    Ania:
    I'm delighted to hear that, Yvette! Thanks so much for taking the time to let me and my readers know that you enjoyed this recipe! Ania
Jenny B:
Gorgeous! I made it for two of us in a smallish dish so scaled it down a bit (2 big aubergine, 1 tin toms,etc) but used the whole amount of cheese sauce which was delicious. I'd make it bigger next time as we finished the lot in one go and could have eaten more :D
    Ania
    Ania:
    I'm delighted to hear that, Jenny! And thanks so much for letting me know that you have enjoyed it enough to make again :) Ania
Varadā:
Thanks for another aubergine recipe Ania. The strange weather this year has given me a glut of aubergines and tomatoes . Thanks also for the tip of baking aubergine slices with no need for salt or oil. I learned that from you a couple of years ago in a moussaka recipe. I have a wood-burning stove and if it's lit I bake aubergine slices and then cool them and pop them in the freezer compartment of my fridge - ready to add to any dish when needed.
    Ania
    Ania:
    My pleasure, Varadā! I hope you'll enjoy this recipe if you decide to make this recipe too. Great idea to make bake aubergines in advance too! Ania
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