Vegan eggplant parmesan is a dinner party-worthy dish that comes together quickly in the air fryer. Eggplant slices are coated in panko, seasonings, and non-dairy parmesan. After getting crisp in the air fryer, marinara sauce & vegan mozzarella are added until warm & melty.
Plus, you can make vegan eggplant parmesan ahead of time. Then just reheat it to maximize time with your guests. It’s also great for weekly meal prep.
There are two problems with ordering eggplant in restaurants.
One. If you get it in a stir-fry, it’s often fried and swimming in oil. Eggplant sucks up oil like a sponge. That makes for a lunch that just sinks in your stomach like a rock.
Two. If you want to order it at an Italian restaurant, it’s often dipped in egg, coated in breadcrumbs, and then covered with dairy-based cheese. Obviously, this is not an option for vegan diners like myself.
It’s for those reasons that I love cooking it at home in my air fryer.
It’s great for making an easy air fryer eggplant dip (a.k.a. baba ganoush) that’s ready in a lot less time than cooking in the oven or on the grill.
And it’s super convenient & a lot less messy to make breaded and “fried” vegan eggplant parm right in the air fryer.
Just a couple spritzes of oil are involved. So it won’t get water-logged with oil. Oil-logged? But it’s still beautifully crispy on the outside.
You can have it breaded on its own. Or add a spoonful of your favorite marinara and a pinch of non-dairy mozzarella to melt on top.
Cutting through the crispy slices with your fork into the beautifully creamy center & saucy top is pure pleasure. It almost puts me to the mind of vegan mozzarella sticks.
And yes, you can eat the eggplant skin too!
How to make this recipe
Get a medium-sized purple globe eggplant. Either an American or Italian eggplant is fine.
Cut off & discard the top with stem and base. Then cut the remaining eggplant into ½ inch slices.
Now it’s time to make a breading work station
Eggplant is a pretty dry vegetable inside. (Actually, it’s a berry, botanically-speaking!) So it doesn’t require cornstarch or flour for extra dryness like vegan fried green tomatoes do. That means you’ll only need two plates on your work station.
On one plate, put vegan mayonnaise. It’s going to be your “egg” in this breading station to hold seasoned breadcrumbs to the slices.
I like Vegenaise, but it doesn’t really matter what kind of vegan mayo you use here. You won’t taste it in the dish. It’s just acting as a binder.
On the second plate put panko breadcrumbs, dried oregano, dried basil, granulated onion, salt, pepper, and shredded vegan parmesan. (For a gluten-free option, use gluten-free panko!)
I use Violife parmesan. Then I finely grate it with a microplane zester. If you don’t have non-dairy parmesan, it’s no problem to omit it. There’s plenty of flavor without it.
Dip the slices into the mayo, and coat every side. Then push any excess mayo off of the slices. It should be the sheerest of coatings. It just needs enough on it to make it sticky. You don’t want dollops of mayo.
(I recommend coating all of the slices in mayo first before dipping in breadcrumbs, because the mayo part requires both hands. It’s not as easy to do one hand for wet ingredients & one hand for dry ingredients like you’d usually do at a breading station.)
Next dip all of the slices into the breadcrumb mixture. Make sure to coat every side.
Eggplants vary in size. So you may need to add extra breadcrumbs & seasonings to your plate if the one you’re breading is on the larger side.
Now move the slices to your air fryer basket
You want one even layer of eggplant slices in the basket. Depending on the size of your basket & eggplant rounds, you’ll probably be able to fit about 4 to 6 slices. So you’ll definitely have to cook the slices in batches.
Spray the eggplant slices with oil. Then set the air fryer to 400 degrees for 12 minutes. Stop halfway through (or whenever they are toasty brown on top) to flip the slices. Spray that side with oil and continue cooking.
At the 10-minute mark (or whenever they are nutty brown on top), add spoonfuls of your favorite marinara sauce on top of all the slices and a pinch of non-dairy mozzarella. (My favorite marinara of the moment is Trader Joe’s Italian marinara.) Then let the slices continue cooking for the remaining two minutes.
(If you’d prefer to have breaded eggplant on its own without sauce & non-dairy cheese, you can stop at the 10-minute mark, and remove the slices if they seem done enough for you.)
When the non-dairy mozzarella is melty & the eggplant slices are brown around the edges, the vegan eggplant parm is done.
Continue air frying the remaining eggplant slices. Keep in mind that the air fryer is now hot. So the remaining slices will cook a little faster. Keep an eye on them, so they don’t burn.
What to serve with it
Serve it with your favorite pasta with marinara & sautéed mushrooms, sautéed spinach, or an easy spinach salad.
It’s also amazing in an eggplant parmesan sandwich!
How to reheat it
Vegan eggplant parmesan works terrifically well for leftovers.
To reheat, put the refrigerated slices into the air fryer. Then top with additional marinara sauce & non-dairy cheese on each slice, so that it will look fresh on top. Plus, you get that much more saucy, gooey deliciousness.
Air fry at 390 degrees for 5 minutes. For obvious reasons, you won’t want to flip it.
Vegan eggplant parmesan in the air fryer
- 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise (I use Vegenaise)
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (Use gluten free panko for a GF option.)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon granulated onion
- 1 teaspoon grated vegan parmesan (I use Violife & zest it with a microplane zester)
- Pinch salt
- Dash black pepper
- 1 medium-sized eggplant* cut into 1/2 inch slices, top & bottom removed
- Spritz Oil spray
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup marinara sauce
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup grated vegan mozzarella cheese
- Start by making a breading work station with two plates. Put the vegan mayonnaise on one plate. On the other plate, combine panko breadcrumbs, dried oregano, dried basil, granulated onion, grated vegan parmesan, a pinch of salt, and dash of pepper.
- Coat each eggplant slice with mayo. It should be the thinnest of coatings. You don't want any mayonnaise dollops. It's just a sheer coating, so that the breadcrumb mixture can stick to the slices.
- Then dip each slice into the breadcrumb mixture. Make sure to coat it with breadcrumbs on every side.
- Put an even layer of slices into the air fryer basket. For best browning, don't overcrowd the basket with slices on top of each other. You want room for air to flow all around each slice. Depending on the basket size & eggplant slice size, you'll probably be able to fit 4 to 6 slices. Spritz the top of the eggplant slices with oil spray.
- Put the basket into the air fryer. Set it to 400 degrees for 12 minutes. Stop halfway through to flip the slices (or when they are nice & brown on top). Spritz the slices with oil spray again. Then continue air frying for four more minutes, or when the other side of the slices are nutty brown. At 10 minutes, add a spoonful of marinara sauce and a pinch of vegan mozzarella cheese to each slice. Then cook for the remaining 2 minutes. Remove the eggplant slices from the air fryer.
- Continue air frying the eggplant in batches until all of the eggplant has been air fried. Keep in mind that the air fryer cooks faster when it's hot. So the subsequent batches may need to be flipped earlier or cooked for a slightly shorter time. Keep an eye on them for burning, and trust your judgement when it's looking brown enough.