Eggplant parmesan is an Italian American entrée similar to lasagna in flavor—the combination of crispy and soft eggplant, silky tomato sauce, and gooey, melted cheese makes for an entrée as satisfying as lasagna, with no pasta needed.
Because breading can be tricky if you have gluten sensitivity and frying eggplant isn’t the healthiest treatment for the veggie, we’ve come up with an oven baked version that also happens to be gluten free and equally as delicious as the traditional version.
This entrée serves four and reheats without losing any texture. It's a modern take on a classic entrée that can be enjoyed by assorted special diet followers, as it’s both gluten free, keto friendly, and vegetarian. It's a good weeknight meal, but fancy enough for a date night or gathering.
How to Make Gluten Free Eggplant Parmesan
Almond flour as a stand in for breadcrumbs is popular in the keto world, and it makes for an eggplant parmesan that is heartier than the usual version because of almond flour’s high protein content.
To make this oven-baked version, you coat salted and drained eggplant slices in almond flour, salt, and herbs, then bake them.
Once golden, layer them in a baking dish with marinara sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese, and place back in the oven to become a cohesive Parmesan dish. A sprinkle of fresh basil over the top before baking adds the perfect touch of aromatic green.
Tips and Tricks for GF Eggplant Parm
Following the below tips and tricks will help make this the best baked eggplant parm possible.
Don’t skip salting and draining the eggplant. If you’re short on time, you can do that step ahead, and store the salted and drained eggplant in tightly wrapped plastic wrap overnight. (The tight wrapping is important, so it doesn’t oxidize and discolor the veg.) When I’ve tried skipping that step in the past, the end result was bitter, and the eggplant was less tender.
Don’t over bake: Though it may be tempting to bake the final dish longer, it only needs to be heated enough to meld together. When I first developed this recipe I treated it like lasagna, which benefits from longer baking because the pasta absorbs more sauce. But because nothing here is absorbent, I discovered that longer baking just dries it out.
You need 1 pound of eggplant. If only smaller eggplants are available, use 2-3 small eggplants.
This recipe is easy to double. Double all ingredients and bake in an 11x17-inch baking dish.
Ingredient Swaps and Substitutions
Not a fan of some ingredients in this recipe, or you don’t have all ingredients on hand? Try one of these swaps or subs.
- For meat lovers, a Bolognese Sauce can be used instead of the marinara. For ease of making the eggplant parm, the Bolognese should be made ahead of time.
- If you prefer zucchini to eggplant, follow the recipe with zucchini slices instead. Treat them the same as you would the eggplant, with the salting and draining step first, and cut them into similar 1/2-inch thick pieces.
- While most recipes that call for almond flour require the blanched type with skins removed, if you have almond meal on hand, you can use that instead without compromising the recipe.
- Don’t want to make marinara sauce? No problem! A store-bought jarred version will work perfectly fine instead.
- If you don’t have fresh basil, substitute with fresh parsley. If you enjoy both herbs, use both.
Variations on Gluten Free Eggplant Parmesan
I love this recipe as is, but I wouldn’t say no to any of the below variations.
- To pack in even more veggies, a layer of chopped, cooked spinach can be added in between the eggplant and marinara.
- For even more cheesy goodness, a layer of ricotta cheese can be added along with the parmesan and mozzarella; just don’t include that in the top layer, or you won’t get a crispy-cheese finish.
- If you like your red sauces to have a hint of sweetness, add one teaspoon sugar, honey along with the salt and pepper.
Serve this eggplant parmesan with a side salad and a crusty loaf of bread for a complete Italian-inspired meal.
How to Store and Reheat Eggplant Parmesan
This dish makes great leftovers. If you have half or more left, it’s ok to place plastic wrap over the top of the baking dish and refrigerate it. It will keep in the fridge for several days. For smaller portions, a tightly sealed container is better.
To freeze: Place leftovers in a tightly sealed container and freeze for up to three months. If you want complete instructions on freezing casseroles we have all of those details for you in this guide.
To reheat: Place leftovers in an oven safe baking dish and warm at 325°F degrees until hot to the touch.
Gluten Free Baked Eggplant Parmesan
1 large eggplant, cut into 12 1/2-inch wide circular slices
2 teaspoons salt, divided
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup almond flour
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 (15-ounce cans or jars) tomato puree
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon red wine, optional
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chiffonade (optional), plus more for garnish
Salt the eggplant:
Season the eggplant slices with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and place them into a colander. Set the eggplant aside for one hour in the sink, then use your hands to press out as much liquid as you can.
Take each slice and press it between your hands, allowing the water to drain out (you can also use a paper towel for this step). Use a light squeezing motion; squeeze too hard and you’ll tear the eggplant.
As you do this, you’ll be rubbing off much of the excess salt, which will prevent the eggplant from being overly salty.
Preheat the oven and prepare a baking sheet:
Preheat your oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Drizzle the parchment paper with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Dredge the eggplant in almond flour:
Pour the almond flour onto a large plate. Dip each eggplant slice into the almond flour on both sides, then place on the baking sheet. Because they will shrink as they cook, they can be placed very close together, so long as they don’t overlap. Drizzle the dredged eggplant with an additional tablespoon of olive oil.
Bake the eggplant:
Bake the eggplant for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the eggplant from the oven and flip the eggplant slices using tongs. Return to the oven and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
The almond flour should have turned fully golden on both sides and be crunchy to the touch. The eggplant itself will look pretty wilted. Remove from oven and set aside until ready to assemble the casserole.
Make the tomato sauce:
In a medium sauce pot over medium high heat add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the garlic and Italian seasoning and sauté for one minute, stirring frequently to prevent the garlic from burning.
Add the tomato purée and tomato paste and cook for an additional minute. Add the wine if using, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper, and stir to combine.
Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
The finished sauce should look thick enough to put over pasta, where it lightly coats the back of a spoon. It will have a darkened red hue, and smell like cooked tomatoes.
Reduce oven temp and assemble casserole:
Once the eggplant is cooked, reduce the oven temperature to 375°F.
Carefully ladle 1/2 cup of tomato sauce into a 9x9-inch baking dish. Lay 4 slices of eggplant over the tomato sauce with a fork or tongs and add an additional 1/2 cup sauce directly over the eggplant. Then sprinkle 1/3 cup mozzarella and 1 tablespoon parmesan over top.
Create a total of three layers by adding another 4 slices eggplant, then 1/2 cup sauce, then 1/3 cup mozzarella and 1 tablespoon parmesan (two additional times.)
The top layer should have mozzarella and parmesan on top, then sprinkle with fresh basil.
Bake casserole and serve:
Place casserole in the oven for 20 minutes, until cheese is fully melted and lightly golden in spots. Remove from the oven and let cool for five minutes. Garnish with basil and serve.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 24g||31%|
|Saturated Fat 5g||26%|
|Total Carbohydrate 55g||20%|
|Dietary Fiber 14g||51%|
|Total Sugars 22g|
|Vitamin C 30mg||149%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|