This mouthwatering vegan eggplant Parmesan is made with layers of crispy pan-fried eggplant, cashew mozzarella cheese, and marinara sauce, baked up to bubbly perfection.
I think I got a couple of bonus eggplant plants in my garden this year. At first I thought they were weeds, but they looked a little familiar, so I decided to let them be for a while. They grew a bit and I started to think maybe they were eggplants, and then just the other day I popped out to have a look, and guess what? Both have little purple blossoms!
Obviously the eggplant for this recipe didn’t come from my plants — I’m still just 90% sure they’re even eggplants. And when I made that determination I already had a couple of big fat Sicilian eggplants stashed in the fridge, so I decided to go and celebrate with some vegan eggplant Parmesan.
I’ve made vegan eggplant parm before, but this is the first time I included something to stand in for mozzarella. Usually I’m content with some breaded eggplant and sauce, maybe a little cashew Parmesan sprinkled on top. But I hadn’t made eggplant parm since I came up with the recipe for this deep dish pizza, which is what got me to rethink the whole thing.
See, I’m usually all about keeping it simple when it comes to recipes that include vegan cheese. Spreadable cheeses are where it’s at, and anything else is unnecessary work and hit or miss as far as results. And lots of times the best course of action is to just skip the cheese altogether. But the pizza taught me that when you smother vegan mozzarella in layers of sauce and veggies, it’s really pretty indistinguishable from the regular old mozzarella I grew up eating, and definitely worth the effort.
The mozzarella did the trick! This vegan eggplant Parmesan was my all time favorite. Like regular old eggplant parm, it’s a bit of a project, but totally worth it. To me, this tasted like the eggplant Parmesan I grew up eating, and that’s a high bar, because as a vegetarian kiddo, eggplant parm was probably my number one all-time favorite comfort food. Now this vegan eggplant parm is a new favorite!
Vegan Eggplant Parmesan (with Cashew Mozzarella!)
For the Cashew Mozzarella
For the Batter
- 1 cup unflavored soy or almond milk
- 1/4 cup all purpose or whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup ground flaxseeds
For the Breading
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Few dashes black pepper
For the Eggplant Parmesan
- 3-4 cups marinara sauce, store bought or homemade
- 1 1/2 pounds eggplant, 1 large or 2 small, salted if necessary, and sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds
- Olive oil
- Cashew Parmesan, optional
- Fresh basil and parsley, for garnish
To Make the Cashew Mozzarella
- Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor bowl and blend until smooth.
- Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer, while whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until the mixture becomes thick and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Prepare the Batter
- Whisk all ingredients together in a shallow dish.
Prepare the Breading
- Stir all ingredients together in a shallow dish.
Make the Eggplant Parmesan
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Generously coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil (2 to 3 tablespoons) and place it over medium heat. Grab an eggplant slice and dip each side into the batter to coat, then into the panko mixture. Place the slice into the hot skillet. Repeat with additional slices, placing as many as will fit into the skillet without crowding. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until browned on the bottoms, gently flip, and cook another 4-5 minutes on the opposite sides. Transfer the slices to a paper towel-lined plate. Add oil to the skillet as needed, and repeat until all of the eggplant slices are used, working in as many batches as is needed.
- Ladle about 1 cup of sauce onto the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Arrange a third of the eggplant slices over the sauce. Grab a chunk of about 2 tablespoons of the cashew mozzarella and roll it into a ball in your hands, then flatten it. Place the mozzarella over one of the eggplant slices. Repeat, covering each of the slices and using about half of the mozzarella. Ladle about a cup of sauce over the mozzarella coated slices. Repeat the layering arrangement once, then top with the remaining eggplant slices and a layer of sauce.
- Place the dish into the oven and bake, uncovered, until bubbly, 25-30 minutes.
- Remove the dish from the oven and allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting. Divide onto plates and sprinkle with basil, parsley, and cashew Parmesan, if you like. Serve.