Air Fryer Eggplant Parmesan is an easy and healthy meatless dinner or lunch ready in under 30 minutes. Tender eggplant slices are crisped up in an air fryer, topped with marinara sauce and melted mozzarella cheese.
I have always been a huge fan of Italian food. When it comes to comfort food, there is nothing that comes even close, in my opinion. I have a very distinct memory of going to the first pizzeria that opened in my Polish hometown in the early 1990s. I went with my mom and we ordered a pizza with mushrooms and ham made by a chef from Italy. It was love at first bite!
There is something about the tomato sauce and melted cheese combo that makes everyone feel happy and safe, and eggplant parmesan is no different. The creamy and “meaty” eggplant acts as a wonderful vessel for Italian flavors that’s hard to match.
While I love the classic eggplant parmesan that’s typically fried in oil, layered with marinara sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheese and baked as a casserole, I wanted a version that’s lighter and less time-consuming to make. Using air-fried breaded eggplant slices results in a beautifully crispy dish that’s quick, easy and way less heavy than the classic layered casserole. Serve it with marinara sauce and a simple green salad for a no-fuss summer dinner.
If you're looking for more meatless air fryer recipes, try these epic Air Fryer Potato Slices or these low-carb Air Fryer Butternut Squash Fries.
- Eggplant: for best results, pick a medium sized eggplant that’s firm and shiny.
- Salt: used on eggplant before cooking to remove excess moisture and bitterness.
- Panko: I like using panko because it’s lighter and crispier than regular breadcrumbs.
- Eggs: to help adhere the panko coating to eggplant slices.
- Parmesan cheese: freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano is always the best but you can use whatever grated hard cheese you have on hand.
- Marinara sauce: use homemade or good quality store bought marinara sauce. My favorite is this one from Rao’s that I buy at Costco or Sam’s Club.
- Mozzarella Cheese: grated melted and bubbly mozzarella cheese is the best part of eggplant parmesan, in my opinion.
- Garlic powder & Italian seasoning: used to season the breading.
- Basil leaves (optional): sprinkle on top of the dish for added freshness.
Air fryer eggplant parm recipe tips
STEP 1: Salt the eggplant and leave for 30 minutes. This step may seem excessive but it makes a big difference if you want the eggplant to be creamy inside and crispy on the outside. Sprinkling the eggplant slices and letting them sit for a while draws the moisture and any bitterness out of the eggplant. You will see beads of water on top of the eggplant after 20-30 minutes. Just pat the eggplant dry with a paper towel before dipping it in egg and panko.
STEP 2: Season the breading. Plain panko is pretty bland so I like to add good quality Italian seasoning and garlic powder to my breading. This will produce a well-seasoned final dish.
STEP 3: Slice eggplant evenly. Try to make all the slices about ½ inch thick. This is important to make sure your eggplant slices cook evenly and none of them get overcooked while others are not tender enough.
STEP 4: Grate the parmesan. Good quality hard cheese is key to a flavorful eggplant parm. Grating a fresh chunk of Parmigiano, Pecorino Romano or Asiago and mixing it with panko makes a huge difference in the flavor of this dish.
STEP 5: Coat the eggplant thoroughly in panko. Thick coating ensures ultra crispy eggplant parm! For best results, drench the slices in egg and take your time to coat them well so that there are no “bald” patches. At this stage the coating likes to fall off so handle it gently when setting aside on a baking tray.
STEP 6: Use a large air fryer. To air fry 4 eggplant slices you will need at least a 7-quart air fryer such as this one from GoWise. Smaller air fryers will only fit 2 slices at a time so it may make more sense to make this eggplant parm in the oven (see directions in the recipe card below).
STEP 7: Air fry for 8 minutes. Next, top with a little marinara sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Air fry for 1-2 more minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Note: Use good quality non-stick spray. Traditionally, eggplant slices are fried in oil, topped with marinara and mozzarella and then baked in the oven. For this healthier air fryer version, you will be using almost no oil but make sure to spray the air fryer basket and the eggplant slices generously to avoid sticking and to help the dish crisp up nicely. My favorite is this avocado oil spray.
Can I make this recipe in the oven?
Yes! I tested this recipe both in the air fryer and in the oven and both versions come out delicious. I especially like making it in the oven if I have more people to feed as you can easily double the recipe and bake all eggplant slices at the same time on one large baking sheet.
Specific directions for making eggplant parm in the oven can be found in the recipe card below.
Storage and serving tips
Serve this Air Fryer Eggplant Parm on its own or with more Marinara sauce, sprinkled with fresh basil leaves. For a lazy summer dinner, pair it with a simple green salad dressed with a bright vinaigrette (try my delicious homemade Greek dressing) and fresh crusty bread. You can also serve it as a side with some grilled chicken or fish.
To store leftovers, allow the eggplant to cool and place in an airtight container in layers. It will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat, pop in the air fryer for 2-3 minutes, or nuke it in the microwave until heated through.
More healthy ideas
- Italian Stuffed Zucchini Boats with Ground Chicken
- Creamy Veggie Chickpea Pasta Bake with Feta
- Chicken & Mushroom Cauliflower Rice Casserole (keto)
- Mexican Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
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Air Fryer Eggplant Parmesan
- 8 slices eggplant ½ inch thick (about one medium eggplant)
- 1 cup panko
- ⅓ cup parmesan cheese grated
- ½ teaspoon salt plus more for sprinkling on eggplant slices
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 1 cup Marinara sauce
- ½ cup mozzarella cheese grated
Air Fryer Method:
- Place eggplant slices on a baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt on both sides. Set aside for 30 minutes, then pat it dry with a paper towel.
- In a large soup plate or bowl stir together panko, parmesan cheese, salt, garlic powder and Italian seasoning.
- Drench the eggplant slices in lightly beaten eggs and place in the panko parmesan mixture to coat on both sides. Work with all 8 slices until they are well coated.
- Preheat the air fryer to 380 degrees Fahrenheit for a couple minutes. Spray with oil or non-stick spray and place 4 eggplant slices in one layer.
- Air fry for 8 minutes. Next, top with a little marinara sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Air fry for 1-2 more minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
- Repeat with the remaining 4 eggplant slices.
- Serve immediately on its own or with more Marinara sauce.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place the eggplant slices coated with the panko parmesan mixture on a baking tray sprayed with oil and bake for 15 minutes.
- Flip eggplant to the other side and bake 12-14 minutes more, until golden brown.
- Take out of the oven, top with Marinara sauce, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and bake 3-4 minutes more or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. You can turn the broiler on for that step, just watch the eggplant so you don't burn the cheese.
What a healthy and delicious recipe this is! Such a huge hit here and so simple to make. We love having this for a light lunch or light dinner! Tasty and very yummy especially in the air fryer!
This is the perfect dish of going healthy with style! It looks so great and I can already see that this will taste amazing! Must try this.
this looks soooo good! I have to get an air fryer already!
Fantastic parmesan! Love how quick and easy it is to make it. Just what I have been looking for!
Wonderful recipe! looks excellent and well presented. Going to make it in my air fryer!