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Recipe | Lightened-Up Eggplant Parmesan Stacks

Lightened-Up Eggplant Parmesan Stacks
Eggplant is not a very popular vegetable. In fact, a lot of people tell me they don’t like it–usually this is followed by, “it’s so slimy!” But it’s time to give eggplant another chance! Because it doesn’t have to be slimy or mushy or bitter or any of those other things people attribute to eggplant.

I’m pretty sure a lot of the eggplant haterism stems from bad Eggplant Parmesan. And as a vegetarian, I’ve definitely had my share of this–it’s often one of the few meatless entrees at Italian restaurants. It’s fried, but the breading is soggy. Once you get past the soggy breading, you’re greeted by a slimy interior. And then to make up for the general terribleness of the dish, they add cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. No wonder people think they don’t like eggplant.

Lightened-Up Eggplant Parmesan Stack
However! When you roast eggplant, the texture is completely different. As long as you don’t add too much oil to it, it won’t get soggy. And if you use fresh eggplant (like from your local farmers market!), you’re not going to get any bitterness either, so there’s no need to salt it.

I had originally planned on making this Eggplant Parmesan Stacks recipe with tomato sauce, but when I saw these tomatoes at the farmers market, I changed my mind. Okay, so maybe I made this decision based solely on looks (pretty tomatoes!), but it worked out well in the end. They give the Eggplant Parmesan Stacks that lighter, fresher flavor I was looking for.

Heirloom Tomatoes
The eggplant and tomato slices are roasted before stacking them; this helps keep the eggplant from getting mushy from the tomatoes’ juices. To make this dish lighter than traditional Eggplant Parmesan, I added only a quarter cup of cheese to each stack. And rather than breading the eggplant slices, I topped them with a little bit of panko–by putting it on top, it stays crunchy and delicious.

So see, this is nothing like the bad Eggplant Parmesan that makes people hate eggplant. No sliminess! No soggy breading! And a sensible amount of cheese. Now who’s ready to give eggplant another try?

Lightened-Up Eggplant Parmesan Stacks on plate

Lightened-Up Eggplant Parmesan Stacks

A lighter, healthier version of Eggplant Parmesan.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 1 large eggplant sliced into 12 rounds (about 1/4-inch thick)
  • 2 large tomatoes sliced into 8 rounds (about 1/4-inch thick)
  • 2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. olive oil divided
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 c. roughly chopped basil leaves
  • 1 c. shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese
  • 1/4 c. panko


  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Place eggplant and tomato slices onto baking sheets. Brush with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then sprinkle with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until eggplant is golden brown, rotating sheets halfway through cooking time.
  • Remove sheets from oven (but don't turn it off!) and allow them to cool for about 5 minutes. Combine panko, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  • Take 4 eggplant rounds and top each one with a tomato slice. Top with a tablespoon of cheese and a half tablespoon of basil and repeat with another eggplant round, tomato slice, cheese, and basil. Place an eggplant round on top of this, then top each stack with 2 tablespoons of cheese and 1 tablespoon of panko.
  • Return eggplant parmesan stacks to oven and heat 5-7 minutes, or until cheese has melted and panko is golden brown.


When you roast eggplant, the skin can get a little bit tough. Either peel the eggplant entirely or peel alternating one-inch sections around the eggplant (as seen in the photos).


Serving: 1stack
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  • Reply
    Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell
    July 16, 2012 at 7:44 am

    I’ve never tried eggplant in any way, shape or form, but you sure do make it look like I need to change that!

    • Reply
      July 16, 2012 at 11:53 am

      I had it once when I was a kid–we were at a restaurant and I saw “Parmesan” on the menu and was like, “Ooh, I want that!” And that was when I discovered I hated eggplant. It was only about 15 years later that I gave it a try again and now I love it. When it’s cooked right. 🙂 So all this is to say, if it’s cooked the right way & not slimy, I bet you’ll like it too.

    • Reply
      Dee @ Cocktails with Mom
      July 17, 2012 at 1:01 pm

      Liz took the words right out of my mouth. You really do make it look amazing!

  • Reply
    The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh
    July 16, 2012 at 8:53 am

    I am almost convinced. 🙂

  • Reply
    July 16, 2012 at 9:30 am

    I haven’t had eggplant in FOREVER. Pinning this recipe for later! Thanks 🙂

    • Reply
      July 16, 2012 at 11:48 am

      Eggplant is the forgotten, overlooked vegetable! Thanks for pinning. 🙂

  • Reply
    Jennifer H
    July 16, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    my mom would love this!

  • Reply
    July 16, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    I am so making this!

  • Reply
    Jackie @ The Beeroness
    July 16, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    I’ve had some bad eggplant in my day. I think of it like the IPA of the veggie world, it’s either amazing or awful. But that’s all the more reason to make it at home and get it right! These look really amazing.

    • Reply
      July 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm

      Yeah, when eggplant is bad, it is SO SO bad. I won’t order Eggplant Parm at restaurants anymore because it’s inedible about half the time and I don’t want to take that chance.

  • Reply
    Mary Beth Elderton
    July 16, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    I’ve always disliked eggplant for exactly the reasons you mentioned, but this looks delicious. We love roasted broccoli and other veggies with a bit of olive oil, seasoning, and Parmesan, so I think we might like this, too. Okay…willing to give eggplant another try next grocery trip 🙂

    • Reply
      July 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm

      Alright, if you make it, you’re going to have to let me know what you think. 🙂 Worst case scenario, you can eat the tomatoes, right?

  • Reply
    Carol @ Always Thyme to Cook
    July 16, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    It’s not my favorite, but my daughter loves eggplant. So we’ll definitely be trying them, they look so good.

    • Reply
      July 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm

      I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say eggplant is their favorite vegetable! Poor eggplant.

      • Reply
        January 29, 2013 at 8:44 pm

        Kiersten, I must be weird! I LOVE eggplant. My dad introduced me to it as a kiddie and I’ve eaten it prepared in more ways than I can remember. Thanks for your recipe and photos!

        • Reply
          January 30, 2013 at 1:21 pm

          You are not weird at all! I think when you start eating things early on, you’re more likely to enjoy them. 🙂

      • Reply
        February 22, 2017 at 2:12 pm

        I LOVE EGGPLANT! It is second only to zucchini as my all time favorite. I eat it all the time. This version of eggplant stacks is a little different than what I usually make, so I am giving it a try tonight for dinner. I guess being Italian help with the loving of eggplant LOL

  • Reply
    July 16, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    This looks so good!
    Funny thing, I just made grilled eggplant parmesan for dinner tonight. I love grilled eggplant (and roasted too, of course). If it’s a hot night out, I’d strongly suggest grilling them.
    Those tomatoes look beautiful. No wonder you didn’t want to turn them to sauce.
    Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  • Reply
    July 16, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    I disliked eggplant until my mid-20s for different reasons — because some restaurants would undercook it, making the eggplant firm and spongy. When I gave eggplant another go and roasted it, I was in love. I’ve never found eggplant slimy and I love eggplant parmesan! I like the idea of only topping with panko. And I love Chinese eggplant dishes.

    • Reply
      July 17, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      If you use too much oil, eggplant can get REALLY slimy. I’ve made that mistake before. I really like Chinese and Thai eggplant dishes too–when we were in Savannah, we had the BEST tempura eggplant (although it was supposedly Vietnamese, not Japanese!) and I need to figure out how to do that.

  • Reply
    July 16, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Love these! I made a caprese version last summer with eggplant, tomato, mozzarella, and basil, but I think I’ll have to try the parmesan version this summer, it looks great!

    • Reply
      July 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm

      Okay, I’m going to have to do it as caprese next time. Eggplant is about the only thing doing well in my garden, so I’m going to need a LOT of eggplant recipes soon…

  • Reply
    Brenda Williams
    July 16, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    YEAH! You did it! A eggplant recipe that people will love! How awesome!!! Mouthwatering photos too!

    • Reply
      July 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm

      Well, I think some people still aren’t convinced! Eggplant just doesn’t have many fans, I guess. Sad!

  • Reply
    July 18, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Mmmmm…. I love eggplant any which way. Actually, I LOVE it fried and greasy but, of course, I almost never eat it that way. I have 4 huge plants in my garden all to myself because the veggie haters in my family particularly loathe eggplant!

    • Reply
      July 19, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      Eggplant is the only thing doing well in my garden right now! I think next summer, I’m just going to do eggplant in all 3 beds. Nothing but eggplant!

  • Reply
    July 18, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    It’s funny that you just posted this, because I had that exact experience on my Zambia trip! One of the nights, the hotel had an Italian themed buffet, so I got some eggplant parmesan (since, like you said, it was one of the few vegetarian options). But it was dripping in oil, and the ratio of greasy cheese to actual eggplant was more like 3 to 1. I wish I could have tried your version instead!

    • Reply
      July 19, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      Yuck! I hate that. The best Eggplant Parmesan is the kind where the breading is still crispy, but I think that must be hard to pull off in a restaurant setting (not to mention a buffet!) because it’s so often soggy and greasy. There has to be a reason for it!

  • Reply
    July 20, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    I know it’s not a popular vegetable but I just love it. I love what you did with this version, we’re going to have to try this soon!!

    • Reply
      July 21, 2012 at 11:49 am

      It took me a while to appreciate eggplant, but now that I do, I can’t get enough of it either. 🙂

  • Reply
    July 21, 2012 at 11:32 am

    I actually love eggplant. And this dish looks like a great way to cook it, I need to give this a try soon.

    • Reply
      July 21, 2012 at 11:56 am

      Yay, another eggplant lover! 😀 I can definitely see why a lot of people don’t like it, but I do think it’s all about preparation.

  • Reply
    July 21, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    Those are gorgeous! I love eggplant.

    • Reply
      July 23, 2012 at 10:35 am

      Thank you! I think they’re only gorgeous if you’re one of the few people who actually likes eggplant. 😉

  • Reply
    Kelly @ Texas Type A Mom
    July 21, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    That’s almost enough to make me want to try eggplant again.

    • Reply
      July 23, 2012 at 10:31 am

      Ha! I’m so picky about certain foods, so I definitely get having an aversion to something. But I swear eggplant isn’t bad when you make it right!

  • Reply
    July 22, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    I love eggplant. And this looks like the perfect summertime dish.

    • Reply
      July 23, 2012 at 10:16 am

      With a salad on the side, it’s definitely the perfect light summer meal!

  • Reply
    Mary @ Fit and Fed
    July 22, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    Those are some beautiful tomatoes you got at the farmer’s market. Here in the PNW the only tomatoes at the farmer’s market are still greenhouse tomatoes– there’s a vendor that grows local greenhouse tomatoes for everyone who can’t wait until the end of summer for field-grown ones. I have a bad eggplant story, too, well, more than one, unfortunately. This time I’ll just mention the bad eggplant parmesan that was one of the very few vegetarian entrees available at my college’s cafeteria. This was back in the day before colleges offered more diverse food choices. I was committed to eating vegetarian so I had that not-very-good eggplant many times. You are right about the reasons for slimy or bitter eggplant and the ways to avoid it. My husband and I will eat it again now, but we’re still working on convincing the next generation.

    • Reply
      July 23, 2012 at 10:13 am

      My tomatoes got a bit of a late start, so I’ve been able to harvest exactly one and the rest are all green on the vine–I’m so thankful for our local farmers market! I always know that no matter how badly my little garden does, I’ll be able to get things there. 🙂

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s had those bad eggplant parm experiences–when I wrote this post, I wondered if maybe I was just being my usual picky self! But that bloated, greasy eggplant parmesan that’s a staple at so many restaurants and buffets really is an abomination. I really believe that when people dislike a vegetable, a lot of times it comes down to how it’s prepared, not the taste of the vegetable itself.

  • Reply
    Pam @Mommacan
    July 22, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Another yummy dish. Did you know I always read your posts at lunch time. lol

  • Reply
    August 11, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Just made this and it was so tasty! I give you credit in my post here:

    • Reply
      August 11, 2013 at 8:10 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  • Reply
    June 9, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    THIS WAS DELICIOUS!!! nuff said

  • Reply
    Kristen Beck
    April 29, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    I know I’m years late but I stumbled upon this on google while trying to find
    Vegetarian recipes and this was so delicious and so easy!!

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