I love this vegan eggplant parmesan recipe, which evolved from a vegetarian recipe I used to make when I lived in Italy, called melanzane alla parmigiana.
This vegan eggplant dish is one of those (like all my recipes) that can be tweaked and changed to fit the moment. Add more vegetables or less. Keep it simpler or make it more complicated.
Sometimes I add all sorts of things to the basic vegan eggplant recipe and other times I make it with just eggplants, tomato frito and cashew nut sauce. Today I’m going to add one layer of onion and red pepper in the middle, but it’s totally fine without it too.
So here we go!
Oh yes and before we go on, one thing I love about this vegan eggplant parmesan recipe (apart from the fact that it’s so yummy) is that you can make it in advance, so no standing in the kitchen while your guests have all the fun.
And another thing: this tastes delicious the next day, served cold, too. But not too cold please – best to take it out of the fridge a couple of hours or so before serving or it will lose some of its flavour. (Just my personal preference.)
Preparation for Vegan Eggplant Parmesan
First, thinly slice the eggplants and lay them in a large dish, sprinkling each slice with salt. Leave to stand for at least 30 minutes or until they’re sitting in their own juices.
Meanwhile, slice one large onion and one red pepper into small pieces, if using.
When you’re ready to build the layers, rinse the slices of eggplant under running water and rub well to clear off the salt. Keep rinsing and rubbing the flesh of the eggplant until the water is clear.
Check the salt level by cutting off a tiny piece of eggplant and putting it to your tongue. A little bit of salt flavour is fine, but make sure that there isn’t too much salt left in the eggplant.
If it’s too salty, rinse again and rub the eggplant some more while under the water. After rinsing, lay the slices onto kitchen paper so that the worst of the water is absorbed and the slices are semi-dry.
For the Cashew Nut Sauce
You can use cashew nut sauce for so many different things, so if you already have some in the fridge which you made as a sour cream replacement for example, that’s fine to use in this recipe. You might also like to read this post for the full recipe for making cashew nut sauce.
I like to soak the cashews before making the sauce because I find my blender doesn’t do a good enough job of making a creamy sauce without lumps of nuts in it otherwise. I don’t soak them overnight like some people do, because I so rarely plan sufficiently in advance for overnight soaking!
So my cashews may get 30-60 minutes soaking before starting the sauce.
Blend the cashews, gradually adding water until you get a thick paste. Add a pinch of salt, about half a lemon’s worth of lemon juice and a dash of apple vinegar.
Use the taste test to add more or less lemon or salt to taste and be careful not to overdo either. When you’re happy with the taste add plenty of nutritional yeast. The amount you add is up to you, but I add about 3 tablespoons.
Layering this Vegan Eggplant Parmesan Recipe
Lightly oil the bottom of a baking dish. Next, place a layer of eggplant slices over the base.
Within each layer of eggplant you want to add a little olive oil. You can either sprinkle it over or you can use a brush to lightly brush some oil onto each slice of eggplant.
spoon some tomato purée and tomato frito between each layer of eggplant. You can also use just tomato frito, or you can replace both the purée and frito with a homemade tomato sauce if you have one handy.
In the middle layer, add the finely chopped red pepper and onion (if using) and then cover the whole lot with the cashew sauce before carrying on with the eggplant-tomato layering.
When you’ve filled your dish or used up all your eggplant, pour on a few tablespoons of unsweetened soya milk (about a quarter of a cup full).
Cover the top of the eggplant parmesan with a thick layer of the cashew nut sauce and a sprinkling of homemade vegan parmesan or plain nutritional yeast.
Serving Vegan Eggplant Parmesan
I like to make a large casserole of this and I eat it in loads of different ways. Tapas by the TV, main dish for dinner, or a slice for lunch. Serve with salad, or in winter with roast potatoes and vegetables. You can also cut this up into small cubes and make a buddha-bowl-mix on a plate.
That might include: cube of vegan eggplant parmesan, red rice, avocado, raw spinach with cherry tomatoes, vegan cheese and topped with cashew sauce or vegan mayonnaise.
I’ve eaten this for breakfast, lunch or dinner. (Ok most people wouldn’t eat this for breakfast, but hey-ho, I would!) It’s cool as a starter, tapas or main course. It’s relatively quick and easy to put together and makes an attractive and different dish to give your non-vegan guests.
I have my own sneaky suspicion that this might even be enjoyed by people who generally think they don’t like eggplant. Why? Because it’s just so unique in flavour – it doesn’t taste like other eggplant recipes. And besides, my husband says he doesn’t like eggplant – but he loves this.
Let me know if you know anyone who doesn’t like eggplant who have tried this recipe – did they like it??
Troubleshooting Vegan Eggplant Parmesan
This isn’t an inherently difficult recipe to make, but it can go wrong. No panic though, because it can also be put right again.
- Make sure that you sweat the eggplant as this is an essential part of the recipe. If you skip it, you risk the whole dish. For other recipes I never sweat the eggplant, but in this case it alters the flavour of the eggplant parmesan and it softens the eggplant before cooking.
- After sweating, rinse the eggplant properly. The fact that it is a little bit salty in flavour helps the overall recipe but if it’s too salty, it could ruin the whole dish.
- The eggplant needs the right amount of liquid and oil in order to cook through and be tasty. If there isn’t enough, it will be tough and still look like separate layers instead of being gelled into one.
- If the eggplant is undercooked, even slightly, the whole flavour is sacrificed. It’s essential that this is really well cooked to get to its yummy status.
- If the eggplant is overcooked in too much liquid it can lose its texture and become a bit slimy in consistency – but you would have to put much too much liquid in it for this to happen.
Solutions to Above Troubleshooting
- Always sweat the eggplant until they are sitting in brown liquid that has oozed from them.
- Never skip the part where you check you’ve rinsed them well enough.
- If in doubt about the amount of liquid, check it during cooking. If it’s burning at the bottom of the casserole dish and/or is dry in the middle, add a little more soy milk. If, when you’ve finished cooking, the layers are still separate because there wasn’t enough liquid, don’t worry, you can even cook this a second time with a little extra soy milk to rectify the situation.
- If you aren’t happy with the flavour, add something to correct it and re-cook. No problem. I’ve even cooked this, left in the fridge overnight, then the next day added extra tomato frito and olive oil in the middle (by carefully lifting the eggplant slices) and then re-cooked the whole thing for a second time. And it turned out perfect!
- If it’s overcooked there’s not much you can do about it except eat it and enjoy it as it is!
Vegan Eggplant Parmesan RecipeCourse: Main courseCuisine: Inspired by ItalianDifficulty: Average
This delicious vegan eggplant parmesan recipe can be used as a main dish in a dinner party, as a main meal on its own, as a tapas snack or as part as a buddha-bowl-plate. It can also be eaten cold or reheated the next day. And it’s great for when you’re feeding guests because it can be prepared in advanced.
2-3 Eggplants, thinly sliced, sweated and rinsed.
1 finely chopped red pepper
1 finely chopped onion
Cashew nut sauce (cashews, lemon juice, apple vinegar, nutritional yeast)
- Slice the eggplant thinly and sprinkle with salt. Leave to sweat for at least 30 minutes or until sitting in its own juices.
- Rinse the eggplant well and check that its not too salty when finished.
- Lightly oil the casserole dish and layer the eggplant alternately with the tomato frito and tomato purée (or homemade tomato sauce), lightly oiling each layer of eggplant as you go.
- In the middle, put a layer of red pepper and onion and a tiny sprinkle of salt. Cover with a layer of cashew sauce before continuing with the eggplant/tomato layering.
- Finish with a thick layer of cashew sauce and a sprinkling of nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan on top.