There are some meals that take you back to special memories or places in your life and this Copy Cat Olive Garden Eggplant Parmigiana just so happens to be one of those meals for me.
Since I was a teenager, Olive Garden has been my favorite chain restaurant, probably because I loved Italian food and my little hometown in Oklahoma didn’t have an Olive Garden or anything comparable so I didn’t get to eat there very often.
I don’t remember at what point I discovered their Eggplant Parmigiana, but from that moment forward, I fell in love with the dish and ordered it nearly every time we ate at Olive Garden.
It was also at Olive Garden that I discovered my love for eggplant since I had never even tried one (I’m not sure I even knew what an eggplant looked like!) before discovering it on their menu. (Side note, if you want to kick this recipe up a few notches, make my Homemade Marinara Sauce and use it for the topping on this Copy Cat Olive Garden Eggplant Parmigiana!)
Easy Eggplant Parmigiana
Every birthday I celebrated since the age of probably 13-14 was always at my favorite restaurant, (Olive Garden) so as you can probably imagine, I have many wonderful memories spent in one Olive Garden or another. Maybe that’s why I associate warm, comforting memories with Italian food and this Copy Cat Olive Garden Eggplant Parmigiana in particular, but whatever the case, I can assure you that you will love this Eggplant Parmigiana just as much as we do.
I created this recipe with my favorite Eggplant Parmigiana dish from Olive Garden in mind, but I also suspect they fry their eggplant and I wanted a healthier alternative.
Eggplant Parmigiana is perfect for a dinner party
I invited my parents over for dinner the day I made this Eggplant Parmigiana so I was cooking for four of us instead of two so I used two large eggplants which ended up creating six servings.
My eggplants were VERY large so if you’re cooking for fewer adults, I would suggest using just one large eggplant instead of two, but hey, if you end up having leftovers that’s always a good thing, right?!
How to cook an eggplant
Cut off both ends of the eggplant (the stem and the bottom) and then use a sharp knife to carefully peel the eggplant. The peeling on eggplants is very tough so be careful while peeling it that your knife doesn’t slip and get your finger!
Preparing Eggplant for Parmigiana
Once your eggplants are completely peeled, place them on a cutting board and begin slicing them into rounds.
I sliced my eggplant into about 1/4 inch thick rounds and set them aside.
How to remove the bitterness from the eggplant
Lightly salt both sides of all of your eggplant slices. Salting your eggplant not only gives it a little extra flavor but it also helps to draw some of the moisture out of the eggplant, which in turn draws some of the bitterness out of it.
I have personally never tasted eggplant when I thought it tasted bitter but some people experience a bitter taste when eating it (just depending on how your taste buds operate!) so salting it beforehand will take care of that.
Key ingredients to Healthy Eggplant Parmigiana
After the eggplant is salted and ready to go, grab two small bowls and fill one with 2 cups of Italian Panko Breadcrumbs and the other with 3 eggs that have been beaten.
When your dipping bowls are ready, grab a 9×13 inch casserole pan or a large baking sheet (baking sheet preferred if you have one) and spray it with nonstick cooking spray, placing it right in front of the bowls for easy access.
Just a little side note, depending on how large your eggplant is, you may need a little more or fewer breadcrumbs and eggs, so keep that in mind when preparing this Eggplant Parmigiana.
How to get the Best Eggplant Parmigiana
Let’s go ahead right here and preheat our oven at 375F. Start off by dipping one slice of eggplant at a time into the egg bath first. When dipping the eggplant into the beaten egg, make sure that both sides of the eggplant are completely coated in the egg.
The Perfect, Crispy, Baked Eggplant
After dipping the eggplant into the egg wash, dip it into the Panko breadcrumbs and roll it so that both sides are completely covered in the breadcrumbs. Just a word to the wise, I highly suggest using Panko breadcrumbs because they will be crispy after being cooked, giving the eggplant a crispy, fried texture even though this Eggplant Parmigiana is baked.
Cooking tips for Perfect Eggplant Parmesan
Repeat the egg bath and breadcrumb process until all of your eggplants have been coated in egg and rolled in breadcrumbs, then place the slices into your casserole dish or on your large baking sheet. Depending on how many eggplant slices you have, you may have to cook it in two separate batches or use two different pans because you don’t want to stack or overlap the eggplant slices.
If you do stack or overlap the slices, the part that isn’t exposed will not get brown and crispy as it should.
Healthy Baked Eggplant Parmesan
Place the Copy Cat Olive Garden Eggplant Parmigiana into the preheated oven and bake at 375F for 20 minutes or until the eggplant slices are golden brown, crispy, and the eggplant is fork-tender.
Now that the eggplant is cooked, remove it from the oven and sprinkle lightly with mozzarella cheese and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, then place it back into the oven for 2-3 minutes or just long enough for the cheese to melt.
Once the cheese is melted on the Copy Cat Olive Garden Eggplant Parmigiana, serve it up with my Homemade Marinara Sauce over the top and an Olive Garden salad on the side.
Copy Cat Olive Garden Eggplant Parmigiana
A healthier, baked, copy cat version of Olive Garden's delicious Eggplant Parmigiana.
- 2 large eggplants peeled
- 3 eggs beaten
- 2 cups Italian Seasoned Panko Breadcrumbs
- 2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
- 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 cups Marinara Sauce recipe linked in blog post
- salt to taste
Cut the ends off of two eggplants, then remove all peeling.
Slice each eggplant into 1/4 inch thick rounds and lightly salt both sides of the eggplant rounds.
Spray a 9x13 casserole pan with nonstick cooking spray and pre-heat the oven to 375F.
Pour the breadcrumbs into one bowl, then beat three eggs into a separate bowl.
Submerge each piece of eggplant individually into the beaten egg, then roll it in the bread crumbs until coated. Place the breaded eggplant into the casserole dish and repeat the process until all eggplant rounds are prepared.
NOTE: You may need to use more than one casserole dish since they will not cook evenly if they are overlapped or layered. If you have a large baking sheet, that would work well too.
Spray the prepared eggplant with nonstick cooking spray - this will help it to become crispy and browned in the oven.
Once the eggplant is prepared, place it in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the eggplant is fork-tender and the breadcrumb coating is golden brown and crispy.
Carefully remove the eggplant from the oven, sprinkle evenly with the shredded mozzarella & Parmesan cheese, and place back in the oven just until the cheese is melted (about 2-3 minutes).
Remove from the oven again, top with marinara sauce (recipe linked in the blog post) and enjoy!