For a long time, I avoided making fried eggplant. I had no problems cooking eggplant any other way, but anytime I tried to fry the stuff…well, it totally sucked. No matter what I did, the eggplant just drank up the oil, creating sad, soggy slices that completely weighed me down. It was easier to pretend that fried eggplant didn’t exist than to disappoint myself with the results!
Then, I learned a little secret that completely changed my life: Cut the eggplants lengthwise. Most people cut them crosswise into little rounds, but there’s something about how the eggplant fibers run that make lengthwise slices soak up less oil…who knew! As a bonus, you’ll also spend less time dredging and frying and you’ll end up with more crunchy surface area.
How to Make Fried Eggplant
Yield: About 4 servings
- 1 medium eggplant (about 1-1/4 pounds)
- Kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
- Canola oil (or another oil with a high smoke point)
Step 1: Prepare the Eggplant
The best way to prevent the eggplant from soaking up all the oil is to salt the slices. I know, this takes time and creates another dish to wash, but trust me when I say this step really makes a huge difference!
Slice off the bottom and the top of the eggplant. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices. Place the slices in a colander and sprinkle both sides generously with salt. Allow them to sit for 45 minutes to an hour, until you see big drops of water on the surface of the slices.
Rinse the eggplant slices under cold, running water, gently rubbing the surface with your fingers to remove any excess salt. Place them on a paper-towel lined baking sheet and press into them with a towel until they’re very dry on the surface.
Test Kitchen tip: If you want to make eggplant fries, cut the slices lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips after you’ve salted, washed, and dried them.
Step 2: Get Ready to Fry
Now that your eggplant is prepared, it’s time to get your batter ready! Making a very fine breadcrumb mixture is another key to preventing the oil from soaking into the eggplant’s tender flesh.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together and set aside. Place the Panko, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, and garlic salt in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture if very fine and remove the breadcrumbs to a shallow bowl.
Working with one slice at a time, dip an eggplant slice into the egg mixture before tossing it into the breadcrumbs. Press down firmly with your hands to make sure the maximum amount of breading adheres to the eggplant. Set the breaded eggplant slices aside on a piece of wax paper.
Test Kitchen tip: Keep your hands from getting too batter-filled by using one hand exclusively for the wet ingredients and the other hand for the dry ingredients. It takes some coordination, but it makes clean-up so much easier!
Step 3: Fry ‘Em Up
The time is here to get frying! Choose your favorite skillet (mine’s a cast iron) and heat it over medium-high heat. Add 1/4-inch of your cooking oil. That’s really not that much, but I promise it’s all you need!
Once the oil is hot, add the eggplant slices a few at a time, being careful not to crowd the pan. Cook the eggplant slices for about 5 minutes, turning once halfway through, until they’re golden brown on both sides.
Test Kitchen tip: Your frying oil should be between 350°F to 375°F, but since we’re using such a small amount of oil it’d be hard to get a thermometer in there. To test if your oil is hot enough, toss in a small piece of bread. It should be golden brown on the oil side within 30 seconds. That means you’re ready!
Step 4: Keep Your Eggplant Warm and Enjoy
Since you’re cooking the eggplant in batches, you’ll want to keep them warm while you finish frying the rest of the slices. The best way to do this is to place them in a 250°F oven. I like to use a baking sheet lined with an oven-safe wire rack to keep the slices crispy on both sides.
Once all the eggplant is finished cooking, you’re ready to serve! You can use these fried eggplant to make the best eggplant Parmesan of your life, you can eat them as-is on a bed of quinoa or sauteed vegetables. Better yet, enjoy them as a snack with a side of marinara sauce.