I'm diving into crispy eggplant rings layered with heirloom tomatoes, melty mozzarella, and fresh basil. Care to join me?
I like to think of this Crispy Eggplant Caprese dish as the ideal union between eggplant Parmigiana and Caprese salad. You’ve got the crunchy breading, but there’s also the classic combo of juicy summer tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and herbaceous basil to boot.
The flavors are amazing, but that’s not the only reason to try this dish.
5 More Reasons to love Crispy Eggplant Caprese:
- Ready in 30 minutes
- Made in one skillet
- A great way to use seasonal produce
- Add pasta to make it a complete meal
- Weeknight friendly but also good for a party
So...have I convinced you to try it yet?
How to Make Crispy Eggplant Caprese:
The first step is making the breading for the crispy eggplant.
Stir panko breadcrumbs (you could also use Italian-style here, too), flour (I use whole wheat), dry oregano, garlic and onion powders, and salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. You want the bowl to be wide enough to fit the largest eggplant ring you’ll be dipping inside.
Set your bowl of breading next to a second bowl that contains a beaten egg (assembly line-style). Then preheat an oven-safe skillet over medium heat and pour in enough oil to fully coat the bottom of the pan.
Take a piece of eggplant and dip it into the bowl with the beaten egg. Try to get the piece as evenly coated as possible, since the egg acts like a glue that sticks the breading to the eggplant.
Next, dip the egg-coated eggplant in the bowl with the breading batter and move it around until it’s fully coated.
Transfer the breaded eggplant to your skillet, and cook 2-3 minutes each side. Depending on the size of your skillet, you may need to complete this step in batches. Leave enough space (at least an inch or so) in between the eggplant pieces in the skillet and cool them on a towel-lined plate afterward so they stay nice and crispy.
Once cooked, flip on the broiler and layer up your skillet with the eggplant pieces and all the Caprese fixings—fresh tomato, mozzarella, and basil. Stick the skillet in the oven and broil until the cheese melts. Watch closely because this part only takes a few minutes!
What is the best type of eggplant to use for this recipe?
You could technically use any type of eggplant (Italian, graffiti, Japanese) for this recipe, but I stuck with the Mediterranean theme and chose the purple Italian eggplant.
Another thing to keep in mind is the size of the eggplant.
Larger eggplants typically have tougher skin (you can get around this by peeling it first). It can also be more difficult to cook eggplant rings in the same skillet when the pieces are very large. For this reason, I recommend picking a small or medium-sized eggplant for this recipe if you have the option.
What if I don’t have an oven-safe skillet?
You can still make this recipe even if you don’t have an oven-safe skillet.
Cook the crispy eggplant according to the recipe directions, but then transfer the pieces to a glass or ceramic baking dish and layer with the remaining ingredients before broiling.
What’s the best way to serve Crispy Eggplant Caprese?
This recipe can be eaten as a side dish or as an entree if you serve it with pasta. I like whole wheat spaghetti, but you could also use lentil- or chickpea-based pastas if you’re looking for a little more protein.
Mediterranean-inspired recipes to try with this Crispy Eggplant Caprese:
- Blended meatballs
- Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Strata
- Pan-Fried Asparagus with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Crispy Feta
- Tomato Barley Soup with Cheesy Herb Roasted Chickpeas
- Spinach Cacio e Pepe
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons dry oregano
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- Salt and pepper
- 1 egg
- 1 medium eggplant, sliced into ½-inch rings (see note)
- Grapeseed oil to coat pan
- 1 large heirloom tomato, sliced (1 cup)
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
- 12 large basil leaves
- Fresh basil
- Crushed red pepper
- Dry oregano
- Cooked pasta (such as whole wheat spaghetti)
Stir panko breadcrumbs, whole wheat flour, dry oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Beat egg in another bowl and set next to breadcrumb mixture. (Both bowls should be wide enough to fit the largest eggplant ring.)
Heat an oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Pour grapeseed oil into the skillet and tilt until the surface is fully coated.
Dip a piece of eggplant in the beaten egg until it’s fully coated. Transfer to the breadcrumb mixture and dredge until evenly coated. Place breaded eggplant in skillet and cook 3 minutes, or until bottoms begins to brown. Flip and cook 2 additional minutes, or until the eggplant is crispy and browned on both sides. Repeat with remaining eggplant rings, cooking in batches if needed (there should be eat least one inch of space in between the rings while they’re cooking). Cool cooked eggplant rings on a towel-lined plate. Adjust heat on the stove and add more grapeseed oil to coat the pan as needed.
Once all the eggplant is cooked, wipe out any remaining breadcrumbs in the skillet and turn the oven broiler on high.
Spread a single layer of sliced tomato on the bottom of the skillet. Layer cooked eggplant, sliced mozzårella, fresh basil leaves, and remaining tomato slices on top.
Place skillet on the center rack of the oven and broil 3 minutes, or until cheese melts.
Remove skillet from the oven and garnish with additional fresh basil, crushed red pepper, and dry oregano if desired.
Serve with cooked pasta (such as whole wheat spaghetti) if desired.
Eggplant skin is totally edible but sometimes has a tough texture. Peel skin before slicing the eggplant into rings if desired. Large eggplants typically have tougher skin than smaller eggplants.
Serve immediately for crispiest results.
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