Vegan Eggplant Parm – Healthy Recipe

Eggplant Parmesan has been one of my favorite dishes for as long as I can remember. It has a lot to do with growing up as a vegetarian in New York City where eggplant parm sandwiches are in abundant supply. That ooey, gooey, saucy, cheesy sandwich was often a go to option for me, with it’s oily fried eggplant slices stuffed into a perfectly toasted Italian roll that excelled at its job of soaking up a sweet marinara sauce and holding the lightly charred mozzarella cheese in its place. If I went out for a “fancier” Italian dinner, I ordered the eggplant parmesan over spaghetti. It was also one of my grandma’s go to orders and we’d often end up splitting or taking bites from the other’s plate on the rare occasions either of us ordered something else.

Of course while the taste was above and beyond measure, so were the calories. I couldn’t even fathom eating something as decadent as that now. But, since I like to reminisce about past favorites, and it is eggplant season, I just had to create a healthier version of this New York classic.

For this healthier vegan eggplant parmesan, I ditch the breadcrumbs, making it naturally gluten free, and opt to bake the eggplant instead of frying it. For a little extra oomph factor, I add in a simple basil pistou, but since this is the oiliest part of the dish, it may be omitted.  There are a lot of components that go into making the final dish, but the sauces are actually all very simple to make and each contains only a small handful of ingredients. To make it even simpler, and eliminate one step, you can use a pre-made jarred tomato sauce.

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Eggplant Parm
1 large eggplant, about 1 pound
olive oil for brushing, or spray

Basil pistou
3 packed cups basil
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Sundried Tomato Sauce
1/2 Cup sundried tomatoes, soaked (liquid reserved)
1 cup tomato puree
2 cloves garlic
1/2 Tablespoon balsamic
reserved soaking water as needed

Nut Cheese Sauce
1/2 Cup cashews and macadamia nuts (or other combo), soaked
3/4 Cup water, or more if needed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice, depending on how much tang you want
1 teaspoon miso

1. Cut eggplant into rounds about 3/4″ thick. Place in colander and sprinkle with salt to draw out bitterness. Leave for at least 10 minutes. Pat with paper towel. Arrange on parchment lined baking sheet. Brush both sides with oil. Bake at 400 for 30-35 minutes, flipping half way through. You want them to be easy to cut with a fork, but firm enough to not fall apart.

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2. While eggplant is cooking, prepare sauces.

Basil Pistou
Pulse garlic, salt and basil in a food processor a few times to chop. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until combined. Adjust seasoning.

Sundried Tomato Sauce
Place everything in a blender, except reserved soaking water and blend until smooth, adding soaking water little by little until desired consistency is reached. Set aside and rinse out blender.

Nut Cheese Sauce
If you have a high speed blender, you only have to soak the nuts for a minimum of 10 minutes, in warm water. For lower speed blenders, soak 8 hours or overnight for a creamier texture. Add all the ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.

3. Assemble Eggplant Parm.
Top eggplant slices with tomato sauce, drizzle cheese sauce, bake 5 minutes. Top with pesto.  Layer 3 or 4 on top of each other, if desired. Serve as is with a side of greens or a fresh salad, or layer into a toasty piece of (gluten free) bread.

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