SIGN UP TO RECEIVE MY 6 TIPS FOR STARTING A PLANT-BASED DIET.

An overhead shot of Air Fryer Eggplant
30 min or less, Air Fryer, Gluten Free, Main Dishes, Nut free, Oil free, Under 400 calories, Vegan Recipes

Air Fryer Eggplant (Crispy, Vegan, Oil-Free)

Last Updated on

This {30-Minute} Air Fryer Eggplant is SUPER crispy, crunchy and goes perfectly with pasta and marinara, topped with fresh basil. It’s a great option for a fancy-ish weeknight dinner that is sure to impress.

An overhead shot of a white plate filled with noodles, marinara and air fryer eggplant, topped with ricotta cheese.

Eggplant is often on the list of vegetables that many people don’t like. If you are one of those people that fall into this category, this recipe may help you change your mind. And if you already enjoy eggplant, great! You’ll love this recipe even more.

These eggplant cutlets are so insanely crispy and crunchy (rubbery texture not allowed), and are so much healthier than a fried version, being completely oil-free!

Crispy Air Fryer Eggplant cutlets in a white bowl.

The Air Fryer is the perfect tool for this recipe, as it produces an off-the-charts, crunch-in-your-mouth texture that you’ll just love.

Another thing to love about this dish- it reheats SO well. You’ll be shocked after baking and refrigerating, how popping it back in the air fryer will bring it back to life- crispy and crunchy just like the first time you made it. That makes this dish perfect for leftovers- for days!

This Air Fryer Eggplant also goes amazingly well topped with some Almond Ricotta or if you’re nut-free, Tofu Ricotta.

Tips for making this Air Fryer Eggplant:

  • You’ll find that many recipes require you to add salt to the eggplant slices before cooking to remove bitterness. After doing a bit of research (and experimenting), we’ve found this step isn’t necessary. If you are frying the eggplant in oil, this step might be worth it. But for this recipe, you can skip this step.
  • Don’t have an Air Fryer on hand? See the Stovetop instructions in the Notes section below the recipe. Just be aware that the eggplant won’t be quite as crispy straight out of the oven.
  • If you are gluten free (or want to use different flour or breadcrumbs), you have options. You can use gluten-free spaghetti or even spaghetti squash. You can also use gluten-free breadcrumbs and chickpea flour and/or gluten free flour. All of these combinations were tested and work well. 
An overhead shot of a plate of pasta with air fryer eggplant and small eggplants on the side.

How to make these Air Fryer Eggplant Cutlets:

To begin, first prepare the Almond Ricotta (or Tofu Ricotta) in advance. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. 

If you are making pasta noodles, you can start boiling the (salted) water at this time. Then boil according to package instructions, to al dente, and drain. 

Next, prepare the flax eggs by grinding 2 tablespoons whole flax seeds in a coffee grinder. Add to a small bowl and add 6 tablespoons of water. Stir and let sit to thicken, about 5 minutes.

3 photos showing flax seeds ground in a coffee grinder.

Next, cut the eggplant into 1/4-1/2 inch slices/rounds (no need to peel). Transfer cutlets to a plate or flat surface. OR, if planning to bake instead of air fry, add to baking sheets covered in parchment paper- see stovetop instructions in notes).

2 cutting boards with slices of eggplant cutlets.

Next, prepare 3 dipping stations with small/medium bowls…1) almond milk and flax eggs; stir with a whisk, 2) the flour, Italian seasoning and garlic powder, mixed together, and 3) the breadcrumbs.

An overhead shot of 3 bowls of milk, flour and breadcrumbs and sliced eggplant cutlets on the side.

Dip each piece of eggplant, one at a time, into the almond milk, shake off, then add the eggplant to the flour to coat, then back into the almond milk again, and finally into the breadcrumbs to coat. 

A closeup of a piece of a breaded eggplant cutlet.

Place each piece of breaded eggplant back onto the cutting boards (or you can immediately add some to the air fryer and start cooking while continuing to bread the rest of the eggplant- see air fryer instructions below). Repeat this process until all of the eggplant is breaded. 

When ready to cook, add a few pieces of the breaded eggplant to the air fryer (how many will depend on the size of your air fryer). You can use the wire rack or, if for easy cleanup, an air fryer silicone basket (shown below).

2 photos showing crispy eggplant cutlets in an air fryer basket, one with a grid and one with a silicone basket.

Set to 390 F for 11 minutes. Press Start. Check the eggplant about 8-9 minutes into the cooking time to ensure it’s not too crispy for your taste. Remove eggplant with tongs. 

While you are cooking the eggplant, you can warm your marinara sauce. Use a microwavable safe container to do this, or warm on the stove. 

To serve, add a layer of noodles and sauce, a few slices of the crispy eggplant, a spoonful of the Almond Ricotta (on top of the eggplant), and a little more marinara and basil, if desired. Eat with a fork and knife, and enjoy!

A closeup photo of a white plate with linguine noodles, topped with marinara, air fryer eggplant cutlets, and almond ricotta cheese and basil.

Store this Air Fryer Eggplant in an airtight container in the fridge. Note, it will soften as it sits, but will reheat very well. To reheat, add eggplant to air fryer at 390 for 5-6 minutes. 

Helpful Tools:

  • Air Fryer– This 4 quart Ninja is a great one. However, it’s small so you can only cook about 4-5 eggplant pieces at a time. If you have a larger family, you may want to go larger. But keep in mind, they do take up quite a bit of counter space- even the small ones. =)
  • Air Fryer Silicone Basket– This silicone basket is great for easy cleanup. It’s definitely not necessary though.
  • Coffee Grinder– You’ll need one of these if you are grinding whole flax seeds. If you have ground flaxseeds, no need.
  • Tongs: The eggplant can get very hot in the air fryer, so tongs are a great tool to remove them.

If you make this Air Fryer Eggplant, please let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag your photo with #veggie__chick on Instagram. I just love to see my recipes being made in YOUR kitchen!

Print

Air Fryer Eggplant (Vegan, Oil-Free)

This {30-Minute} Air Fryer Eggplant is SUPER crispy, crunchy and goes perfectly with pasta and marinara, topped with fresh basil. It’s a great option for a fancy-ish weeknight dinner that is sure to impress.

  • Author: Christin McKamey
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 10
  • Total Time: 30
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Air Fry
  • Cuisine: Italian
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound), the more narrow the better, as the slices will be smaller in circumference
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk or soy milk
  • 2 flax eggs (2 tablespoons ground flax seed + 6 tablespoons water)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (can also use arrowroot/cornstarch or gluten free flour)
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 3/4 cups panko or regular breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups favorite marinara sauce
  • 8 ounces favorite pasta noodles (linguine or fettuccine works well)
  • 1/4 cup chopped (or chiffonade) fresh basil (optional but recommended)
  • Almond Ricotta, optional but highly recommended (or for nut-free, can use Tofu Ricotta)

Instructions

  1. Prepare Almond Ricotta (or Tofu Ricotta) in advance. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. 
  2. If you are making pasta noodles, you can start boiling the (salted) water at this time. Then boil according to package instructions, to al dente, and drain. 
  3. Prepare the flax eggs by grinding 2 tablespoons whole flax seeds in a coffee grinder. Add to a small bowl and add 6 tablespoons of water. Stir and let sit 5 minutes to thicken.
  4. Next, cut the eggplant into 1/4-1/2 inch rounds (no need to peel). Transfer cutlets to a plate or flat surface, Or, if planning to bake instead of air fry, add to baking sheets covered in parchment paper- see stovetop instructions in notes).
  5. Next, prepare 3 dipping stations with small/medium bowls…1) almond milk and flax eggs; stir with a whisk, 2) the flour, Italian seasoning and garlic powder, mixed together, and 3) the breadcrumbs.
  6. Dip each eggplant cutlet, one at a time, into the almond milk, shake off, then into to the flour to coat, then back into the almond milk again, and finally into the breadcrumbs to coat.
  7. Place each piece of breaded eggplant back onto the cutting boards (or you can immediately add some to the air fryer and start cooking while continuing to bread the rest of the eggplant- see air fryer instructions below). Repeat this process until all of the eggplant is breaded.
  8. When ready, add a few pieces of the eggplant to the air fryer basket in a single layer (how many will depend on the size of your air fryer). You can use a wire rack or, for easy cleanup, an air fryer silicone basket. Set to 390 F for 11 minutes and press Start. Check the eggplant about 8-9 minutes into cooking time to ensure it’s not too crispy for your liking. Remove eggplant with tongs. 
  9. While you are cooking the eggplant, you can warm your marinara sauce. Use a microwavable safe container to do this, or warm on the stove.
  10. To serve, add a layer of noodles and sauce, a few slices of the crispy eggplant, a spoonful of the Almond Ricotta (on top of the eggplant), and a little more marinara and basil, if desired. Eat with a fork and knife, and enjoy!
  11. Store this Air Fryer Eggplant in an airtight container in the fridge. Note, it will soften as it sits, but will reheat very well. To reheat, add eggplant to air fryer at 390 for 5-6 minutes. 

Notes

  • You’ll find that many recipes require you to add salt to the eggplant slices before cooking to remove bitterness. After doing a bit of research (and experimenting), we’ve found this step isn’t necessary. If you are frying the eggplant in oil, this step might be worth it. But for this recipe, you can skip this step.
  • Nutrition information is for eggplant only, and does not include Ricotta cheese, marinara or pasta noodles.
  • For gluten-free. you can use gluten-free spaghetti or spaghetti squash. Also use gluten-free breadcrumbs and chickpea and/or gluten free flour. All of these combinations were tested and work well. 
  • Stovetop Instructions: Place breaded eggplant on a large baking pan covered in parchment paper. Bake at 400 F for 30 minutes, flipping once halfway through. Then set the oven to a high broil, and broil for about 3-4 minutes. Both sides should be golden brown. If not, broil on either side 1-2 minutes, being careful not to burn.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/4 of eggplant
  • Calories: 344
  • Sugar: 7.5
  • Sodium: 397.3
  • Fat: 5.9
  • Carbohydrates: 61.8
  • Protein: 11.4

Keywords: air fryer eggplant, air fryer vegan eggplant, eggplant parmesan, air fryer eggplant cutlets, eggplant air fryer

Hi, I'm Christin- thanks for stopping by my happy place! Here you will find healthy, original meat-free recipes. No matter where you are in your health journey, I hope I can help and inspire you. Read more...

Write a comment

Free PDF

Subscribe to receive my
{FREE} 6 Tips for Starting a Plant-Based Diet + 
recipes direct to your inbox.