I bet the title of this post makes you want to dash into the kitchen and whip this dish up right now. I mean, what could be tastier than eggplant without gooey cheese, buttery breadcrumbs and a broiled and bubbly, extra-cheesy topping? I’ll tell you. It’s eggplant with nutritional yeast, almond milk and almond flour. Yes! Before you close your browser window and vow to never again read any of my recipes, I want to sell you on this non-traditional take on eggplant Parmesan. Thin slices of eggplant are dipped into a creamy egg and almond milk batter before being coated with herbed almond flour (in lieu of buttery breadcrumbs), and finally baked instead of fried to achieve a crispy, meaty texture. Meanwhile, an onion is caramelized with white wine to serve as a flavorful base for a hearty tomato and chicken-apple sausage sauce. Nutritional yeast, sprinkled between layers of baked eggplant and tomato-sausage sauce, lends a mysteriously cheesy flavor. A generous shower of fresh herbs and more nutritional yeast atop the steaming casserole is a crowning touch for this dairy- and gluten-free dish of deliciousness.
While I’ll confess a strong affinity for hippy-dippy ingredients, my eggplant no-Parmesan has been approved by taste-testers more familiar with meat and potatoes than with almond milk and nutritional yeast. I’d recommend just not telling your dinner guests that you’re serving them a rendition of eggplant Parmesan that would make many Italian grandmothers cry. I’ve made this recipe with chickpeas instead of chicken sausage, and, while tasty, chickpeas sort of send eggplant no-Parmesan too far into the land of lentil loaves and textured vegetable protein. Trust me, you may not want to go there! Besides, a little sausage never hurt anyone. Especially when covered in nutritional yeast.
1 tbsp honey mustard
¼ cup plain almond milk (none of that sugary, vanilla-flavored stuff – instead, make your own! If you’re not riding the dairy-free train, regular milk would be fine.)
almond flour coating
3 cups blanched almond flour
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1.5 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 chicken-apple sausages, casings removed (I like the made-in-house apple-sage chicken sausages from the Whole Foods meat counter)
1 tbsp ghee (substitute butter or more olive oil)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup white wine (I prefer something on the dry side. You could also go for red wine, or substitute chicken stock if you don’t use alcohol)
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp sea salt
¼-½ tsp red chili flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp each minced fresh thyme, rosemary and sage
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1.5 tbsp good balsamic vinegar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice (Meyer is great)
Handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
1 medium eggplant (about 1.5 lbs)
½ cup or more nutritional yeast
¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley or basil leaves, chopped
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Grace note: While I list the steps for preparing the sauce first, you can certainly work on the eggplant while making the sauce. I usually prep the eggplant, start the sauce, batter the eggplant, and work more on the sauce while the eggplant slices bake.
Preheat oven to 400°F and line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
Make sauce: in a large sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot but not smoking, add chicken sausage and break in to small pieces with a wooden spoon. Brown chicken sausage, stirring occasionally, until fully cooked. Transfer to a plate and reserve. Turn heat down to medium and add the other tbsp of olive oil if the pan is looking dry. Add ghee or butter. When ghee or butter has melted, add onion and stir to coat.
Cook onion until soft and starting to lightly brown, about 8-10 minutes. Add wine and turn heat up a bit. Cook until wine has almost evaporated. Add pepper, salt, chili flakes, fresh herbs and garlic and sauté for a couple minutes.
Add tomatoes and cooked chicken sausage, bring mixture to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Continue to simmer sauce while you get back to business with the eggplant.
Batter and bake eggplant: in a shallow bowl, whisk egg batter ingredients until thoroughly combined.
Whisk almond flour coating ingredients together in a small bowl and then spread out on a plate or shallow bowl.
Slice eggplant in half horizontally, and then cut thin (¼” thick) slices lengthwise from each eggplant half.
Working with one piece of eggplant at a time, dip each slice into egg batter and let extra batter drip off.
Press both sides of battered eggplant in almond flour, pressing to coat both sides.
Lay each piece on the parchment-lined baking sheet. When all eggplant slices have been battered and coated, transfer sheets to middle racks in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Flip eggplant slices over, switch trays and put them back in the oven for another 15 or so minutes. You want the eggplant tender and the almond flour coating lightly browned on each side.
Put it all together: Butter a roughly 8”x8” casserole dish (my favorite dish holds about the same amount as an 8”x8” but is oval-shaped). Remove sauce from heat and stir in balsamic vinegar, basil and lemon juice.
Put one layer of baked eggplant slices on the bottom of the dish. Spread with a big scoop of sauce and distribute evenly across eggplant layer. Sprinkle with a couple tbsp nutritional yeast. Continue repeating layers until all of the eggplant and sauce have been used. Top with remaining sauce and sprinkle with a generous amount of nutritional yeast.
Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Remove, drizzle with a bit of good extra-virgin olive oil, and allow to sit for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley or basil and serve.