Crispy Eggplant Parmesan Subs

Best eggplant parm sub sandwichDo you want to know a secret? Eggplant is not a favorite vegetable of mine. There are probably some eggplant fanatics out there who would completely disagree, but hear me out. It's mainly a texture thing. I think I enjoy the flavor just fine, but the spongy, foamy texture of eggplant can be a real turnoff sometimes.

If I don't much care for eggplant, then why in the world would I take the time to cook something with it? That's a very good question. 

Eggplant parm subs (click through for recipe)This summer we've joined a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) from Millsap Farms. For us this means that every week we get a small box of fresh vegetables and eggs delivered to our house. Fresh veggies and eggs make a huge difference in anything you are going to cook (or bake). If you have the option to join a CSA in your area, I highly recommend it. 

Some weeks we receive items that I don't know what to do with. Last week we received a beautiful purple eggplant which I immediately thought, "Oh geez, what am I going to do with that?" But once I realized my main issue with eggplant is the texture, I decided to just try something that altered the texture. These little sub sandwiches are a little twist on the classic dish Eggplant Parmesan. Even if you aren't a big eggplant fan, you should totally give this a try; it might surprise you.

Eggplant parm ingredientsCrispy Eggplant Parmesan Subs, makes 4-5 servings.

1 cup eggplant (about half the eggplant you see in the above photo)
1 small red onion
4 garlic cloves (you only see two in the photo above because we decided it needed more after tasting)
1 14-ounce can garbanzo beans
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro plus more for the tops
1 cup bread crumbs (I used Panko)
1 egg
salt + pepper
1/2 cup flour
oil for frying

You'll also need:
4-5 sub sandwich rolls
1 cup marinara sauce plus more for dipping
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

In a food processor, combine the diced eggplant, red onion, garlic, rinsed beans, cilantro, and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Puree until the ingredients are just blended.

How to make eggplant parm subsStir in the egg and bread crumbs. Use your clean hands to divide the mixture into 18-20 small balls. Place these on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Freeze for 1 hour.

Fried eggplantOnce they have hardened from freezing, coat each ball in a thin coat of flour. While you work on this, heat up the oil in a heavy-duty pot. You only need enough oil that the balls can be fully submerged in while cooking.

Fried eggplant sandwichesOnce the oil is hot enough (around 350°F), fry each eggplant ball for about a minute, flipping halfway through cooking. Use kitchen tongs to remove them to a bed of paper towels to remove excess grease.

Fried eggplant and chickpeasNow you are ready to assemble your subs. Place 3-4 eggplant balls into each sub. Top with marinara and cheese. Bake under the broiler (or just a really hot oven) just until the cheese melts. Top with a little more cilantro.

Eggplant parm subs from A Beautiful MessThese are best served with additional marinara sauce on the side, for dipping purposes. Just FYI.

Eggplant parm sub sandwich from A Beautiful MessI'm really glad we joined a CSA this year, as I feel like it's forcing me to be a little more creative with my recipe development. I also loved getting to know the owner while I got to help on the farm one weekend (many CSAs have an option, or requirement, that participants also volunteer on the farm). Oh, and every Thursday night they host a pizza night at their farm. I know! It's so cute. And delicious. My talented friend Katie Day took some pretty photos of one pizza night. Okay, I'll stop rambling. Just make these sandwiches, guys. You're gonna love them. xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited using A Beautiful Mess actions.

  • I like the idea of eggplant “meatball.” Is it possible though to bake these rather than fry them?

  • Love your recipes! I would love to see some dog treat recipes! I know you guys have a few pups yourselves. Sometimes it’s so hot out, do you ever make them cool and entertaining treats in the summer? I’d love a recipe. 🙂

  • wow, bravo for partaking in a CSA and supporting your local farming community!!!
    I never thought of making making little eggplant balls! They look delicious!!

  • I should try this, because I also don’t like eggplant. I often do like it when it get it in a restaurant, but the spongy taste I don’t like at all. Great recipe!

  • I would have never thought to make eggplant balls! I’ll have to give these a shot. I’m getting a CSA share this school year and I’m so excited!

  • this look so delicious:) I do often buy food that is grown locally…fortunately there are a few villages near my town where I can do that (for me fresh non fat goat cheese is a must)

  • Looks delicious! For some time I also received a weekly veggie and fruit package, all in-season of course and from local farmers. Each week it was a surprise what would be in there, I really enjoyed getting to know ‘new’/forgotten vegetables that way :-). Can highly recommend it as well.

  • Eggplant is not spongy if you cook it long enough. It becomes soft and buttery and almost melts in your mouth 🙂 My parents used to make it and it would be spongy like you said and I hated it; it wasn’t until I started cooking it myself that I fell in love with it.

  • I was actually thinking about that while I was frying them. Good question! I haven’t tried them baked yet, so I’m not sure. My guess is they would work well but I would flatten them more before freezing and I am not sure what temp or amount of time to recommend. If you end up trying it let me know how it goes.

    Thanks! -Emma

  • Holy crap, these look SO good. I really shouldn’t have clicked on this page while I was hungry. I love eggplant and these totally look like meatballs (which I love), so basically what I’m saying is OMG I can’t wait to make these!

    I’ve always wanted to join a CSA. I think I imagined I’d have a big enough garden that I wouldn’t need one. I don’t even have A garden, let alone a big one. Maybe I should join a CSA…

  • I’m on the same page as you: eggplant is a reallyyyyy weird texture to me. Although, most things that I don’t like is because of a texture thing (raisins, bananas, raw tomatoes). This looks delicious though and I definitely will have to try this out!

    xoxo
    Taylor

  • This looks really tasty! Just one question though…Could you start adding the approximate preparation and cooking times to the beginning of your recipes? I think it’d be nice so us cooks can plan meals accordingly! Thanks!

  • I’m actually an eggplant fan, I have to admit. Actually, it’s one of my favorite vegetables. I might see if I can make this into a vegan version. I have to admit, it really looks good! Who knows? maybe I can trick my kids into eating it for once! lol 😉

    Sincerely,

    Laurali Star

    http://www.thesecretsurprisinista.com

  • Am I the only one thinking eggplant falafel here?? Throw that on a pita with some cucumbers and tsatziki, dayum.

  • I’ve been trying to broaden my vegetable horizons, but I still stay far away from eggplant because the texture weirds me out too. I’ll have to give this a try and see if it changes my mind about eggplant. It looks tasty!

  • You can bake them for about 1/2 hr. at 350 until they get crispy.
    Turn them over. I would flatten them a little. When I make
    eggplant parmesan I only bake. This cuts out a lot of fat and
    calories when you don’t fry them.

  • My husband loves eggplant but I’m sort of on the fence about it. Still, I really think these look pretty amazing.

  • I think you totally read my mind! I love eggplants and this is the perfect sub for me! thanks!

  • wow what a great idea for egg plants! i’ve sort of gone off them because they don’t taste of anything but here is a new thing for me to try with them!

  • Really! I think the texture is what makes it best 🙂 But those subs look delicious and will definitely give them a try.

  • I am going to try these eggplant balls.. Eggplant is a very commonly used item in Indian food and we cook it in various ways.. But this is unique.
    A sure try for me.. I have a question.Here in India we do not get canned garbanzo beans and so I have to soak and cook the beans before using.. I want to know if the beans you use are cooked and if the diced eggplant is cooked too..
    THANKS

  • That looks delicious, but if you’re eggplant is spongy and foamy it’s not cooked right. It probably needs to be cooked longer, and salted before cooking. It should have a rich, almost creamy texture.

  • Those look delicious!I can’t wait to try them.
    Another way I cook eggplant, is on the grill. Slice them very thin with the mandolin and put olive oil and spices on them.Since they’re so thin they don’t have the spongy texture as much.

  • What a great idea! I love the idea of making them into a meatball style since regular eggplant parmesan since it can get so messy! I think I’d probably try to bake them as well! I can’t wait to give this a try! Thanks for sharing another great recipe!!

  • Have you tried baba ganoush? It’s Arabic eggplant dip, hummus-like texture but made with eggplant. It’s so yummy! And easy peasy! Roast like 3 eggplant, scoop the insides out, add the juice of a lemon and a half cup of tahini and a couple cloves minced garlic and mash it together. Then make a little swimming pool and drizzle olive oil into it to serve! It’s a great way to get an awesome roasted eggplant taste without the texture. Oh, and with some Arabic chilie (“shatta”) on flatbread, yum! I live in little Arabia in Anaheim ca and I’m a huge fan of the food, hope you can get ingredients like tahini (which is sesame seed nut butter) where you live

  • I’ve always been so interested in CSA but never really looked into any local CSA farms until after I read this post. I have say, it’s really piqued my interest!

    The eggplant balls look divine, by the way! I think adding them to spaghetti like meatballs can work too if there are any leftovers!

  • I made these yesterday and they were absolutely delicious, thanks for inventing and sharing 🙂 also for any fellow UK people, I just used a normal can of chickpeas for the garbanzo beans…I’m not sure if this was right but it worked!

  • Holy moly. These sound absolutely incredible – just like falafel! I can’t wait to try this out – #pinned it!

  • Just made the meatballs and put them on top of some spaghetti squash and tomato sauce, so delicious!! Love them more than any other meatball I have tried (with or without meat). Thanks so much for the amazing idea!!!!
    -Chloe