This crispy eggplant caprese stack is not only visually awesome, but tastefully awesome! The eggplant is breaded with panko breadcrumbs, pan fried to golden crispy perfection, and then stacked high with classic caprese salad ingredients.
Eggplants are one of my favorite vegetables to cook with. They are high fiber, low calorie, that is so versatile. Rich in nutrients, eggplant recipes are the perfect vegetable to still get a hearty meal with no meat necessary.
Prepping the eggplant
Although eggplant skin is edible, it can be tough and bitter so I peeled mine using a vegetable peeler. Once peeled, we are going to use a chef’s knife and cut the eggplant into ½ inch slices.
Next we are going to salt our eggplant slices. It is said that by salting the eggplant, it will draw out the bitterness associated with eggplant. Eggplants are known to not be as bitter as they once were which is great but, I also salt for other reasons too. Much like zucchini’s, eggplants have a high water content, so by salting them we will draw out the extra moisture, ensuring our breading will get crispy. Another reason is we are seasoning it from the inside out. The salt penetrates through the eggplant, ensuring every bite you have later is perfectly seasoned.
I salted both sides of the eggplant and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes on a paper towel lined baking sheet. After the 30 minutes is up, I washed the excess salt and moisture off the eggplant in a colander, and dried each piece with paper towel. You want to make sure the eggplant is dry so the breading will adhere.
Next I set up a breading station of: all purpose flour, panko breadcrumbs, and 2 beaten eggs. I like using panko breadcrumbs because it gives you such a nice crunchy breading. There are already pre-seasoned Italian panko breadcrumbs, or you can throw some dry herbs into the plain panko.
1: Coat the eggplant slice in all purpose flour, give it a light shake to remove any excess flour. 2: Coat the floured eggplant slice in egg wash. 3: Place the eggplant slice in the panko breadcrumbs and cover the slices by pressing the panko breadcrumbs into the eggplant on each side. Set aside and repeat with all remaining slices.
Pan frying the eggplant
In a cast iron skillet, over medium heat add a cup of high smoke oil. I used grapeseed, but just make sure whatever oil you use is approved for frying. I shallow fry over medium heat, not high heat. This ensures that you get a nice golden brown breading and cooked inside, without burning the breadcrumbs. I cooked them for about 3-4 minutes on each side, once the breading is golden flip to the other side.
Once golden brown on both sides, carefully remove the eggplant from the oil and place on a plate or baking sheet lined with paper towels for excess oil to drain. I add a small pinch of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, then proceed to cook the rest of the slices.
Crispy breaded eggplant is SO versatile, you can make sandwiches with it, make eggplant parmesan, but I decided to make a caprese salad stack with it.
If you’ve made my chicken milanese recipe, you’ve tried this simple citrus arugula salad. With arugula, lemon juice, olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, it’s quick and so tasty.
Assembling the caprese stack
To assemble the caprese stack, I lay down some of the citrus arugula salat, followed by a crispy eggplant slice, slice of tomato, slice of mozzarella cheese, two basil leaves, then repeat! At the end, I topped it with more arugula salad, followed by shaved parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic glaze.
Visually beautiful, but we don’t want a leaning tower of pisa situation here. To serve, you can carefully slice it down the middle, or I prefer to just serve the top half to one guest and the bottom half to another.
This crispy eggplant caprese stack is the salad/appetizer that will wow your dinner guests. I hope you enjoy!
Interested in more Italian inspired meals?
- Chicken Milanese
- Penne Alla Vodka
- Spinach and Beef Lasagna
- Baked Chicken Parmesan
- Homemade Bolognese Sauce
- Stuffed Pasta Shells
Made this recipe and loved it? Leave a star rating below!
Crispy Eggplant Ingredients
- 1 large eggplant, peeled, sliced into ½ inch slices
- 1 tbsp kosher salt, divided
- 2 cup Italian panko breadcrumbs
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup high smoke point oil for frying
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1 large tomato, sliced into ½ inch slices
- 8 ounce mozzarella, sliced into ½ inch slices
- Handful of fresh basil leaves, whole
- 3 handfuls arugula
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- pinch of kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
- Freshly shaved parmesan cheese
- Olive oil
- Balsamic glaze
- Line a baking sheet with paper towel and place sliced eggplant side by side. Sprinkle ½ the kosher salt on one side, then flip the eggplant slices and salt the other side. Let the eggplant rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to draw moisture out [see note]. After 30 minutes are over, rinse eggplant slices in a colander, and pat dry [see note].
- In separate bowls, place the panko breadcrumbs, beaten egg, and all purpose flour. Grab one of the eggplant slices and coat in the flour, lightly shake to remove excess. Next, dip each slice in the egg wash. Finally, place in the panko breadcrumbs and coat each side, pressing the breadcrumbs to adhere. Set aside and repeat with remaining slices.
- In a cast iron skillet, over medium heat [see note] once the oil is shimmering add 2-3 slices of eggplant careful to not overcrowd the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Carefully remove from the oil and set on a paper towel lined plate to drain excess oil. Add small pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Repeat and cook remaining eggplant slices.
- In a medium bowl, add the arugula, olive oil, lemon juice, kosher salt, and black pepper, toss to combine.
- On a plate, lay down some of the arugula salad, then place an eggplant slice, stack on top tomato slice, followed by mozarella slice, 2-3 fresh basil leaves, another eggplant slice, tomato, mozzarella, basil, and one last eggplant slice. Top with more arugula salad, then garnish with freshly shaved parmesan cheese, drizzle of olive oil, and balsamic glaze.
- To serve, carefully slice down the middle, or divide top half and bottom half to serve guests. Enjoy!
- Salting the eggplant helps to: draw excess moisture out, remove bitterness, and season the eggplant from the inside out.
- Ensure eggplant slices are fully dried, or breading will not adhere properly.
- Shallow pan frying over medium heat allows you to develop a golden brown crust without burning the breadcrumbs and cook the food through.