Chicken eggplant parmesan combines two of the most iconic Italian-American dishes into one. Perfect for nights when you just can’t decide if you’d rather have eggplant or chicken parm, this dish consists of golden fried chicken cutlets layered with marinara sauce, fried eggplant slices, Parmigiano Reggiano, and mozzarella. Sometimes things that are equally incredible on their own and even better when they’re together!
If you’ve ever had trouble deciding between two dishes, why not combine them into one and just have both?!
This was our thought when we decided to create a recipe for chicken eggplant parmesan.
We’ve done the eggplant and chicken combo before in recipes like chicken Sorrentino, and figured this one would also be great.
And wow, were we right!
We gently fried thinly pounded butterflied chicken cutlets until golden, then did the same for the eggplant. Layered them all together with a simple marinara, Parmigiano Reggiano and mozzarella cheese, and plenty of fresh basil.
We think this dish will become one of your favorites!
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Slice one large eggplant lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices. Begin to layer the slices in a colander and salt each layer. Place the colander on top of a plate to catch the water that will drain from the eggplant.
- Once all the eggplant has been layered and salted, place a dish and some tomato cans (soup cans, etc) on top to help aid in the removal of the water. Set aside.
- Butterfly 2 pounds of chicken breasts (roughly 3 breasts).
- With the flat side of a meat tenderizer, pound the butterflied chicken breasts until thin and set aside. Placing the chicken beneath plastic wrap helps minimize splatter and helps for an easier clean-up.
- Heat a large saucepan to medium-low and add 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and 5 cloves of sliced garlic. Once the garlic turns golden, add 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
- Add 2 28-ounce cans of crushed plum tomatoes and bring the sauce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Season the sauce with salt to taste and add 2 basil leaves. After 20 minutes of simmering, set the sauce aside and cover it to stay warm or keep it cooking over very low heat.
- After a minimum of 1 hour, the eggplant can be wiped with a damp towel to remove most of the excess salt. Pat the pieces dry and set them aside.
- Heat about 1/2 inch of olive or vegetable oil in a large heavy pan to 360-370f. While the oil is heating, set up your flour, breadcrumb, and egg stations. In one pan, mix together 1/4 cup of Pecorino Romano, 3 tablespoons of minced Italian flat-leaf parsley, and 2 cups of Italian seasoned breadcrumbs. In another pan, beat 4 large eggs. In another pan, add 1/2 cup of flour. Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Then, dredge the chicken in the flour and shake off any excess. Place the chicken into the egg, and then into the breadcrumbs to coat both sides.
- Place the breaded chicken onto a baking sheet until ready to fry.
- Once the oil is ready, fry the cutlets for 3-4 minutes per side and place on a wire rack or paper towel-lined baking sheet. Work in batches to not overcrowd the pan.
- Set the cutlets aside and move on to preparing the eggplant for frying. The same oil that was used for the chicken can be used for the eggplant, just make sure to skim out any debris using a slotted spoon prior to frying the eggplant. In a large bowl, mix together 4 large eggs, 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, 3 tablespoons of minced flat-leaf Italian parsley, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. You can use any leftover egg from the chicken for this mixture. Pat the eggplant pieces dry, then dredge in about 1 cup of flour (any leftover flour from the chicken can also be used here) and shake off the excess. Place the eggplant into the egg mixture, then let it drain for a few seconds on the side of the bowl before gently adding it to the hot oil. Fry the eggplant until golden (about 3-4 minutes per side), then place on a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate to drain. Work in batches until finished.
- Preheat the oven to 400f and set the rack toward the top 1/3 of the oven. It’s time to assemble the cutlets and eggplant. You’ll need 1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano, 3 cups of shredded mozzarella, about 4 cups of the marinara sauce you made earlier, and 10 basil leaves, hand-torn. Spoon some sauce into the bottom of a baking sheet or dish then spread out the chicken cutlets. Place a few tablespoons of sauce on top of each cutlet. Note: The process written here will yield a saucier cutlet. The pictures were taken from my video where I demonstrated using a wire rack to bake the cutlets and eggplant which will yield a crispier cutlet. Use whichever method you prefer.
- Sprinkle some grated Parmigiano cheese and basil leaves.
- Layer the fried eggplant slices on top of the chicken and top with more sauce, Parmigiano, and basil. Add one more layer of eggplant then top with more sauce, Parmigiano, and basil.
- Top each pile with the grated mozzarella. Place in the oven and bake for 7 minutes to warm through.
- Broil for the last 1-2 minutes but be sure to watch the whole time to prevent burning. Once the cheese is bubbly and golden, immediately remove the pan from the oven. Serve the chicken eggplant parmesan combo with more of the remaining sauce on the side. Any leftover sauce can be served with bread for dipping. Enjoy!
- Salt the eggplant. This is not a required step, but will really help to remove the excess water found in the eggplant yielding a more tender fried eggplant slice. I recommend salting for at least 1 hour prior to frying the eggplant. Once the eggplant has been salted, use a damp paper towel to remove the excess salt.
- Make your own marinara. It can be tempting to use store-bought marinara but I highly recommend making your own with the simple recipe I have listed here. It’s almost as easy as opening a jar of sauce.
- Reuse the oil. To save time and money, you can definitely use the same oil for frying both the chicken and eggplant. Just be sure to use a slotted spoon to skim out any extra bits of chicken and breading before frying the eggplant to ensure a cleaner fry.
- Bake to suit your liking. In my YouTube video, I demonstrate making chicken eggplant parm on top of a wire rack. This method allows for the chicken cutlet to stay on the crispier side. If you like your cutlet on the saucier side, please follow the instructions in the recipe card. We love it both ways and it really depends on your personal preference at that exact moment!
More iconic Italian-American dishes we know you’ll love
Chicken eggplant parm may just be our newest favorite, but these tried and true recipes will always have a place in our hearts. Which are your favorites?
- Eggplant rollatini – Thinly sliced fried eggplant rolled with creamy ricotta and topped with marinara.
- Chicken parmesan – The classic of fried chicken cutlets topped with marinara, mozzarella, and Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Sicilian style eggplant parmigiana – This version omits the breadcrumbs and flour for a lighter version that is full of eggplant flavor.
- Neapolitan Eggplant parmesan – eggplant discs battered with flour, egg, and Pecorino and layered with marinara, cheese, and basil.
- Chicken Marsala – Chicken cutlets with mushrooms and prosciutto in a marsala wine sauce.
- Chicken piccata – Capers and chicken in a buttery lemon-white wine sauce.
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Chicken Eggplant Parmesan
For the marinara sauce
- 5 cloves garlic sliced
- 2 28 ounce cans crushed plum tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- salt to taste
- 2 basil leaves
For the chicken
- 2 cups olive or vegetable oil or enough to fill up pan at least 1/2-inch high
- 2 pounds chicken breast butterflied and pounded flat
- 1/2 cup flour for dredging only
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- 3 tablespoons Italian flat-leaf parsley minced
- 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano grated
For the eggplant
- 1 large eggplant sliced lengthwise 1/4-inch thick or less, salted for 1 plus hours – see notes below
- 1 cup flour for dredging only
- 4 large eggs
- 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano grated
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 tablespoons Italian flat-leaf parsley minced
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano grated
- 3 cups mozzarella shredded
- 4 cups marinara sauce from recipe above
- 10 basil leaves hand torn
Salt the eggplant
- Salt the eggplant slices then place in a colander to drain with a plate beneath. Also, place a plate on top of the eggplant and a weight (canned tomatoes work well) to aid in water removal. After a minimum of 1 hour, wipe the pieces with a damp towel to remove most of the excess salt. Pat the pieces dry. They are now ready for frying.
Make the marinara sauce
- Heat a large sauce pan to medium-low and add the olive oil and garlic.
- Once the garlic turns golden (about 2-3 minutes) add the red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the tomatoes and bring the sauce to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
- Season the sauce with salt to taste and add the basil leaves. After 20 minutes of simmering, set the sauce aside covered to keep warm or keep it cooking over very low heat.
Fry the chicken cutlets
- Heat a 1/2 inch of olive or vegetable oil in a large heavy pan to 360-370f. While the oil is heating up, mix together the breadcrumbs, Pecorino, and parsley.
- Pat the chicken dry then season with salt and pepper on both sides. Dredge the chicken into flour and shake off the excess. Place the chicken into the egg and then into the breadcrumbs. Place all the breaded cutlets onto a baking sheet ideally lined with parchment paper for easy frying.
- Once the oil is ready fry the cutlets for 3-4 minutes per side then place on a wire rack or paper towel-lined baking sheet. Work in batches to not overcrowd the pan. Set cutlets aside then move on to frying the eggplant in the next section below.
Fry the eggplant
- The same oil that was used for the chicken can be used for the eggplant. Any debris should be skimmed out with a slotted spoon before frying.
- In a large bowl mix together the eggs, Pecorino, black pepper, and parsley. Note: Any leftover eggs from the cutlets can be used for the eggplant.
- Pat the eggplant pieces dry then dredge in flour and shake off the excess. Place the eggplant into the egg mixture then let it drain for a few seconds on the side of the bowl before gently adding to the hot oil.
- Fry the eggplant until golden (about 3-4 minutes per side) then place on a wire rack or paper towel lined plate to drain. Work in batches until finished.
Assemble and bake
- Preheat oven to 400f and set the rack towards the top 1/3 of the oven.
- Place sauce into the bottom of a baking sheet or dish then spread out the chicken cutlets. Place a couple of tablespoons of sauce on top of each cutlet and sprinkle a bit of the Parmigiano and basil.
- Place pieces of eggplant on top of the chicken (try to cover most of the chicken) then layer more sauce, Parmigiano, and basil. Add one more layer of eggplant then top with the sauce, cheese, and basil once more.
- Finally, distribute the mozzarella on top. Bake for 7 minutes to warm through then broil for the last 1-2 minutes. Watch the whole time! Once the cheese is bubbly and golden, immediately remove the pan from the oven.
- Serve the chicken eggplant parmesan with more of the remaining sauce on the side. Any leftover sauce can be served for bread dipping. Enjoy!
- Salting is optional, though it’s highly recommended. The salt removes excess water from the eggplant which helps achieve a better fry. Make sure to remove the salt before frying. Wipe the eggplant with a damp towel or run them under water. Either way, make sure to thoroughly dry the pieces before dredging and frying.
- After frying be sure to let drain on a wire rack or paper towels. In addition, make sure to blot any excess oil from the eggplant before assembling the parmigiana.
- Extra sauce is great to serve on the side. Leftover sauce can be saved for up to 5 days in the fridge or frozen for up to 6 months.
- Leftovers can be saved in the fridge for up to 3 days and can be reheated in the oven at 350f until warm.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.