Extra-Crispy Eggplant Crostini

published Dec 9, 2022
Extra-Crispy Eggplant Crostini Recipe

This crispy fried eggplant recipe rethinks the concept of crostini. Slices of panko-crusted eggplant are fried in a cast iron skillet and showered with tasty toppings.

Serves4 to 6

Prep35 minutes to 40 minutes

Cook15 minutes to 20 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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fried eggplant crostini
Credit: Photo: Chris Simpson; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

If the term crostini means “small pieces of toasted or fried bread served with a topping,” as Google says it is, then I submit that crispy fried eggplant is also a vessel for crostini. Panko breading crisps up beautifully when fried in a cast iron skillet, and the smoky, meaty eggplant encased in it provides a delightfully creamy texture and taste. Then there’s the overall presentation, which is as whimsical as it is practical.

For me, a topping of condiments is the best way to serve fried eggplant. It’s my personal opinion that drowning fried eggplant in sauce, a la eggplant Parmigiana, only dampens the breading, creating a mushy, casserole-like experience that ruins the breading’s texture completely. This diminishes the overall quality of the fried eggplant, and also renders the entire frying process useless. However, by gently topping each fried eggplant with a small amount of topping like a canapé, you are able to enjoy the crispy, crunchy texture in all of its simple decadence. 

Fried eggplant crostini make a great holiday appetizer, best enjoyed hastily with friends and family as you all stand in the kitchen, drink wine, and chat before dinner is served. This unusual serving style always gets a ton of interaction on social media from food friends (a measure of which determines whether or not I’m on to a good idea), so here I now share it with all of you. Take these fried eggplant crostini, make them, and bask in your social media impressions.

Credit: Photo: Chris Simpson; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

The Best Type of Eggplant to Use

Choosing eggplants that aren’t too thick-bodied is the best course of action for fried eggplant crostini, as they create the smaller portion sizes that are perfect for serving as appetizers. Although this recipe calls for Italian or globe eggplants, Japanese eggplant will also work great.

How to Top Eggplant Crostini

Eggplant crostini is also a great way to blow out things in your fridge. I have topped these crispy fried eggplants with a variety of leftover fridge ammunition: capicola and chopped pepperoncini peppers, mozzarella and tomato, Spanish anchovies, olive tapenade, and sautéed mushrooms. Still, I find a bright, salty, and funky Italian gremolata to be the best topping to this appetizer. The sharp flavors complement the fried aubergine well.

Extra-Crispy Eggplant Crostini Recipe

This crispy fried eggplant recipe rethinks the concept of crostini. Slices of panko-crusted eggplant are fried in a cast iron skillet and showered with tasty toppings.

Prep time 35 minutes to 40 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes to 20 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the gremolata and other toppings:

  • 1 medium bunch

    fresh parsley

  • 2 cloves

    garlic

  • 1/2 (2-ounce) can

    oil-packed anchovy fillets (about 7 filets)

  • 1/2

    medium lemon

  • 2 tablespoons

    extra-virgin olive oil

  • Thinly sliced prosciutto

  • Baby arugula

  • Shaved Parmesan cheese

For the eggplant:

  • 1

    medium Italian or globe eggplant (about 1 pound), preferably long versus wide

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

  • 1/2 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground white pepper

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 2 cups

    panko breadcrumbs

  • 4 cups

    grapeseed or canola oil

Instructions

Make the gremolata:

  1. Prepare the following, adding each to the same medium bowl as you complete it: Pick the leaves from 1 medium bunch fresh parsley and coarsely chop (about 3/4 cup). Finely chop 2 garlic cloves. Drain and finely chop 1/2 (2-ounce) can anchovy fillets (about 1 packed tablespoon).

  2. Finely grate the zest of 1/2 medium lemon into the bowl, then juice the lemon into the bowl. Add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and stir to combine.

Make the eggplant:

  1. Cut 1 medium Italian or globe eggplant crosswise into 1/4-inch thick rounds (12 to 18 slices).

  2. Place in a colander set in the sink and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon kosher salt, making sure the slices are coated all over. Let sit for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the breading.

  3. Place 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper in a wide, shallow bowl (like a pie plate) and stir to combine. Place 2 large eggs in a second wide, shallow bowl and whisk with a fork to combine. Place 2 cups panko breadcrumbs in a third wide, shallow bowl.

  4. When the eggplant is ready, line a baking sheet with paper towels. Place the eggplant on the baking sheet in a single layer. Blot the tops of the slices dry with more paper towels, you may have to blot in more than 1 round. Have a second baking sheet ready (or stack the eggplant on a plate and reuse the first baking sheet, but wipe it dry first).

  5. Bread 1 eggplant slice at a time: Place in the flour and toss until evenly coated all over, then shake off any excess flour back into the bowl (or place in a kitchen spider or fine-mesh strainer and shake). Dip in the eggs until coated, then shake off any excess egg back into the bowl. Place in the panko and press until evenly coated on both sides. If there are spots on the eggplant that aren’t covered, sprinkle with some of the panko and press in with your fingertips. Place in a single layer on the baking sheet.

  6. Heat 4 cups grapeseed or canola oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until 350ºF. Fit a wire rack over a baking sheet. Fry 3 to 4 eggplant slices at a time: Add to the hot oil and fry until golden brown on the bottom, 2 to 4 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed for the oil to stay between 330 and 350ºF. Flip the slices with tongs and fry until the second side is golden brown, 1 1/2 to 3 minutes more.

  7. Transfer the eggplant to the wire rack and season with kosher salt. To assemble like crostini, top each eggplant slice with a spoonful of gremolata, sliced prosciutto, baby arugula, or shaved Parmesan cheese (or a combination). Eat immediately.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The gremolata can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. Let come to room temperature and stir before using.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. The eggplant slices can be reheated on a rack fitted over a baking sheet in a 325ºF oven until warmed through, about 8 minutes.