You'll turn anyone into an eggplant fan with these simple and healthy air fryer eggplant fries. They're crispy, tender, and perfect for dipping in tomato sauce.
A few months ago, we redid our kitchen. We replaced the counters, added a deeper sink, put a butcher block top on our island, installed a subway tile backsplash, built some open shelves, and painted the bottom cabinets a grayish-blue. It was definitely a budget remodel, and there was plenty of DIYing, but I'm happy with the results.
Although we didn't originally plan on it, we also replaced our rusting oven after just a few years. The gas oven we ultimately bought has some cool features, though we bought it because of its reasonable price point and good reviews.
One of those added features includes air frying. I admit it wasn't something I cared all that much about. Would I have ever bought a countertop air fryer? No, probably not. But since we have the option built into our oven now, I figure we might as well learn how to use it.
Turns out that air frying isn't all that different than using the convection setting on an oven. Both use a large fan to circulate the hot air. Since we also have that option with our oven, it makes me wonder if there's even a difference between the two settings. At best, it's probably minimal.
At first, I wasn't impressed. Yet each time I attempt to air fry, I feel like I understand it a little better and am happier with the results. From what I've researched, it works much in the same way as a countertop air fryer.
Here are a few helpful tips I've picked up so far:
- Food needs good air circulation to get crispy in an air fryer. Makes sense, right? Air frying occurs through the circulation of air, so if air can't reach the food, crispiness won't result. Crowded food or food resting directly on a baking sheet will end up soft. That's why I place my food on a metal cooling rack that I set on a baking sheet. I also make sure my food is in a single layer and that there's a little space between each item. They make special oven baskets you can buy, but I think my method is working well so far.
- I first thought that I wouldn't need to use any oil when air frying. Isn't that the point? But that's not accurate. I've learned that a light brushing or drizzle of oil over the food helps it to brown. Luckily, it doesn't require much oil (think a tablespoon or two) and it's still healthier than deep frying.
- One of the benefits of an air fryer setting with your oven is that you can fit much more than you can in the small basket of the countertop models. So if you like air frying and it's something you do often, you may want to consider looking for this feature in your next oven and make the process easier and more efficient for yourself.
To date, air fryer eggplant fries are my best creation with the air fryer. These fries come out perfectly crispy and browned on the outside,, while the eggplant is creamy and tender on the inside. I like to think of these as little strips of eggplant parmesan.
To make these air fryer eggplant fries, you'll need:
- Italian eggplant
- grated Parmesan cheese
- dried ground rosemary
- fresh thyme leaves
- garlic powder
- kosher salt
- olive oil
for quantities, check out the recipe card below
Start by trimming the ends of the eggplant and slicing it into rounds about ¼ inch thick. I didn't bother to peel my eggplant but go ahead if you want. Then slice each round into matchsticks. I do slice off the edge of the skin on the two end pieces.
Preheat your air fryer to 425 degrees. Place an oven-safe cooling rack into a sheet pan. Get three shallow dishes and line them up on the counter with the eggplant strips at the start and the baking sheet at the end.
In the first dish, add the flour. In the second, add the eggs beaten with a splash of water, and in the third, mix the breadcrumbs, parmesan, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, and salt.
Time to coat your fries! You'll need to use both hands for this and to prevent coating your own hands in a giant mess, keep your left hand as your dry hand and your right as your wet.
I'll explain. Using your left hand, take a piece of eggplant and coat it in the flour. Now use your right hand to dip the eggplant in the egg. Shake off any excess before moving it to the breadcrumb dish, where you will switch back to your left hand to roll it around and move it to the baking sheet. Now repeat this process with all of the eggplant pieces.
As you go, be sure to space the eggplant fries out on the rack and try to leave a little space between each piece. When you're done, lightly brush the fries with some of the olive oil.
The fries go in the oven/air fryer for about 25 minutes or until browned and tender. Sprinkle some additional salt over the eggplant fries before serving with your favorite tomato sauce for dipping.
Hopefully, at this point, it won't surprise you to know that you need some kind of ability to air fry for this recipe. It will work in either an oven with an air fryer setting or a countertop air fryer. Just follow the best practices for your particular device. For instance, you may need to shake your fryer basket around and fry the eggplant in small batches for countertop air fryers.
That said, as I mentioned, I think you can get away with using the convection setting of your oven if you have that instead. If you have neither an air fryer or convection oven option, you could attempt to bake these in a regular oven at 400 degrees until tender. I've made enough baked vegetable fries to tell you that it works, but know that they won't come out as nicely.
Seasoning: If you want to flavor your fries differently, that's easy enough to do. Omit the rosemary, thyme, and garlic powder and substitute your own spices. Maybe you like an Italian spice blend, prefer Herbs de Provence or want to try something spicier like chipotle powder and cumin. Go for it.
Dairy-free: Can't do cheese? No problem. Use additional bread crumbs instead of the Parmesan. Just know they'll lack some flavor. You could try adding in some nutritional yeast to make up for that cheesy flavor.
These air fryer eggplant fries are at their best immediately after coming out of the air fryer. But if you have to save them for a day or two in the fridge and heat them back up in the air fryer until crispy and warmed through. I don't think I'd save them beyond a couple of days, though.
🥘 Other Ideas
Try serving these fries with Simple Stuffed Zucchini, Chili Rellenos Casserole, or Orange Bourbon Grilled Chicken. And if you love eggplant, you'll want to try my recipes for Eggplant Parm Steaks and Remy's Ratatouille.Print