Nope, these crunchy beauties are not chicken fingers or fish sticks; they’re my crispy panko-baked eggplant tenders! And nope, they don’t taste like chicken fingers or fish sticks; they taste like crispy panko-baked eggplant tenders, of course! In other words, they are full of plant-based goodness and topped with extra delight.
How do you serve them? Any way you want! Even though eggplant rather than anything meaty is the star, you can still enjoy these tenders as an entrée. They make a fun appetizer or really exciting side dish, too. If serving as your main dish, just pump up the protein elsewhere in the meal. Ideally, savor these slowly with a fork and knife. But, picking them up and munching on them as a finger food is always an option. Hint: These veggie sticks do firm up when served semi-warm or at room temp, rather than hot!
This family-friendly, crispy panko-baked eggplant tenders’ recipe is tasty as is, but neutral enough to be glammed up in endless ways. If you like, do as I do … dunk them into my lemony tahini sauce (see recipe HERE) or arrange on a platter and sprinkle with the lemony tahini sauce, harissa sauce or pomegranate arils, and fresh mint or parsley. More of an Italian food fan? Dunk into marinara sauce or serve like eggplant Parmesan with fresh basil. More experimental? Try Indian-style and serve with a chutney or plant-based raita and fresh cilantro or mint. You’ll definitely find an entirely new appreciation for eggplant with this recipe!
- 1/2 cup (120 grams) plain, unsweetened plant-based yogurt
- 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (105 milliliters) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/4 cup (40 grams) whole-wheat pastry flour or flour of choice
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) water or unsweetened green tea
- 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) lemon juice
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 3/4 teaspoons sea salt, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 1/2 cups (200 grams) Panko breadcrumbs, whole-wheat or regular
- 1 large (1 1/4-pound/565-gram) eggplant, cut into 30 sticks*
- Preheat the oven to 400°F/205°C. Onto two large rimmed baking sheets, place a (cooling) rack. (Alternatively, use one baking sheet and bake in batches.)
- To a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) of the olive oil, the flour, water, lemon juice, garlic, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper until smooth. Transfer to a medium container (without lid).
- To a large container with lid, add the Panko, the remaining 3 tablespoons (45 milliliters) olive oil and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and shake well to fully coat the Panko with the oil. Remove lid.
- One at a time, dip the eggplant sticks into the yogurt batter to fully coat; shake off excess. Then, dip into the Panko mixture to fully coat. Then place onto the rack on the baking sheet.
- Bake (in batches, if necessary) until fully cooked through and Panko is browned and crisped, about 40 minutes. Ideally, let stand for at least 10 minutes (to allow to slightly firm up), then serve semi-warm or at room temperature.
Per serving: 320 calories, 17g total fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 720mg sodium, 38g total carbohydrate, 5g dietary fiber, 4g total sugars includes 0g added sugars, 6g protein (Note: Based on use of all batter and breading.)
*Ideally, trim the eggplant ends, but don’t peel the eggplant (unless you simply don’t like eggplant peel!). Cut eggplant into 5 lengthwise slabs/steaks. Then cut each slab/steak lengthwise into 6 sticks to create 30 total sticks. Size varies, but expect each stick to be about 6 to 7 inches (15.25 to 17.75 centimeters) long and 3/4 inch (1.9 centimeter) wide. If you’re serving kids, you can halve some or all of the sticks so that they’re just 3 to 3 1/2 inches (7.6 to 8.9 centimeters) long. (Note: Remember to compost any remaining produce scraps.)
For more recipes featuring eggplant, try plant-based eggplant-baby bella “meatballs” (see recipe HERE), middle eastern eggplant roast (see recipe HERE) and vegan eggplant “bacon” blt sliders (see recipe HERE).