Marinara Stuffed Roasted Eggplant: A Healthy Vegan Pizza Alternative

Here’s the situation:

When your dearly beloved tells you in one breath that these things are great because they 1. taste like pizza and 2. the “Parmesan stuff” on top is super good, you do a happy dance and put these on the menu again for next week.

And of course, this is because 1. they are most definitely not pizza (it’s an eggplant) and 2. there is not a trace of cheese involved at all. Cha-ching!

Stuffed vegan marinara and Parmesan eggplant on a white plate with spinach and walnuts, printed with white and orange text.

I was happily oblivious to eggplant’s existence for the entirety of my childhood, and only knew of it as “the nasty stuff my grandmother used to make my dad eat,” or something along those lines. And then everyone likes to talk about how it’s bitter, how it tastes funny, yadda yadda yadda.

Top down, slightly oblique view of Japanese eggplant halves on a rimmed baking sheet.

I have since learned that eggplant, when handled properly (or even improperly most of the time), is freaking delicious and no child should ever be deprived of its existence. Such a hard life I lived!

A vegan Parmesan substitute made with nutritional yeast and walnut pieces in a small glass mixing bowl.

But no, really – I’m a huge fan. I recently made some pasta for you guys that was darn good, despite the ugly pictures (even though the Pinterest world seemed to think they are okay – funny how that happens…). I’ve also immensely enjoyed it grilled, wrapped around other grilled veggies, and served simply over polenta. YUM.

Top-down closely cropped view of half of a rimmed baking sheet topped with homemade marinara stuffed eggplant.

But apparently, when you top it with some marinara sauce and nutritional yeast, it becomes pizza. Yep, pizza.

And even though I laughed at AJ with my mouth full (because that’s what we attractive engaged gals do to impress our fiancés), he was totally right. It did taste like pizza. And the topping tasted like real-deal Parmesan was involved. Woot!

Oblique view of two eggplant halves stuffed with marinara sauce and topped with a vegan Parmesan cheese. The halves are laying on a bed of greens on a white ceramic plate.

When I first made these, the only thing available was 1.5-foot-long Chinese eggplant. Totally not ideal, but they did the job.

I recommend using the smaller Japanese eggplants that are usually about 6 to 8 inches long. They are much easier to prep, and the flesh is more suitable for mashing.

Closeup top-down view of two eggplant halves laying on a bed of spinach on a white porcelain plate. The halves have been stuffed with marinara and topped with a vegan-friendly Parmesan replacement that is made of nutritional yeast and walnuts.

These are super delicious served over some rice and fresh spinach, although other grains will do. You can also make these gluten free by using gluten-free breadcrumbs, although I haven’t personally tried this. If you do, let me know how it turns out!

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Close up of two halves of a marinara stuffed and roasted eggplant halves on a bed of leaf lettuce.

Vegan Marinara Stuffed Roasted Eggplant

  • Author: Raquel Smith
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


A super easy roasted eggplant dish that tastes like pizza, without all the calories! A vegan Parmesan mixture piled on top of marinara sauce and stuffed into eggplant halves makes for an awesome meatless meal.


  • 4 Japanese eggplant (7-8″ long)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • Juice of 1/2 small lemon (about 1 1/2 Tbsp)
  • 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 1 Serrano pepper, chopped
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs, gluten free if necessary
  • pinch salt


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut the eggplant lengthwise in half, straight through the stem. Score the flesh in a diamond pattern, as shown in the picture above.
  2. Place the eggplant on a baking pan and drizzle with olive oil. I used about 1/4 cup, but the measurement doesn’t have to be exact. It soaks in a lot and very quickly, so don’t be shy. Bake for 30 minutes or so, then remove from the oven.
  3. While the eggplant bakes, combine the marinara sauce, lemon juice, cherry tomatoes, and Serrano pepper in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the walnuts, nutritional yeast, breadcrumbs, and salt.
  5. Remove eggplant from the oven. Gently smash the flesh in each half with the back of a fork. Spoon the marinara mixture over the eggplant, dividing it equally between all 8 halves. Top with a generous amount of the walnut mixture, also divided equally between the 8 halves.
  6. Return to the oven and bake for another 12 minutes, until the topping is a bit crunchy. Serve immediately, with some rice or another grain of your choice on the side.
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 45 mins
  • Category: Vegetables
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: eggplant, marinara, vegan, Italian

What about you? How do you like your eggplant? If you prefer meat, Foodal has a hearty recipe for beef-stuffed eggplant! Tell us about your cooking techniques down in the comments below.

And if you’ve made this recipe, please give it a rating while you’re there!

And for another veggie alternative to pizza, try our Cauliflower Crust or Easy Pizza Potatoes. Use your favorite toppings! But if you really miss the taste of traditional pizza ingredients, and don’t want to go crazy on the calories, try our mini pizza bites or pizza pockets.

And here are some more excellent eggplant recipes:

Photos by Raquel Smith, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on September 5, 2014. Last updated: October 16, 2023 at 10:47 am.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Raquel Smith

Raquel is a whole foods enthusiast, an avid mountain biker, and a dog lover. She works by day at Food Blogger Pro and formerly maintained her food blog "My California Roots" (now merged into Foodal).

5 thoughts on “Marinara Stuffed Roasted Eggplant: A Healthy Vegan Pizza Alternative”

  1. This looks so good! I never really know what to do with aubergine (as we call it in the UK!) aside from chopping it up and putting it into casseroles or sauces but this idea is fantastic.


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