This hearty eggplant casserole with ground beef is the ultimate comfort food! No-hassle and delicious, this easy entree will be a staple of your weekly dinner rotation.
Creamy and caramelized roasted eggplants get a flavorful layer of meat and tomato sauce quickly made with canned diced tomatoes and ground beef, topped with gratinated shredded mozzarella and Parmesan!
Why you’ll love this recipe
So easy to make
Yes, it’s a layered casserole but with very straight-forward layers: One, roasted eggplant. Two, ground beef and tomato sauce. Three, cheese (and keto breadcrumbs as an optional crispy add-on). That’s it. One of each!
Fits the budget
This recipe takes only a few, simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry. Ang you’ve got plenty of options for substitutions, for example using chicken instead of beef or different cheese types.
Flavorful roasted eggplant
The eggplants are roasted before assembling the casserole layers, which ensures that their texture and flavor is the best and they don’t get soggy from being cooked in water or in the sauce.
Roasting the eggplant at high heat will bring out its hidden sweetness, and creates delicious charred edges that pack a ton of flavor!
Ingredient notes & substitutions
Eggplants: Italian eggplants or Globe (American) eggplants are best suited for this recipe. They are the best for roasting as they are meatier and have fewer seeds than smaller varieties.
Ground beef: You can use 90/10 lean beef to prevent pockets of fat floating in the sauce. I really don’t mind them and prefer 80/20 because it’s more flavorful.
This recipe is also delicious with ground lamb, turkey or even chicken. Use your favorite meat!
Peeled and diced canned tomatoes: It’s easy to make your own tomato sauce out of canned tomatoes, and it’s cheaper than getting jars of tomato sauce. You can use the same amount of fresh diced tomatoes instead.
Shredded mozzarella + Parmesan cheese: The gooey melted mozzarella creates a creamy layer on top of the meat and the Parmesan becomes an irresistible golden crust of crispy gratinated cheese!
Substitute the mozzarella for any smooth easy-melting cheese you have available at home. Colby, Gouda, Monterey Jack or a pre-shredded blend.
Breadcrumbs: Optional ingredient, for those who love casseroles with a crunchy bread crumb topping. Add these keto breadcrumbs (or regular breadcrumbs if not keto/gluten-free).
How to make
Roasting the eggplant
1. Preheat the oven to 450 °F (230 °C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. The next recipe steps can be performed together to save time: while the eggplants roast in the oven, you can make the ground beef sauce.
2. Spread chopped eggplants in single layer on a sheet pan and drizzle them with olive oil.
3. Roast at 450 °F (230 °C) until the eggplants are golden, soft and with slightly charred edges.
4. Remove the eggplants from the oven and set them aside. Turn the oven temperature down to 350 °F (175 °C) – keep it on to avoid having to preheat it again later.
Ground beef and tomato sauce
5. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté them until they are translucent. Mix in the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Do not let the garlic brown.
6. Add the ground beef, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika. Break the meat chunks apart with a wooden spatula. Brown the meat for about 10 minutes on medium-high.
7. Stir in the diced tomatoes, thyme and dried basil. Simmer the sauce on medium for about 10 minutes to finish cooking the meat and developing the flavors.
8. The meat sauce is ready when it’s thickened and the liquid has mostly evaporated, to avoid a soggy casserole.
Assembling and baking the casserole
9. Transfer the roasted eggplant into an oven-proof 9×13-inch casserole dish. Spread the meat sauce over the eggplants.
10. Add a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese, then sprinkle grated Parmesan and keto breadcrumbs for a crispier topping.
11. Bake the casserole at 350 °F (175 °C) for about 25-30 minutes, until the cheese topping is gratinated and looking crispy. If needed, set it under the broiler for a couple of minutes, just until the top is golden brown.
Remove the eggplant casserole from the oven and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing into squares and serving it. Waiting will help keeping the casserole from breaking apart as you serve.
You can cover the casserole dish with foil to retain heat for longer while it rests if your kitchen’s environment is too cold.
Make it ahead
It’s possible to prepare this keto casserole recipe ingredients separately in advance to save time.
To make it ahead, keep the eggplant and meat sauce separated and just assemble the casserole on the same day you’d like to bake and serve it.
You can roast the eggplants up to 2 days in advance and keep them refrigerated in an airtight container.
The same can be done with the ground beef tomato sauce. The flavor of the sauce will actually get even better over time, as the meat and spices mingle.
Leftovers storage and reheating
Leftovers will keep fresh refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
To reheat it in the oven, transfer to an oven safe dish and place in the oven for about 25 minutes at 350 °F (175 °C).
You can also conveniently reheat it in the microwave. It’s quicker as it takes only a couple of minutes. The drawback of reheating in the microwave is that the crunchy casserole topping will lose most of its crispness.
Freezing the whole casserole
To freeze it whole, wait until it’s fully cooled down. Wrap the eggplant casserole dish in layers of cling film to make it airtight and freeze it for up to 3 months.
Freezing individual portions
To freeze in single portions, slice it into squares. Line a baking pan with parchment paper and distribute the squares on the surface leaving some space between them.
Place the baking sheet in the freezer for a few hours until frozen or overnight. Then transfer the individual servings to an airtight container, or wrap each piece individually in parchment paper plus an outside layer of plastic wrap.
More keto ground beef recipes
- Cheese stuffed burgers: Perfectly seasoned, this homemade ground beef burgers with a gooey melted cheese filling! Easy to make in the air fryer, with a smoky grill flavor!
- Cabbage leaf lasagna: The classic Italian casserole in its gluten-free and low-carb version! This easy recipe is made with cabbage leaves instead of lasagna pasta.
- Almond flour meatballs: These pillowy soft and juicy Italian meatballs take almond flour and collagen-rich gelatin instead of breadcrumbs.
Eggplant Casserole With Ground Beef
- 4 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 2 medium eggplants chopped into 1-inch cubes or sliced into 1/2-inch slices
- 2 small onions finely chopped
- 4 to 6 garlic cloves minced
- 3 pounds ground beef
- 2 teaspoons sea salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground, to taste
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper to taste
- 2 cans peeled and diced tomatoes (1 can = 14.5 oz)
- 1 teaspoon thyme fresh or dried
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 ½ cup shredded mozzarella
- ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs optional
- Preheat the oven to 450 °F (230 °C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper greased with olive oil.
- Spread the eggplant pieces on a single layer and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Roast at 450 °F (230 °C) for 25 minutes, until tender and golden with slightly charred edges.
- Remove eggplants from the oven and set aside. Keep the oven on at 350 °F (175 °C).
- While the eggplants are roasting, prepare the sauce. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat, add the onions and sauté until they are translucent. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
- Add the ground beef, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika. Break chunks of ground beef into small pieces with a wooden spoon or spatula. Brown the meat on medium-high for about 8-10 minutes.
- Stir in the diced tomatoes, thyme and dried basil. Simmer the sauce on medium until it thickens and most of the liquid has evaporated (about 10 minutes). Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
- Bake the casserole at 350 °F (175 °C) for about 25-30 minutes, until bubbly and the cheese topping is gratinated and looking crispy. If needed, set it under the broiler for a couple of minutes, just until the top is browned.
- Remove the casserole from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
- You can substitute the thyme and basil for your favorite Italian seasoning blend.
- Use the same amount of fresh diced tomatoes instead of canned.
- Substitute mozzarella for Colby, Gouda, Monterey Jack or a pre-shredded easy-melt blend.
- Use ground lamb, turkey or chicken instead of ground beef.
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