Not only is this Air-Fried Vegan Eggplant Katsu andwich totally photogenic, but it’s a flavor and texture dream-come-true; with air-fried, panko-crusted eggplant, fresh green cabbage, spicy Japanese style pickles, tangy vegan katsu sauce, and a bit of sriracha mayo for good measure.

Japanese style sandwiches have been all over Instagram lately, and for good reason: they’re totally cute! But not everyone has a trendy Japanese sandwich shop nearby to setup a photoshoot, so I’ve created two delicious and easy-to-make sandwich recipes that are sure to help you up your Insta-sandwich game.

Air Fried Eggplant Katsu Sandwich

Delicious and crispy air-fried version of Konbi’s Eggplant Katsu sandwich.

Course: Lunch, Main Course, Sandwich
Cuisine: American, Japanese
Servings: 4 sandwiches
Author: Michael Monson
  • Eggplant Katsu (recipe below)
  • Vegan Katsu Sauce (recipe below)
  • Spicy Japanese Quick Pickle (recipe below)
  • vegan mayo
  • sriracha
  • green cabbage, finely shredded
  • fluffy white bread
The night before:
  1. Marinate the eggplant

  2. Make the pickles

  3. Make the katsu sauce

To assemble:
  1. Spread mayo and a bit of sriracha onto the inside of 2 slices of bread. Top one slice of bread with bit of shredded green cabbage. Add 2 to 4 slices of eggplant, depending on the diameter of your slices. Generously drizzle the top with katsu sauce. Add 4 to 6  pickles, and then top with the other slice of bread. Cut the crust off the long sides of the sandwich. Cut into 3 equal sized sections. Serve filling-side up.

Air-Fried Eggplant Katsu

A healthy, and easy vegan katsu recipe. Perfect for serving with your favorite curry, or in a sandwich. 

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Japanese
Author: Michael Monson
For the marinade:
  • 1 (about 12 ounces) eggplant, cut into ⅓ inch slices
  • 2 charred scallions
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable Better Than Bouillon, or favorite vegan bouillon
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 piece of kombu
  • 3 cups water
For the breading:
  • 1 ½ cups panko bread crumbs
  • ½ cup chickpea flour
  • ½ cup reserved marinade
  • Salt and pepper to taste
To marinade:
  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. On a grill pan or outdoor grill, char 2 scallions until fairly blackened. Add the charred scallions, kombu, bouillon and boiling water to a 8×8 inch glass baking dish (or equally sized heat-proof container). Stir to dissolve the bouillon. Add 1 cup of water to slightly cool down the mixture.

  2. Cut your eggplant into ⅓ inch discs. Place the slices into the warm broth mixture, and weigh with down wit a plate or bowl so that all slices are submerged.

  3. Allow the eggplant to marinate in the refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours, flipping halfway through.

To bread:
  1. To a bowl, add the chickpea flour, and stir in enough of the marinating broth to reach a creamy consistency. Your batter should be the consistency of beaten eggs. Set aside. To another bowl, add the panko crumbs, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

  2. Working one at a time, place a slice of lightly drained eggplant into the chickpea flour batter, coat the eggplant evenly in the mixture, and then place into the bowl of panko crumbs. Gently turn the eggplant in the crumbs, pressing down on the surface and edges so that the crumbs stick. Place the breaded eggplant onto a prepared baking sheet or drying rack.
To air-fry:
  1. Preheat your air fryer to about 400 degrees F. If you don’t have an air fryer, bake at 400 degrees F.
  2. Work in batches, cooking the eggplant for about 7 to 10 minutes per side, or until the panko crumbs are golden brown.
  3. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Recipe Notes

You could also pan fry the eggplant in a bit of oil to achieve a crispier and more “fried” appearane

Spicy Japanese Quick Pickle
Cuisine: Japanese
Author: Michael Monson
  • 1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 scallion or green onion, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake
  1. Bring the water to a boil. Add the salt and sugar and stir until dissolved. 

  2. Thinly slice your cucumbers, and stuff the slices into a pint-sized mason jar. Pour the pickling liquid over the cucumber and seal the jar. Allow to cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate for at least 8 hours before serving.

Vegan Katsu Sauce
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Japanese
Author: Michael Monson
  • 1/4 cup prepared ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce (Annie’s brand)
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (1 to 2 cloves)
  1. Place all of the ingredients in a bowl, and stir well to combine. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.