Eggplant caponata is a delicious simple appetizer made of roasted eggplant, tomatoes, and olives seasoned with red wine vinegar, capers, and fresh herbs. Sometimes called Italian ratatouille this sweet-and-sour appetizer is brimming with Italian flavor and perfect served at room temperature as a bruschetta topping.
This easy classic Mediterranean dish is perfect to make when produce is at its prime. Most of the ingredients are available at grocery stores year round making is flavor-packed appetizer to serve with crusty bread or other antipasto items any time. The bold flavors are exciting and delicious. It’s a versatile dish with tangy flavors that make it a delicious appetizer.
Eggplant caponata is a regional dish that is made in many different versions. Most are from Sicily or Tuscany and within those areas there are more than 40 known versions. They vary in whether they are made with peeled or unpeeled eggplant, whether the eggplant is roasted or pan fried, using fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes or tomato paste. The sweetness may be heightened by adding golden raisins in some versions. You get the idea.
It’s best served at room temperature or cold (great for a picnic) and is better the next day after making (or even the second or third day) when the flavors have had a chance to blend together. The bright, slightly sour or briney flavors make it a great relish for rich, fattier cuts of meat like steak or lamb too. It’s an easy recipe for a classic Siciillian appetizer that is really the star of the show.
Recipe Ingredients Notes
Eggplant. You’ll use 1.5 pounds eggplant (approximately 2 medium-large eggplants, cut into ½” cubes. It does not need to be peeled. You can use multiple eggplants if needed. If you want to peel it you can but you really won’t notice the peel when the dish is cooked.
Canned diced tomatoes. These are easy and deliver a classic tomato flavor. You can use regular diced tomatoes or petite diced tomatoes. You’ll need one 14-ounce can.
Olives. Pitted green olives are traditional. Black olives can also be used.
Granulated sugar. Our version uses just a touch of sugar so it’s not overly sweet.
Capers. We suggest using capers stored in brine versus those in salt. If using capes in salt be sure to rinse them before adding to the recipe. The briny capers punch up the flavor of authentic caponata.
Onion, celery and garlic. This holy trinity of fresh vegetables is found in most homemade caponata recipes. They give lots of flavor to this Italian dish.
How to make Eggplant Caponata
STEP 1. Roast the eggplant
Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a large baking sheet pan with parchment paper.
Place the cubed eggplant on the baking sheet and drizzle over 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Roast the eggplant for 18-20 minutes, or until it is fork tender.
STEP 2. Make the caponata
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Next add the celery and onion. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Next add the tomatoes, olives, capers, vinegar, sugar, parsley, and Italian seasoning. Stir to combine.
While this caponata is delicious hot, it is most often served at room temperature.
Olives. As mentioned before there are many many versions of caponata. Using olives to give more sour flavors is certainly one. Feel free to add some. We suggest pitted green olives which are traditional. Black olives can also be used.
Add some spice. Adding some red pepper flakes at the end perks up the flavor with a little bit of heat!
Let it cool. As delicious as the caponata is as soon as it’s done, this Sicilian version of ratatouille is best cooled at least to room temperature before eating. As with many tomato dishes the flavors improve with time too!
How to Eat it
- Appetizer. Serve as a topping on some crusty baguette slices like bruschetta or on herby flatbread. It’s great for parties since it’s a great make ahead dish. It can be made a day or more ahead and will be better for doing so!
- Side dish. It can be served as a side dish with roasted meats.
- Main dish. Use it on pasta in place of regular sauce.
Frequently Asked Questions
Globe eggplant (also called American eggplant) or Italian eggplant are most commonly used. Italian eggplants look similar to globe eggplants in color and shape but are smaller and slightly sweeter.
How to Store
This caponata can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.
More recipes you’ll love!
- 1.5 pounds eggplant approximately 2 medium-large eggplants, cut into ½” cubes (unpeeled)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
- ½ cup diced celery
- ½ cup diced onion
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
- ¼ cup olives pitted and roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons capers in brine drained
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
- ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place the cubed eggplant on the baking sheet and drizzle over 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Roast the eggplant for 18-20 minutes, or until it is fork tender.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the remaining olive oil. Next add the celery and onion. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
- Add the garlic and cook for one additional minute.
- Next add the tomatoes, olives, capers, vinegar, sugar, parsley, and Italian seasoning. Stir to combine.
- Add the eggplant to the tomato sauce and cook for another 5-7 minutes or until the sauce is thick and bubbling. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
- Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.
Use American Globe Eggplant or Italian eggplant for best results. Serve: at room temperature or chilled. Flavor will improve 1-2 days after making. How to store Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.