This Caponata Recipe is a combination of creamy chopped eggplant and assorted vegetables, enhanced with salty olives and capers, and a rich, tangy tomato-vinegar base. It is absolutely flavored-packed! Serve it as a side dish, appetizer, or little nosh in the afternoon.
This dish is gluten-free, dairy free, vegetarian and even vegan, so everyone can enjoy it!
What is Caponata?
Caponata, pronounced ka·puh·naa·tuh, is a classic Sicilian eggplant salad or relish and beloved in Mediterranean cooking. It’s made of eggplant, onions, celery, tomatoes, and salty olives and capers. Naturally there are many variations on this dish, depending on the region or household – typically it’s flavored with vinegar and many recipes include brown sugar, for a lovely balance of sweet and sour. Some versions also include raisins, like our recipe.
This eggplant Caponata recipe I’m sharing today is my mom’s version, which is always a staple during the week of observing the Jewish holiday of Passover. I remember not being terribly fond of it as a kid, but holy moly do I love it as an adult, and make it year-round. It’s a fantastic snack in the afternoon.
What is the Difference between Ratatouille and Caponata?
Many people compare ratatouille and caponata, saying that caponata is the Sicilian version of French Ratatouille. They certainly are similar, both using up summer vegetables and cooked in an herbed-tomato base. But caponata is much more of a salad – really a relish – enjoyed as an appetizer or snack, whereas ratatouille includes zucchini and is considered more of a stew, served as a side. Caponata’s flavors are also more robust, with a combination of sweet (brown sugar and raisins) and sour (vinegar, olives, and capers.) Both are excellent, though!
Caponata Recipe Ingredients
The ingredients in caponata are very simple and common. Each item individually is good, but mixed together, the flavors and textures are incredible. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts with this one!
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- Eggplant – A globe eggplant is used for this recipe. You’ll need 1/2 pound, diced.
- Onion and celery – To complete the vegetable trio, adding aromatics and texture.
- Olives and capers – These two ingredients add an awesome, briny salty flavor.
- Tomato paste – Crushed canned tomatoes are commonly used in caponata, but we use tomato paste that makes the overall taste even richer.
- Golden raisins – We know a lot of people hate raisins. I’m not one of them. I love the added sweetness and texture raisins bring to this dish. They compliment the other flavors so well. Try it!
- Vinegar – A little red wine vinegar adds a delicious zippy flavor.
- Brown sugar – This helps balance out the tangy vinegar.
- Seasonings – Salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes
There are a few subtle ways to change up the flavors of eggplant caponata.
- Use a different sweetener. Swap out the brown sugar in exchange for honey. Use a combination of regular raisins and golden raisins.
- Replace the vinegar with wine. If preferred, you can use white or red wine for a bolder flavor.
- Add in some toasted pine nuts. Toss in some toasted pine nuts at the end for another textural element and added nutty flavor.
What to do with Caponata
Wondering what to serve with caponata? Caponata is traditionally paired with meat and fish as part of a meal, but I think most people enjoy it as an appetizer with crackers or bread. The flavors are are very complex and vibrant, which definitely compliment grilled summer foods.
Should caponata be eaten hot or cold? You can eat this eggplant dish warm, room temperature, or even cold, making it a versatile dish and great for potlucks or picnics! Here are some more ideas:
- As an appetizer with crackers or crostini.
- Part of a charcuterie board.
- With some warm focaccia or as a topping for pizza dough.
- Serve with beef kofta, flank steak, or shrimp scampi. It’s a great relish to pair with honey glazed salmon and baked halibut, too.
- Try it mixed with warm pasta!
- Make ahead. Caponata tastes best the day after it’s prepared to give the flavors time to meld. Keep stored in the fridge and then bring to room temp before serving (or do what I do and eat it cold!) At a minimum, let it sit for an hour after preparing and before serving.
- How long does caponata last in the fridge? Store in a sealed jar or airtight container and keep in the fridge. It will keep up to 5 days.
- Can you freeze caponata? Yes, this eggplant recipe freezes very nicely! Once cooled, transfer to a freezer-safe container. It will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and bring to room temperature before serving.
More Eggplant Recipes:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil , divided
- 1/2 pound eggplant , diced
- 1 small onion , diced
- 2 ribs celery , diced
- 1/2 cup small green olives , sliced in half
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1 tablespoon capers , rinsed
- salt and pepper , to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- Warm 1 & 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a nonstick skillet. Sauté eggplant until softened (but not mushy) and golden brown. Transfer to a bowl.
- Add the remaining 1 & 1/2 tablespoons olive oil to the skillet; sauté the onion, celery, olives, and capers until onion and celery start to soften and become translucent, but still have a little bite to them.
- Stir in tomato paste and fry until fragrant.
- Add in the raisins, red wine vinegar, and brown sugar. Stir to combine.
- Return eggplant to the pan and stir to combine.
- Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook for another 2 minutes or so to incorporate all the flavors.
- Taste and adjust seasoning, if desired. Allow to cool to room temperature.Enjoy warm, room temperature, or even cold – as a side, appetizer, or snack with crostini or crackers.