Make Ahead

Silky Sweet & Sour Eggplant Caponata

April 15, 2013
8 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 8 people
Author Notes

Eggplant Caponata is a sweet, salty and vinegary mixture of eggplant, onion, celery, capers and olives. It's chunky and silky and pairs well with fresh ricotta on top of crunchy French or Italian bread or even fat bread sticks. It can be served cold, warm or hot. You can find many variations of caponata, but this is how my family makes it with the addition of pine nuts for some crunch. —Dorie Colangelo

What You'll Need
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, cut lengthwise and chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large OR 2 medium eggplant, skinned and cubed
  • 1 cup pitted green olives, sliced lengthwise in half
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 5 whole peeled tomatoes (from a 14-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  1. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium/high heat. Add the celery, onion and a small pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until the celery and onions are completely soft and caramelized. Transfer it all with a slotted spoon to a heat-safe bowl and set aside.
  2. Return the saute pan to the stove. Add the eggplant to the saute pan and sprinkle it with a small pinch of salt. Do not stir the eggplant until the bottom layer browns slightly. Then stir and let the eggplant soften and caramelize all over. Transfer the eggplant to the same bowl as the onion and celery.
  3. Return the saute pan to the stove again, adding the olives, pine nuts, capers, red pepper flakes and tomato paste. Saute for a few minutes until pine nuts are golden brown and aromas from the olives and capers are released. Immediately add in the tomatoes, vinegar and sugar. Stir, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden or slotted spoon and let simmer for a couple of minutes.
  4. Pour the contents of the saute pan into the bowl with the onions, celery and eggplant. Mix all the ingredients well, let cool slightly and serve with toasted slices of baguette with or without fresh ricotta cheese.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Big Pot
    Big Pot
  • Megan
  • Bevi
  • Diane Courtney
    Diane Courtney
  • Michelle Morgan
    Michelle Morgan

28 Reviews

anniemax August 6, 2020
This is pretty much how my family makes caponata, except we don't soften the celery quite so much. Also, each batch has to have one or two whole olives; it's kind of like winning a prize when you get a whole one!
Dorie C. August 6, 2020
Oh awesome, I like your whole olive style, I’m gonna try that next time I make this:)
Big P. April 3, 2020
Revisiting this favorite recipe while staying home with eggplant, celery and pretty much everything else on hand. I used a different pan this go around and realized my nonstick ceramic pan from the Food52 Shop gets the best carmelization. Substituted toasted slivered almonds from Trader Joe's and used Castelvetrano olives from Jeff's Garden. Delicious, even without ricotta.
Dorie C. April 3, 2020
Yay! So glad you have all you need to make caponata during these crazy times!
Sanem January 1, 2019
Made this on New Year’s Day 2019 and it was fabulous. Did not use capers (hubby doesn’t like them) or pine nuts (didn’t have any) and it was still wonderful. Cut down the vinegar little bit based on other comments. I think it could’ve used a little more sugar to take out the bitterness. Served over fresh bread with burrata on top. So good!

One question though, how much oil to caramelize the eggplant? Mine kept sticking to the pan really badly and it was quite the clean up job at the end.
Dorie C. January 1, 2019
Hi Sanem! So glad you tried my recipe and enjoyed it! Yes, eggplant can soak up a ton of oil. Typically I add more oil when I see the pan drying up...and if you’ve already added a good amount, maybe lower the heat on the pan to prevent that sticking. Sorry to hear about the pan mess! But I hope you’ll try this recipe again soon! I love that you served it with burrata!
Big P. December 15, 2018
Yum! I sauteed the eggplant in a couple of batches to ensure good caramelization and I used a mix of green olives and Kalamata olives. Ricotta does make a great pairing.
Dorie C. December 15, 2018
So glad you liked it!! And that you got some nice caramelization on those eggplants.
Lina A. August 23, 2018
Add diced yellow peppers and a dash of white wine
Megan November 3, 2016
This looks incredible! Unfortunately, no eggplant around...any chance mushrooms could work in this?
Dorie C. November 3, 2016
Hi Megan, ya know I've done it with summer squash before but it's not summer anymore...I'm thinking chunks of portobello might work if you sear them first to get a nice browned exterior.
tracyn March 6, 2016
Holy smokes this was delicious! I was a bit worried when I made it the night before-the vinegar smell had me worried on how it would taste. I put it in the fridge and reheated it the next day and it was delicious.
Dorie C. March 7, 2016
Hi tracyn, I'm so glad you liked the caponata! The vinegar can totally be dialed down, but I love the acidity. Caponata is also great cold, spread on crunchy toasted bread and topped with a dollop of mascarpone!
Bevi August 2, 2015
Thanks! This came out nicely.
Diane C. December 10, 2014
It came out delicious, thank you!
Dorie C. December 10, 2014
Thanks Diane! I'm glad you liked it!
Michelle M. August 31, 2014
Awesome on it's own, but for giggles I added one swipe of the microplane of orange zest. Holy cow!
Dorie C. September 2, 2014
Hi Michelle, thanks for trying out my caponata! I'll remember that orange zest idea the next time I make this:)
gt1street March 6, 2014
How long does this hold in the fridge ?
Dorie C. March 6, 2014
Hi gt1street! I usually keep any caponata leftovers in the fridge for no longer than 5 days, maybe 7 days max. Thanks for checking out this recipe!
gt1street March 20, 2014
First of all it came out delicious ! And second it kept in my fridge for nearly two weeks and was still as good as when I made it
Dorie C. March 20, 2014
So glad to hear that you liked it and that it kept well in the fridge! This makes me want some caponata now:)
deblenares December 14, 2013
I loved it and so did my family. I'm making it again for a work party this week.
Dorie C. December 14, 2013
Hi deblenares, I'm so glad to hear that you enjoyed the caponata! I hope the colleagues enjoy it at the work party. It can be served cold or warm!
deblenares December 18, 2013
Hi Brookly Salt, an update post-party. Not only was the dish emptied completely, but someone went from table to table asking, "who made the caponata?" to get the recipe because she (and everyone she asked) loved it. Big hit! (my only change was that I did add more sugar to taste.)
Dorie C. December 18, 2013
So awesome deblenares! I'm glad it was such a hit! I think I'll be making this for my New Years party. I hope all your party goers make this recipe a part of their party snack repertoires!
Dorie C. October 13, 2013
Hi ATG117, I'm so sorry to hear that this did not work out for you. I tend to love a strong vinegar flavor, but I could see how too much can be overpowering. If you still have the caponata, I'd suggest sauteing up more vegetables to add to it which might even out the vinegar flavor. I'll test this recipe again soon and adjust the amounts. In the meantime, for anyone else trying this recipe out, add the vinegar and sugar in small amounts and stop once you've reached your desired sweetness/sourness.
ATG117 October 13, 2013
This caponata did not work out well for me and I actually followed the recipe, minus the capers. There was way too much vinegar, which I tried to balance out by adding honey, to no great avail.