Caponata alla Siciliana is a traditional vegan Italian eggplant stew from Sicily. It's easy, versatile and great as a side dish, main or as an appetizer on crostini.
They say that every Sicilian has their own caponata recipe. Like most traditional recipes, it evolves over time and between families.
Generally, it's made of eggplant (aubergine), tomatoes, capers and olives. Many also add celery, zucchini and a little dark chocolate to lift the flavors.
Some people add raisins, other pine nuts. There are myriad variations, but this is my tried and tested go-t0 caponata recipe.
It's an easy stew that makes the most of late summer vegetables, but is now popular year round.
Caponata alla Siciliana a delicious dinner, side dish or appetizer. Plus, you can make it ahead of time and it's freezer-friendly.
Try it as a stew alongside Italian vegan Stuffed Peppers
What ingredients do I need for Eggplant Caponata?
red wine vinegar
dark chocolate (optional)
Tips and Tricks for Caponata Siciliana
- Try it with a small handful of raisins and a few tablespoons of pine nuts added.
- Traditionally, people would salt the sliced eggplant to draw out any bitterness. That's not usually necessary anymore since eggplant and aubergine are less bitter varieties these days.
- For an even quicker caponata, you can use eggplant (aubergine) and zucchini (courgettes) from the deli or a jar, which are usually chargrilled and packed in oil.
- Eggplants are very absorbent, so if you want a lighter dish, roast cubes of them instead of frying.
Is caponata served hot or cold?
Caponata is delicious warm or at room temperature. I usually serve it warm as a stew for dinner, but when I serve it as an appetizer I usually serve it at room temperature. It's even tasty cold as a salad.
Can I freeze eggplant caponata?
Caponata is freezer-friendly. I usually make a double batch, then let it cool then store it in an airtight container in the freezer. It's good in the freezer up to three months.
Let it thaw in the fridge, then warm up in a pan. To thaw it faster, use a microwave or heat it from frozen in a pan, taking care that it doesn't scorch in the pan.
This caponata recipe is naturally vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free with no adaptations.
cIf serving it as an appetizer, don't use bread for gluten free. Instead, try it on small gluten free rice cakes or gf crackers.
Can I make caponata in advance?
Yes! In fact, I prefer Caponata Siciliana the next day. The flavors really get a chance to merge together and shine. You can make it up to two days in advance and store it in the fridge.
Looking for more vegan main dishes?
Try these tasty vegan dinners!
More eggplant recipes
How to serve caponata
I love how versatile Caponata alla Siciliana is! Try it these ways:
Warm as a stew for a main meal. Try it alone, or with rice, pasta or bread.
As an appetizer with small spoonfuls served on thin slices of toasted bread.
As a side dish.
Enjoy it warm or cold.
As a warm salad.
As a caponata dip, with veggies and breadsticks.
Use it as a condiment.
We love it as a dinner vegan stew with rice or quinoa. It's rich, flavorful and full of tasty vegetables.
Caponata also makes a fantastic appetizer. I love that you can make it a day or two ahead, and then you just need to toast the bread, rub it with a clove of garlic, spoon on the eggplant caponata and serve! It's a great make-ahead appetizer or starter.
I also serve Caponata alla Siciliana as a side dish. I warm it up, then serve it alongside gnocchi (try my amaaazing quick fried gnocchi), pasta with peas or with my mushroom steaks for a delicious all-veg meal.
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Caponata alla Siciliana
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 eggplant aubergine
- 1 zucchini courgette
- 2 celery sticks diced
- 1 red onion diced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 14 oz 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp capers drained
- 10 green or black olives stoned and quartered
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 1 tbsp grated dark chocolate optional
- 1 baguette
- 1 clove garlic halved
- Fresh basil small sprigs or chopped
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Cut the eggplant and zucchini into chunks (no need to peel).
- Heat the oil in a large pan, then add the eggplant and zucchini and fry for 5 minutes or until soft. You may need to cook them in batches if your pan isn't large enough. Remove the eggplant and zucchini and set aside.
- Add the celery, onion and garlic to the pan (don't clean it out first) and cook for a few minutes until soft but not browned.
- Add the tomatoes, capers, olives, vinegar, sugar and chocolate. Season with pepper (there is already salt from the capers and olives) and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and stir in the cooked eggplant and zucchini. Cover the pan with a lid ad cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- To serve as an appetizer, cut the baguette into 1/4 inch thick slices and toast each side, then rub each one with the cut clove of garlic. Pile each slice with a tablespoon of the caponata (warm or cold) and top with a sprig of basil and a drizzle of oil. Don’t add the caponata until just before serving.