Recipe: Classic Eggplant Caponata

Ingredients for eggplant caponata

Eggplant Caponata ingredients from my garden

The garden fruits of summer are still going strong in September in Iowa, and with ingredients like these in my garden, my thoughts turn to Eggplant Caponata.

Caponata is a Sicilian eggplant relish that combines salty, sweet and tangy elements into one delicious stewy spread. I like it on pita chips. It’s also great spread on crusty baguette slices or served on the side of a protein like fish or eggs. It’s my second favorite way to eat eggplant after Eggplant Parmesan.

Eggplant Caponata does requirement a commitment. There are eggplants to be prepped, tomatoes to be peeled, vegetables to be chopped, and onions and celery to be caramelized. And after all of that prep work, you have to let the stuff sit for eight hours before you eat it. So be forewarned.

But the end result is worth it.

Make up a big batch; it keeps for days in the refrigerator. (It’s best to bring it up to room temperature before eating or to heat it and eat it warm.) You can live on it for a week – eat it with your eggs for breakfast, on your sandwich at lunch, and as a side dish for dinner. It’s a delicious way to get more veggies in your diet.

Prepping Eggplant for Cooking

To draw out any bitter juices from the eggplant (especially if using larger, older eggplants), try this kitchen hack:

Peel and slice eggplant into rounds and sprinkle slices evenly with salt. Transfer to a cooling rack over a baking sheet or kitchen towel and let drain for 30 minutes. When it comes time to cook the eggplant, rinse each slice under cold water to remove the excess salt and blot dry with a paper towel.

prepping eggplant

Prepping the eggplant for cooking.

Recipe: Classic Eggplant Caponata

Recipe: Classic Eggplant Caponata


  • 2 small eggplant (about 1-1/2 pounds), peeled and sliced in 1-inch thick rounds
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ¼ cup chopped green olives
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 pound paste tomatoes, peeled and chopped, with juices


  1. Sprinkle both sides of the eggplant rounds liberally with salt and place on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet or kitchen towel. Set aside while you prepare the other vegetables.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet until hot but not smoking. Add onions and celery, and cook over low heat until vegetables are tender and golden, about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in olives, capers and sugar and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Stir in vinegar and tomatoes and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Transfer sauce to a glass bowl and cover while preparing the eggplant.
  4. Rinse eggplants slices under cold water to remove excess salt and blot dry with paper towels. Cut into 1-inch cubes.
  5. Heat 2 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil in a large, heavy skillet. Fry half of the eggplant in a single layer over medium-high heat until tender and brown on all sides, turning as needed, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet and repeat with the remaining eggplant.
  6. Transfer drained eggplant to shallow serving dish and spoon sauce over eggplant evenly. Let stand, covered, at room temperature for 8 hours to allow eggplant to soak up sauce and for flavors to develop. Stir before serving.

Classic Eggplant Caponata

Classic Eggplant Caponata served with pita chips