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Sicilian Caponata is an eggplant relish recipe that showcases summer produce with a balanced sweet and tangy flavor profile. It’s the perfect dish for any summer gathering!

close up top view of bowl of eggplant caponata relish with basil

There are so many parties that happen in the summer. Memorial Day, and then Independence Day is right around the corner! And the next two months will be full of block parties, pool parties, BBQs, picnics, and camping trips before Labor Day rolls around.

There’s almost always something going on; a cause to celebrate or a reason to get together. Which means most of us are always in need of fresh new summer recipe ideas!

Caponata is a sweet and sour Sicilian eggplant relish recipe that I eyed up about four years ago. It has been on my list of things to make since then! With summer officially here and this recipe being full of beautiful summer produce, I knew it was high time I finally made it happen.

front view of eggplant relish with pine nuts and basil with grey fabric in front and plate of crackers

Traditional Sicilian Caponata Recipe

This dish is essentially a rustic stew that’s full of summer produce. The base of this recipe is roasted eggplant and sautéed tomatoes. It should have a sweet, sour, and salty flavor thanks to sugar, vinegar, and capers. Some variations of this dish also have olives and/or seafood.

Instead of following the classic version to the letter, I put a few of my own twists on it.

I replaced sugar with honey, and I use much less than the typical amount. I also added pine nuts for nutty crunch, and fresh basil because it brightens up the flavor of everything else.

Ingredients

Ingredients Explained

In this section I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas where applicable. For the full recipe (including the ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.

main ingredients in sicilian eggplant caponata recipe
  • Eggplant – Use a “globe eggplant” for this recipe (they’re the variety that’s commonly available here in the U.S.). When you’re selecting an eggplant, choose one that’s firm but not hard and feels heavy for its size.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil – Go for the good stuff here!
  • Onion, celery, garlic, and tomatoes – These vegetables create a balanced sweet and savory flavor profile. Don’t skimp on the garlic, it adds a ton of flavor and aroma.
  • Vegetable stock – We just need a little bit of liquid to cook down this vegetable stew. You can use water instead, or chicken stock if you don’t need to keep this vegetarian.
  • Capers – Capers add unique tangy, briny bursts of flavor.
  • Red wine vinegar – This adds a pleasant tart flavor that helps balance this dish. It also wakes up the flavor!
  • Honey – If you prefer, you can use 1 tablespoon of sugar instead of honey.
  • Salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes – Salt enhances the flavor of everything, black pepper adds a touch of piquancy, and crushed red pepper flakes add a hint of heat.
  • Pine nuts – Pine nuts are optional, but add a rich, buttery flavor and delicious crunchy texture. Make sure to toast them lightly to really bring out their nuttiness.
  • Fresh basil – A little bit of fresh basil wakes up the flavor of everything else (and it adds great aroma too!).

Instructions

  1. Roast the eggplant – Toss the eggplant with 3 tablespoons oil and spread it out on a baking sheet. Roast until tender and starting to brown, about 20 to 25 minutes in a 425F oven, tossing once halfway through.
  2. Cook the other vegetables – While the eggplant roasts, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large, deep skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until softened and starting to brown in spots, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and tomato and sauté until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the stock, turn the heat down to medium-low to low, cover the skillet, and cook until the tomatoes are starting to soften, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Combine – Add the eggplant to the tomato mixture and cook (covered) over low until the eggplant is very soft and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Finishing touches – Add the vinegar, honey, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes and cook (uncovered) until thickened, about 2 to 5 minutes.
  5. Serve – Serve warm, room temperature, or cold topped with pine nuts and basil.

Storage

Store this covered in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Recipe Tips

  • This dish is versatile when it comes to temperature. You can serve it hot, cold, or at room temperature.
  • You can easily make this recipe vegan. To do so, use a vegan sweetener (such as maple syrup, agave nectar, or sugar) instead of honey.
overhead view of eggplant caponata in metal bowl with side dish of crackers

How to Serve Caponata

This eggplant recipe is typically served as an appetizer, along with some kind of bread or cracker for spreading it on.

Here are a few more ideas on how to enjoy it:

  • Condiment – Spread it on a sandwich, wrap, taco, or burger.
  • Topping – A spoonful of this rustic eggplant mix elevates the presentation of grilled steak, chicken, or fish.
  • Tossed with pasta – Toss with chilled pasta and add bocconcini and olives for a pasta salad that’s perfect for any summer potluck. Or toss with hot pasta and add a good glug of extra-virgin olive oil and a little freshly-shaved Parmesan cheese.
  • Made into pizza – Use it as a pizza topping along with some fresh mozzarella cheese.
  • As a salad – Serve it on a bed of greens topped with freshly-grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Eat it as-is – It’s a great side dish or chopped salad.

Can I Freeze Caponata?

Yes, this dish freezes very well! You can freeze it in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Wait to add the fresh basil and pine nuts until right before serving.

More Healthy Appetizer Recipe Ideas

close up top view of sicilian eggplant relish appetizer in metal bowl with side of crackers

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Caponata Recipe (Sicilian Eggplant Relish)

Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Yields: 6 servings
Sicilian Caponata is an eggplant relish recipe with a balanced sweet and tangy flavor profile. It's full of bright flavors and summer produce, and is the perfect dish for any gathering!

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Ingredients
 

  • 3/4 pound eggplant diced into 1/4-inch squares
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion or 2 small onions, diced
  • 2 medium stalks celery chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic minced
  • 3/4 pound plum tomatoes aka Roma tomatoes, diced (this is about 6 small tomatoes)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons capers drained and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts toasted
  • Small handful fresh basil

Instructions
 

  • Toss the eggplant with 3 tablespoons oil and spread it out on a baking sheet. Roast until tender and starting to brown, about 20 to 25 minutes in a 425F oven, tossing once halfway through.
  • While the eggplant roasts, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large, deep skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until softened and starting to brown in spots, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and tomato and sauté until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the stock, turn the heat down to medium-low to low, cover the skillet, and cook until the tomatoes are starting to soften, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the eggplant to the tomato mixture and cook (covered) over low until the eggplant is very soft and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the vinegar, honey, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes and cook (uncovered) until thickened, about 2 to 5 minutes.
  • Serve warm, room temperature, or cold topped with pine nuts and basil.

Notes

  • Vegan Version: Use a vegan sweetener (such as maple syrup, agave nectar, or sugar) instead of honey.
  • Storage: Store this covered in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can freeze it in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Wait to add the fresh basil and pine nuts until right before serving.
  • Serving Suggestions: This eggplant recipe is typically served as an appetizer, along with some kind of bread or cracker for spreading it on. But there are a ton of other ways you can enjoy it, including:
    • Condiment – Spread it on a sandwich, wrap, taco, or burger.
    • Topping – A spoonful of this rustic eggplant mix elevates the presentation of grilled steak, chicken, or fish.
    • Tossed with pasta – Toss with chilled pasta and add bocconcini and olives for a pasta salad that’s perfect for any summer potluck. Or toss with hot pasta and add a good glug of extra-virgin olive oil and a little freshly-shaved Parmesan cheese.
    • Made into pizza – Use it as a pizza topping along with some fresh mozzarella cheese.
    • As a salad – Serve it on a bed of greens topped with freshly-grated Parmesan cheese.
    • Eat it as-is – It’s a great side dish or chopped salad.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 188kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 241mg | Potassium: 352mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 598IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 1mg

    Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

    Course: Appetizer
    Cuisine: Sicilian
    Keyword: Caponata, Caponata Recipe, Eggplant Caponata, Eggplant Caponata Recipe, Sicilian Caponata, Sicilian Caponata Recipe, Sicilian Eggplant Caponata

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    This post was first published on An Edible Mosaic on June 23, 2017 and updated on July 14, 2024.

    Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
    About Faith

    I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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    2 Comments

    1. The article is perfect. I love it

    2. Delicious! A lovely summer dish.

      Cheers,

      Rosa

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