This Eggplant Caponata is a delicious Italian relish made with eggplant, onions, garlic, tomatoes, pine nuts, olives, raisins, capers, and parsley. Perfect spread for bread or a dip for breadsticks!

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Caponata is a wonderful Italian eggplant relish that can be used as a spread on bread, a dip for breadsticks, or a sauce to toss with pasta.

There are as many recipes for eggplant caponata as there are cooks! There are two main approaches for preparing it — finely chopped and used as a relish on bread or polenta, or coarsely chopped and served almost like an Italian version of ratatouille.

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Caponata Ingredients

The only constants in caponata are eggplants, onions, olive oil, vinegar, and some sort of tomato product, either tomato sauce or fresh tomatoes or both.

You can also include pine nuts, raisins, capers, olives, celery, basil, bell peppers, garlic, parsley, and/or oregano. Feel free to play with combinations of ingredients to see what suits your taste!

how to make Caponata

Tucked away in funky Bernal Heights, my old neighborhood in San Francisco, used to lie an Italian trattoria which served exceptional Italian food. The restaurant is long gone, but I still remember fondly the eggplant caponata condiment they served with bread sticks that accompanied every meal.

I have no idea if the following caponata recipe is even close to the recipe that the restaurant used, but it is certainly in the right direction.

If you don’t eat all your caponata at one sitting, it keeps well in the fridge for up to 5 days, and is even better on the second or third day, after the flavors have had a chance to meld.

More delicious eggplant recipes:


Caponata Recipe

  • Prep time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 8-10 as an appetizer

Our version of caponata is diced fine, like a relish. Serve it on toasted or grilled bread, or with pasta or polenta.


  • 1 globe eggplant - about 1 pound, diced
  • Salt
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 celery stalk, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4-6 plum tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons small capers, drained
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil


1 Toss eggplant with salt, let drain: Toss the diced eggplant with about 2 tablespoons salt and put into a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate that just about fits the bowl and weigh it down with a heavy can. Let this sit for 1 hour.

Drain the eggplant, rinse with fresh water and pat dry with paper towels.

salt and drain diced eggplant for caponata

2 Cook onions, celery, garlic: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and celery, season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion begins to soften - about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic. Cook 1-2 minutes more. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

cook onions and celery for caponata

3 Sear the eggplant: Wipe the pan with a paper towel, turn the heat to high and add the remaining olive oil. Let this heat until the oil is nearly smoking.

Add the eggplant and spread it out in as thin a layer as you can in the skillet. Let this sizzle for 1-2 minutes before stirring, then let it sit for a full minute before stirring again. Cook like this for 5-6 minutes.

sear eggplant for caponata

4 Combine with other ingredients: Add the onion-celery mixture, the tomatoes, olives, pine nuts, capers and red pepper flakes. Stir well. Add the vinegar, sugar and tomato paste and stir once more.

Cook, stirring occasionally until eggplant is very soft, about 8 minutes.

cook eggplant caponata on the stovetop how to make caponata

5 Let cool, add basil, salt, pepper: Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Mix in the basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Caponata can be refrigerated, covered, up to 5 days.

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Eggplant Caponata

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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22 Comments / Reviews

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  1. Nancy Torrisi

    I took a cooking class in Sicily this summer and this was one of the recipes that we made. It is my all time favorite dish using eggplant! Tomatoes were not used in our recipe, but red peppers, zucchini and squash were used in addition to golden raisins, olives, and toasted pine nuts. Massimo also recommended that it be served at room temperature, almost like a salad or relish to accompany the main dish. Either way its a favorite in our home and made at least once a week! Buon appetit!

  2. Liz

    I made a very similar recipe, 2 weeks ago with my 2 small CSA eggplant and good golly, it is great! Best thing I’ve done with eggplant ever!

  3. Rosanna

    I suggest cook celery first, simply boiling it in salted water and set apart. Then fry the eggplant, diced bigger than in the pictures. Put the fried eggplant on paper and set apart. In a skillet with not much oil, fry the onion. When the onion is tender, add eggplant, celery, olives, capers, tomato. Stir well and adjust salt. At the end, add one big spoon of sugar and add vinegar, according to your taste. Cook one minute, stirring. This is my mother’s caponata, directly from Sicily.

  4. Marian Hodges

    I am thinking of leaving the olives uncooked so they will retain their texture. I also may leave 1/2 of the diced tomatoes uncooked to retain a crisper taste and flavor. Have you tried to incorporate any uncooked ingredients?

    Show Replies (1)
  5. Jenny

    Do I peel the eggplant first?

    Show Replies (2)
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