Classic Italian Caponata

Classic Italian Caponata


Caponata is a sweet and sour Sicilian appetizer or side dish that features eggplant, peppers, olives, and more. It’s best served at room temperature on top of crispy bread or as a flavorful addition to any sandwich or pasta. 


Classic Italian Caponata in a bowl


A Traditional Italian Side Dish

Caponata is an Italian specialty that has been served for centuries with origins in Sicily. It was influenced by Mediterranean cuisine with its unique combination of both fresh and brined vegetables. 

Additionally, many compare this dish to France’s ratatouille. However, caponata includes capers and olives which add a tangy-sour flavor; whereas, ratatouille includes garlic for its extra jolt of flavor. 


Ingredients for classic Italian Caponata


A Tangy Vegetable Medley

Our favorite element of caponata is the juxtaposition of the sweet and sour flavors. The pepper and eggplant provide a sweet and “meaty” texture while the capers, olives, and vinegar add an irresistible salty flavor. 

As a bonus, by using a variety of vegetables and ingredients, this dish provides a pop of color to any meal. Yes, you truly are eating the rainbow with this one! 


Prepared chopped vegetables on a wood cutting board with 2 eggplants in the background



  • Eggplant Tender eggplant absorbs all of the other flavors in this dish creating a wonderful melody.
  • Fresh Vegetables  –  Onion, pepper and celery start this dish off with the “holy trinity” of base flavor. 
  • Olives & Capers  – Meaty and salty olives and capers adds depth of flavor and gives this dish natural salt. 
  • Canned Diced Tomatoes  –  Diced tomatoes add moisture to this caponata as well as beautiful color. 
  • Red Wine Vinegar  –   Tangy vinegar awakens your taste buds and helps to naturally break down the ingredients, helping the flavors to meld. 
  • Herbs & Spices  –  Finishing this dish off with chopped fresh herbs brings a fresh aroma and brightens this Italian staple. 


Adding diced eggplant to the vegetables in the skillet


FAQ & Classic Italian Caponata Tips:

  • How long does caponata keep? 

    • This recipe will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator when sealed in an airtight container. Additionally, you can add a little extra oil to any leftovers to further extend its shelf life. 
  • Should caponata be served warm or cold?

    • Caponata is typically served at room temperature but it can also be enjoyed cold, straight from the refrigerator, or even warm. It really depends on personal preference but in our opinion, you can’t go wrong either way. 
  • Preparation Tips: 

    • Dice the eggplant right before adding it to the vegetable sauté. This will help to prevent browning due to oxidation. 
    • Feel free to use two fresh tomatoes instead of canned if available. 
    • Don’t skip the vinegar! It provides tanginess and helps to break down the ingredients and meld all of the flavors together. 
  • Serving Suggestions: 

    • Serve this dish over crispy bread for a delicious appetizer that’s sure to please a crowd. 
    • Use the caponata as a delightful addition to any sandwich. We love combining it with this recipe for Vegan Fresh Mozzarella for a simple meal with phenomenal flavor. Or use this recipe for Homemade Vegan Smoked Mozzarella Cheese for a fun twist! 


Adding chopped olives, diced tomato, and capers to the prepared mixture


A Crowd Pleaser

This versatile condiment or side dish can truly be enjoyed in a multitude of ways. Or if you are like us, you will want to just grab a fork and enjoy as is! 😃


Fresh parsley and basil added to the prepared caponata


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Classic Italian Caponata in a white bowl with baguette slices in the background


Step-by-Step Instructional Photos:

Ingredients for classic Italian Caponata Prepared chopped vegetables on a wood cutting board with 2 eggplants in the background

The chopped vegetables sautéing in a deep skillet Adding diced eggplant to the vegetables in the skillet

Dry herbs and spices added to the caponata ingredients Pouring red wine vinegar into the vegetable mixture

Adding chopped olives, diced tomato, and capers to the prepared mixture Fresh parsley and basil added to the prepared caponata

Classic Italian Caponata in a white bowl with baguette slices in the background Classic Italian Caponata in a bowl


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Classic Italian Caponata in a bowl

Classic Italian Caponata

  • Author: Meatless Makeovers
  • Prep Time: 15 min.
  • Cook Time: 15 min.
  • Total Time: 30 min.
  • Yield: 12 Servings 1x
  • Category: Appetizer, Side Dish
  • Method: Sauté
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegan


A sweet and sour Sicilian appetizer or side dish featuring eggplant and so much more. This Classic Italian Caponata is sure to please!


  • 3 Tbsps Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Onion (Diced Small)
  • 2 Celery Stalks (Chopped Small)
  • 1 Yellow bell pepper (Diced Small)
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 1/2 lb Eggplant (Diced) Approx. 1 Large or 2 Small Eggplant
  • 1 Tbsp Dried Oregano
  • 1 Tbsp Dried Basil
  • 1 tsp Red Pepper Flake
  • 5 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
  • 3 Cloves Garlic (Minced)
  • 2 Tbsps Capers
  • 1/2 Cup Pitted Kalamata Olives (Halved)
  • 1/2 Cup Pitted Castelvetrano  Olives (Halved)
  • 1 14.5 oz Can Diced Tomatoes
  • 1/2 Cup Fresh Parsley (Chopped)
  • 1/2 Cup Fresh Basil (Chopped)


  1. Prepare the celery, onion, pepper and garlic as directed above. 
  2. Add the oil to a deep skillet and place over medium heat. Add the celery, onion, pepper, salt and pepper to the pan. Sauté, stirring frequently until the onion is fragrant and the pepper is tender. Approx. 4 minutes. 
  3. While the vegetables sauté, dice the eggplant. (Doing this right before you add it to the skillet prevents it from browning.) Add the diced eggplant to the skillet and stir to incorporate. 
  4. Next, add the dried oregano, basil and red pepper flakes. Sauté, stirring occasionally until the eggplant is very tender and the moisture is evaporating. Approx. 7 minutes. 
  5. Now add the garlic and pour in the red wine vinegar. Stir to combine. 
  6. Lastly add the capers, olives and tomatoes as well as the chopped fresh parsley and basil. Stir and allow to come to a simmer. Approx 1 minute. 
  7. Remove from the heat and serve or chill and serve cold. 
  8. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to one week.


  • The equipment listed above contains affiliate links to products that we personally use, love, and recommend!

Keywords: Classic Italian Caponata Recipe, Eggplant Caponata, Homemade Sicilian Caponata


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