How To Make Traditional Sicilian Caponata (Caponata di Melanzane) – This veggie-loaded dish is perfect to share and it’s naturally gluten-free and vegan.

Sicilian Caponata is a delicious warm salad or relish made with simple ingredients such as aubergine, celery and tomatoes, simmered in a distinctive sweet & sour sauce.

Caponata di Melanzane is a staple of Sicilian cuisine, and every city and possibly family in Sicily have their own version.

The original recipe includes deep-fried aubergine, celery, fresh tomatoes, green or black olives, capers and pine nuts.

Some popular additions include tomato sauce or paste, bell pepper, sultanas or chopped almonds.

**This post is sponsored by Mazola. All opinions are my own as usual.**

Eggplants, tomatoes, celery, pine nuts, olive, basil, onion, garlic, capers on a wood boardI grew up with my mum’s incredible caponata, so that’s the one I’m sharing with you today.

She’s originally from Palermo and sticks to the original recipe, but makes it lighter by roasting the aubergine instead of frying.

The main ingredients of the classic Caponata, aubergine and celery, are cooked separately to preserve their texture and flavour.

Then, they are mixed together with the rest of the ingredients at the very end of the recipe.

It may sound a bit laborious, but this dish all comes together in less than 1 hour, and requires very little cooking skills.

Plus, it’s naturally dairy-freegluten-free, and vegan, making a fantastic allergy-friendly option to serve at dinner parties and get-togethers.

How To Make Sicilian Caponata (Caponata di Melanzane)

Sicilian Eggplant Caponata in a skillet with bread on the sideTo make your Caponata, start by blanching the celery.

Throw the chopped celery in a pot of boiling water and take it out after a minute or two.

I like celery on the crisper side, so I’d leave mine not more than one minute.

After a quick bath in ice-cold water, I’ll let it dry over a sieve covered with a kitchen cloth.

This process keeps the celery crunchy and retains its vibrant green colour.

boiled celery and then drained on a colanderNext step is cooking up your main ingredient, the aubergine.

The traditional Sicilian recipe calls for deep-fried aubergine cubes, but I’ve swapped it in favour of healthier oven-roasted crispy aubergine.

Note: if you want to make the classic caponata, simply deep-fry the aubergine cubes for 4-5 minutes, until lightly browned and cooked through.

Once ready, transfer them onto a plate covered with kitchen paper, to absorb the oil in excess, and proceed with the recipe.

Speaking of baking instead of frying your aubergine, I’m delighted to partnering up with Mazola to lighten up this classic Sicilian recipe. 

Mazola Corn Oil is rich in plant sterols, which have been proven to lower cholesterol, and is a great source of healthy fatty acids! Sicilian Eggplant Caponata in skillet with cooking oil bottle

For this Aubergine Caponata, I’ve used Mazola 100% pure Corn Oil, only extracted at its peak time.

It has a subtle flavour and a high smoke point, making it great for oven-roasting at high-temperature.

I lightly coated the aubergine with Mazola oil and roasted it for about 30 minutes – it came out perfectly crispy on the outside and beautifully soft within.

cubed eggplant and bottle of cooking oilWhilst the aubergine bakes in the oven, get the rest of the ingredients ready.

In a large pan saute onion, garlic and tomatoes, until soft and caramelized.

There’s an ongoing debate on whether to use tomato passata/paste or just simply chopped fresh tomatoes.

I personally opt for fresh tomatoes, and I add a teaspoon of tomato concentrate for a nice burst of umami.

Sicilian Eggplant Caponata with olives, capers and pinenutsOnce your onion/garlic/tomato mix has caramelized well, you can fold in the rest of the veggies.

Add in the roasted aubergine, celery, green or black olives ( I used Kalamata olives), capers and toasted pine nuts. 

Now, it’s time to give your caponata its unique sweet & sour taste. 

Add in sugar and vinegar and simmer for a few minutes, until all the ingredients and flavours combine to perfection.

Just before serving, top your vegan Caponata with loads of fresh basil and oregano.

If you manage to wait, let it rest for a few hours or overnight. Caponata is one of those dishes that tastes a ton better the next day.

Sicilian Eggplant Caponata with breadThis epic vegan dish has an irresistible crunchy and soft texture, with a delicate sweet and sour taste that will make your tastebuds rejoice.  

Sicilian Eggplant Caponata served bruschetta style

How To Serve Sicilian Caponata?

You can serve this veggie-loaded Sicilian dish with warm toasted bread, for a great rustic appetizer to share.

If you want to make a meal out of it, just pair it with your favourite protein!

Try it with classic grilled fish or chicken, or with a steak salad.

I often make an all-vegetarian meal and serve it with a classic Italian potato frittata or stuffed zucchini boats.

Did you make this recipe?

Please let me know how you liked it! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #thepetitecook! Looking at your pictures always makes me smile *and super hungry*!

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Traditional Sicilian Caponata {Vegan+GF}

How To Make Traditional Sicilian Caponata (Caponata di Melanzane) - This veggie-loaded dish is perfect to share and it's naturally gluten-free and vegan.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Total Time1 hr 50 mins
Course: Side
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: dairy-free, gluten-free, italian, sicilian, side, vegan, vegetarian
Servings: 4
Author: The Petite Cook


  • 2 large aubergines
  • 2 tbsp Mazola Corn Oil (or extra-virgin olive oil)
  • 2 large celery stalks diced
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves finely minced
  • 200 gr cherry tomatoes halved (or 4 large ripe tomatoes , roughly chopped)
  • 1-2 tbsp salted capers rinsed, soaked and drained
  • handful green or black olives stones removed (I used Kalamata olives)
  • 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tsp double concentrate tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp apple vinegar
  • handful fresh basil leaves
  • handful fresh oregano leaves
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste


  • Preheat oven to 180C and arrange a baking tray into the middle shelf.
  • Cut the aubergine evenly into medium-sized chunks, sprinkle with coarse salt and leave to rest in a colander for at least 30 min, then quickly wash under running water and pat dry on a kitchen cloth.
  • Place the aubergine chunks in a large bowl and coat with corn or olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and arrange on a baking tray. Roast in the oven until crispy and cooked through, about 30 minutes.
  • Place the diced celery in a pot of boiling water with a little salt and blanch for 1-2 minutes. Drain and transfer to a sieve covered with a kitchen cloth.
  • Heat a large pan with the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add in chopped onion, garlic and halved tomatoes. Cook over low-heat until the onion is nicely caramelized and tomatoes are soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Throw in capers, olives, toasted pine nuts, and roasted aubergine. Add in the tomato paste and one tablespoon of water, if you feel it's getting too dry.
  • Sprinkle with sugar and drizzle with vinegar. Simmer until the vinegar has evaporated, then cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes over low-heat, until all ingredients are cooked through.
  • Top your caponata with teared basil leaves and oregano, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and serve with toasted rustic bread.


Note: if you want to make the classic caponata, simply deep-fry the aubergine cubes for 4-5 minutes, until lightly browned and cooked through. Once ready, transfer them into a plate covered with kitchen paper, to absorb the oil in excess, and proceed with the recipe.
Did you try this recipe? Tag @thepetitecook or use the hashtag #thepetitecook - Looking at your pictures makes my day!

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.