Eggplant Caponata Picnic Jars with Quinoa


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I’m still in the midst of Sacramento heat. Here in California, we’re lucky to have it cool by Halloween. As a result, I’m often envious of midwestern and east coaster photos of cooler temperatures, a bit of rain, and crunchy leaves.

Still, the long, warm summer means we still have plenty of summer produce in addition to the start of fall produce. These eggplant caponata picnic jars make the best of both seasons. Fresh summer eggplants and tomatoes are cooked on the stove top and combined with lentils. Leftover quinoa creates a base for the saucy eggplant caponata, traditionally served as a dip. This recipe is perfect for a cool evening with a glass of red wine. Make the quinoa and lentils fresh alongside the eggplant caponata. Looking for another in between summer and fall recipe? This roasted vegetable ratatouille is super easy, and delicious with cornmeal waffles!

Or, if you too are still in warm summer weather, combine with leftover grains and lentils and serve it cold. It makes a refreshing and hearty lunch salad for the office or packed for a weekend picnic. If you are packing a picnic, I recommend this vegan potato salad with green beans and this chunky monkey trail mix to bring along! Plus, this green goddess pasta salad is always a hit.

Eggplant Caponata Picnic Jars

An easy recipe, this eggplant caponata packs perfectly in picnic jars with a simple quinoa or grain. Great for lunch, dinner, and meals on the go.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4 servings


Eggplant Caponata

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium eggplant, diced into 1/2-inch pieces (1 pound, about 4 cups)
  • 1 small heirloom tomato, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup minced olives
  • 1 cup cooked lentils
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil, plus extra for topping

Picnic Jars

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa or other leftover grain


Eggplant Caponata

  1. In a large pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add diced onion, salt and pepper. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, translucent, and fragrant, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Add remaining oil and let heat. Add garlic and eggplant and stir well to coat. Let eggplant pan fry, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Stir in diced tomatoes, minced olives, lentils, vinegar, oregano and thyme. Cover and let simmer and cook until eggplant is very soft, about another 5 to 8 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in basil.

Picnic Jars

  1. Spoon ½ cup cooked quinoa or other grain into a wide mouth pint jar. Layer with eggplant caponata and top with a sprinkle of basil.

Recipe Notes


While I like these as picnic jars for their portability, you could easily serve this eggplant caponata as a main dish with grains on the side. This arugula pesto or a traditional basil pesto would be a nice topping as well.


The quinoa keeps this meal gluten free but you could easily substitute a different gluten free grain.


Looking to add extra protein to this eggplant caponata dish? Italian style sausage would make a nice addition on the side, or fully cooked with the eggplant.


I have used black beluga lentils and green puy lentils because they retain their shape well in the eggplant caponata. But you could use whatever lentils you have on hand for this dish!

Don't have apple cider vinegar? Substitute red or white wine vinegar to keep the light acidity.

You can swap the fresh tomatoes and use 1 cup of diced tomatoes, but I think fresh is better for this dish. Especially because tomatoes and eggplant are in season at the same time.

Have a different leftover grain? Brown rice, couscous, or even farro would be a good swap for this eggplant caponata.

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