Melanzane sott’olio (or Italian pickled eggplant) is an Italian delicacy featuring eggplant sticks, garlic, herbs, and red pepper chilies, packed in extra-virgin olive oil, creating a flavorful preserve. Pop them on a bruschetta, toss them with pasta, or simply enjoy them on their own.

Melanzane sott’olio, known in English as Italian pickled eggplant, is a traditional dish made by preserving eggplant in oil and vinegar along with various herbs and spices.

The pickled eggplants usually have a tender yet slightly firm texture due to the pickling process. This textural contrast, along with the combination of flavors—earthy, savory, tangy, and rich—creates a complex and harmonious taste profile that will leave you asking for more!

Melanzane sott’olio is commonly served as part of an antipasto platter, which is a traditional Italian appetizer course. The platter might also include other pickled vegetables like peperoni sott’aceto, cured meats, cheese, olives, and bread.

Close-up of melanzane sott'olio.

Ingredients

  • Eggplant: You need a type of eggplant that is meaty and with almost no seeds. Graffiti, Sicilian and Italian eggplants work wonderfully here since they’re big enough to have a lot of pulp and a minimal amount of seeds.
  • Oil: Choose an excellent quality extra virgin olive oil.
  • Vinegar: White wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar can be used in this melanzane sott’olio recipe.
  • Aromatics & seasonings: Garlic, oregano, peperoncini, black peppercorns, and salt.
Italian pickled eggplant ingredients displayed on a marble surface with names of the ingredients overlayed.

How to Make Melanzane Sott’olio

This is a visual overview of the steps to make this recipe. See the detailed list of ingredients & instructions in the recipe card below.

Wash the eggplants under cold water and pat dry them with a kitchen towel. Trim off the stem end and the blossom end of the eggplant and then remove the peel.

A person removing the peel of an eggplant with a knife on a cutting board.

Stand the eggplant upright on your cutting board. Cut the eggplant into slices, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch (0.6 to 1.3 cm) thick.

Take each eggplant slice and stack a few slices together. With the stack of slices, cut lengthwise to create long strips.

A person slicing and cutting the eggplant with a knife.

Fill a large boiling pot with 6 cups of water. Add 3 tablespoons of coarse salt and 3 cups of vinegar. Bring to a boil.

Working in small batches, add the eggplant sticks and let them simmer for 2 minutes or until tender but not mushy.

The eggplant cooking in water.

Remove the cooked eggplant with a slotted spoon and place them inside a strainer over a large bowl, so they will drain excess liquid.

Once all eggplant strips are cooked, allow them to reach room temperature before doing the next step.

Removing the eggplant with a slotted spoon.

Working in layers, add cooked eggplants to a sterilized jar, then some peppercorns, peperoncino chilies, oregano, and garlic.

Adding cooked eggplant sticks to a jar and other ingredients in small bowls on the side.

Pour enough extra virgin olive oil into the jar to fill it completely. Use the back of a spoon to gently push down the vegetables. Repeat the process until all jars are filled.

Pouring extra-virgin olive oil inside a jar with eggplant and seasonings.

Let the jars rest for about 20 minutes, then use a skewer to break the air bubbles that have formed.

Tip: This is an essential step as there shouldn’t be any air gaps that could possibly spoil the pickled vegetables.

Using a skewer to burst the air bubbles in the jars with Italian pickled eggplant.

Close the jars tightly and place them in a dark and cool spot for at least a week before consuming your Italian pickled eggplant.

Expert Tips

  • To make this melanzane sott’olio recipe, select eggplants that are firm, shiny, and free from blemishes. Fresher eggplants will have better flavor and texture when pickled.
  • I don’t find it necessary to salt the vegetable, most of the bitterness is on the peel and we’re removing it. The boiling process and brine will remove the remaining bitterness and you’ll have one less thing to do when preparing the recipe.
  • Since olive oil is a significant component of this recipe, make sure to choose a good quality extra-virgin olive oil for the best flavor and aroma.
  • You can use the olive oil leftovers as dressing for salads, pasta, or rice.

Ways to Serve Italian Pickled Eggplant

Once the flavors have developed to your liking, these Italian pickled eggplants are ready to be enjoyed! Here are some ways how you can serve them…

  • Antipasto: Arrange them on an antipasto platter alongside other cured meats, cheese, olives, fried peppers, and marinated artichokes.
  • Bruschetta: Top them on toasted homemade bread for a delicious and authentic bruschetta.
  • Panini & sandwiches: Layer the eggplant in a panini along with fresh mozzarella, tomato slices, and basil leaves. Use ciabatta bread or focaccia for an authentic panino con le melanzane sott’olio!
  • Pizza topping: In Italy, these eggplants are often served as a topping for pizza.
  • Past & salads: You can chop them and use them as a condiment for pasta or this insalata di riso (rice salad).
  • Side: Serve the Italian pickled eggplant alongside grilled or roasted meats for a flavorful and tangy side dish.
Melanzane sott'olio bruschetta, plus more Italian pickled eggplant in jars behind.

How to Store

Italian pickled eggplant is best consumed within a few months to a year for optimal flavor and quality.

Store the sealed jar in a cool, dark place such as a pantry or cellar. The jar should be kept away from direct sunlight and temperature fluctuations.

Once you open a jar of melanzane sott’olio, place it in the refrigerator and make sure to consume them within 4-5 days. The oil might solidify in the refrigerator, so you can let it come to room temperature before serving.

  • Use a clean jar: To be safe, I strongly recommend sterilizing the jars before packing the eggplant.
  • Pack tightly: Pack the pickled eggplant pieces tightly into the jar, using a spoon to push them down as you pack them.
  • Remove air bubbles: Use a skewer to remove any air bubbles that might be trapped among the eggplant pieces.
  • Seal the jar: Ensure that the jar’s lid is tightly sealed. Use jars with airtight seals to maintain freshness and prevent air from entering.
  • Label the jar: I recommend labeling the jar with the contents and the date of pickling. This will help you keep track of how long the Italian pickled eggplants have been stored.
  • Cover with oil: As you remove them from the jar, add more oil to always keep the eggplants completely covered. The oil acts as a preservative and helps prevent air from coming into contact with the eggplant, which can cause spoilage.

FAQ

Is pickled eggplant good for you?

Eggplants themselves are a source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, and dietary fiber. These nutrients can contribute to overall health.
The use of olive oil in Italian pickled eggplants provides healthy monounsaturated fats, which are considered beneficial for heart health and can help lower bad cholesterol levels.

Italian pickled eggplants can offer certain nutritional benefits, particularly when it comes to vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and antioxidants. However, due to considerations like sodium content and calorie density, it’s best to consume melanzane sott’olio in moderation and as part of an overall healthy eating pattern.

What is eggplant called in Sicily?

In Sicily as well as in the rest of Italy, eggplants are called melanzane (plural) or melanzana (singular).

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Video

Italian pickled eggplant recipe. Also known as melazane sotto olio.

Melanzane Sott’olio (Italian pickled eggplant)

6 small jars
Melanzane sott'olio is a classic Italian dish featuring pickled eggplant layered in jars with garlic, oregano, and peperoncini, then submerged in extra-virgin olive oil. This delicious preserve can be eaten as an appetizer with bread, topped on pizza, or as a condiment for pasta and salads.
prep 20 minutes
cook 20 minutes
resting time 7 days
total 7 days 40 minutes

Equipment

  • 6 jars, sterilized (250 ml capacity each)

Ingredients 

  • 6 ½ lb eggplant (about 3-4 large pieces, read notes)
  • extra-virgin olive oil (as needed)
  • 6 cups water
  • 3 cups white wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 3-4 large garlic cloves (peeled and sliced)
  • 3 fresh peperoncino peppers (chopped)
  • peppercorns (as needed)
  • dried oregano (as needed)
  • 3 Tablespoons coarse salt

Instructions
 

Prepare the eggplant

  • Wash the eggplants under cold water and pat dry them. Trim off the stem end and the blossom end.
  • Peel the eggplants and cut them into slices, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch (0.6 to 1.3 cm) thick.
  • Stack a few slices together and cut lengthwise to create long strips.

Cook the eggplant

  • Fill a large boiling pot with water and vinegar. Add the salt and bring to a boil.
  • Working in small batches, add the eggplant sticks and let them simmer for 2 minutes or until tender but not mushy.
  • Remove the cooked eggplant with a slotted spoon and place them inside a strainer over a large bowl to remove excess liquid. Allow them to reach room temperature before doing the next step.

Pack the eggplant

  • Working in layers, add cooked eggplants to a sterilized jar, then some peppercorns, peperoncino, oregano, and garlic.
  • Pour enough extra virgin olive oil into the jar to fill it completely. Use the back of a spoon to gently push down the vegetables.
  • Repeat the process until all jars are filled.
  • Let the jars rest for about 20 minutes, then use a skewer to break the air bubbles that have formed.
  • Close the jars tightly and place them in a dark and cool spot for at least a week before consuming

Notes

  • You can use graffiti eggplant, Italian eggplant, or American eggplant to make this recipe.
  • For this recipe I don’t find it necessary to salt the eggplant, most of the bitterness is on the peel and we’re removing it. The boiling process and brine will remove the remaining bitterness.
  • Use sterilized jars to pack the pickled eggplant and make sure to read thoroughly the “how to store” section on the post.
Nutrition Information
Serving: 1jar | Calories: 836kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 77g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 56g | Sodium: 3524mg | Potassium: 1284mg | Fiber: 16g | Sugar: 19g | Vitamin A: 351IU | Vitamin C: 44mg | Calcium: 88mg | Iron: 3mg
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Maricruz Avalos Flores is a Mexican cook and photographer living in Italy where she shares authentic Mexican & Italian recipes that can be easily made at home using easy-to-find ingredients.

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Recipe Rating




10 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Can’t get enough of these eggplant! I live alone so 2 jars will definitely last me for long, still the first one I opened is about 1/2 lol

  2. 5 stars
    Made a batch last week and wanted to wait until they were ready. So I eat them today with crusty bread and they were AMAZING! we couldn’t stop eating them so we practically finish the jar lol (I made 2 jars only). Thanks for the recipe.

  3. 5 stars
    I love eggplants, but I have only two recipes for them that I keep coming back to. This sounds delicious, though, and a fantastic addition to my two so will definitely be trying it.

    I love your photos, by the way. So stunning and with great composition.

  4. 5 stars
    wonderful recipe! we’re about of making this because we just harvested the last aubergines from our garden. I’ll let you know how it turned out.

  5. 5 stars
    I am a regular visitor of your website . I can enrich my cooking skill by seeing your blog. easy procedure to make expensive Italian pickled eggplant at home

    1. I’m anxious to try this recipe once fresh eggplant are available.
      I was wondering if you’ve used this same recipe for sweet peppers? I had them once that an Italian woman made but could never find out how she did it. They were so delicious. Tasted like an oil and vinegar base.
      Thank you for sharing!