This amazing Spanish pisto recipe highlights how delicious fresh Mediterranean vegetables are! It is a vegetable stew that features eggplant, zucchini, onion, garlic and peppers that are simmering in a savory tomato sauce. Makes for a healthy side or main dish you can serve with bread, rice, beans, pasta and so much more. Naturally vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free.
You will love this amazing vegetable recipe! A Spanish pisto actually is very easy and simple to make. It is a hearty vegetable stew or a Spanish version of ratatouille, that's really full of flavors.
It is a pretty straightforward recipe that's mostly focusing on good quality fresh vegetables. But, there is a way to cook the vegetables to enhance their flavor and make this dish deliciously savory, sweet and with a delicate soft texture.
The vegetables, such as red pepper, green pepper, eggplant, zucchini and sweet onion, simmer in a tomato sauce flavored simply with garlic and thyme. This is a Mediterranean-inspired dish that also traditionally includes some high-quality olive oil, although you can make it as high or low in added fat as you wish.
The simplicity of this recipe relies on cooking the vegetables slowly at a lower heat to allow all those flavors to deepen and develop. The secret of making a traditional Spanish pisto stew that's SO good is to not rush the cooking process!
For this reason, try to plan ahead and get started with this recipe at least an hour before you want to serve it. It is not the kind of dinner you want to make when you are short on time!
Pisto is naturally vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free, making it an amazing recipe to serve to anyone, no matter their diet.
That being said, the classic way to serve Spanish ratatouille is to top the vegetable stew with a fried egg (Pisto con huevos). For obvious reasons, we skipped the egg part and like to serve this dish with bread and some warm white beans topped with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and fresh herbs. It makes for such a delicious comfort food dinner!
Let me know if you gave it a try! ❤️
What is Spanish pisto
Spanish pisto, also known as Pisto Murciano or Pisto Manchego (usually served with Manchego cheese), is a traditional dish from Spain. It is pretty much a Spanish version of the well-known French ratatouille (or Caponata, Italian dish).
It originates from the Murcia region of Spain, although pisto is now made all over the country. There are a few minor variations on how you can make a Pisto and the name may vary slightly depending on the Spanish region where the dish comes from and which vegetables the recipe uses.
But, no matter the exact name, they all have in common cooking Mediterranean vegetables, such as peppers, eggplants, zucchini, onion and tomatoes, until they soften and turn into a delicate stew texture. The result is a hearty, saucy and vegetable-packed warm tomato sauce or stew that's very deep in umami flavor.
There are many ways you can serve this Spanish vegetable stew, such as the classic way of topping it with an egg, but also serving the stew over rice or with bread. Spanish pisto also is used to stuff savory pastries, such as empanadillas, and used as a side dish alongside a main protein.
Why you should try this recipe
- Easy recipe everyone can make
- Rich and complex in flavor
- Uses very simple ingredients that are mostly seasonal vegetables
- Healthy and packed with fiber and vitamins
- Great for meal prep!
- Versatile dish that can be served in so many ways
- Perfect recipe to use your summer vegetables from the garden
- Naturally vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free
Ingredients you will need
- Onion: sweet onions are best for this recipe for their naturally higher amount of sugar. But you can also use any onion that you have, such as white, yellow and even red onion.
- Eggplant: you will need either 1 large eggplant or 2 small eggplants. Italian eggplant or American eggplant (globe) work well for this recipe, although you can use any kind of eggplant you can find.
- Peppers: a traditional pisto includes both red bell peppers and green bell peppers, although you can also make it using orange or yellow peppers.
- Zucchini: you will need 2 small green zucchini for this recipe. Thinner zucchini that were picked early from the plant are best since they usually are sweeter and less bitter in taste compared to larger zucchini.
- Tomatoes: I like doing a mix of canned + fresh tomatoes when making a ratatouille, it brings such a nice combination of texture. You will need 2 small tomatoes or about 1 cup + a can of crushed tomatoes. This recipe is versatile and you can swap for either 100% fresh tomatoes or 100% canned tomatoes, especially depending on the season you are in.
- Garlic: important ingredient to flavor the pisto! I used 3 garlic cloves, but you can use more if you want.
- Dried thyme: optional, but helps bring more flavor. You can use other dried herbs too!
- Sweetener: add to taste, which might depend on how naturally bitter the eggplant and zucchini are. The sweetener also helps to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. I like using maple syrup, but any granulated sugar will work too.
How to make a traditional Spanish pisto recipe
There are a few steps to making a traditional Spanish ratatouille to help get more flavors from the vegetables.
Salt the eggplant
Start by cleaning the eggplant and then dice in cubes (about 1 inch). Transfer to a colander and sprinkle ½ teaspoon of salt over. Toss the pieces so they all are covered with the salt and set aside to rest, about 10-15 minutes.
While the eggplant is resting, then this is a good time to clean and chop the other vegetables (onion, peppers, zucchini, garlic).
Once the eggplant is done resting, then rinse in plenty of cold water.
Transfer the rinsed eggplant over a clean towel and pat dry the cubes. Set aside.
Start the vegetable stew
Warm up a large saucepan (I like my Dutch oven for that) with some olive oil (or use an oil spray for less added oil).
Then, add the onion with a pinch of salt and cook on medium-low heat until tender and translucent (not too browned) stirring often. This should take about 5 minutes.
Add both the red and green peppers, garlic and dried thyme and keep cooking for another 3-5 minutes stirring often.
Then, add the fresh tomatoes, canned crushed tomatoes and sweetener. Stir to combine, cover and turn down the heat to low.
Pan-fry the eggplant and zucchini
Warm up a large non-stick pan with a little oil and then, add the eggplant. Stir and cook on medium-high heat for about 5-7 minutes. When the eggplant is slightly browned, then transfer to the pot with the tomato stew.
Do the same thing with the zucchini: warm up a little oil, then cook the cubes of zucchini until browned. Then, transfer to the pot with the stew.
Stir the pot of vegetable stew, bring to a simmer and then keep cooking covered on a low simmer for about 20-30 minutes.
Check the stew once in a while so it does not stick to the bottom and adjust heat level accordingly.
Once the stew reaches the desired texture, then taste to add more salt and maple syrup (or pinch of sugar) as needed.
Serve warm, enjoy!
- The stew will be especially delicious if you are using high-quality vegetables. Also, the olive oil you are using to cook the vegetables matters especially if using lots of oil, so choose a high-quality extra virgin olive oil that tastes great on its own.
- Try to chop all the vegetables about the same size for best texture and to help them cook all the same.
- You can control the final texture of your stew by adjusting the cooking. For a thicker stew, then you can uncover the pot towards the end of the cooking time. For a thinner or saucier stew, then be sure to keep the pot covered at all times and add extra tomato sauce if needed.
- Also, try to take your time and not rush the cooking process to allow the vegetables to simmer at lower heat for a longer period of time. This is the best way to develop all that amazing pisto flavor!
This recipe can be served as a vegetable side dish, appetizer and even part of tapas.
The traditional way to serve this pisto Spanish stew is warm and topped with an egg. For a vegan version, you can simply sprinkle with fresh herbs and ground black pepper and serve with a side of crusty bread. You can also spread or dollop on toasts!
This dish can be used as the main course when served over rice, creamy polenta or even pasta, such as penne. Or try swapping the usual tomato sauce for this vegetable stew when making pizza for a veggie-packed meal!
If you love baking, then you can also use this ratatouille recipe to stuff pastries, such as calzones.
Variations to the recipe
The best part of making a simple vegetable stew is that you can tweak the ingredients and easily make it your own. If you are missing one of the veggies listed in the recipe card, then it's fine! Although the recipe wouldn’t be traditional anymore, you can omit or swap for something else and it will still be delicious.
Here are a few variation ideas:
- Vegetables: a pisto isn't overly garlicky in flavor, but you can add more cloves of garlic if you want. The pisto cooks for a while, which will definitely cook off the raw taste of garlic and enhance its sweet flavor. You can also include mushrooms, yellow zucchini, butternut squash, sweet cherry tomatoes or even potatoes.
- Spices: you can add a few more spices or fresh/dried herbs to the stew depending on your taste and what you have. Try adding oregano, bay leaves, smoked paprika, basil, cumin, rosemary red pepper or cayenne for a different flavor profile.
- Olive oil: I try not to cook with a lot of oil, which means that I didn’t use a lot of oil in this recipe. That being said, a traditional pisto is part of the Mediterranean diet and will usually include a lot of extra virgin olive oil. If you are not limiting the usage of oil when cooking, then feel free to add more when cooking the vegetables!
- Cooking method: The method of cooking the eggplant and zucchini in different pans before adding them to the stew is a classic way of making a pisto. That being said, you can experiment with the method and make this pisto one-pot if you prefer, although the result might be a little different.
- More protein: I like to add beans to my pisto, especially white beans. Try kidney beans and lentils too. This would make your meal higher in plant-based protein and more filling.
Also, you can some non-traditional flavor booster ingredients to your pisto! I would recommend adding them at the end or only when serving. Here are a few ideas:
- Fresh basil
- Balsamic vinegar
This Mediterranean vegetable stew recipe is great for meal prep since the flavors keep developing while it rests. You can make a big batch on the weekend and use it as a side dish or simply lunch with bread throughout a busy week. What a tasty way to eat more veggies!
Once the stew is done, let it cool down on the counter and then, transfer to an airtight container. Keep in the fridge for up to 5-6 days. Stir well before reheating using the microwave or the stove.
You can also freeze pisto for up to 3 months. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating. The vegetable stew will be softer after being thawed, just something to keep in mind.
Salting the eggplant isn’t essential, although can help remove some of the eggplant bitterness and extra moisture. However, I often skip on salting eggplant and it is usually fine!
Sometimes, eggplant or zucchini can be naturally a little bitter. If this is the case and your stew is too bitter, then you can add more tomatoes to it or extra sweetener to balance the flavor.
When looking at the list of ingredients, you will notice that there are many veggies needed! But know that they will simmer for a while and the volume will cook down, leaving you with just enough stew for 6-8 servings.
More Mediterranean recipes to try
- Greek marinated tofu bowl
- Creamy Tuscan white bean salad
- Mediterranean chickpea bowl
- Vegan creamy pesto couscous salad
- Red lentil pasta salad
- Falafel buddha bowl
- Roasted vegetable pesto sandwich
- Flatbread bruschetta
- Butter bean stew
- Creamy braised white beans
- Pasta with hummus and roasted vegetables
I hope you like this Spanish pisto recipe as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
Spanish Pisto (Vegetable Stew)
- 2 small eggplants (or 1 large) - diced (about 1 inch)
- ½ tsp salt - to cover the eggplant
- 1 large sweet onion - diced
- 1 red bell pepper - diced (about 1 inch)
- 1 green bell pepper - diced (about 1 inch)
- 3 cloves of garlic - crushed
- 2 small zucchini - diced (about 1 inch)
- 1 cup fresh tomatoes - diced
- 14 oz canned crushed tomatoes
- ½ tbsp maple syrup (or agave nectar or sugar) - or to taste
- 1 tsp dried thyme - or oregano
- salt - to taste
- Transfer the cubed eggplant to a fine mesh colander and sprinkle the ½ tsp of salt over. Stir the cubes to cover them with the salt and set aside for about 15-20 minutes. Once done, rinse under cold water and pat dry with a clean towel.
- While the eggplant is resting with the salt, then prep all the other vegetables as described above.
- Warm up a large saucepan (I like my Dutch oven for this) with a little olive oil and then, add the onion with a pinch of salt. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat (don't let the onion brown too much).
- Then, add the red pepper, green pepper, garlic and dried thyme. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes stirring often (don't let the garlic burn). Then, add both the fresh tomatoes and the canned tomatoes and also the sweetener, then stir to combine. Cook on low-medium covered stirring sometimes while you do the next 2 steps.
- Meanwhile, warm a second non-stick pan with a little olive oil and add the eggplant. Cook stirring often for about 3-5 minutes or until softer and slightly browned. Once done, transfer to the pot with the stew and stir.
- Transfer the non-stick pan back on the stove and do the same with the zucchini: warm up a little olive oil and then cook the cubed zucchini for 3-5 minutes stirring often. Once done, transfer to the pot with the stew and stir.
- Cover the stew keep cooking on medium heat for about 20-30 minutes stirring once in a while to ensure the veggies are not sticking to the bottom. The pisto is ready once the vegetables are all soft and the consistency saucy (or to your liking). You can cook uncovered for a few minutes at the end if you want to cook it down depending on how you want to serve it. Taste and adjsut salt and sweetener if necessary (more sweetener can help if bitter or too acidic). Enjoy!
- Storage tips: keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Reheat using the microwave or the stove.
- Serving suggestions: serve with bread garnished with fresh herbs and ground black pepper. You can also serve over toast, rice or pasta or use this recipe to fill savory pastries, such as empanadillas or calzones.
- Flavor boosters: feel free to add more flavoring ingredients, such as capers, balsamic vinegar, fresh basil or olives.