Escarole with Olives and Capers

This easy recipe for Escarole with Olives and Capers is a mouthwatering side dish inspired by the traditional cuisine of the Italian Amalfi coast.

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A pan and wooden spoon with Italian style sautéed escarole.

This sautéed Escarole with Olives and Capers is a delicious healthy side dish from southern Italy. Escarole is a member of the chicory family and it's a leafy green vegetable that looks like green leaf lettuce but has a slightly bitter taste. It's often used in classic Italian recipes like Italian wedding soup, or escarole salad.

Olives and capers, will add a briny and tangy flavor, turning this simple vegetable into a delicious and healthy side of greens. It's easy to make and perfect for anyone who loves authentic Italian recipes.

This side dish is traditional in southern Italian cuisine, particularly in Campania and Calabria. In these regions, people have been growing and cooking with escarole for generations. Olives and capers are also common in the region, as they grow well in the Mediterranean climate. It's a great example of how traditional Italian recipes use simple ingredients to create flavorful dishes.

For more Italian side dishes, check out also this Sautéed Broccoli Rabe (Rapini) with Garlic and Oil and these traditional Zucchini alla Scapece!

Why This Recipe Works

  • You only need 6 simple ingredients and 20 minutes to make this delicious sauteed escarole.
  • Escarole pairs well with a wide variety of meats and fishes, making it a versatile side dish.
  • The pleasant bitterness of the escarole is perfectly balanced with the brininess and tanginess of capers and olives.
A blue plate of sautéed greens with a fork.
Ingredient Notes

Escarole - Use a very large head or 2 smaller heads of fresh escarole. It's a versatile veggie and it's available year-round with a peak season in the spring and summer months. It's full of vitamin K, and folic acid, making it a perfect addition to any meal.

Oil - Get very good quality extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil is essential to make perfect Italian recipes.

Garlic - Use fresh garlic for the best flavor or garlic powder for a milder flavor.

Red pepper flakes - Give a hint of spiciness to balance all the flavors.

Capers - Get good quality Italian capers for the best flavor.

Olives - Use oil-cured black olives for the best flavor profile. You can also opt for different varieties of olives, depending of your preference.

*Find the full ingredient list in the recipe card below!

Helpful Equipment

You don't need fancy equipment to make this simple escarole recipe. You only need a large pot and colander to blanch it, and a large skillet to sautè it.

Leafy green pieces of sautéed escarole with capers and olives.

Step by Step Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt.
  2. Clean the outer leaves of the escarole, then cut it into chunks. Boil for 2 minutes, then drain in a colander and press out as much water as you can.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the minced garlic and red chili flakes, then saute for 2 minutes. Add the escarole and toss to coat in oil.
  4. Add the capers and olives to the wilted escarole, then toss until everything is warmed through. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  5. Serve immediately.

Tips for Success

  • Use fresh escarole and high-quality olives and capers to get the best flavor and texture.
  • Don't skip the blanching step. It will help reduce the bitter flavor of the escarole.
  • Season only at the end. Olives and capers will already add saltiness to the escarole so make sure to taste before adding salt.
A fork scooping up sautéed Italian escarole with garlic and olives.

Serving Suggestions

This escarole with olives and capers is a versatile side dish that pairs well with a variety of meals.

It can be served as a warm side dish alongside Butter Poached Fish, Grilled Marinated Lamb Chops, Roman Chicken Cacciatore, or Authentic Italian Beef Braciole, adding a fresh and tangy contrast to the rich flavors of the meat.

Escarole also makes a great pasta topping for a healthy and flavorful twist.


How should I store leftovers?

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Reheat gently on the stove or in the microwave.

Can I use other greens instead of escarole?

Yes, you can substitute escarole with other leafy greens like kale, belgian endive, collard greens, spinach, or Swiss chard, though the flavor and texture may differ slightly.

What should I do if I don't have capers?

If you don't have capers, you can substitute with chopped pickles or a small amount of lemon juice or zest to mimic the tangy flavor.

Can I add other ingredients to this dish?

Absolutely! Feel free to add ingredients like white beans or cannellini beans, other green vegetables, or parmesan cheese for extra flavor.

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A pan and wooden spoon with Italian style sautéed escarole.
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Escarole with Olives and Capers

This easy recipe for Escarole with Olives and Capers is a mouthwatering side dish inspired from my vacation on the Italian Amalfi coast. It's naturally vegan, gluten free and totally delicious! 
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 214kcal


  • kosher salt
  • 2 lbs escarole 1 very large head or 2 smaller
  • cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic smashed
  • pinch of red chili flakes
  • 2 tablespoons capers drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup oil cured black olives or your favorite black olives, pitted


  1. Bring a large pot of water up to a boil and season generously with salt.
  2. Clean the escarole, remove the core, then cut into chunks. Drop it into the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and press out as much liquid as you can.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and red chili flakes, then saute until the garlic starts to turn light golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove the garlic if you want (I always leave it in), then add the escarole and toss around to coat.
  4. Add the capers and olives, then continue tossing until everything is mixed in and warmed through. Taste and add salt if needed. Serve immediately.


Calories: 214kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Sodium: 293mg | Potassium: 726mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 4954IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 128mg | Iron: 2mg

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5 from 1 vote

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  1. 5 stars
    Oh. My God. I just entered the Way Back Machine and got transported to a time about 60 years ago to my grandmother's house and the obligatory Sunday dinner. They owned a small grocery store in South Philly (lived above it, of course) and they had barrels of assorted (mostly Sicilian but some Moroccan) olives along with other magical items packed into that place. And - yes - oil cured black olives were always used by my grandmother and all of her daughters when making a dish almost exactly like this one. Thanks for the memories! I may have to do this one when we head back east for a family reunion in August.