This Spanish pisto recipe is a traditional dish that’s made throughout summer here in Andalusia. And of course, like any traditional food, there are variations on how it’s made.
My original inspiration comes from the Malagueña version of pisto, which has then been tweaked to my own preferences!
Table of Contents
First of all, What is Malagueño Pisto?
Pisto’s served right across Spain, and is also known as Pisto Manchego, referring to the region of La Mancha, even though its origins are believed to stem from Andalusia in the times gone by known as Al-Andalúz.
These days each region of Spain has its version of this traditional dish.
For the purposes of this post, I’m referring to the pisto as I’ve experienced it – in the province of Malaga – and with my personal tweaks to this simple beauty.
Pisto’s basically a mix of vegetables (those veggies which are in season in summer), cooked olive oil and a sauce of onion, garlic and tomato. And as you know, I love my vegetables! I can’t get fed up with veggies, ever!
If you have a glut of zucchini, take a look at my series of zucchini recipes like grilled summer vegetable salad, zucchini soup, stuffed zucchini boats, zucchini casserole , zucchini carpaccio salad or potato zucchini casserole.
Ingredients of a Spanish Pisto
The essential ingredients are:
- Green or red pepper (or both).
And the optional extra ingredients are:
I prefer to make it with eggplant but without potato – simply because I like this for using up the veggies in the vegetable garden. I love eggplant (and have lots in the garden!) so that’s a must, but I see no need to add potato.
Sometimes though, when the mood takes me, I might make it with some potato in it. The name of the game is flexibility.
Variations on a Malagueño Pisto
- With red &/or green pepper, zucchini &/or eggplant, &/or potatoes
- Fresh tomatoes or tinned tomatoes: fresh tomatoes are the tastier and more authentic way to go, but of course, many people make pisto with tinned tomatoes for convenience.
- Sweet paprika can be added or omitted according to preference.
- While there isn’t any particular herb that’s cooked with pisto, you can always opt to add some fresh parsley to the frying stage, or any other herb of your choice.
- A dash of wine or vinegar can be added at the end, or omitted entirely.
- Pisto is served with a fried egg on top, which should still be runny. Other variations exist like ham or fish etc. For a vegan version, I like to serve a slab of shallow fried tofu on top, or some scrambled tofu.
Apart from the options in ingredients, there are also variations on how to make a pisto:
- Cook the pisto all in one pan or prepare the tomatoes separately.
- Salt the eggplant or add them straight to the pan.
- Peel the tomatoes, blend the tomatoes or cook them with skins on and then strain them through a strainer.
- Chop the veggies small, medium or large: the size of the pieces of vegetables also varies from chef to chef – choose whatever you like best.
How to Make a Delicious Vegan Pisto
This is how I make this simple but tasty dish when I feel like a pisto meal or tapas and it isn’t set in stone, there are so many ways to adapt it to suit the moment. Add more or less of one vegetable, use herbs or not . . . whatever takes your fancy in the moment.
Start off with the Eggplant
If you’re an eggplant fan like I am, you might like to see my other favourite eggplant recipes such as this tatsy vegan eggplant curry or vegan stuffed eggplant or vegan eggplant parmesan recipe inspired from Italy.
Slice the eggplant into rounds, roughly 1 cm thick. Place into a bowl and sprinkle liberally with salt, rubbing it into the flesh and turning the slices round so that every part is salted.
Set aside and leave for at least 20 minutes, until the slices are sitting in their own, dark brown liquid which has oozed from the eggplant.
At that point, rinse each piece of eggplant well, using your hands to really make sure they’re properly rinsed as otherwise they will be too salty. The eggplant absorbs some of the salt, so this will ensure that they have the perfect amount of salt in them.
Even if you have lovely young eggplants which aren’t bitter, I still like to do this salting stage because after rinsing, you’ll find that the eggplant is softer, quicker to cook and perfectly salted (as long as you rinse it well enough).
Next, the Tomatoes
Peel 5 large tomatoes and chop them into small pieces. Heat 3 tbs olive oil in a frying pan or wok. Peel 2 cloves of garlic and add them whole to the hot oil and allow to fry for a moment.
Next, add the chopped tomatoes, sprinkle with a little salt and cook on a medium high heat, stirring occasionally.
Let the tomatoes cook while you prepare the rest of the pisto.
Making the Veggie Part of the Pisto
Chop 1 large onion, 1 Italian green pepper, 1 zucchini & 1 eggplant into little squares of roughly the same size. Finely chop 3 cloves of garlic.
Heat some olive oil in a frying pan or wok and fry the onion and garlic with a sprinkle of salt, for about 3-4 minutes. Add the chopped pepper and fry for another minute.
Add the zucchini & eggplant and fry until soft and almost completely cooked.
At this stage, mix the fried tomatoes into the veggie pan and cook through.
How to Serve Vegan Spanish Pisto
Traditionally, Pisto is served with something on top and the most frequently encountered topping is a fried egg. The egg complements the pisto both in flavour and in nutritional value.
I thought it would be fun to make an egg out of tofu.
Making Tofu Egg
Slice the tofu in half lengthwise and then use a small dish or jam jar to cut a circle out of that shape, keeping the knife straight. Keep the outer part of the tofu for scrambling later.
Fry the round slab of tofu in small amount of olive oil for a few minutes on each side, until it begins to brown. When it’s firm enough to handle, remove it from the oil and carefully cut it in half again, being careful not to get burned.
You now have two thinner circular shapes out of the one thick one. Fry these two thin ones on the ‘raw’ side and sprinkle with salt. If you prefer it with the flavour of soy sauce, you can add a little soy sauce to the pan last thing. It tastes nice but makes the tofu turn dark.
Meanwhile, put some plant milk into a small pan and add a pinch of salt and a tbs of tapioca flour along with a 1/2 tsp of turmeric. Stir as the tapioca thickens (if you look away and stop stirring, you will get lumps like I did – but I actually like the lumps so it isn’t really a big problem!).
Make a little whole in the middle of your ‘egg’ and put a teaspoon of this yellow mix into it, then place the whole thing on top of the pisto. It’s only for fun to make it look like an egg, but the taste actually goes beautifully with the pisto, adding a bite to the tooth, a creamy flavour from the ‘yolk’ and a protein boost to the dish.
If you’re not in the mood for playing games with making pretend eggs, you can just scramble some tofu and serve that on the side to make this pisto into a more complete meal.
Spanish Pisto Recipe – Vegan StyleCourse: Main, Lunch, TapasCuisine: Vegan, Gluten Free, SpanishDifficulty: Simple
Simple Spanish recipe ready in less than 30 minutes
1 large onion
1 green or red pepper
3 cloves garlic chopped
2 whole cloves garlic
5 large tomatoes
Olive oil for cooking
- Slice the eggplant into rings of about 1 cm thick and cover in a generous sprinkling of salt. Rub the salt into the eggplant, making sure to get both sides. Set aside for 20 minutes.
- Peel and chop the tomatoes. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and add 2 whole cloves of garlic and the chopped tomatoes and a sprinkle of salt. Leave cooking while you make the rest of the dish.
- Rinse the eggplant well, making sure to rub the salt out of each piece. Just running it under the tap may not be enough as it will have absorbed some salt and could be too salty. So just to be safe, rub each slice carefully. Lay on kitchen paper and pat dry.
- Stack the eggplant rings flat and cut them into cubes by cutting a grid across them.
- Heat some olive oil in a frying pan or wok and add the chopped garlic and onion. Cook for about 3 minutes then add the chopped pepper, followed by the zucchini and eggplant.
- Sprinkle with salt and leave until the vegetables are soft and almost completely cooked through.
- Add the fried tomato (which should now have a lot of juice in it) to the pan and mix well.
- Leave to blend the flavours for a few minutes more and then serve with your meal or with vegan-egg-tofu.
- Pisto can be ready in 30 minutes but can also be made in advance and it’s a really easy recipe which goes well as a side dish or main course.
Let me know what you think of this Spanish pisto recipe in the comments area below.