Olive Tapenade is a tasty Mediterranean condiment you can make in 5 minutes with a food processor and use as a spread on bread, crostini, and sandwiches.
With its robust flavor and velvety texture, tapenade is an excellent appetizer to impress your guests or to make your family happy.
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Tapenade is a traditional olive spread from the Provence region in Southern France made with puréed, finely chopped, or blended olives, capers, olive oil, and sometimes anchovies.
The most common way to enjoy tapenade is as a starter or aperitif on toasted crostini or with vegetable sticks. However, you can use it as a spread in a sandwich or a sauce for a quick pasta dish. Think of it as an olive pesto with a distinct salty and rich flavor.
Despite olive being the main ingredient, tapenade comes from the Provencal word “Tapeneī,“ which means capers. Capers are a key ingredient and add a salty and acidic flavor to this recipe.
You can make tapenade with black olives, green olives, or a mix. Here we make the most classic version with black olives.
In most traditional recipes, olive tapenade is made with a pestle in a mortar, crushing all the ingredients patiently until they turn into a coarse puree. Other recipes make it with a chef’s knife, chopping the ingredients finely and mixing them with the oil.
We make it with a food processor, pulsing the ingredients together without over-blending the olives. A food processor makes a delicious tapenade in less than 5 minutes. Let’s see how to make it!
Uh. Don’t forget to make this crostini recipe with this olive tapenade. They are the perfect match.
Ingredients & Substitutions
The best olives for tapenade are those produced in southern France (Niçoise olives), but they can be hard to find.
You can use regular black pitted olives for this recipe. If you want to make it more gourmet, opt for Italian Taggiasche Olives, which grow in the same region as French olives.
Another good option for a black olive tapenade is Kalamata Olives. To make a green olive tapenade, we recommend Castelvetrano olives, a Sicilian olive variety perfect for this recipe.
Capers are non-negotiable in this recipe.
You can use capers in vinegar, olive oil, or salt (washing off the salt before blending them).
The rule of thumb is one heaping teaspoon of chopped capers or 2 teaspoons of whole capers for one cup (130 grams) of pitted olives.
Use extra virgin olive oil if you can.
A good quality extra virgin olive oil adds sweet and fruity notes that round off the intense flavor of the olives and capers.
Garlic is optional, and often the French don’t add it in. If you like to add garlic, do so in moderation. We add very little, about 1/4 of a clove.
Fresh parsley is optional and rarely found in original French tapenades.
However, we like adding a small quantity of flat-leaf parsley to brighten this recipe.
You can substitute fresh basil, fresh thyme, or other fresh herbs for parsley.
Lemon juice is optional and not found in the original recipe.
We like adding freshly squeezed lemon juice to lighten the tapenade. For lemon lovers, feel free to add a tiny bit of lemon zest.
If the lemon is too sharp, try making a variation with a touch of grated orange zest.
Salt and pepper
Salt and black pepper are both optional. Adding them depends on how salty your capers and olives are. Have a taste before adding any salt or pepper.
We don’t add anchovies fillets as they are optional.
How to make olive tapenade
Rinse and dry your capers. Next, if your olives are not pitted, remove the flesh from the pit.
Add the pitted black olives, capers, garlic, flat-leaf parsley, and lemon juice to a food processor.
Pulse a few times until you have a coarse olive purée, stopping to scrape down the sides of the food processor.
Next, add the olive oil, starting with two tablespoons and up to four tablespoons. Depending on your olives, you might need to add more or less oil.
Pulse a few more times until you reach your desired consistency, stopping once or twice to scrape down the edges. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.
Your olive tapenade is ready when it has a coarse purée texture that is easy to spread.
The most common way of serving olive tapenade is as an appetizer or aperitivo on toasted baguette slices. You can make a platter with different crostini toppings for a special dinner.
You can also use it to boost the flavor of most grilled or baked vegetables, as shown in the picture below, with roasted cherry tomatoes and grilled mushrooms.
Or serve it in a bowl on a cheese board. We even tried it with dairy-free cheeses, and it was delicious.
Another delicious way of eating olive tapenade is as a sandwich spread with:
- Pita bread (flour, water, olive oil, instant dry yeast, etc.)
- Grilled tofu (tofu, olive oil, salt, paprika, etc.)
- Roasted eggplant (parsley, eggplant, apple cider vinegar, garlic, etc.)
- Marinated bell peppers (bell pepper, olive oil, basil, balsamic vinegar, etc.)
- Hummus (cumin, chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, paprika, etc.)
For example, we often have it for breakfast and sometimes as a snack between two slices of whole-grain bread with hummus and ripe tomatoes.
You can also use it as a tasty pasta sauce or as a condiment for:
- Pasta salad (cherry tomatoes, cucumber, corn, white beans, bowtie pasta, etc.)
- Rice salad (olives, rice, pickled cucumber, cherry tomatoes, parsley, etc.)
- Barley salad (roasted vegetables, sundried tomatoes, barley, etc.)
- Simple side salad (mixed leaves, tomatoes, olive oil, etc.)
- Homemade gnocchi or sweet potato gnocchi (flour, potato, sage, etc.)
Make ahead: this one’s an excellent recipe to make ahead as it keeps well for days.
Refrigerator: store leftover tapenade in an airtight container (we recommend a mason jar) in the fridge for up to one week. You can serve it cold straight from the refrigerator.
Freezer: you can freeze tapenade in a small jar for up to 3 months. Then, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.
More Appetizer Recipes
If you love spreads and dips, check out these easy appetizer ideas:
- Easy vegan pesto (nutritional yeast, basil, garlic, walnuts, water, olive oil, etc.)
- Tzatziki (cucumber, Greek-style yogurt, garlic, olive oil, mint, dill, etc.)
- Guacamole (avocado, red onion, lime juice, cilantro, etc.)
- Avocado spread (tahini, avocado, garlic, lemon juice, salt.)
- Eggplant dip (eggplant, tahini, cumin, garlic, water, lemon juice, etc.)
- Sun-dried tomatoes pesto (olive oil, garlic, walnuts, etc.)
For more condiment ideas, check out our dressing and sauces category page.
- Food processor
- 1 heaping cup pitted black olives
- 3 teaspoons capers
- 2 – 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ clove garlic
- ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley optional
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice optional
- 2 twists black pepper optional
- To a food processor, add pitted black olives, capers, garlic, flat-leaf parsley, and lemon juice.Tip: if capers are in salt, rinse them first.
- Pulse a few times until you have a coarse olive purée, stopping to scrape down the sides of the food processor.Add the olive oil, starting with two tablespoons and up to four tablespoons at the most. Depending on your olives, you might need to add more or less oil.
- Pulse a few more times until you reach your desired consistency, stopping once or twice to scrape down the edges. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.Your olive tapenade is ready when it has a coarse purée texture that is easy to spread.
- Serve on top of crostini or crackers for a crunchy and tasty appetizer. See more serving suggestions in the dedicated chapter above the recipe box.
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