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A briny, salty black olive tapenade is the perfect condiment to have around. You can use it on crostini or bruschetta for an instant sophisticated appetizer. All you have to do is toast up some good sliced bread brushed with olive oil and then smear a generous amount over the top.

Serve as is, top with a slice of roasted pepper, or sprinkle over some goat cheese (or both!). You can also toss it with pasta or substitute it for the green olive tapenade in this Creamy Fettuccine Alfredo tossed with crisp-tender green beans. I love tapenade with cauliflower, whether tossed with some simply roasted cauliflower or served with some thick charry cauliflower steaks.

In Italy, Gaeta olives are often used to make tapenade, while in France, Nicoise olives are more common (black olive tapenade originated in the Provence region of France). Any oil-cured black olive will work here. Salt-cured olives are a bit more intense in saltiness, as you would imagine.

Green olive tapenade is another way to go, and the two can pretty much be used interchangeably. It just depends on which kind of olive you are in the mood for. And if you’re not an olive lover…well, it’s possible you might change your mind once you taste this bright and briny spread.

Bowl of Black Olive Tapenade on tray with crostini bread.

Black Olive Tapenade: Bright, fresh and briny, this salty condiment can be used in so many ways, and makes a terrific topping for crostini.

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Black Olive Tapenade Ingredients

Black olives, herbs, lemon, anchovies, and other tapenade ingredients.
  • Pitted black olives – Any oil-cured black olive will work.
  • Anchovies – Rinsed and chopped; leave these out for a vegetarian tapenade and add another teaspoon of drained capers.
  • Minced garlic – Fresh garlic is an important flavor in tapenade.
  • Oregano or thyme leaves – Fresh is best here.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Capers – Drained and rinsed.
  • Fresh lemon juice and lemon zest – Add brightness and freshness to the tapenade.
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper – You may not need to add any additional salt if your olives are salty, so make sure to taste before adding.

Variations

  • Use tapenade as the base of a vinaigrette, adding your desired proportions of oil and vinegar, maybe a touch of Dijon mustard, or some minced shallots. No need to add additional salt and pepper, as the tapenade has plenty of seasoning built right in. Drizzle this vinaigrette over roasted vegetables or simply baked fish (try cod or salmon). Drizzle it over roasted carrots for the most beautiful spring side dish.
  • Add ½ cup of drained oil-packed sundried tomatoes.
  • Skip the anchovies and add another teaspoon of rinsed and dried capers for a vegetarian/vegan tapenade.
  • Try a mix of black and green olives.

How to Make Black Olive Tapenade

  1. Blend the ingredients: Place all of the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until it’s coarsely blended.
  2. Season and puree: Add salt and pepper to taste, then puree until the mixture is as coarse or fine as you like.
Brown bowl filled with homemade Black Olive Tapenade.

FAQs

What olives are best for black olive tapenade?

Kalamata, Nicoise, and Gaeta are all good choices, but any oil-cured black olives will work. It’s a nice way to try out different olives from the olive bar at your market!

What is black olive tapenade made of?

Black olive tapenade is usually made of black olives, olive oil, herbs (like oregano or thyme), and capers, with some lemon juice and zest for brightness. Anchovies are another common addition, though you can leave them out if you want a vegetarian version. Sometimes, sun-dried tomatoes are added as well.

How do you tell if tapenade has gone bad?

Tapenade should be tossed if you see signs of mold or smell an unpleasant odor. Also, throw it out if it tastes sour.

Pro Cooking Tips

  • You can buy pitted olives or pit them yourself. If you have an olive pitter, you are good to go. To pit olives without a pitter, just place them on a cutting board and use the side of a big heavy knife to press down on them, carefully giving the knife a firm smack with the side of your fist. The olive will crack, and then the pit can be popped out.
  • Olives vary in their level of saltiness, so make sure to taste the finished tapenade before adding any additional salt. If you use the tapenade in a dish, adjust any added salt with that in mind.
  • If you prefer green olives, go for it!
  • Traditionally, tapenade is made with a mortar and pestle, but I use the food processor, which allows the whole thing to come together in about 5 minutes.

Storage

Tapenade will last for up to 2 weeks in the fridge in a sealed container.

How to Use Black Olive Tapenade

Woman holding toasted bread with Black Olive Tapenade.
  • Use it to top crostini or bruschetta.
  • Smear it under the skin of chicken thighs or breasts before baking.
  • Use it as a sandwich spread. It’s especially good with sandwiches made with sliced turkey or chicken, as well as sandwiches that include cheese or tomatoes.
  • Serve it in a small bowl as part of a cheese platter, grazing board, or charcuterie board.
  • Serve with baguette or crackers.
  • Put tiny dollops on pizza.
  • Add a bit to eggs, whether fried, scrambled, or made into an omelet.
  • Add some to Caprese salad or a platter or sliced tomatoes.

Caprese Garlic Bread

How to Make a Perfect Omelet

Baked Bone-In Chicken Breasts

Using knife to spread Black Olive Tapenade on crostini.

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Black Olive Tapenade

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 0 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Servings: 8 People (makes ¾ cup)
Bright, fresh and briny, this salty condiment can be used in so many ways, and makes a terrific topping for crostini.

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup pitted black olives
  • 2 anchovies (rinsed and chopped)
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano or thyme leaves
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)

Instructions 

  • Place the olives, anchovies, garlic, parsley, olive oil, capers, and lemon juice and zest juice in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is coarsely blended.
  • Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. Continue to pulse or puree until the mixture is as coarse or fine as you like.

Notes

  • Tapenade will last for up to 2 weeks in the fridge in a sealed container.
  • You can buy pitted olives or pit them yourself. If you have an olive pitter, you are good to go. To pit olives without a pitter, just place them on a cutting board and use the side of a big heavy knife to press down on them, carefully giving the knife a firm smack with the side of your fist. The olive will crack, and then the pit can be popped out.
  • Olives vary in their level of saltiness, so make sure to taste the finished tapenade before adding any additional salt. If you use the tapenade in a dish, adjust any added salt with that in mind.

Nutrition

Calories: 88kcal, Carbohydrates: 1g, Protein: 0.5g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Cholesterol: 1mg, Sodium: 365mg, Potassium: 22mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 0.2g, Vitamin A: 79IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 22mg, Iron: 0.4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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