Olive lovers, tapenade is for you! Tapenade is an olive spread or dip hailing from the Provence region in France. It’s bold, zippy, briny and salty, though we’ll be sure to keep the salt level in check.
Served with crostini or crackers, tapenade is a wonderful appetizer with drinks. It offers some welcome contrast when served with creamy dips, like hummus or spinach artichoke dip. You can also spread it onto sandwiches, dollop it onto salads, and more. Tapenade will keep for a week or two in the fridge, so you’ll find many uses for it.
Tapenade is named after the Provençal word for capers, tapenas. Over the years, olives have become the predominant ingredient, and I used capers as a subtle accent. Similar olive spreads have been served in the Mediterranean for ages, which is why tapenade is a natural pairing with your favorite Mediterranean flavors.
Traditional tapenade also includes anchovies, but being vegetarian, I omitted them. This dip is loaded with complex flavor regardless, and it’s suitable for vegans and those with shellfish allergies as well.
To make this easy tapenade, you’ll need just a few basic ingredients and a food processor. It comes together in about 10 minutes with mostly pantry ingredients! You’ll need Castelvetrano and Kalamata olives, fresh parsley, capers, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. Let’s make some already.
The Best Olives for Tapenade
In France, you’ll find tapenades made entirely with black olives (typically Niçoise olives), or green olives, or a combination of the two. While it’s a matter of preference, I highly recommend a combination of green olives (specifically, Castelvetrano) and black (Niçoise or Kalamata, not the squeaky canned kind). You’ll find both of these varieties in well-stocked American grocery stores.
Castelvetrano olives are rich, buttery, fleshy and not too salty, as many olives can be. Kalamata olives pack more of a briny punch, which is why we’ll use half as much black olive as green. Then we’ll add just a tablespoon of drained capers. Keeping the salt level in check is key to a truly enjoyable, flavorful dip.
The Easiest Way to Pit Olives
After some experimentation, I’m pleased to report that I’ve found a very easy way to pit olives. Hooray!
Here’s how: Place a small handful of olives on a cutting board. Find a sturdy liquid measuring cup or jar with a wide base (I imagine a skillet would work, too). Press the base of the jar down over the olives until they break into pieces (see photo above). Now, you can remove the pits with ease.
Pitted Olive Safety Note
Even if you are using pre-pitted olives, check each one to ensure that it’s actually been pitted. It’s not unusual to find some olive pits along the way. It’s best to find the pits before they go into the food processor and break into smaller pieces. The pits are very hard and could break a tooth!
How to Serve Tapenade
Tapenade is a lovely appetizer with a glass of wine (especially a crisp rosé or sauvignon blanc) or a stiff gin or vodka-based cocktail (think gin and tonic or martini).
Tapenade has many uses, though. Here are some serving suggestions:
- Cheese plates: Serve tapenade in place of whole olives (or in addition to them, if you’re serving olive lovers).
- Salads: Whisk a dollop of tapenade into a vinaigrette or spoon it sparingly over tomato salad.
- Sandwiches: Tapenade is a great sandwich spread, especially with avocado, creamy cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers.
- Savory breakfasts: Tapenade would be nice on scrambled or fried eggs, with sun-dried tomatoes, fresh parsley or basil, and creamy cheese, such as goat cheese or feta.
- Or simply with crostini, crackers or crusty bread
Please let me know how your tapenade turns out in the comments! I love hearing how you serve my recipes.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 1 ½ cups 1x
- Category: Appetizer
- Method: Food processor
- Cuisine: French
- Diet: Vegan
This tapenade recipe tastes so fresh and comes together so easily! Serve this French olive spread with crackers, crostini, cheese plates or on sandwiches. Recipe yields 1 ½ cups tapenade.
- 1 cup Castelvetrano olives, pitted*
- ½ cup Niçoise or Kalamata olives, pitted*
- ¼ cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley (thin stems are ok)
- 1 tablespoon drained capers
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- In the bowl of your food processor, combine all of the ingredients (pitted olives, parsley, capers, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice). Pulse briefly about 10 times, then scrape down the sides of the jar.
- Pulse 5 to 10 more times until well chopped, but not pureed, or until you reach your desired texture. Serve as desired. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
*Safety note/how to pit olives: Even if buying pitted olives, check to ensure each olive has actually been pitted (sometimes they sneak through). To pit olives with ease, place several olives on a cutting board, then press a sturdy, large liquid measuring cup or jar down over them. The olives will break into pieces, making it easy to remove the pits.
No food processor? Finely chop the solid ingredients by hand, then stir all of the ingredients together in a bowl.