Substitutes for Olives

Olives, with their unique salty, briny, and slightly bitter flavour, are a staple in Mediterranean cuisine and beyond. If you’re seeking substitutes for olives, here are some options that cater to various tastes and preferences.

Best: Capers

Capers are an excellent substitute for olives, especially in terms of their salty, briny flavour profile. They are smaller but can provide a similar punch of flavour to dishes like salads, pasta, and as a garnish for fish.

How to Use

Use capers in similar amounts as you would olives. They work particularly well in recipes where olives are used for their salty, tangy accent, such as in sauces, dressings, or as a garnish.

Cheapest: Pickled Vegetables

Pickled vegetables, such as cucumbers, carrots, or cauliflower, can serve as an economical substitute for olives. They offer a similar tangy and briny flavour, though they lack the distinct bitterness of olives.

How to Use

Use pickled vegetables as a side dish or chop them up and use them in salads, sandwiches, or as a garnish. They can add a similar tanginess and crunch that you would expect from olives.

Tastiest: Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Sun-dried tomatoes can be a delicious alternative to olives, offering a sweet, tart, and umami-rich flavour. They work well in many of the same dishes as olives, such as pastas, salads, and pizzas.

How to Use

Chop sun-dried tomatoes and use them in place of olives in recipes. They can be rehydrated in oil or water if you prefer a softer texture, or used dry for a more intense flavour.

Most Accessible: Green Olives (for Black Olives) and Vice Versa

If you’re substituting within the olive family, green olives can replace black olives and vice versa, depending on what’s available. Green olives are firmer and slightly more bitter, while black olives are softer and have a milder, richer flavour.

How to Use

Simply use the available type of olive in place of the other. Adjust the quantity to taste, as there might be a slight difference in the intensity of flavour.

Most Unusual: Anchovies (for Salty Flavour)

For an unusual but effective salty flavour substitute, anchovies can be used in place of olives. They offer a strong umami flavour and are especially suitable in dishes where olives are used to add a depth of flavour, like pasta sauces or pizza toppings.

How to Use

Use anchovies sparingly, as they are much saltier and have a more intense flavour than olives. They can be finely chopped and added to dishes for a burst of salty, umami flavour.