The flavor of capers is hard to replicate, but there are a few options if you’re all out! Here’s the best substitute for capers in recipes.

Making a recipe that calls for capers and don’t have them? Capers are a berry of the caper bush that’s native to the Mediterranean. You’ll find them in Mediterranean-style recipes, most well known in chicken piccata. They’re served pickled, and you’ll find them in jars near the olives. They’re round and dark green gray, about the size of a peppercorn. Want to know the best substitute for capers if you can’t find them? Keep reading.

More about capers

What do capers taste like? They’re briny and lemony, and add a tangy bite to recipes. They’re essential in Pasta Puttanesca. Because the flavor of capers is so unique, we recommend that you run to the store and buy some if at all possible!

What are caper berries vs non-pareil capers? “Non-pareil” refers to the smallest size of capers. Translated from French, non-pareil means “has no equal”: meaning these are the best size of capers in terms of flavor.

Caper berries are about the size of an olive, and come with the stem attached. They are the ripened fruit of the caper plant, whereas the non-pareil capers are the buds. Caper berries are tougher and starchier, and don’t have nearly as much flavor as non-pareil capers. So they’re not recommended as a substitute for capers in recipes.

Best substitute for capers

Note that how these options work depend on the type of recipe and how the capers are used!

1. Chopped green olives

The best substitute for capers? Chopped green olives! Use large green olives packed in water if you can find them — and don’t get the filled kind! They can mimic the briny flavor of capers. Roughly chop them, then you can use 1 tablespoon chopped olives in place of 1 tablespoon capers.

2. Chopped Kalamata olives

A substitute for capers that’s just as good: Kalamata olives! Roughly chopped Kalamata olives can also stand in 1:1 for capers in recipes. If your recipe already calls for olives, like a salad or Pasta Puttanesca, you can consider simply omitting the capers. However, the roughly chopped olives do add a contrasting texture.

3. Head to the store!

Are you on the fence about capers because you’ve haven’t used them before? They add the most unique flavor to recipes and are absolutely worth buying! If you’re considering leaving them out of a recipe, we’d beg you to reconsider.

Here are some recipes that use capers where you can use this substitution!

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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