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!
- Dill Potato Salad
- French Potato Salad
- Italian Vegan Pasta Salad
- Paprika Goat Cheese Spread
- Easy Pasta Puttanesca Recipe
- Vegan Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.