This olive tapenade recipe is a simple appetizer full of bold, briny flavor! Serve this French spread with bread or on crostini.

Tapenade

When it comes to simple and satisfying appetizers, this one’s at the top of our list. This Olive Tapenade recipe takes just 5 minutes and explodes with pure Mediterranean flavor! This traditional French spread is made with olives and capers, and the salty, briny flavor is otherworldly. Spread a smear on bread or a crunchy crostini, and the savory pop transports you right to the South of France. This easy appetizer is perfect for anytime, though we love it best in the summer for easy dinners and picnics.

Ingredients in olive tapenade

Tapenade is a traditional French spread made with olives, capers and anchovies that originated in the Provence region of Southern France. It’s a popular French food eaten on bread or crostini, or as a sandwich spread, with fish, and other ways. The word tapenade comes from the French word tapenas, which means capers. Olive spreads similar to tapenade are popular in other Mediterranean cuisines as well, like Italian and Greek (a Greek variation is called pasta elias).

Tapenade gives me fond memories discovering this tasty spread on a trip to Southern France, and it’s a food that’s always given me carefree, summer vibes. Here are the ingredients in a classic French tapenade recipe:

  • Olives: traditional are French Niçoise olives; they’re hard to find in the US so we like a mix of Kalamata and ripe black olives
  • Capers
  • Anchovy paste (optional)
  • Garlic
  • Parsley
  • Olive oil
Olive tapenade

Types of olives to use

Traditionally a tapenade recipe uses French Niçoise olives, but they’re hard to find here in the US. Kalamata olives are a close substitute, but they have a stronger flavor. So, we like using a mixture of olives here to round out the flavor! Here’s what to look for:

  • Use a mix of pitted ripe black olives and Kalamata olives. These olives have a milder, rounder flavor to balance out salty Kalamata olives. Look for the cans that have whole olives.
  • You can use all Kalamata olives if you like, but keep in mind that it makes an even saltier, more one-note spread. We recommend a mix if at all possible.
  • Or, use whatever olives are your favorite! Castelvetrano olives are a favorite green olive of ours, and it makes a nice contrast to the dark purple Kalamata.

Use anchovy paste for traditional, or omit for vegan

Olive tapenade is traditionally made with anchovies, so we’ve called for anchovy paste here. However, you can absolutely leave it out and it’s just as good! Here are some notes on working with anchovy paste:

  • Anchovies are a traditional Mediterranean ingredient that adds bold, savory flavor to recipes. For example, it’s a classic ingredient in Caesar dressing.
  • You can find anchovy paste in your local grocery in a tube, then store it in your refrigerator for up to 18 months.
  • Omit anchovy paste for vegan! If you’d like, you can add a bit more salt to compensate for the saltiness of the anchovies. But depending on the type of olives you use, you may not need it.
Tapenade Recipe

How to serve tapenade

All you have to do to make tapenade? Blend up the ingredients in a food processor. In just 5 minutes, you have a brilliant spread that’s completely versatile for appetizers, sandwiches, and more. (In fact, My best friend recently threw a party for me with Salmon Caesar Salad and crostini with tapenade and it was perfection!) Here are a few ways to serve olive tapenade:

How do you plan to your use your tapenade? Let us know in the comments below.

More easy appetizer recipes

Throwing a party? Or simply want a tasty appetizer or pre-meal snack? This tapenade recipe is perfect for easy summer entertaining or as quick finger food. Here are a few more easy appetizer recipes you’ll love:

This olive tapenade recipe is…

Gluten-free and dairy-free. Without the optional anchovies, it’s vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based.

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Tapenade

Olive Tapenade


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cup (20 to 24 crostini) 1x

Description

This olive tapenade recipe is a simple appetizer full of bold, briny flavor! Serve this French spread with bread or on crostini.


Ingredients

Scale
  • ¾ cup ripe black olives, pitted*
  • ¾ cup Kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • ½ teaspoon anchovy paste (optional for vegan**)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced into a few pieces
  • 1 small handful fresh parsley (or fresh basil or thyme)
  • ¼ cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Place the olives, capers, anchovy paste, garlic, and parsley in a food processor. Pulse until roughly chopped. Scrape down the bowl. Then turn on the processor and drizzle in the olive oil until a chunky paste forms.
  2. Eat immediately or store up to 2 weeks refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Notes

*We like using a mixture of olives for a robust flavor. Look for ripe black olives, which have a more subtle, rounder flavor to balance the salty Kalamatas. If you can’t find them you can use all Kalamata olives, but it makes an even saltier spread.

**If you leave out the anchovy paste, you can add salt to taste: but tapenade may be salty enough as is depending on the olives you use. Or, add 2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes to the mix.

  • Category: Appetizer
  • Method: Blended
  • Cuisine: French inspired
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Keywords: Tapenade, olive tapenade, olive tapenade recipe, tapenade recipe

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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3 Comments

  1. This is delicious. Thanking you for the different ways to serve this. I like it on crackers as well and in wraps.

  2. OMG so glad to find this recipe! I am obsessed with tapenade, normally I buy it from the supermarket but can’t wait to try and do my own!