Olive Tapenade is an easy accompaniment that can be enjoyed as an appetizer, as an addition to Antipasto Platters or cheese boards, or with main course meats like Chicken Milanese. It’s like a fancier version of Marinated Olives and has tons of uses. It only takes 5 minutes to make!
Tapenade is so, so under appreciated, if you ask me. Not only is tapenade really flavorful and delicious, but it takes just 5-10 minutes to prepare, keeps well, and is very flexible in accommodating different types of olives and ingredients as you like.
Truthfully, much of the time I use it as a “dinner cheat” on tired nights, when I’ll make a simple roasted Spatchcock Chicken and a simple side, and mix together this punchy tapenade as a way to give everything lots of flavor. It never gets old for us.
No joke, sometimes my husband eats this tapenade with a spoon because he loves it so much, proclaiming each time, “that’s so good.”
Tips for Best Results
Do not overchop the ingredients – Tapenade should have texture to it, and be more coarse than smooth. Take care not to overprocess the mixture in the food processor and turn it into a paste.
Be thoughtful about what olives you use – This is not the time to use cheap canned olives. Get the good stuff. I think a combination of Castelvetrano and Lecino olives is AMAZING but I have more suggestions below.
Mince or press the garlic before mixing – This ensures that the garlic will be very broken down and spread out without having to risk overchopping the olives.
We have the French to thank for this delicious olive spread, as traditional tapenade originally comes from the South of France. Tapenade is the provençal word for this olive condiment that has delicious briny flavors from an assortment of olives and other fresh ingredients.
Ideas for How to Enjoy It
There are many ways to use up your homemade tapenade. Here are some ideas!
- Spread on fresh bread like toasted baguette or Sourdough Discard Flatbread and serve as an appetizer.
- Include the tapenade on an Antipasto Platter or cheese board.
- Add a dollop to breakfast Salmon and Eggs.
- Stir into hummus and serve with pita.
- Use as a sandwich spread or on paninis, like Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches.
- Add to various pasta salads, like Caprese Pasta Salad.
- Serve with Buttermilk Crackers as a bar snack paired with a glass of wine.
- Eat it with simple roasted meats like chicken or Pork Tenderloin. We love it with Spatchcock Chicken and Parmesan Crusted Chicken.
Ingredients You’ll Need
Tapenade is simple, and its deliciousness depends quite a bit on the quality of the ingredients you use, so keep that in mind. This is not the time to use the cheap olives that come in a can.
For this tapenade recipe, you’ll need:
- Quality olives (below I have Castelvetrano and Lecino)
- Fresh Parsley
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Fresh garlic
- Crushed red pepper flakes
Variations can also include anchovy filets (gives a nice umami flavor), other fresh herbs like fresh basil leaves or fresh thyme, fresh citrus like lemon zest, and spices like black pepper.
Start by using the above handful of ingredients, then feel free to experiment from there if you so choose. It’s a very versatile condiment.
What’s the Best Kind of Olive to Use?
My favorite is to do a mix of Castelvetrano Olives and Lecino Olives. Castelvtranos are buttery and not overly salty, so I pretty much always include these as half the mix. However, you truly may use whatever type of quality olive you prefer, so long as they are good quality.
Other varieties I enjoy are Kalamata olives, Nicoise, Cerignola, Picholine, and Gordal, but it can be fun to take a trip to the olive bar, try a bunch, and see what your personal favorite olives are.
Just make sure to use good olives here. I don’t recommend the cheap black olives in a can that you often see on pizza.
Also, if it matters to you, pay attention to the color of olives that you use. If you want a green tapenade, use olives like Castelvetrano and Frescatrano. If you want a black olive tapenade, choose darker varieties.
How to Pit Olives, If Needed
A lot of quality olives are now available pitted (including castelvetranos), but if your favorite variety is only available with the pits still inside, fortunately olives are easy to pit yourself.
I previously used this cherry and olive pitter tool (affiliate), but never found it easy to use.
What I like to do instead is give each olive a whack with a meat hammer (affiliate), and the pits come right out.
Place all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor, making sure to chop the garlic cloves first:
This gives the garlic a head start in breaking down.
You only want to pulse and chop a few times, until the olive pieces are small, but not completely pureed. It ultimately is personal preference, but I love having a chunkier texture rather than a coarse paste.
No food processor? Just chop and mix by hand.
You may note here that I do not add any kosher salt to the mix, since the olives are already so salty, but feel free to taste and make any necessary adjustments.
The tapenade is now ready to enjoy, and this delicious spread will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge.
Tips and FAQ
Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Yes, store in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
Absolutely, and this is very make-ahead friendly. It will keep for up to 2 weeks, but I recommend not making it more than a day or two in advance for peak flavor and freshness.
- 1 cup castelvetrano olives pitted
- 1/2 cup lecino olives pitted
- 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (high-quality)
- 1 large garlic clove minced
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- Place all ingredients into a food processor* and pulse until well chopped, but not pureed.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
Post updated in April 2022. Originally published in February 2019.