It takes less than 10 minutes to whip up a batch of black olive Tapenade in your food processor! This umami-rich spread is an easy and delicious ingredient to dress up hors d’oeuvres and dinner recipes.
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Truth: I wasn’t planning to photograph this recipe when I did. Have you ever made your grocery shopping list and ended up buying something that you didn’t need because you didn’t see it hiding behind a bigger container in your fridge?
This was my olive problem last week. I didn’t see the low container, placed my grocery order, and ended up with so many olives!
One of my favorite things to make with olives is Tapenade (and, it’s an especially good recipe when you find yourself with more olives than you intended!). This salty, briny, deeply-flavored spread is always a good idea.
What is Tapenade?
I’m guessing that “utterly delicious,” while accurate, wouldn’t be enough of an explanation here. <cue laugh track> Tapenade is a Provençal olive spread or paste, traditionally made with olives, capers, anchovies, and olive oil.
Olives are the primary ingredient here, but I learned from a chef friend several years ago that the word tapenade actually comes from the Provençal word tapenas, which translates to “capers.”
In contemporary use, you might see the term describe spreads that aren’t olive or caper-based. I’ve seen “artichoke tapenade” and “red pepper tapenade” on restaurant menus and in gourmet stores.
Technically, these aren’t really tapenade. The use is similar to how the word “aioli” has popularly been applied to the greater world of “flavored mayonnaise.”
What Goes in Black Olive Tapenade
Recipes for classic olive tapenade can vary. Some stick to the olive-caper-anchovy-olive oil formula without adding additional seasonings. Other recipes (like mine), add garlic, herbs, lemon juice, and sometimes, a touch of Dijon mustard.
You can make tapenade with black or green olives. For this black olive tapenade, I use Kalamata or Niçoise.
Want to brush up on olive varieties? Check out A Beginner’s Guide to Olives: 14 Varieties Worth Seeking Out from Serious Eats.
I use rinsed, oil-packed anchovy fillets in this recipe. You might be wondering if the anchovies will make the tapenade taste fishy. They won’t! Anchovies add great umami.
I also like to rinse my olives and capers before adding them. Tapenade is a salty spread by nature, but I like to control how much salt I’m adding with each ingredient so it isn’t overpowering.
Before I make the tapenade, I take the extra step of soaking the raw garlic in lemon juice. Letting this mixture sit for about 10 minutes helps to tone down the harsh bite that raw garlic cloves can have.
If you prefer a more assertive garlic flavor, you can skip this step entirely.
For herbs, I like to use a mixture of fresh thyme leaves and parsley. Fresh basil leaves are also a great alternative during the summer months.
How to Make It
Classic tapenade uses a mortar and pestle to pound the ingredients into a paste. You can do this at home if you have one, but I like to use the pulse function on my food processor.
Readers often ask me what food processor I use in my kitchen. I love my Breville Sous Chef. I’ve had the 16-cup model for several years, which also comes with a 2.5-cup mini bowl that fits inside of the larger bowl. (Pictured in this post.)
I just add the ingredients to the food processor and pulse them until coarsely chopped. Then, I drizzle in enough olive oil in a steady stream while pulsing to create a medium-to-coarse textured, spreadable paste.
Store tapenade in a tightly-covered container in the refrigerator (I use a clip-top or hinged glass jar) for up to 5 days. The oil will solidify when chilled, so bring the spread back to room temperature before using it.
Our Favorite Ways to Serve Tapenade
We love this olive spread as an hors d’oeuvre, used to top crostini. It’s a fantastic nosh, year round, with a glass of wine.
It’s is also a great addition to pasta dishes. I like to sauté cherry tomatoes and artichoke hearts, and toss them with bucatini and a few spoonfuls of the tapenade.
We also like to use tapenade to top or stuff chicken breasts and fish fillets, such as salmon or baked cod. It’s fantastic with lamb chops as well.
However you use it, remember that this is a complex, deeply-flavored recipe. A little tapenade can go a long way!
Black Olive Tapenade
- 1/2 pound pitted brine-cured Kalamata or Niçoise olives
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 2 oil-packed anchovy fillets
- 1 garlic clove , peeled
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional, if you like a little extra sharpness – depending on your olives)
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves (optional)
- 2-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper , to taste (optional)
- (Optional) Mince the garlic and combine it with the lemon juice in a small bowl. Let stand for about 10 minutes (This will reduce the harsh bite of the raw garlic in the tapenade – if you like a more assertive garlic flavor, skip this step and add the garlic and lemon juice with the olives in the food processor.)
- Drain, rinse, and pat dry the olives, capers, and anchovies. Place them in the bowl of a food processor, with the Dijon mustard (if using). Use short pulses to coarsely chop the mixture, scraping the bowl as needed.
- Add the garlic/lemon juice mixture, thyme, and parsley. Pulse a few times to combine. Add enough olive oil in a steady stream while pulsing to create a thick, medium- to coarse-textured, spreadable paste.
- Season to taste with pepper (optional), stirring to combine. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Return to room temperature before serving.