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Bold and Tangy Tapenade Recipe for a Taste of Provence

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Bring an iconic Provençal dish to life in your home kitchen with our tapenade recipe, perfect for an appetizer with a deliciously bold, briny, and tart flavor to enjoy before your main meal.

Tapenade Recipe

Few spreads come as deep, intense, and utterly satisfying as tapenade. This iconic appetizer brings together some truly classic Mediterranean flavors and can be used in so many ways.

What is Tapenade?

Originating from the French region of Provence, tapenade is a thick, savory spread of chopped olives and capers, and/or anchovies depending on region and preference, along with a few additional ingredients.

Traditionally an appetizer, or hors d’œuvre in France, tapenade can be enjoyed in so many ways. You can spread it on bread, add it to salads, use it as a condiment with fish and meats, and even use it as a stuffing for chicken and other meats.

A hugely popular dish of French cuisine, tapenade can also be found in other European cuisines, including the likes of Italian cuisine. In fact, similar olive-based spreads have been documented in cookbooks and writings as far back as the reign of the Roman Empire, over a thousand years ago.

Variations

Olives – Typically, black olives are used in the making of tapenade, and you’ll commonly see Niçoise olives, grown in France, or Kalamata olives, of Greek origin, used. However, you will see, and can use, green olives, or even a combination of both green and black.

Anchovies – Some regions use a combination of both capers and anchovy fillet, while others just use capers and no anchovies, or vice versa.

Tapenade Ingredients

To make our tapenade recipe you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Black Olives – 175 grams (drained, about 1 cup)*
  • Anchovy Fillets – 2
  • Capers – 2 tbsp
  • Garlic – 1/2 clove
  • Fresh Oregano – 1 sprig
  • Lemon Juice – 1 tbsp
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil – 4 tbsp

Notes:

Black Olives – As mentioned above in “Variations,” try to use some flavorful black olives such as Niçoise olives. Other options could include Kalamata, Gaeta, and Ligurian. Just don’t use the canned, pitted, plain (flavorless) black olives.

Pitted or Unpitted Olives – We used unpitted olives in the recipe as we think they taste better and have more flavor than pitted olives. Obviously, this means you have to go through the step of removing the pits first (which is easier than you may think and only takes 2-3 minutes). If you’re in a hurry, you can use already pitted olives but you’ll just be losing a bit of the flavor.

Oregano – you can use 1 teaspoon of dried oregano instead of fresh oregano in this recipe if you don’t have access to fresh oregano. Other fresh herbs that pair well with tapenade are thyme and flat-leaf parsley.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1 – Remove the pits from the olives. The easiest way we found to do this is to press them on a wooden board with another board or baking dish or large tray (anything with a large surface).

Step 2 – To a pestle and mortar, add the capers, anchovies, garlic, and oregano, and crush them until you have a chunky paste.

Pro tip: If you don’t have a pestle and mortar, you can also make the tapenade in a food processor or simply by finely dicing the ingredients.

Step 3 – Add the olives and pound them with the pestle.

Step 4 – Add the lemon juice and the olive oil, and mix well until blended.

Step 5 – Serve the tapenade with your favorite bread.

We prefer to grill the bread slices with a drizzle of olive oil.

This is such a simple dish to serve at a gathering or celebration, and its deep, salty flavor pairs well with so many other sides and dishes.

Serving Suggestions

So when it comes to serving tapenade, the world really is your oyster. There are so many ways to enjoy this rich spread.

However, if you are keen to follow tradition, you can either take inspiration from France or Italy and consider the following:

Bread – As we have done in this recipe, spread it on sliced, grilled bread for an hors d’œuvre no one will forget in a hurry.

Pasta – If you want to take some inspiration from Italian cuisine, black olive tapenade is an excellent choice for mixing in with pasta, particularly spaghetti, in a similar vein to pesto. It can definitely be served with other ingredients, but tapenade and pasta on their own pack enough flavor.

Poultry Stuffing – It is not uncommon for chefs from the region to use tapenade as a stuffing for poultry before the bird is cooked. If you’re cooking, say, chicken for the whole family, this could be a great way to add a lot of flavor.

Salad Dressing – Many tapenade ingredients, such as lemon, oil, and olives, are used in salads in their own right. Hence, using tapenade as a salad dressing for a fresh, green salad will add plenty of zing and briny flavors.

Fish – You will come across lots of Mediterranean-inspired fish dishes that serve typically white fish, such as basa, with tapenade and a side of mashed potatoes and vegetables.

Dip/Spread – If you really want to keep things simple, plenty of people in the Mediterranean enjoy tapenades as a dip or spread. So you could serve it with raw or cooked vegetables, breadsticks, crackers, and lots of other ‘help yourself’ dishes.

If the sight of that thick, moist, dark olive spread, glistening in the light, isn’t enough to draw your guests to the dinner table, then its deep, briny aroma certainly will!

You’ve got brininess, saltiness, and zest smeared over a slice of oil-soaked crunch, which makes for a more than satisfying mouthful that keeps you coming back for another bite. This is Mediterranean flavor at its most intense, and we are here for it all day long!

Tapenade Recipe Card

Tapenade on bread

Tapenade

5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Author: Nomad Paradise
Course: Appetizers
Cuisine: French

Ingredients

  • 175 grams drained, about 1 cup black olives (unpitted)
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 1/2 garlic clove
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  • Remove the pits from the olives. The easiest way we found to do this is to press them on a wooden board with another board or baking dish or large tray (anything with a large surface).
  • To a pestle and mortar, add the capers, anchovies, garlic, and oregano, and crush them until you have a chunky paste. Pro tip: If you don’t have a pestle and mortar, you can also make the tapenade in a food processor or simply by finely dicing the ingredients.
  • Add the olives and pound them with the pestle.
  • Add the lemon juice and the olive oil, and mix well until blended.
  • Serve the tapenade with your favorite bread. We prefer to grill the bread slices with a drizzle of olive oil before serving the tapenade on them.

Recipe Notes

  • Black Olives – As mentioned above in “Variations,” try to use some flavorful black olives such as Niçoise olives. Other options could include Kalamata, Gaeta, and Ligurian. Just don’t use the canned, pitted, plain (flavorless) black olives.
  • Pitted or Unpitted Olives – We used unpitted olives in the recipe as we think they taste better and have more flavor than pitted olives. Obviously, this means you have to go through the step of removing the pits first (which is easier than you may think). If you’re in a hurry, you can use already pitted olives, but you’ll just be losing a bit of the flavor.
  • Oregano – you can use 1 teaspoon of dried oregano instead of fresh oregano in this recipe if you don't have access to fresh oregano. Other fresh herbs that pair well with tapenade are thyme and flat-leaf parsley.
Did you make this recipe?Mention @nomadparadisefood or tag #nomadparadisefood!

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Author

  • Hey there! We are Dale and Doina, the founders of Nomad Paradise. We traveled full-time for over three years, and while we now have a home base in the U.K., continue to take trips abroad to visit new places and try new cuisines and foods. Our food guides are curated with the guidance of local foodies, and their contribution is indicated under each article. We also cook the foods we try abroad, and you can discover how to make them in our 'recipes from around the world' category.

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