Boring Meals Be Gone: The Best Olive Substitutes!

Olive substitute - woman eating olives

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If you find yourself without olives, don’t worry, as there are many great substitutes to keep the essence of your dish alive. Swap black olives with capers to retain a salty flavour in your recipes, or green olives with artichoke hearts to bring a tender yet distinct texture to your meals. In place of Kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes can be your hero, introducing a rich and savory dimension to tapenades and beyond.


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Have you ever found yourself midway through a recipe only to discover that your cherished jar of olives is glaringly absent from your pantry? Or perhaps you belong to the group that doesn’t quite enjoy the briny taste that olives often bring to the table? You’re certainly not alone in this! Both seasoned olive lovers and those a little less fond of them find themselves seeking an olive substitute that could seamlessly fit the profile of different olives, both in terms of texture and flavour.

But worry not! We have embarked on a culinary exploration to bring you an array of the best substitutes that retain the rich, diverse flavour profile characteristic of various olives, without having to use them. From replacing black olives in your favourite recipes to finding the most harmonious alternative to green olives in a classic puttanesca, we’ve got the answers that will still allow you to create a magical gastronomic experience in your kitchen. So, let’s take a culinary voyage into the realm of the best olive substitutes, guiding both olive lovers and others to find that perfect match that elevates your dishes to new heights.

Swapping One Type of Olive for Another

Sometimes you have a recipe calling for a specific variety of olive and all you have are different types of olives resting in your pantry. Not to worry, for swapping one type of olive for another can sometimes bring a refreshing change to your dishes without straying too far from the original taste and texture. Let’s examine how you can play around with the olive varieties you have on hand:

Castelvetrano Swapped with Black Olives

Best Alternative: When the recipe calls for the mild and nutty flavour of black olives, Castelvetrano olives can step in beautifully with their buttery texture and neutral flavour. They are a great alternative that harmonises well in recipes, introducing a subtle, fresh note that is utterly delightful.

black olives

Gaeta Replacing Green Olives

Best Option: If green olives are what you are missing, then Gaeta olives could be your best bet. Their refreshing yet slightly deeper taste can come close to what green olives offer, making it a preferred option in recipes that originally require green olives.

Nicoise as a Kalamata Substitute

Best Substitute: When Kalamata olives are not within reach, Nicoise olives can come to your rescue, offering a rich and savoury flavour profile, akin to that of Kalamata, thus standing tall as a best substitute in recipes that call for the latter.

Picholine versus Nicoise

Great Substitute: In the battle of the substitutes, Picholine can replace Nicoise owing to its strong taste and slightly nutty flavour profile. It brings a different dimension to the dishes, serving as a great substitute that maintains the rich essence that Nicoise olives impart.

Bowl of green olives

Replacing Olives When You Don’t Have Any

Black Olives

  • Best alternative in recipes: Capers take centre stage with their salty flavour, mirroring the briny taste characteristic of black olives and thus standing as a great substitute in a variety of dishes. Their inclusion promises to retain that signature zest we all crave.
  • Great substitute for a salad: If capers don’t resonate with your taste palette, you might find a friend in black grapes. Their texture harmonises with that of black olives, introducing a refreshing mild sweetness that elevates your salads to a new dimension.
Olive substitute - Capers

Green Olives

  • Best option in a recipe: Artichoke hearts march forward as the hero, ensuring your dishes retain a vibrant hue and a slightly different flavour that’s both refreshing and satisfying, wonderfully taking the place of olives in your recipes.
  • Great addition in puttanesca: Don’t shy away from experimenting with green peppercorns in your puttanesca. Their mild heat and hint of sweetness could potentially become your secret weapon to achieving a heartwarming and slightly spicy puttanesca, even in the absence of green olives.
Olive substitute - Artichokes

Kalamata Olives

  • Best substitute in tapenade: The sun has dried tomatoes to rescue your tapenade, introducing a rich, sun-kissed, and slightly tart flavour, promising a strong flavour profile that might just make sun-dried tomatoes your new go-to for a tapenade base.
  • Great way to retain texture in salads: Dill pickles come to your rescue, offering a crunchy texture that contrasts wonderfully with other salad components, introducing a briny taste that is a delightful change, while blue cheese can add a creamy and strong flavour, ensuring a gastronomic adventure in every bite.
Olive substitute - Sundried tomato tapenade

Discovering ways to replace olives in the centrepiece of various dishes can be like unveiling new levels of flavour in your favourite meals. From pasta dishes to salad dressings, let’s dive into the exciting alternatives to olives, making every meal a masterpiece of vibrant flavours and textures.

Pasta Sauces

While many pasta sauces swear by the inclusion of olives, bringing in substitutes can offer a different flavour note that is equally enthralling.

  • Kalamata Olives: Try swapping these with Nicoise olives for a similarly bold and rich flavour profile in your pasta sauces.
  • Black Olives: A delightful substitute can be cherry tomatoes, bringing a vibrant colour and a sweet-tangy note that elevates the sauce to a whole new level.

Salad Dressings

An essential aspect of salads, the dressing can be tweaked with innovative replacements for olives, offering a delightful flavour profile to your green concoctions.

  • Green Olives: For a mild yet captivating replacement, caper berries come in as a stellar olive substitute, introducing a unique tang to your salad dressings.
  • Picholine Olives: These can be gracefully replaced with slivers of almond, introducing a nutty undertone to your dressing, making it a delicious way to enjoy your salad.
Try this Caper Vinaigrette at The Devil Wears Salad


When faced with a savoury baking recipe, olives often find their place as a hero ingredient in multiple savoury baked goods, offering a splendid burst of flavour in each bite. However, replacing them can sometimes bring a refreshing change.

  • Gaeta Olives: Think of swapping these with sun-dried tomatoes for a hint of sweetness that contrasts beautifully with the savoury notes of your baking recipe.
  • Nicoise Olives: Try replacing them with a mild cheese, adding a creamy texture and rich flavour to your baked delights.

Pasta Dishes

Pasta dishes often welcome olives with open arms, providing a briny, savoury depth to the flavours. So what could possibly be your perfect olive substitute?

  • Castelvetrano Olives: Imagine substituting these with caper berries, offering a tangy and briny note, lending a different, yet exciting flavour spectrum to the dish.
  • Nicoise Olives: Taking a bold step? Substitute them with anchovies for a salty and umami depth that pairs wonderfully with various ingredients, enhancing the flavour profile manifold.

As you explore the world of olive substitutes in popular dishes, remember that each change is not just a substitution but an opportunity to discover a delightful new blend of flavours, taking your culinary expertise to new heights with each delicious way you choose to venture. So, get experimenting and let your dishes be a canvas of vibrant flavours, tantalising textures, and heavenly aromas.

Olive Substitute FAQ

What is a good substitute for olive oil flavour?

A great substitute that maintains a similar flavour profile to olive oil is avocado oil. It has a smooth and buttery taste, paired with a nutritional profile that is akin to olive oil, rich in healthy fatty acids and vitamin E. It stands as a great addition to recipes, giving a slightly different but pleasant nuance to your dishes.

What is a good substitute for olive oil in salads?

For salads, a wonderful alternative to olive oil is walnut oil. It offers a mild, nutty flavour which can elevate the taste of your salads to a whole new level. Moreover, it is a rich source of fatty acids, ensuring that you are not missing out on the healthy aspects while enjoying a delightful salad.

Can I replace Kalamata olives with green olives in a recipe?

Absolutely, replacing Kalamata with green olives can be a vibrant change. While the taste might vary slightly due to the briny taste of green olives compared to the strong taste of Kalamata, it can still work wonderfully, giving your recipe a fresh and tangy spin.

What can I use instead of capers and olives?

In recipes where capers and olives are used, you might consider using pickled onions or diced gherkins as a substitute. These options bring a similar flavour profile with a blend of salty and vinegary notes, thus being a great addition to your dishes, standing as a firm substitute for both capers and olives.

Conclusion: Olive Substitutes

As we conclude our culinary journey exploring the world of olive substitutes, we trust you’ve found new pathways to elevate your dishes with a symphony of flavours and textures. Whether embracing the rich, nutty dimensions of walnut oil in salads, or substituting black olives with the comforting embrace of capers, there are endless avenues to explore, each promising health and delightful experiences. This guide is designed to arm you with the best substitutes, presenting you with a mosaic of healthy and tantalising options that see beyond merely replacing an ingredient, inviting you to view each substitute as a doorway to undiscovered delights. So, in the spirit of culinary artistry, let your kitchen canvas burst with fresh, explorative flavours as you discover a rich tapestry of olive substitutes, ensuring your culinary journey remains vibrant, healthful, and absolutely delightful.