Olive Tapenade Recipe: A spreadable French garlic and caper dip

Discover tips for making an authentic olive tapenade recipe with garlic, capers, and a French Provençal touch. Versatile and fresh, perfect for spreads, dips, sandwiches, and cheese plates.

By Annie André ⦿ updated January 10, 2024  
Easy French Provençal Green and black olive tapenade recipe
Easy French Provençal Green and black olive tapenade recipe

What is tapenade?

Olive Tapenade recipe

u003cstrongu003eTapenade u003c/strongu003eis the French Provençal name for a versatile olive-based spread and condiment you can whip up in minutes with a few pantry ingredients that are finely chopped or pureéd into a spreadable paste.

The term “tapenade” is from the French Provençal word “tapéno,” which means “caper.” It’s believed to be linked with the Latin word “tāpa,” which refers to the caper bush or the small flower buds picked before blossoming into flowers.

Key Ingredients in Olive Tapenade

black olive tapenade noir ingredients

Understanding Ingredient Ratios in Tapenade

Before jumping into the recipe, you should know that there is no perfect tapenade recipe and that there are as many recipes as varieties of olives.

Below are the suggested ratios for the main ingredients which form the foundation of this condiment. Consider them as more of a starting point, not a hard-and-fast rule. Feel free to play around and tweak these ratios to suit your taste buds.

  • 70% to 80% olives
  • 3% to 5% capers
  • 1% to 2% anchovies
  • 1-2% garlic cloves
  • 10 to 20% olive oil: Adding the olive oil gradually allows you to control the texture and achieve the preferred thickness and consistency.

Yes, I know the ratios don’t add up to 100%, and that’s because these ratios are a starting point, not the rule. You can easily adjust them based on your preference.

chunky tapenade recipe

Chunky Rustic Mixed Olive Tapenade Recipe:

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Enjoy the flavours of the Mediterranean with this chunky mixed olive tapenade! A vibrant blend of Kalamata, green, and black olives combined with capers, garlic, fresh herbs, and olive oil. This textured, savoury condiment is perfect for spreading on bread, topping bruschetta, or enhancing your favourite dishes with its bold, tangy taste.

Ingredients

  • 250g mix of good quality pitted olives such as Kalamata, green, and black.
  • 1 tablespoon capers (drained)
  • 3 or 4 anchovies packed in oil (I recommend rinsing)
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic (add more if you love garlic.)
  • 3 to 6 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Parsley leaves from three sprigs.
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional: a little lemon zest and a splash of lemon juice.

Instructions

  1. Pit the olives using an olive pitter or by crushing them with the flat side of a knife; rinse and pat dry.
  2. Peel the garlic cloves. Optional: Cut cloves in half and remove the germ, which can sometimes have a bitter taste, especially if raw.
  3. Place in Mixer or hand-chop
  4. Place the olives, capers, peeled garlic, anchovy fillets, parsley, and pepper in a food processor or blender and give it a few pulses until coarsely chopped and the mixture is chunky. Be careful not to overprocess; you want some texture to remain.
  5. Gradually add the extra-virgin olive oil while pulsing the mixture. Continue pulsing until the ingredients are combined and reach your desired consistency. If using, add lemon juice for an extra tangy flavour.
  6. Alternatively, you can chop everything the olives by hand and mince the rest of the ingredients. Place in a bowl and mix with olive oil.

Recipe Tips

Tips for controlling the saltiness

chunky tapenade recipe

The first time I made tapenade, it came out too salty and thin because the olives, capers, and anchovies that are brined in salt to preserve them have different levels of saltiness and water content depending on the type used.

If you want to control the saltiness and prevent your tapenade from becoming overwhelming salty, you have a few options.

  1. Adjust the other salty ingredients in your recipe by using fewer capers and anchovy fillets, which are usually brined in salt.
  2. Rinse the olives and soak them in water for 30 minutes to a few hours, which will desalt them by leaching the salt out of them slowly.
  3. Rinse all the salty brined ingredients.

How to fix tapenade that is too salty

If you’ve already made your tapenade, and it’s too salty, you can still save.

All you have to do is add more olives which you have drained, rinsed and soaked in fresh cold water for about an hour to leach out the salt.

Then chop or purée the olives and mix them into the tapenade to balance it out.

Controlling the thickness and texture

You also don’t want your tapenade to be too runny or dry.

I suggest adding a little less olive oil to start, and if it’s too dry, add more olive oil as needed until you get the texture you want.

Mixing by hand or machine

You can purée all the ingredients in a blender or food processor to make a smooth, spreadable paste or a chunkier one by pulsing less.

You can also chop everything with a knife until you get the texture you like.

And finally, you can also slowly crush and mash all the ingredients together in a mortar and pestle. In the past, this is how tapenade was commonly made. Some people belive that this is more gentle compared to chopping with a knife or blending with a mixer. The flavours gradually meld together more evenly without altering or damaging them through excessive heat or rapid chopping.

Are there different types of tapenade?

There are many variations of tapenade that include additional ingredients beyond the traditional olives, capers, anchovies, olive oil, and garlic.

Some of these variations include:

  1. Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade:
  2. Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade:
  3. Artichoke Tapenade:
  4. Nut or Seed-based Tapenade: Almonds, walnuts, pine nuts etc.
  5. Herb-infused Tapenade: Includes additional herbs like thyme, basil, rosemary, or oregano.
  6. Spicy Tapenade: Chili peppers, red pepper flakes, or hot sauces to add heat and a fiery kick to the tapenade.

Customizing your tapenade recipe

black tapenade noir made with black olives

You can customize your recipe any way you like, but you should keep a few things in mind.

  • If you want to add an ingredient like basil, just remember you don’t need to add much.
  • If you add another liquid, such as mustard, be sure to adjust the amount of olive oil so it doesn’t come out too runny.

Here are some optional ingredients you can add to create a unique recipe based on your preferences.

  • Mustard
  • Herbes de Provence
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Pine nuts
  • Chili pepper
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Parmesan

Can I make a vegan tapenade?

Making a vegan version of this olive-based spread is easy. Simply omit the anchovies, or if you like, you can replace the umami flavour of anchovies with vegan-friendly ingredients such as miso, marmite, or vegemite

What can I use tapenade for?

Whether black or green, Tapenade is incredibly versatile and can be used in various ways, from a dip or spread to a condiment or ingredient in recipes.u003cbru003eu003cstrongu003eHere are a few examplesu003c/strongu003e:

  • As a spread for bread during apéro hour while sipping on pre-dinner aperitif drinks
  • Spread some on “canapés” like you would bruschetta for a cocktail party.
  • Add a little chopped tomatoes to make a tapenade bruschetta.
  • Glam up your sandwich or elevate your burger with a dab of tapenade.
  • Toss some with pasta for something similar to an Italian puttanesca sauce.
  • Use some as a filling or topping for an omelette.
  • Add a dollop as a topping for fish and chicken dishes to give it a kick.
  • Spread a little onto homemade pizza.
  • Use it as a salad dressing, or add it to your Caesar salad instead of anchovies. 

How long does tapenade last in the refrigerator?

Once you’ve made your tapenade, you may be wondering how long it will last.

Homemade tapenade can generally be stored in the refrigerator for about one to two weeks if kept in an airtight container and if you use a clean utensil when handling the tapenade to avoid contamination.

Another trick to extend the shelf life of a tapenade for a few months is to cover the surface of the tapenade with a thin layer of olive oil before placing it back in the refrigerator.

This will help preserve the freshness and prevent oxidation.

Good luck and bon appétit!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a 'petite commission' at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through my links. It helps me buy more wine and cheese. Please read my disclosure for more info.

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Annie André

Annie André

About the author

I'm Annie André, a bilingual North American with Thai and French Canadian roots. I've lived in France since 2011. When I'm not eating cheese, drinking wine or hanging out with my husband and children, I write articles on my personal blog annieandre.com for intellectually curious people interested in all things France: Life in France, travel to France, French culture, French language, travel and more.

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