DIY Food

How to Make Tapenade Without a Recipe

February 18, 2015

Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often. This post is brought to you by Triscuit.

Today: Olive lovers unite with this easy -- recipe-free -- spread that can spruce up happy hour or fancify lunch.

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When you love olives, it's hard to keep them out of your day-to-day eating plans: a small tupperware of Castelvetrano olives here, a dish of anchovy-stuffed olives there, an Umbrian black olive panino for lunch one day, a Sicilian green olive salad for dinner the next, and, well, you get the idea. But even olive lovers tire of eating olives by the finger. Sometimes you need a new way to dress up olives for a party or to turn them into a portable snack. 

Enter tapenade. If you're familiar only with the kind that comes in the small jar from the supermarket, you're missing out. The time saved may seem to compensate for the less-than-ideal flavor, but you can make make a much better version at home in under 30 minutes. Here’s how:

1. Gather your ingredients. In order to make an amazing tapenade, you must have two ingredients: capers and olives. Technically, you are not making a tapenade until you have smashed capers and olives together. Also be sure to grab an anchovy or two, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. 

Olives are the backbone of tapenade, so choose wisely and follow your personal preference: Use green olives, Kalamata olives, or a mix of the two, and aim for 2 cups of pitted olives total. I also like to get creative by adding fresh herbs. Tapenade typically includes some combination of thyme, basil, parsley, oregano, and rosemary, but feel free pick whichever herbs look fresh and appealing. 

More: Before you head to the market, learn a little more about herbs

2. Blend. Toss all of your ingredients -- except for the olive oil -- into a food processor. Blend until a thick paste forms. (We told you this was easy.)


3. Incorporate the oil. With the processor running, add the olive oil slowly, until the tapenade becomes a little more chunky and less paste-like, about 1 to 2 minutes. Depending on the kind of olives you are using and whether they came packed in oil, you will probably need somewhere between a couple of tablespoons and a half cup. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 



4. Serve the tapenade on crackers or bread. You can also use it as a spread on sandwiches or pack it into small jars and give it to your closest olive-loving friends. 

What's your idea of the perfect tapenade? Green or black olives? Rosemary or thyme? Tell us in the comments! 

Photos by Mark Weinberg

Our friends at Triscuit have more ideas for your next snack. Get inspired on Pinterest.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Kira LaFleur
    Kira LaFleur
  • witloof
  • Phishstyx
  • tamater sammich
    tamater sammich
  • Kateq
Past Julia Child Fellow at Food52 || Believer in Brunch


Kira L. April 29, 2016
How much of the ingredients do you use?
witloof February 19, 2015
I have a friend who is an amazing cook, never measures anything and always uses the plainest, least fancy ingredients. She makes a wonderful olive spread by blending pitted green Israeli olives {from a can} garlic and a little mayonnaise in a food processor.
Phishstyx February 19, 2015
Yes, to pulsing. I like all the flavors mentioned in the article & the comments, but notice an absence of capsaicin. I need heat to digest with anything heavy in fat; in tapenade, I don't want to interfere with the flavors my spice choice is a big pinch of hot pepper flakes. When I make caponata (imo, tapenade with tomatoes or eggplant or both), I prefer heat from chipotles: The smoke really enhances the nightshade family.
Hannah P. February 19, 2015
Adding chipotles to tapenade sounds lovely!
tamater S. February 18, 2015
Sorry, but I just can't see serving Tapenade on Triscuits.
Anybody have any other serving suggestions? Maybe French or Italian bread?
Susan H. February 19, 2015
I serve tapenade with goat cheese and toasted bread.
Phishstyx February 19, 2015
Good, crusty breads (soft or toasted) are usual. Can spread on baguette rounds and top with cheese of choice & lightly broil. Good on any vegetarian sandwich, or to fill an omelet (With or without sauteed vegetables). I also serve it on grilled or roasted meats (slip under chicken breast skin before roasting).
tamater S. February 19, 2015
Susan Hanna, thanks for the goat cheese suggestion. I've only had it a couple of times, but now you mentioned it, I think yes, of course. Next time, definitely.
tamater S. February 19, 2015
Phishstyx (I LOVE that handle!) we had a baguette in the freezer, and man-oh-man, was this dish good. We hardly had room for the entree. Next time, I'll hide some from ourselves in the fridge, to try Saturday brunch, in an omelet. So glad I asked!
Phishstyx February 19, 2015
thanks, [& I'm always up for a good tamater sammich :)]
So happy you enjoyed it!
t V. July 16, 2015
I’ll eat it as a breakfast meal: toasted everything bagel or rosemary/olive bread, a slice of favorite cheese melted, next the olive tapenade, chunky guacamole and thinly sliced garden tomato or grape tomato and often diced green onions.
Heather D. April 8, 2016
Kateq February 18, 2015
Add in some figs and/or orange rind--delicious!
Danita February 18, 2015
I use garlic stuffed green olives, some capers and anchovies then add the oil. It's my go to.
Lvd February 18, 2015
Not all tapenades include capers, and I prefer mine without (as does my MIL, who was raised in Draguignan). I also think it's really important to break the garlic down before putting it in the processor (I run mine through a garlic press, but a quick rough chop would work)--if you don't, the garlic ends up the same size as the olives and doesn't distribute properly. I also agree with Chickenfog that pulsing is the way to go.
tamater S. February 18, 2015
I'm with you on this one. I hate getting a big chunk of garlic in dips and the like. I use a press or knife-smash then chop.
walkie74 February 19, 2015
I am all about kalamatas, garlic, salt and pepper. That's all I need for tapenade. Oh, and tortilla chips...
Hannah P. February 19, 2015
Capers certainly do not have to make an appearance in your tapenade, but they sure are tasty! Think of this Not Recipe as a starting point and add, or don't add, whatever will make you the happiest -- while eating the tapenade -- at the end of the day.
Jane K. February 18, 2015
I want to use this as a face mask [aka it sounds SO good]. Can't wait to make it on Sunday!
SLittlejohn February 18, 2015
I adore olive tapenade and use both black and green. Seems to me it has a more complex flavor profile. I also just pulse it a few times and its perfect. Then the task is not to eat it with a spoon...
Chickenfog February 18, 2015
Great ideas that I use all the time for spontaneous parties. Best of all, the ingredients are all pantry items.

One quibble. This is way too long to run the food pro:
"With the processor running, add the olive oil slowly, until the tapenade becomes a little more chunky and less paste-like, about 1 to 2 minutes."

In fact, I don't "run" it at all, I use the pulse mode. If I ran it for 2 minutes I'd end up w/ goo.
Hannah P. February 19, 2015
We ran the blender for about 1 minute total while adding the olive oil. But how long you run it is all about texture preference! Pulsing is always a good way to go if you want extra texture control.