O is for Olive Tapenade

O is for Olive Tapenade

The olive. Growing up my only exposure to olives was on pizza and a bowl full of them on the holiday table, both applications of which I despised. As an adult, I can definitely tolerate their presence in a dish, but they are not my go to. After visiting an olive grove in Ojai this past March and learning about how olive oil is made, my appreciation for these little guys grew. So for the letter O I bring you olive tapenade!

First things first, what is a tapenade? Tapenade is a French spread that consists of olives, olive oil, capers and anchovies. That’s right folks, this dish is typically made with anchovies, coincidentally another pizza topping I don’t quite understand. Fear not, I have omitted the anchovies from this recipe so you can drive on forward without caution. While I am sure they lend another element to the spread, for someone who does not eat anchovies on a regular basis, it did not make sense to purchase a whole can just to use one and have to toss the rest. Let’s be practical in our kitchens as well!

Olive tapenade is really easy to make and does not require any cooking! Sigh of relief for those of you melting in this summer heat. All ingredients are placed in a food processor, blender or can be hand chopped to combine into a wonderful spread that has many uses. You can use it to elevate your sandwich to replace that mundane mayo, spread it on leftover bread for a quick snack, toss with pasta in place of pesto next time, or whisk with additional olive oil and lemon juice to create a quick dressing. Olives are also high in anti-oxidants and have anti-inflammatory benefits so use this as a way to ease them into your diet if you are not a number one fan yet.  Show some love to the olive today and happy munching!


  • 2 cups of assorted olives (many grocery stores have an array of olives near their salad bars that you can choose from and add into one container)
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 2 basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste (use salt sparingly as olives have an innately salty taste)

Making the Olive Tapenade

  • Remove the pits from the olives. To do this, you can use the flat end of a large knife to slightly “squish” the olive to crack the skin and reveal the pit. Some olives are firmer than others and you may have to slice around the pit and remove the olive meat by carefully picking it off. Since we are going to pulse the olives, they do not need to look pretty by any means. If you are lucky enough to have a cherry pit remover, that works great on olives too, but I do not suggest buying one just for this as it is somewhat of a uni-tasker.
  • In a food processor or blender, pulse the olives, garlic, capers and basil leaves until roughly chopped into small bits.
    • You can also chop by hand to have a more rustic tapenade with slightly large pieces if you do not have a food processor or blender.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil.
  • Slowly drizzle the lemon-oil mixture while pulsing the olives to combine. Once the liquid has been incorporated, you can stop pulsing or if you would like an even smaller chop on the olives, continue to pulse until you have reached the desired consistency.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge with a small layer of additional olive oil on top for up to 3 weeks.

Featured serving suggestion: toss a tablespoon of tapenade with pasta, fresh tomatoes and basil for a light, quick dinner. If your pasta is sticking, drizzle additional olive oil.