Fresh Olive Tapenade

When you’re planning for holiday parties, the simpler the better. And this Olive Tapenade is a great no cook recipe that you can throw together last minute!

Close up overhead of fresh olive tapenade


This Olive Tapenade is the perfect appetizer to serve during the holidays! It’s one of the best recipes that use olives, and it’s quick and easy to make!

If you’ve never had it, you are going to LOVE olive tapenade! Essentially it’s an olive salad of source. It’s so versatile and easy to make. Literally as simple as mixing the ingredients in a bowl and serving!

Make sure you PIN Olive Tapenade!

Olive tapenade can be used as a dip or spread on your favorite charcuterie platters and cheese boards. That makes it a great recipe to serve for parties, especially around the holidays!

Tips for building the ultimate cheese board, the perfect easy party appetizer that requires no cooking! Ideas for meat, cheese and accompaniments. #cheeseboard #cheeseplatter

It is the ultimate holiday appetizer since it is no cook, make ahead and low carb. It’s always nice to have something a little lighter when you’re serving carb heavy holiday food.

Olives are “as old as time” and one of the first foods ever to be documented. They come from the Mediterranean basin and have stood the test of time.

Side angle of olive tapenade surrounded by cheese, crackers and pepperoni

They vary greatly in size, texture and flavor, but nearly all olives have a rich flavor whether it be salty, briny, sweet or sour, and all start green and turn to an ebony black while ripening on the vine.

One thing that does stay the same is that olives are bitter and not very tasty until they are cured. There are many ways to cure olives, but typically a salt brine and then stored in oil is the most common.

Olive tapenade on a small silver serving fork

Many olives end up as olive oil instead of whole. They are actually fairly fragile and easily bruised.

There are many types of olives. I use green for this particular dish because they are somewhat mild but still a little salty.

Olive Tapenade on charcuterie platter

You can use whatever type of olive you prefer or even use a blend. There are hundreds of types of olives, but the most common olives are:

  • Nicoise- dark, purplish-black, they are a taunt olive with a slightly sour taste.
  • Picholine- long, thin and green, these are the olives typically seen in martinis and stuffed with soft cheese, like blue cheese.
  • Kalamata olives- the iconic black olive is used in a lot of Mediterranean foods, especially Greek.
  • Mocracan- these salt-cured olives are commonly thought to be going bad because they are wrinkly and look like deflated grapes, but alas, that is what they look like.
  • Cerignola- Italian olives that are green or black and are sweet in taste.

The biggest trick to making a delicious olive tapenade is to grate the complementing ingredients. People want to see giant, big pieces of olive, but not only taste the other stuff.

Olive tapenade on a stack of butter crackers

Since I am adding roasted red pepper, capers, carrots and onion, mine is considered a Sicilian olive tapenade. Roasted red pepper and rinsed capers are finely minced, but carrots and onions are grated using a box grater or microplane.

PRO TIP: You can also give the carrots and onions a quick whirl in the mini food processor for a quick fine mince.

Lastly, olive oil draws it all together. It is an olive tapenade, of course. Make sure you use a good, quality olive oil.

Spoon on a white bowl of olive tapenade

A good olive oil will taste like, well, olives, while a poorly made one will taste like vegetable oil. Gross. While people tend to favor Italian and Greek olive oils, I prefer to buy mine domestically.

There are some great ones out there from all over the world, but the reporting of ingredients isn’t always the same and you could find that your super expensive olive oil was actually cut with vegetable oil.

Close up of chopped olives in tapenade

If you liked this super easy olive recipe, check out these other appetizers:

bowl of pimento cheese dip

Pimento Cheese Spread

A popular southern dish, this EASY Pimento Cheese recipe is made with only 6 ingredients and tastes great spread onto crackers or in a grilled cheese!
See The Recipe!
close up of olive cheese bread

Olive Cheese Bread

Don't have time to make homemade olive bread? Check out my hack for making this easy Olive Cheese Bread recipe. It takes no more than 15 minutes from start to finish!
See The Recipe!
bowl of bacon ranch dip with scallions and potato chips

Bacon Ranch Dip

Bacon and ranch collide into one delicious chip dip with this easy Bacon Ranch Dip recipe!
See The Recipe!

Questions you might have about how to make olive tapenade:

Can omit other ingredients I don’t like? Sure! None of the complementing ingredients are going to make or break this recipe. If you particularly love one, feel free to double it!

Do I have to use green olives? I like prefer green olives for this tapenade, but you can surely use another color or flavor. You can even use a mix for more sophistication.

Can I make this ahead? Yes! Make it up to a day ahead of time, but take it out of the fridge for about an hour before serving. The olive oil will harden slightly and need to soften.

Fresh olive tapenade for pinterest

How do I store olive tapenade? In an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Can I freeze olive tapenade? I don’t recommend freezing this dish. There is too much water and it defrosts fairly soggy and limp.

Olive Tapenade on charcuterie platter

Fresh Olive Tapenade

5 from 7 votes
This Olive Tapenade is the perfect appetizer to serve during the holidays! It's one of the best recipes that use olives, and it's quick and easy to make!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 8




  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl, toss to combine.
  • Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • If you’ve tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was!


Calories: 42.08 kcal, Carbohydrates: 1.13 g, Protein: 0.26 g, Fat: 4.36 g, Saturated Fat: 0.59 g, Sodium: 317 mg, Potassium: 13.09 mg, Fiber: 0.64 g, Sugar: 0.24 g, Vitamin A: 389.17 IU, Vitamin C: 0.97 mg, Calcium: 8.78 mg, Iron: 0.08 mg
Calories: 42.08
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Greek, Italian
Keyword: olive tapenade
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Jessica Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal and more!

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5 from 7 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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Questions and Reviews

  1. I have to admit, I am not an olive fan; however, my husband more than makes up for that – he is a super-fan! I’d love to make a batch of these for him for the holidays.

  2. 5 stars
    I am all about the meat and cheese trays but never thought to add olives! We love them, definitely trying this ASAP!