Skip to Content

What’s The Best Olive Substitute For Your Recipes?

If you don’t have olives for a Greek salad or pizza or simply hate them, there are some really cool olive substitutes.

Olives are great in many recipes like salads, sandwiches, pizzas, dips, pasta, and cocktails. I find their flavor hard to beat.

But I know that many people don’t share my love for olives and can even be allergic to them.

So I made this list of olive substitutes for anyone looking for alternatives.

What's The Best Olive Substitute featured image | Girl Meets Food

What are olives?

The olive tree is a Mediterranean tree species that bears a tiny, oval fruit called an olive. They’re smooth on the outside yet have a hard core.

The olives go through a color transition from green to various shades of red, brown, and black as they mature. They generally taste salty, briny, or somewhat harsh.

Green olives are picked before they’re fully ripe. They have a firmer texture and a more bitter, sour taste than their black and red counterparts.

Black olives are allowed to mature on the tree. They’re softer and have a more subtle and nuanced flavor.

Many salads, pastas, pizzas, and even spreads like hummus and tapenade would be incomplete without their inclusion.

Several cuisines from the Mediterranean region call for olive oil, which is produced by pressing olives.

Olive substitute options

Assorted appetizers like green and black olives, cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, bread etc. | Girl Meets Food

If you don’t like the flavor of olives or just don’t have them for a particular recipe, no worries!

Here are some ideas for olive substitutes:

  • Capers

Capers are a fantastic replacement for olives because of their smoky, briny flavor. They’re little flower buds with a flavor similar to olives’ salty brine.

Chicken piccata and puttanesca sauce are only two examples of the many Mediterranean meals that benefit from their use.

I often add capers to my Greek salad as a substitute for black olives and they provide a similar authentic taste. 

  • Roasted red peppers

Like olives, the smokiness and sweetness of these peppers deepen the taste of whatever they’re cooked with.

Also, they’re a fantastic way to give your meal a splash of color. You can put roasted red peppers on pizza, spaghetti, or sandwiches.

I tried putting roasted red peppers on my favorite pizza pancakes which originally called for black olives. I was really impressed with the final results!

Also if you’re looking for more ingredient ideas check out my list of best substitutes for bell pepper.

  • Sun-dried tomatoes

You can also use sun-dried tomatoes as a tasty alternative to olives. Their somewhat sweet and sour taste makes them a versatile condiment.

Its use is common in Italian cooking, particularly in pasta and pizza.

I really love experimenting with sun-dried tomatoes in my favorite recipes and I even tried sundried green tomatoes (you can check out green tomato substitutes here). I’ve used them in many recipes that feature olives and the most impressive one so far is a vegan tapenade.

I also love putting sun-dried tomatoes on different charcuterie boards. If I don’t have any olives to add, these work just fine! Check out our article on foods to serve after charcuterie for more inspo!

By the way, for a quick snack, I do like a combo of sun-dried tomatoes with some cheese. No worries if you’re vegan, you can always find good substitutes for cheddar cheese! 😉

  • Pickles

Pickles are a wonderful alternative to olives in recipes that call for a crunchy condiment. They offer a burst of flavor to any dish with their acidic, sour taste.

Pickles are versatile condiments that go great on sandwiches, burgers, and even as a Bloody Mary topping.

I tried putting pickles on my Greek pizza and it tasted surprisingly good. So you can dare try the most bizarre combos!

  • Pickled vegetables

You can get a similar acidic and salty taste with pickled peppers, carrots, and asparagus that you can mix into hummus or use as a black olive tapenade.

These substitutes will taste salty, so be prepared for the intense flavor and adapt accordingly.

  • Artichoke Hearts

The somewhat nutty and mild flavor of artichoke hearts makes them a suitable alternative for olives. They are a common ingredient in Mediterranean recipes, such as spinach and artichoke dip or pizza.

This ingredient is quite expensive but it makes a great addition to many meals with its neutral flavor.

  • Nuts

Roasted almonds and cashews can produce a nutty and salty flavor comparable to that of olives. Chopped up, they make a great addition to salads or pasta dishes.

I enjoyed salted roasted almonds as a substitute for green olives in pasta. The texture was a little different but they added a very distinctive flavor to the dish.

  • Green Peppercorns

Unripe green peppercorns have a crisp, almost acidic taste. These are a great option for those looking for an olive alternative in salads, sauces, and other recipes.

  • Anchovies

Little, salty anchovies are a staple in Mediterranean cooking. Their robust, savory taste makes them an excellent olive replacement in recipes like pasta puttanesca – so you can just skip olives in this one.

Anchovies aren’t suitable for vegans and vegetarians so they can’t be considered the best olive substitute (if I am to be the judge). But they’re still a good option for many people.

I think all of the above are some excellent olive substitutes. Hope you enjoy trying out these delicious flavors!

Olive substitute FAQs

Close-up image of green and black olives | Girl Meets Food
What’s the best black olive substitute?

My personal best black olive substitute is capers. They provide a very similar flavor profile and rich texture that I really value in salads.

However, each recipe calls for a different alternative to olives.

Are olive substitutes vegan?

Most olive alternatives are vegan-friendly.

Unfortunately, anchovies aren’t vegan so it’s best to ignore this olive substitute if you’re following a plant-based diet.

What are some olive health benefits?

Olives are an excellent food option because of their nutrients. These include minerals – iron, calcium, and magnesium and the cell-protecting vitamin E.

Olives can also contribute to better heart health. Monounsaturated fatty acids found in olives have been linked to a reduced risk of “bad” cholesterol.

Because of their high antioxidant content, they also help lower the probability of developing chronic illness.

How can I use an olive substitute in cooking?

Substitutes for olives can be used in various ways – in salads, sandwiches, dips, pizza and pasta.

What should I consider when choosing an olive substitute?

Choose an alternative to olives that achieves the desired flavor and consistency.

Carefully consider the cooking and preparation methods for each ingredient before adding them to your dish. Certain foods, for instance, could taste better after being roasted or marinated.

Finally, read the label if you need to adhere to a special diet, such as a vegan one.

How to substitute olives in salads?

My favorite substitutes for olives in salads are capers. You can use them to give your salads a similar salty and briny taste.

What can I use in pasta instead of olives?

You can use sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers or capers instead of olives in pasta.

What is the perfect substitute for olives on pizza?

You can swap out the olives on your pizza with some roasted red pepper for a similar dose of sweetness and tanginess.

I tried making pizza with artichokes and it tasted very good as well. It’s a more expensive option but still worth trying.

What’s the difference between regular olive oil and virgin olive oil?

The difference between regular olive oil and virgin olive oil is that virgin olive oil is cold-pressed and unrefined. It’s also darker and stronger in flavor.

BOTTOM LINE: capers, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, pickles, artichoke hearts, roasted nuts, green peppercorns and anchovies are all great olive substitutes, each with their own unique flavor and texture.

What’s your best black and green olive substitute? Share your favorite flavors and delicious recipes in the comments!

Feel free to check out other substitute ideas, for example, horseradish alternatives for a spicy kick, mint substitutes for a refreshing flavor punch and green onion replacements to intensify the taste of your dishes. You should also check out our alternatives to avocado oil!