Olive and sundried tomato tapenade has all the flavor...bright, salty, sweet, and rich...and is super easy and versatile! It can serve as a dip, a garnish, a spread, or as a quick topping for grilled chicken or fish. It’s one of those dishes that seems fancy, but is really crazy simple to make with items that might already be in your pantry.
This olive and sundried tomato tapenade recipe may not change your life, but it has long been a go-to for me when I need an appetizer to bring to a party and am short on time. I don’t know where I first came across it, but for almost two decades it has lived as a handwritten note tucked in the front of my recipe binder. If you recognize it and know where it came from, let me know so I can give a proper attribution!
The tart Kalamata olives in this simple dish are offset by the sweet, rich sundried tomatoes and salty capers. It’s three big flavors all at once, and for some reason it all comes together with the fresh oregano in a perfect balance. It’s one of those recipe gems that seems fancy when it’s really very simple. 15 years later, I’m still finding new and delicious ways to use it.
Tips for making delicious tapenade
Use the right olives. I use Kalamata olives in this tapenade, but not everyone likes their super sharp, briny flavor. But I will beg you to PLEASE not make this with regular California black olives, they just aren’t salty enough! If you aren’t a Kalamata fan, you can substitute half Castelvetrano and half Nicoise olives, both of which are milder than Kalamatas.
Use a good extra virgin olive oil. Yes, I’m a broken record when it comes to olive oil! But the strong flavors in this tapenade really need the balance from a smooth olive oil with no rancidity. Check the date on the back of your olive oil and smell it to make sure it’s not rancid. You can find my favorite extra virgin olive oil here.
Pulse, don’t blend. A food processor is a must for this recipe, but it’s important not to over-process your ingredients or you will just have mush on your hands. You want the pieces to be pretty small but still look like they have been chopped, not ground or pureed. The tapenade comes together quickly, so check it often while you are processing, about every 3-5 pulses.
How to serve olive and sundried tomato tapenade
There are so many ways to enjoy this olive and sundried tomato tapenade...and I’ve put many to the test over the years! Here are some of my favorites:
- Enjoy this tapenade on its own with a yummy, garlicky crostini or a thick cracker
- Use as a garnish for garlic hummus (such as my white bean hummus)
- Serve tapenade alongside a bowl of whipped feta and crackers
- Use it as a spread on your favorite Italian-style sandwich
- Include tapenade as part of a cheese board (it’s delicious with hard salami and crackers)
- Top your simple grilled chicken or fish with a dollop of tapenade
Olive and sundried tomato tapenade can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. It’ll keep for 4-5 days. Bring to room temperature before serving. Freezing is not recommended.
Olive and Sundried Tomato Tapenade
- 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
- 1 cup sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil
- ¼ cup capers packed in brine
- ⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 teaspoons fresh oregano
- Add all ingredients except oregano to a food processor and pulse 5-10 times, then use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the food processor.
- Pulse 5-10 more times, until the ingredients are finely chopped. Be careful not to overprocess to the point where they begin to look pureed.
- Transfer to a bowl and fold in the oregano. Serve with crostini or crackers
- If you happen to pick up sun dried tomatoes packed with olive oil with herbs, you can skip the oregano.
- Need to pit your olives? Place a couple of olives on a cutting board and use the bottom of a glass jar to press them until they split. It should be easy to remove the pits with your fingers.
- No food processor? Use a knife to finely mince the olives, tomatoes and capers, then scoop into a bowl and fold in the olive oil and thyme.