What are Caperberries?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Some confusion exists regarding capers and caperberries. The two are not interchangeable though they both derive from the same plant, Capparis Spinosa, which grows throughout the Mediterranean, and is now being grown in places like California. To clarify, the round, lemony, small capers are not the berries. These tiny pealike bursts of flavor are actually immature buds of the caper bush.


In addition to the tiny buds, caperberries are also harvested, and some may prefer their taste to the stronger caper buds. The berries on the caper plant are oblong, semi-green fruits, about the size of or slightly larger than a table grape. Though they still have some lemon taste, they are much milder than caper buds. You can include sliced caperberries in recipes calling for capers if you want a dish that is a bit less acidic. The substitution doesn’t work well in reverse—generally when a recipe calls for caperberries, using capers instead will provide too much acid in a dish.


There is some argument regarding the taste of caperberries. Some sources refer to them as stronger than capers themselves, while others describe them as milder. Taste may depend upon when the berries are harvested and additionally how they are prepared. The unripe caperberry may be off-putting to some because of its smell. It often exudes a pungent smell due to the high concentration of mustard oil, called methyl isothiocynate. It may be that references calling the caperberry more pungent than the caper are referring to berries harvested before they are fully ripe.

Caperberries can be used in lieu of olives in Mediterranean salads.
Caperberries can be used in lieu of olives in Mediterranean salads.

Caperberries are frequently prepared brined and may be eaten very much in the same manner you might eat olives or pickles. They could also be an interesting substitution for olives in dishes like pasta or Greek salad. According to Aryuvedic medical texts, the berries may also be good for you. They can supposedly stimulate the liver, relieve flatulence, and reduce rheumatism.

Caperberries may be used as a substitute for olives in a Greek salad.
Caperberries may be used as a substitute for olives in a Greek salad.

One use of caperberries and the caper plants that has not been successful is their use in cosmetic preparations. Some people develop contact dermatitis when exposed to crushed caperberries or lotions using the caper bush leaves. If you do buy a skin product with the berries as an ingredient, you might want to test it out on a small amount of skin prior to applying it everywhere. A couple of uses on a small patch of skin should tell you whether or not you’re likely to be allergic to it.

Caperberries may help relieve flatulence caused by wearing ill-fitting dentures.
Caperberries may help relieve flatulence caused by wearing ill-fitting dentures.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


Lidl sells them in the UK.


You can purchase caper berries at Whole Foods in the olive section. If you like pickled, salty, foods you might try these.


Big Lots has them I bought a small jar a couple of days ago for $1.50.


My jar of caperberries (from Big Lots) says 9 berries have 1 gram of carbohydrate. Nine is roughly 1/4 cup.


Are the little seeds supposed to be hard like that? Someone please tell me, because when I bit it, it was filled with little black hard balls. Yuck!


I just bought four 8oz. jars at Big Lots for $1.50 each. They didn't know what they had, they were so cheap. Usually they are $4-$5 at most stores. I bought all on the shelf. I love them.


Can anyone tell me the carbohydrate content of caper berries?


I bought some at Cost Plus World Market.


I got mine in Stop and Shop. Right next to capers.


You can get them at Whole Foods.


I use caper berries instead of olives in my daily gin martini. It's a great flavor and a nice change from the olives.


you might try trader joe's, or if you would want a large can try the huge store with only 750 (costco).


I received a jar of caperberries as a gift. That is the best gift I have ever received. I loved the

caperberries, but can't find anymore to buy. Would love to know who carries them so I may purchase some.

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