What are Cracked Olives?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Cracked olives are olives which have been slit or gently bruised before curing so that they absorb the curing materials faster. As a result, they are ready to eat much more quickly, but their flesh is still fully flavored. Many traditional olive curing techniques include cracking, which involves a two part process, first curing the olives and then transferring them to a storage medium. Any type of olive can be cracked, also, ranging from the large green olives of Sicily to the small black ones of France.

After cracking, olives are sometimes dipped in olive oil or brined.
After cracking, olives are sometimes dipped in olive oil or brined.

Labeling for cracked olives may call them split or slit olives, depending on the region they are produced in. Typically, the olives are slit either by hand or with a machine, and a very small slit is made which penetrates all the way to the pit. The olives may also be cracked through crushing, which requires a light hand since the producer does not want to split the olive wide open.

It's common for cracked olives to accompany salads.
It's common for cracked olives to accompany salads.

After cracking, the olives can be brined, salt cured, or dipped in olive oil. After the olives have reached a point which the producer is satisfied with, they are packaged. Marinated olives may take up to eight weeks to reach maturity, even after cracking, since the marinade can still penetrate slowly, and it is important to make sure that all of the olives are evenly cured so that consumers do not unexpectedly get a fiercely bitter olive. After curing, the olives are transferred to a light brine or an herbed oil for storage, or they may be packed dry.

Two classic cracked olives are Nafplion olives, cured in olive oil, and Proven├žal olives, cured in a brine with herbs de Provence, a popular French seasoning. These olives have a tendency to get salty if they are mishandled, since the crack which promotes quick curing can also let a large amount of salt or brine into the flesh of the olive. Kept under good conditions, cracked olives can last quite a long time, although they may also start to get salty if kept too long. If cracked olives have gotten too salty, they can be soaked in fresh water before use.

There are a wide range of uses for cracked olives. Many are cured and sold with pits intact, so caution should be used when eating them or preparing them for cooking. Many bars in the Mediterranean set out dishes of cracked olives as snacks, and they also accompany salads and similar dishes as a side plate. The olives can also be set out in a spread of small dishes for people browsing hors d'oeuvres, or kept around as a salty and flavorful snack food.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Where can one order cracked olives online? Any recommendation will be much appreciated.


@burcinc-- My family is Mediterranean. I spend some summers there myself, at my grandmother's home. She cures olives every year because they have many olive trees on their property. I do help her during curing season (she doesn't give me a choice actually).

It is difficult to crack olives but not as difficul as you think because we don't use knives. We use heavy, rounded stones. We have wood cutting boards. We just sit on the ground, put the olives on the board and hit them with the stone. They crack very nicely on the side this way, perfect for curing.

The purpose of cracking olives actually isn't just for the flavors to get in but to get rid of the bitterness of the olives. Olives are bitter and they have to be cured properly to remove the bitterness. That's why we also refresh the curing water every now and again, because the bitterness is coming out.


I love cracked olives too. I can't imagine how much work it must be though, if it's done by hand that is. It must take forever to cut a slit in each olive with a knife. No wonder cracked olives tend to be expensive.


I love cracked olives. Seasoned, cracked, green olives are my favorite. I could eat them every day, and I almost do. The best appetizer in my opinion is a simple one. All I need is a nice, quality cheese, some fresh French bread and cracked green olive seasoned with olive oil and dry red pepper flakes. It's delicious and satisfying. I think it's my comfort food and what I reach for when I don't feel like eating anything else.

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