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What are the Different Types of Caper Sauce?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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The humble caper, a food of Mediterranean origin, is used in a wide variety of foods across the Mediterranean and parts of the Middle East. One of the most famous uses of the caper is in sauces, which may feature the caper as a star ingredient, or as one among an assortment of ingredients. Caper sauces can be served with fish, meats, roast vegetables, pasta, and a wide variety of other dishes, and some cooks enjoy inventing their own version of caper sauce with ingredients they especially enjoy.

Capers are pickled flower buds from the caper plant, known to botanists as Capparis spinosa. They have a sour, salty taste from the pickling, and come in a variety of sizes. Some capers are extremely small, about the size of a peppercorn, while others are large enough to require chopping before they can be used in recipes. Most grocery stores carry capers, usually in the same aisle which holds other pickled foods. Another product of the caper plant is the caper berry, the fruit of the plant, which is also sold in pickled form.

One of the most classic uses of the caper is in a lemon caper sauce. This sauce includes capers, lemon juice, garlic sauteed in butter, and lemon zest. It's a zesty sauce with a crisp, slightly salty flavor which is especially suitable to fish and pastas. Lemon caper sauce can be made very quickly, and it keeps for several days under refrigeration. Ingredients like dill can be added for more flavor variation.

Capers can also be used in an unusual variation on basic cream sauce which is popular in some regions of the world as a dressing for roast meats and hearty fishes. Mustard caper sauce, another sauce which includes capers, is often creamy in texture, with mustard and capers as the key ingredients. This sauce is spicy and tangy.

Tartar sauce is traditionally made with capers in some regions, although other people use relish or a mix of pickled vegetables. This sauce is used as a dip for some fried foods, and is sometimes used to dress sandwiches. Another variant on basic caper sauce is tomato caper sauce, which involves the use of tomatoes which may be roasted for a sweet, intense flavor; this sauce goes well with pastas and may be made with herbs for a more layered flavor. Olive caper sauce includes a mix of capers and olives, similar to that seen in puttanesca, another sauce which is traditionally made with capers.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

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

Discussion Comments

By sunshined — On Jan 15, 2012

@bagley79 - I love to eat capers by themselves and find them kind of addicting. Once I start, I could eat the whole jar of them.

At my store they are right next to the pickles. This is the only place I have ever seen them, and don't know where else they would be located in a store.

They have a very salty taste and I have used them for many things other than in a sauce. I like to make a spread with capers, garlic and some black olives. This is great on some toasted bread or crackers.

Because of their salty taste, I also like them on my pizza or mixed in with some scrambled eggs. If you like the taste of them, there is no limit to how you can include them in your food choices.

By bagley79 — On Jan 15, 2012

I didn't think I had ever tasted capers before, but I do remember having a lemon caper sauce with a chicken pasta dish at a restaurant. Since I enjoy the taste of lemon, this was very good.

What are some other uses for capers besides using them in a cooking sauce? Are they something you can individually snack on?

I have never seen capers in the grocery store, but I have never been looking for them either. I doubt my small town store would carry them, and I might have to look for them at a bigger store that has more variety.

By John57 — On Jan 14, 2012

One of my friends doesn't like the taste of any kind of seafood. I finally got her to try one of my recipes, and although she probably wouldn't ask for it again, she did eat the whole serving.

This recipe was salmon patties with caper sauce. I think having the salmon mixed up in to patties made it easier for her to eat. I also used yogurt to make my lemon caper sauce and this gave it a very creamy, flavorful topping.

This was also the first time she had ever tried anything with capers in it. She loves the taste of lemon, so maybe that was one thing that convinced her to try it too.

A good caper sauce doesn't cover up the taste of the meat, it just enhances it and the combination of the meat and sauce is very pleasing to the palate.

By golf07 — On Jan 13, 2012

It is easy to see why caper lemon sauce is the most well known when it comes to caper sauces.

This has such a versatile flavor and I have used it on chicken breast, fish and pork. A creamy, slightly tangy sauce like this really brings out the flavor of the meat.

When I make a batch of this, I make up enough for several meals. Since it stores so well in the refrigerator, I know it will be handy and ready to use with just about any meat dish I prepare.

I am so used to serving my meats with a sauce like this that the meat seems to taste pretty bland without it.

By wavy58 — On Jan 13, 2012

I like to make my tartar sauce with capers. They give it an extra zing and a salty kick. The flavor is too intense for some of my friends, but to me, it is absolutely perfect.

One of my favorite lunches in this world is a blackened grouper sandwich with caper tartar sauce. The blackened grouper has some cajun seasonings on it that make it wonderfully flavorful, and the caper sauce complements this.

I use ciabatta bread and just a hint of shredded lettuce. I spread the sauce on both slices of bread first, and then I add the grouper to the bottom slice. I put a thin layer of sauce on the grouper, sprinkle the lettuce on top, and close the sandwich with the top slice of bread.

By OeKc05 — On Jan 12, 2012

@cloudel – I use mustard caper sauce on my chicken tenders, and it is so yummy. It is creamy enough to be used as a dip but so flavorful that you will want to spread it all over the top of the tenders.

The heavy whipping cream in the recipe gives the sauce its texture. The dijon mustard and honey make this sauce a near relative of classic honey mustard dipping sauce, and the butter adds to its richness.

Different people like different amounts of each ingredient in their sauce, so just experiment until you strike the right balance of flavors. Concentrate on whichever ingredient is your favorite and add a lesser amount of the others.

By cloudel — On Jan 12, 2012

@Oceana – That same lemon butter caper sauce tastes so good on shrimp. I like to wrap up large shrimp in aluminum foil with a heavy dose of caper sauce, and my husband grills them outside.

The grill action adds a smoky hint to the flavor, making it even more delicious. I keep a jar of capers around the house during the spring and summer just so we can make grilled shrimp this way whenever we get the craving.

I tried this same sauce on chicken tenders, but the flavors didn't mesh very well. Can anyone suggest a good caper sauce to use as dip for fried chicken tenders?

By Oceana — On Jan 11, 2012

I pour lemon caper sauce on fish before cooking it. I add dill to the sauce, because it goes so well with that fishy flavor.

I had never heard of capers before my friend introduced me to them. She made halibut by sauteing it in a wok with caper sauce, and it tasted worthy of being served in a restaurant.

I don't think that capers alone would taste very good with fish, but adding the other ingredients makes them yummy. They go surprisingly well with spices typically used for basting and marinating fish.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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