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What is Olivada?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Olivada is an olive spread which is made by blending olives, oil, garlic, and various spices. It comes in a number of incarnations, from incendiary to sweet, and it can be found throughout the Mediterranean. A closely related dish is tapenade, which comes from Southern France. When made with green olives, some people call this dish oliverde. Many gourmet markets carry olivada, and it is also a snap to make at home, assuming that you have access to a blender.

The base ingredient in olivada, obviously, is olives. Greek brine-cured Kalamata olives are a popular choice, although a wide range of brine-cured Mediterranean olives can be used, depending on the desired flavor. The addition of oil allows the olives to blend more easily, lubricating the blades of the blender and ensuring a smooth, even mix. Garlic is often added for its pungent flavor, although it can be left out, and various herbs and spices can be mixed into the olivada along with ingredients like brined roasted peppers and artichoke hearts to create a unique and distinctive taste.

There are all sorts of uses for olivada. It can be spread on an assortment of breads and crackers, for example, or included in sandwiches and appetizer platters. This spread lends itself well to picnics, and it is also at home on the buffet table, especially if a tasteful sampling of cheeses is paired nearby. It can also be mixed into sauces and other spreads to integrate the flavor of olives.

When you make olivada at home, you may want to think about how the flavors of various ingredients will interact in the finished product. Blend them evenly into a fine paste, and pack the paste into a clean container. Refrigerated, the olivada will keep for around 10 days, and it is often best after sitting for a day or so, allowing the flavors to thoroughly mix.

Many markets carry several versions of olivada. The best is usually fresh, so if you have access to a deli which offers this product, that is probably the best source. The other advantage to buying this product fresh is that you can often request a sample to see if it tastes as you expect it to. Other companies make pasteurized olivada which is sold in cans and jars, and the flavor of this type can be surprisingly good, depending on the quality of the ingredients used to begin with.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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 anon306509 — On Nov 30, 2012

Olivada and soft goat's cheese on crusty bread -- a perfect sandwich!

By bagley79 — On Aug 17, 2011

When I roast a chicken I like to make an olivada paste to put under the skin of the chicken. Since rosemary and thyme complement chicken so well, I always include these herbs in the spread I make for chicken.

I also add just a little bit of dried red pepper to really bring out some flavor. When this paste is roasted with the chicken it gives the meat such wonderful flavor and I think it also helps keep the meat tender and juicy.

By golf07 — On Aug 16, 2011

If you love the taste of olives and garlic, you will love a good olivada spread. This is a great way to use up olives, or to make anytime! Since I love olives, this is one of my favorite things to make.

Sometimes I will add some orange zest for a little extra zing. People who taste this for the first time are trying to figure out what that extra flavor is.

I like to spread olivada on a piece of warm bread. The warmth of the bread, slightly melts the spread and the whole thing just melts in your mouth.

Whenever I make a batch, I like to make extra because it keeps so well in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

By SteamLouis — On Aug 15, 2011

@fify- Basil sounds good! My friend makes this with pine nuts,a little bit of lemon juice, lots of garlic and olive oil and serves with crackers. It sounds like there are many different variations of the main recipe. But that's great because everyone can make it just the way they like it.

If you leave out the garlic, it lasts a really long time too, even if it is kept out of the fridge. I'm not too good at cooking so I buy the kind in the jar. I get it from an Italian deli near my house. I always keep it outside and it's absolutely fine for more than a month.

I wonder if people discovered this recipe when they realized that this was a great way to preserve olives in the old days. That would make a lot of sense.

By fify — On Aug 14, 2011

@ddljohn-- I'm surprised that you haven't tried olivada before. I believe it is Mediterranean in origin. I saw a lot of it when I was in Italy. It was often served as an appetizer at restaurants and it was sold in jars at the grocery stores as well.

I make mine fresh at home and love to use an assortment of olives- black and green. I think that each olive has a very distinct taste and different salt levels and using several varieties gives a good result.

I know that it is meant to be a sort of creamy spread but I actually like making mine chunkier. I stop the blender half way when everything is just chopped but not yet a creamy blend. I also like to add fresh basil in mine.

It is so yummy when it's served with toasted bread with some crumbled feta cheese on top. You must try this version as well, I think you will like it.

By ddljohn — On Aug 13, 2011

This sounds like a delicious spread. My family is Mediterranean and a our staple breakfast is composed of bread, cheeses, olives and olive oil. I have never tried olivada but it sounds like it would be a perfect breakfast. I'm sure it would be much faster to prepare if I make the olivada beforehand and keep it in the fridge.

I think I will skip the garlic though because I don't really want to have it so early in the day. Sometimes I have bread, cheese and olives as a night snack too, some olive and garlic olivada might be good for that.

Thanks so much for the info, I can't wait to try it!

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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