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What is Olive Paste?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Olive paste is a smooth puree made from ground olives. There are a wide range of uses for this condiment, and it is a frequent feature in Mediterranean kitchens as a result. Many delis and markets carry it, and it is also possible to make it at home. Cooks who make their own can control the ingredients to create a specific desired flavor, and they can also ensure that it is as fresh as possible, since it can get acrid and bitter if allowed to sit too long.

To make olive paste, olives are pitted and then ground up. Although any type of olive can be made into paste, brined varieties tend to be favored. A small amount of olive oil is usually added to lubricate the paste as it is ground, and to strengthen the olive flavor. The paste can also be blended with herbs, and many people add garlic for a spicy flavor; garlic also happens to be a good preservative. Shoppers may find packaged versions with other brined or pickled ingredients, which can transform it into a hot or sweet dish, depending on the elements used.

Many regions have their own version of olive paste, like olivada and tapenade. It is often taken on picnics and used as a spread, pairing well with a number of breads. This puree can also be laid out on a buffet, paired with crackers, breads, or even vegetables and used as a dip. It can inject a rich olive taste into stocks and sauces, and it may be used as a garnish on some foods as well.

As a general rule, this puree is best when it has been allowed to mellow and marinate for around 24 hours. This allows the flavors to mingle, creating a smoothly blended flavor. If it sits too long, however, it can start to get bitter or acidic, developing strange and unpleasant flavors. Canned products are usually pasteurized and stabilized to prevent this.

Consumers may want to buy olive paste in a deli, as the staff will usually allow shoppers to sample it first. The pastes can come in quite an array of flavors, so it's a good idea for shoppers to know what they are getting into, as no one wants to be unpleasantly surprised by the flavors. If it isn't possible to taste it first, consumers should read the package and try to use the ingredients to gauge whether it will be sweet, spicy, or strongly herbal. This product goes especially well with a wide array of cheeses.

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 aplenty — On Oct 16, 2010

My favorite olive dish is fried stuffed green olives. I stuff some of the olives with pieces of marinated garlic and others with pieces of drunken goat cheese. I dip the olives in an egg bath, then into fine ground panko breadcrumbs. I coat them in egg and breadcrumbs one more time and deep fry until crispy and golden brown. They are tasty!

By GlassAxe — On Oct 16, 2010

@ Amphibious54- Those seared scallops sound great. I have never tried something like that, but I do have a great recipe for olive relish. I make my relish with green and Callamatta olives, and lots of fresh garlic. I blend all of this in a food processor with a little olive oil.

Once I have made my olive relish, I use it to stuff the bellies of large, fresh, cleaned sardines. I then rub the outside of the sardines with sea salt and olive oil and grill until the skin is crispy. Finally, I rub slices of baguette with chopped garlic and olive oil, grill it, and serve it with my grilled sardines. The dish is messy, but it is absolutely delicious.

By Amphibious54 — On Oct 16, 2010

One of my favorite recipes for olive paste, or tapenade, is seared colossal sea scallops. To prepare the dish you simply cover one side of a cleaned colossal scallop with olive tapenade.

Get a pan hot to the point that a mixture of olive oil and canola oil almost scorches. Press the scallops topped with tapenade top down into the hot pan and sear until the tapenade comes off the pan, and sticks to the scallop. When you flip the scallop, pour some dry vermouth over the scallops to deglaze the pan, and serve hot with your favorite sides. I particularly like these scallops served with a good paella Valencia.

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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