I learnt how to make this traditional tapenade at a cooking school in Provence during a road trip with some friends in 2015. After driving several hours up and down small mountains, my friends and I enjoyed half the day in a Provence kitchen and the other half, alfresco in the cook’s garden overlooking Provence. It was picture-perfect and so rewarding to learn how to make this speciality perfectly and most of all, authentically.

Olive Tapenade is a hearty dip or spread made from good quality Kalamata or Niçose black olives that are crushed to a semi-smooth pulp together with salty anchovies and capers, fresh garlic and aromatic fresh basil and parsley. Olive oil is added to create a spreadable consistency.

Tapenade is a Provencal name for an olive spread, originating from the Provencal word for capers “tapanas”, the second most important ingredient in an authentic tapenade. This popular Provencal dish, from Marseille, to be precise, is the equivalent of an Italian pesto for its diversity in cooking. It can be eaten on its own with bread or crackers; added to pasta and gnocchi dishes; fish dishes; quiche fillings, vegetable stuffings etc. Basically, having a jar of homemade tapenade is a great backup condiment for many dishes that you need to add some flavour to. I’ve even added them to scrambled eggs or mayonnaise.

How much olive oil should be added?

The amount of olive oil added will depend on the type of black olives used as some variety are oilier than others. As the olives are crushed in the blender, the natural oils are released. You will need to eye-ball the amount of oil needed.

What are the best black olives to use for tapenade?

I would highly recommend two types of olives for the perfect tapenade:

  1. Traditionally, Niçose olives are used in Provence for tapenade. These olives are grown on a tree called “Le Calletier” and are big in flavour, plus super juicy and perfect for tapenade.
  2. Kalamata olives from Greece, the King of Greek Olives, work well to make this tapenade as they have a slightly fruity, richer taste than ordinary black olives.

How can I substitute the anchovies?

Despite anchovies being overly powerful in flavour, the addition of just two anchovies to this recipe adds more of an umami flavour rather than a “fishy” flavour. Adding a couple of teaspoons of anchovy paste is a great substitute if you can’t be bothered buying a full jar of anchovies. If you rather substitute anchovies for taste or vegetarian reasons, I would recommend adding a teaspoon of white miso paste or 4 semi-dried tomatoes to achieve the same umami hit.

Here are some of my gluten-free recipes for different bread or crackers that go well with tapenade:

 

Olive Tapenade Dip

Ingredients:

This recipe is enough for one jar

  • 200g black olives, pitted
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • a small handful of fresh basil leaves
  • a small handful of fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, whole
  • 20-30ml olive oil, extra-virgin
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly cracked
  • ½ teaspoon chilli flakes (optional)

Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Check the olives for any stray pits and place them in a food processor together with all the listed ingredients, except for the olive oil.

2. Process the tapenade ingredients into a semi-smooth pulp. Add the olive oil gradually until the tapenade is a paste with a spreading consistency. The amount of olive oil added will depend on the type of black olives used as some are oiler than others.

3. Transfer the mixture to a sterilised glass jar or a small serving bowl if using immediately.

  • Store in the fridge.
  • Keeps for 1 week.

To make this tapenade vegan or vegetarian, substitute the anchovies for 4 semi-dried tomatoes.

Tapenade Cherry Tomato Bites

Ingredients:
  • 20 cherry tomatoes
  • homemade olive tapenade tip
  • several fresh parsley leaves
  • several fresh baby basil leaves

 

Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Slice the tomatoes in half and scoop out the centre using a serrated knife or scooper. Discard the tomato flesh and seeds.

2. Fill each tomato cavity with a teaspoon of the homemade olive tapenade dip.

3. Place the tomatoes on a serving plate and garnish the tops of each tomato with either fresh parsley or fresh basil leaves. Serve immediately or cover and chill for later. 

  • Best eaten on the same day
  • Makes 40 portions

To make an easy side dish, serve some mozzarella slices with tapenade on top