HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Substitute for olives

My husband hates olives - won't even let them in the house. Black, green, all of them are banned, even if I remove them from his plate when serving. I have a couple new recipes I want to try that would really benefit from that fruity, salty, briny flavor addition. I thought about capers, but wanted to see if anyone else had a good idea for a substitute ingredient. Thanks for your ideas.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I think capers are your best bet, maybe giardiniera. I can't believe you're not even allowed to have olives in the house because your husband hates them!!

    1. This may not help you much unless your husband is the willing-to-try type. But I used to hate olives and I learned to like them very simply and easily.

      By the way the reason I wanted to do this is because olives crop up in a lot of dishes in restaurants these days and they used to make me feel really ill because I disliked them so much which could really ruin a meal! Plus so many people raved about them, I wanted to be able to enjoy them too, or least not be sickened by them!

      All I did was eat one olive a day for about 2 weeks. At first it was horrible. My whole family laughed at my "daily dose of olive". About a week in I was used to it. I no longer gagged, they just tasted funny. After 10 days or so I was actually kind of looking forward to my olive. I didn't really like the flavour that much but the salty-olivey hit was quite satisfying. So for the last few days I did 2 olives a day.

      From then on olives no longer sickened me and in fact I've grown to rather like some kinds, though others still are a bit too strong for me. I still prefer green over black, as I think they are milder? Or am I making that up? I keep my "olive immunity" topped up by eating a few a week :)

      3 Replies
      1. re: Muchlove

        That's awesome. What a great way to try to learn to like, or at least tolerate, a food that does not appeal to one's palate.

        1. re: Jen76

          I know that for me, and several people I know, olive tapenade was a good gateway drug to liking olives.

          Warm marinated olives (with some citrus zest, olive oil, rosemary, etc.) are also good, and of course convincing him to try some different types -- something green with a firm texture like Castellano or Lucques might be a good place to start.

        2. re: Muchlove

          I admire your fortitude! I can't imagine life without olives. No picadillo, no Chicken Marbella! Oh my!

        3. Sorry to hear that you can't share your love of olives with your husband.

          Capers was also my first thought, particularly the 'meatier' caper berries which will approximate some of that wonderful piquancy that olives have.

          For something else that approximates that salty, briny and slightly chewy texture (but without the bitter/sour olive taste, alas) have you tried lupin 'beans'?

          In Spain they are called altramuces and these are the closest thing I know to eating olives - great with wine or beer. I can find them quite easily ready brined in Portuguese delicatessens (as well as Spanish stores) in London. In Portuguese they are called tremoços.
          When eating them you slip off the tough skin and eat the interior.
          If you like the briny quality and the texture of olives you're probably going to like these. Even your husband might enjoy them.

          Here's the wikipedia entry for them

          If you're only able to get dried lupin beans, let me know. I have a recipe given to me by a Spanish uncle for preparing them. It is a bit of a long process though.

          1. Keep the olives....

            ....replace the husband.

            3 Replies
            1. re: PotatoHouse

              Love that idea!

              What about pickled carrot pieces or pickled onions?

              1. re: PotatoHouse

                Gotta agree. What does he like that you can forbid him to bring into your house? Tit for tat.

                1. re: Leepa

                  Actually, bananas. I can't stand them - taste or smell - so they were banned until my first child. I've learned to tolerate smelling and handling them for his sake, but I still won't eat them. So it's only fair - we all have our "things".

              2. depending on the recipe, anchovies might work too.

                2 Replies
                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  Inspired by this suggestion I've just done an experiment in the kitchen.
                  I combined blanched almonds, capers (salted not in vinegar) and some anchovy in a small food processor to get a thick paste. Added a little olive oil and then a TEENY touch of lemon juice and an even teenier slither of garlic. I've ended up with a rather 'meaty' tapenade. It sort of tastes like olives.
                  I'm having some now on toasted bread pieces with a small glass of sherry.
                  Very grateful to this thread!

                  1. re: MoGa

                    or there's the classic bagna cauda for salads and bread-dipping, which is very similar to what you made: fresh basil, garlic, capers, anchovies, olive oil - puree and inhale

                2. Marinated mushrooms may work, or my current favorite ingredient - pickled peppadews.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: katecm

                    oh! that brings to mind more umami. also fish sauce and worcestshire sauce.

                  2. How about marinated artichoke hearts? They have the "meatiness" and the "briney" flavor but don't pack quite the punch of an olive.

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: Jen76

                      The cynarin in artichokes has too big an impact on the taste of other foods. It could end up upsetting the balance of flavours particularly as it has a tendency to make other foods taste sweet.
                      I personally love artichoke but I use it only when I want its flavour and qualities in my food.

                      1. re: MoGa

                        I've never experienced this. Anyone?

                        1. re: monavano

                          It's very well known that artichokes will make most wines taste awful.

                          1. re: MoGa

                            That thread mentions that cynarin is only in the leaves, not in the hearts, which is what I suggested. I use marinated artichoke hearts fairly regularly and haven't had an issue with them taking over the dish or making wine taste exceptionally sweet.

                            1. re: Jen76

                              We must have a different concept of "artichoke hearts". I use the hearts from the small artichokes common in Spain and Italy - which look like this: http://www.recipetips.com/images/glos...
                              These 'hearts' have quite a lot of tender leaves around them.

                              I guess you're thinking of the very base of the globe artichokes stripped of all the leaves: http://www.italyum.com/mambots/conten...

                              1. re: MoGa

                                I don't have a different "concept" of artichoke hearts and I know what they look like and what the differences are. That being said, I have, indeed, used brined hearts that came whole without leaves. I can't say I remember exactly where I got them. I have also been known to chop the tiny leaves off of the baby artichoke hearts (my husband doesn't care for them).

                                I do think your claim that, "The cynarin in artichokes has too big an impact on the taste of other foods. It could end up upsetting the balance of flavours particularly as it has a tendency to make other foods taste sweet." is a little over the top. I am talking about substituting a few marinated hearts in place of olives in a larger recipe - I wouldn't recommend them as a sub if olives are a main ingredient. Perhaps, I should have qualified my initial suggestion.

                                I find it hard to believe - especially considering how much Mediterranean food cultures love artichokes - that a few hearts incorporated into a dish is going to dramatically "upset the balance of flavours" in a whole dish. This has not been my personal experience. All one can do is try it and decide for themselves. It is, afterall, only a suggestion.

                                  1. re: MoGa


                                    Taste is subjective, supertaster or not.

                                    1. re: meatn3

                                      Yeah, not sure what being a supertaster or not has to do with it. Was that an insult? I don't think I'd want to be a supertaster anyhow.

                                      Geesh, all I did was suggest that marinated artichoke hearts might work as a sub for olives. You'd think I'd suggested throwing dirt in there or something.

                                      1. re: Jen76

                                        Oh dear, this is getting a little silly.

                                        Iobeke has told us that her husband detests olives.

                                        As this level of hatred for a food is something a large percentage of ‘supertasters’ share there is a strong chance that her spouse might be a supertaster, particularly as olives are a classic example of foods that can cause aversion.

                                        As I’ve taken into consideration the possibility that Iobeke’s husband is a supertaster I have warned about the way that artichokes can interact with other foods. This was because a supertaster is more likely to be sensitive to these changes in flavour than the average taster might be.

                                        You commented that you were surprised by the information that artichoke can affect the tastes of other foods so I pointed you to the wine pairing phenomenon because it is extremely well known and documented.

                                        I personally can detect quite a lot of difference to the flavours in foods when artichoke (even the cores of canned baby artichokes) are added to food. You cannot. Who knows whether Iobeke or her husband can or can’t. All I did was point out that artichokes do change flavours from my own experience. You’ve pointed out that you can’t detect any changes. I think your experience is just as valid as mine.
                                        What I don't understand is why this is being drawn out.

                                        1. re: MoGa

                                          Actually, it was monavano that commented with surprise. I only commented *after* you posted the wine thread about cynarin being found in leaves. You never mentioned anything about supertasters or that you think he might be one. I wasn't following your line of thought with the wine or with the supertasters. And the wine thread seemed to be discussing eating artichokes as a separate dish - as in whole steamed artichokes which you eat by scraping the pulp off the leaves. Not using a few marinated hearts as an ingredient.

                                          Look, I didn't really have much of an issue with what you originally said until you started trying to educate me on types of artichokes and that my "concept" must be different. Then you said, out of the blue, "aha, you must not be a supertaster!" Can you not see how this may seem condescending and confusing? Even meatn3 seemed to read it that way.

                                          Your point was unclear and I felt like you were telling me that my experience was not valid and that artichokes will *always* upset the flavors of a dish. It was "drawn out" because of confusion and misunderstanding (apparently).

                                          Anyhow, I hope the OP can use some of the suggestions in this thread. I will leave it at that.

                                          1. re: MoGa

                                            "You commented that you were surprised by the information that artichoke can affect the tastes of other foods so I pointed you to the wine pairing phenomenon because it is extremely well known and documented."
                                            Sorry Jen76
                                            As you said it was another poster who asked about this. My apologies.
                                            And I wasn't trying to educate you on artichoke hearts, I just wanted to clarify what I think of when I think of them and why that might be different to your concept of them - you seemed to suggest that artichoke hearts don't have any leaves, and this is naturally correct depending on which concept of artichoke hearts you have.
                                            Again, I hoped to point out that your view was perfectly valid.

                                            I don't tend to you use leaf less artichoke hearts so I don't know if this kind doesn't affect the flavours of other foods - at least in a way that I would notice.

                                            This is something worth bearing in mind for me, so I at least have got something out of this discussion.

                                            It's a shame about forums, if you don't explain all the reasons for your thoughts from the outset it is easy to be misunderstood, if you do explain everything you are trying to communicate then the tendency is to come across as pedantic and patronising. But we're all here to exchange knowledge.

                                    2. re: Jen76

                                      i work as a sommelier. artichokes and asparagus play utter havoc with wine.

                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                        I am not debating whether they affect the taste of wine. I didn't even mention wine. We don't even know if the OP drinks wine or intends to serve it with every meal. I stand by what I wrote above: I find it hard to believe - especially considering how much Mediterranean food cultures love artichokes - that a few hearts incorporated into a dish is going to dramatically "upset the balance of flavours" in a whole dish.

                        2. I agree with capers and caper berries (look for the ones packed in salt).

                          Diced cornichons might work.

                          1. I'm not an olive fan myself. Pickled capers always do the job for me. If I'm cooking for others, I use olives if they're called for and just push mine to the side. My aversion isn't quite like your husband's, haha!

                            1. Preserved lemons will give an approximation of the texture and briny flavor.

                              1. First, love your icon photo...Reminds me of my first dog, who gave me 17 years of joy!
                                Carmelized onions? As you could control the brine, marinated beans. You could experiment with diff. bean types, too.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: pinehurst

                                  I just made a squash gratin that involved some "what do we have to use up?" thinking, and ended up with a mixture of caramelized onions and a good bit of queso duro in with the squash. Hub and I tasted and nearly at the same time commented on how much it tasted like olives were in the dish. The sweetness of the onions and the saltiness of the queso duro really combined to say "olives" to each of us. I'm definitely using the combination again.

                                2. this seems like a bizarre question -- but what *kind* of olives has he tasted?

                                  I ask because I despise green olives with pimentos, and while I like canned black olives, they don't taste "olive-y" to me.

                                  Then I traveled to Europe and got to taste what olives are supposed to taste like -- picholine, lucques, greek, olive-cured, herb-cured, spicy....oh, wow. What an awakening.

                                  If he hasn't had anything other than those salty, repulsive green and red THINGS they call olives...maybe he'd be open to trying a different *kind*