Tapenade (tä’pə-näd’) is a delicious olive spread or dip that is perfect on those summer days when you’re in the mood for a taste of the Mediterranean. Strong-tasting, pungent and with a wonderfully oily texture, this versatile paste captures the very essence of olives.

Tapenade is traditionally made from black olives – kalamata are the best for it – but a slightly lighter (though saltier tasting) variation can be made using green olives. Likewise, additional ingredients can be added to the base recipe to expand the spread’s palette of flavours.

Basic Tapenade Recipe


  • 2 cups of pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 anchovies
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of capers
  • 5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Pepper


Using a food processor, combine the olives, anchovies, garlic and capers. Blend until the mixture is smooth, but still has a slightly granular appearance. The texture of tapenade is really a personal preference – visit any deli and you’ll see tapenades ranging from the smoothly spreadable to the robustly chunky.

While the food processor is still running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Don’t do this too quickly or the mixture will separate.

Remove your tapenade from the processor, stir in the lemon juice and season with a little pepper.


Tapenade will keep for about a week in the fridge. It’s best stored in an airtight container with a layer of olive oil (a couple of teaspoons or so) on top to seal its surface and prevent the paste from drying out.


You can vary your tapenade with any number of additional ingredients – what you use depends on your own taste preferences. Bear in mind, though, that you don’t want to add anything that contains much liquid, otherwise you’ll spoil the texture and consistency of the spread.

Semi-dried tomatoes and capsicums are great choices to punch up the flavour of your tapenade. Replace half a cup of olives with the same of either of these ingredients.

Toasted pine nuts are another great addition (a couple of tablespoons). And for something really exotic replace half a cup of the olives with half a cup of chopped dried figs.


Tapenade makes a wonderful entrée when served with fresh crusty bread, warm pitta bread, or crostini. Other suggestions include:

  • Use a spoon or two to add body to stews and soups.
  • Toss a little through rocket lettuce for a simple but tasty salad dressing.
  • Add to spaghetti bolognaise for a richer sauce.
  • Slice chicken breasts and stuff with tapenade before baking.
  • Put a teaspoon of tapenade on top of fish after baking or broiling.

Transport Your Taste Buds

So, while the weather is warm and you’re dreaming of Greece and Italy, why not dig out the blender and a jar of olives and transport your taste buds to the shores of the Mediterranean?

For a demonstration of how to make olive tapenade check out this video.

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