Olive Tapenade

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Provence, France…

The very words conjure up visions of rustic farmhouses surrounded by lavender fields, of seemingly endless, sun drenched days spent exploring quaint towns and villages… of lazy afternoons relaxing in one of the many cafes that dot the village square.

Time moves slower here – the pace is more relaxed .. you see it in the faces of the people on the streets, in the markets and of course, in the food.

One of my favorite  provencal dishes is tapenade –  and there was no shortage of it or olives in Provence! Unfortunately, my jars of tapenade did not make it back from France (long story) and so I decided to whip up my own batch using some of the olives that did make it back! Although you can find tapenade just about everywhere these days, I’ve yet to find one that I like as much as my own version –  and with full blown summer right around the corner, it makes a perfect condiment to have in your refrigerator, ready to be pulled out at a moment’s notice as an appetizer, a sandwich spread or  to be spread under the skin of chicken before it’s roasted to perfection.

In my last post I talked about “quality ingredients simply prepared” – and that is absolutely true with  tapenade. Olives, capers, garlic, anchovies and, in my version, just a bit of dijon mustard and a splash of olive oil. With such a short ingredient list and no cooking, the quality of the ingredients makes or breaks the dish. In this case, it means searching out good olives.  Although I dearly love the regular black olives you find in your local grocery story, don’t use them for this dish!  Fortunately, finding good olives is much easier than it was even 5 years ago – stores like Whole Foods have whole cases (or bars!)  devoted to them and, in my last foray to Trader Joe’s I found  Lucques olives!!!  So, for  those of you without a Trader Joe’s (and even for those who do have one in their neighborhood) Middle Eastern markets are  also a great place to find olives as well.

Which brings us to the not as fun part – pitting them!! Many of the olives I bought (and find her in the US) do not come pitted. But not to worry – I have found the perfect toy tool for the job!

The cherry/olive pitter from OXO tools.  I truly love this little gadget – there is something very satisfying about hearing that little  pit “plonk” out of an olive! (Great for relieving stress… let me tell you!!)

And BTW, OXO did not supply me with this little gem, but it is such a useful tool and works so well, I simply had to share with you all!!)

So, even though you may not make it to Provence this year, you can whip up a batch of this tapenade, slice up a crusty baguette, grab a beverage (wine suggested, but not required) and head out to your backyard, or park, or field, or wherever. Sit back and … relax!!!

Olive Tapenade
Prep time
Total time
I've made a lot of versions of tapenade over the years and this is by far my favorite "version". I don't think there is truly a "correct" or "traditional" version - it really does come down to personal preference, I think. !
Serves: 1 cup
  • 1 cup pitted brine or dry cured black olives, pitted (I used a mixture of Tanche and Nicoise)
  • 2 Tbsp. capers, rinsed and squeezed dry
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. anchovy paste
  • ½ tsp. Herbs de Provence
  • 1 - 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is a thick paste but is not pureed. Slowly drizzle in 1 - 2 Tbsp. olive oil until the mixture reaches an spreading consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  2. Alternatively, you can make this in a mortal and pestle - definitely more traditional, but not quite as quick to make!
As for attribution, that will be a hard one since I've looked at perhaps 4 or 5 dozen recipes for tapenade and have done lots of experimentation. But I would be remiss if I didn't thank David Lebovitz for his tip about rinsing and squeezing the capers - a step that does make a world of difference!




  1. Madonna says

    I am going to try this as an appetizer, but I also saw Jacques Pépin use this on top of baked fish and that sounded good too.

    If you don’t mind, tell us about why you chose the cities you visited. Do you have friends or family, or been there before, or just on the bucket list? This really sounds fantastic.

    • says

      Hi Madonna,

      Oh, this would be great on fish! We have been to France before – had spent a week in Paris and a week touring Normandy and the Loire Valley. This trip came about because I had free tickets I needed to use so we decided to spend a few days in Paris and then do a “scouting” mission to Provence. Since we only had a few days we decided to focus on Western Provence and St. Remy (the town we stayed in) seemed well located to everything we wanted to do! Our day trips were determined pretty much by where the markets were each day – we went to the Ille la Sorgue market and the next day the one in Carpenteras. The last day we spent in Avignon in order to be close to the train station for the trip back to London were we started.
      We have plans to go back in October for a trip to the Loire with a group of friends – we are renting a Chateau and will be cooking and I am so excited – one of my best cooking buddies will be there!!

  2. says

    Such pretty photos of Provence ~ I had never been but must get there some day! I am all about this tapenade ~ we love olives over here :)

    • says

      Tapenade is so easy and it definitely is better homemade – the store versions just don’t taste as good to me. Definitely one of my favorite summer “go to” foods!

  3. says

    I found this post though Pinterest. The photo was so beautiful that I just had to come here to read the recipe! Love it! And love your site :-).

    I would like to invite you to share this post (and your other posts :-) ) on a new photo based recipe sharing site that launched in May. The idea is simple: all recipe photographs are published within minutes of submission. And, of course, the images link back to the author’s site.

    It’s called RecipeNewZ (with Z) – http://recipenewz.com

    I hope you get a chance to visit and to share some of your delicious posts with our viewers. It would be a pleasure to have you on board :-)

  4. says

    I have been wanting to go to Provence ever since I took French in high school. Still haven’t made it there, but am excited to one day see the natural beauty and eat fresh, delicious foods. Your tapenade looks delicious! I will definitely be making this recipe!

    • says

      Hi Julia!! You will love Provence – it definitely has a “slower vibe” than Paris and the scenery is amazing as is the food!

    • says

      Hi Tiff!! I know some people are put off by the idea of anchovies but with this small amount you definitely don’t taste it and it adds such depth of flavor to the tapenade! Hope you enjoy it!!

  5. says

    Your photos tell it all; just as gorgeous as anyone could conjure in their head. Hope you have the time of your life!

    I know that little tool well; albeit today for me it was a cherry pitter! Only 2 lbs so seems like no big deal but without it; would have been easily twice as long.

    There will be a cocktail Friday. It will have something to do with fresh cherries. :)

    We need to catchup my friend; it’s been far too long.

    • says

      Hi Barb!! It definitely has been too long!! I think I am “finally” getting better – hopefully this second round of antibiotics will do the trick! Thought this month would be more laid back hah!!! I am cramming like made for my registration exam… ugh… cannot wait till this month is over!!

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