Once upon a time, the olives available in U.S. supermarkets were either chalkboard black or olive green. My, how times have changed! These days, you can find all types of olives with a range of colors, flavors, and textures. Below, we’ll tell you about some of our favorite olive varieties and great ways to use them.
First, a few pointers:
These are some of the more common types of olives you’re likely to find in the condiment aisle of the supermarket. Specialty stores and well-stocked supermarkets might also sell many different kinds of olives in self-serve olive bars in the deli and cheese department. Each kind of olive is perfect for adding to charcuterie boards.
Pictured clockwise from top left:
Here are more varieties and styles of green and black olives that we love. Any and all will make fascinating additions to an appetizer tray.
Alphonso: Chile sends these flavorful purplish-black olives our way. They’re brine-cured, then cured in red wine. With their meaty flesh and pleasantly bitter and sour flavors, they’ll stand out on an olive tray.
La Catalan: The French name doesn't refer to a variety of olive but rather a way of flavoring green olives “à la Catalane”—in the style of the Catalan cook. Hailing from France’s Roussillon region, the olives get flavor-charged with a marinade of curry, celery, and pepper. Serve them alongside French or Spanish sheep’s milk cheeses for an irresistible hors d’oeuvre.
Moroccan Dry- or Salt-Cured Black Olives: These glistening jet-black olives are cured in salt (rather than brine)—a process known as dry curing or salt-curing. Their flesh is moist and meaty, and they have a salty, smoky flavor. Enjoy them on their own or marinated in a mixture of olive oil, garlic, and lemon.
Italian Dry- or Salt-Cured Olives: Like Moroccan producers, Italian olive producers sometimes dry-cure olives, too. They’re often packed dry rather than in brine. Enjoy them on their own or try them marinated with olive oil, garlic, and Italian seasonings.
Gaeta Olives: These are small, greenish-brown, wrinkled olives from Italy that can be salt- or brine-cured. They have tender flesh that is very salty and slightly sour.
Stuffed Olives: Large, mild green olives, such as the Queen and Sevillano olive varieties, are often used to make stuffed olives. Pimiento-stuffed olives are classic, but these days you can also find these types of olives filled with other delights, such as almonds, garlic, anchovies, or blue cheese. They’re the quintessential martini olive; we also like using the pimento-stuffed versions in recipes for green olive tapenade, as the striking red pimento offers extra flecks of color to the spread.
One of our favorite uses for olives is olive tapenade. While some recipes call for black olives and others for green, this recipe calls for both for a greater variety of flavors.
In a blender or food processor combine green olives, Kalamata olives, black olives, oil, capers, vinegar, mustard, anchovies (if desired), and garlic. Cover and blend or process until finely chopped, stopping to scrape down sides as necessary. Stir in fresh herb(s).
Spoon olive tapenade into 4-oz, canning jars, airtight storage containers, or freezer containers, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Seal and label. Store in the refrigerator up to 1 week or freeze up to 3 months. Makes 3 cups.