While capers are a favorite for bringing an intense and distinct flavor to dishes, you might find that you’re all out of the plant-based ingredient right when you need to add it to a recipe.
Some people also look for a substitute for capers when they have difficulty dealing with the intense flavor but still want a milder version of it.
Capers are typically used as a garnish in salads or as condiments when preserving foods. They’re about the size of a grape and have a spicy, sharp flavor that can also be used to enhance the taste of meat-based dishes.
When capers have matured and grown larger, they’re referred to as caperberries. Capers taste different than caperberries because they are harvested before the fruit can ripen.
Here’s a list of ingredients you can use to substitute for the flavor of capers in your recipe.
Best Substitute For Capers
1. Green Olives
- Similar bitter, sharp, salty taste.
- Use the same quantity as capers.
- If not sliced, use two olives for every four capers.
- Robust and enriching flavor.
- Start with a smaller quantity than capers.
- Best in dishes requiring slow cooking.
3. Nasturtium Seeds
- Pepper-like flavor, less bitter.
- Use equivalent amount as capers.
- Ideal for salads, pasta, casseroles.
- Intense, sharp flavor.
- Use the same number of pickles as capers.
- Great for salads, sliced into small pieces.
- Milder than capers.
- Use a bit more caperberries than capers for similar flavor.
- Add more for stronger flavor.
6. Green Peppercorns
- Milder taste than capers.
- Use a slightly larger quantity than capers.
7. Artichoke Hearts
- Suitable for fish, chicken dishes, and pastas.
- Start with half the amount of artichoke hearts as capers, adjust to taste.
|Bitter, sharp, salty
|As is or garnish
|Same quantity as capers; if whole, 2 olives for every 4 capers
|Start with smaller quantity than capers
|Pepper-like, less bitter
|Salads, pasta, casseroles
|Equivalent amount as capers
|Same number as capers
|Milder than capers
|Varied, less intense flavor desired
|A bit more than capers, adjust for stronger flavor
|Milder than capers
|Dish appearance, milder flavor
|Slightly larger quantity than capers
|Fish, chicken dishes, pastas
|Start with half the amount, adjust to taste
1. Green olives
Green olives are an appropriate capers replacement because they have a similar bitter and sharp, salty taste. If you wanted to use capers for garnish, green olives also have a close outer resemblance and can easily be sliced into thin pieces.
Because of their pungent yet unique taste, you can use the same quantity of green olives as the capers called for in your recipe.
However, if you’re using olives without slicing them up, use only two olives for every four capers in your recipe.
Thyme is a famously used herb and an excellent substitute because of its robust and enriching flavor. You should add thyme towards the beginning of your dish’s preparation to help make the taste more mellow and thoroughly distributed in your recipe. You can either use just the leaves or the stems as well when adding thyme to your recipe.
Start with a smaller quantity of thyme than capers called for in your recipe. It’s best to use thyme to replace capers when you’re making a dish that requires slow, gradual cooking, so it has time to release its unique flavor.
3. Nasturtium seeds
These seeds have a similar pepper-like flavor to capers but aren’t as bitter. You can use them in salads, pasta, and casseroles in an equivalent amount as capers.
You can also use nasturtium seeds in savory dishes by buying pickled seeds, which has a stronger, spicier taste.
You can also use nasturtium buds that are still young and soak them in onion, dill, vinegar, and garlic. After a few days, or whenever you need them for your recipe, you’ll find that they make a great garnish similar to capers.
If you’re looking for a replacement for the flavor that comes from capers brine, then pickles should do the trick. They look different from capers, but they have a very intense, sharp flavor, mainly if you use dill and cucumber pickles.
You can also use the same number of pickles as the capers called for in your recipe for the best result. They work great in salads and platters when you slice them into small pieces.
As mentioned, caperberries have a less intense flavor than capers because they’ve been allowed to ripen. However, if you want a milder taste than capers but has similar notes, caperberries are a great choice.
You can use a bit more caperberries as capers to get an appropriate flavor, or add more if you want a stronger flavor.
6. Green peppercorns
Another capers substitute are green peppercorns. They look similar to capers, and when they’re harvested earlier on, they also have a less spicy and sharp flavor. Once they’re ripe, they become black peppercorns, which contain more heat.
While they have a milder taste than capers, green peppercorns are an excellent option if you want to replicate the look that capers bring to your dish. You can use a slightly larger quantity of green peppercorns to get a workable flavor.
7. Artichoke hearts
You can use either pickled or marinated artichoke hearts. They’re best for fish or chicken-based dishes and even pastas. You can start with half the amount of artichoke hearts as capers called for in your recipe and add more if you need to adjust the taste.
The bottom line
Because of their complex flavor, it’s hard to replace capers with another ingredient fully. However, the ones I tallied above are close substitutes both in terms of taste and appearance.
With the proper measurements, you’ll barely notice the difference in your recipe.
- Green olives
- Use the same quantity of green olives as the capers called for in your recipe.
- However, if you’re using olives without slicing them up, use only two olives for every four capers in your recipe.