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What Are Black Olives?

Black olives have been on my table for so long, I don’t remember what life was like without them. 

I’ve never had to wonder what are black olives, because my family presented me with a baby bottle, and then a dish of cut black olives not long after. 

They were as present as cut hot dogs for toddler finger food back in my day. 

So, the mild, rich taste of black olives has always beat out other olives for me.

I’m not a sour olive fan, so when the going gets tough, I let people know that black olives are superior. 

They make a great low-carb, good fats snack, and I love this about them. 

They are known for their spotlight in Mediterranean diets.

Cook’s Illustrated states that there is a distinct difference between pitted and unpitted olives, but I like being able to enjoy them without spitting seeds into my hand. 

I mean, I could pit them myself but ugh, if I’m going to eat food from a can with my fingers, I want to make it fast and loose.

While Renee’ prefers the puckery punch in the face of green olives (especially blue cheese-stuffed green olives—yikes) I prefer the nuanced and mild profile of black olives.

Let’s talk about black olives.

What are black olives?

Black olives refer to the ripe fruit from the olive tree native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America. 

This tropical fruit, with the scientific name Olea europaea, is a stone fruit,  which is related to peaches, plums, cherries, lychees, and mangoes.

According to plant-world-seeds.com, they are usually found in coastal swamps and wet inland forests. 

The fruit is green in hue when unripe and black when ripened. 

However, be mindful that not all black olives sold in the market are tree-ripened as others are just green olives being cured in an alkaline solution, and treated with oxygen and an iron compound (ferrous gluconate).

But despite all that, black olives are undeniably a versatile fruit that can be eaten on its own, as an appetizer, or used as a component in a plethora of dishes, including pasta, stews, salads, charcuterie boards, and pizzas.

What do black olives look like?

If you haven’t seen black olives, the fruit is oval in shape and up to half an inch in length. 

When they’re still unripe, the fruit tends to have a green color, which eventually turns black as they fully ripen. Also, black olives have a softer texture than those green ones.

What do black olives taste like?

Unlike the unripe version of the fruit, which has a firm texture and nutty flavor, black olives tend to be richer and meatier with a softer textural nuance.

Where do black olives come from?

The black olives are native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America. 

The fruit gets harvested from the olive tree and then undergoes a curing process to remove its bitterness. 

Some of the popular curing processes use brine, dry salt, water, or lye treatments.

How to store black olives

It’s important to know how to store black olives, especially if you want to extend their shelf life. 

Chef Greg DeMichiel shares his knowledge about storing black olives in the refrigerator. Check out the video below to see how he does it:

Materials needed:
• Black olives
• Saucepan
• Refrigerator
• Airtight container

For brine:
• Red wine 
• Garlic
• Crushed chilies

Instructions:
1. Put the brine into the pot. 
2. Prepare your stovetop and bring the brine to a simmer. 
3. Once done, add the olives into the pot then turn off the heat. 
4. Let the olives steep for 30 minutes. 
5. After that, place the olives in an airtight container. 
6. Then store it in the refrigerator for up to seven days.

How long do black olives last?

The storage condition and storage methods affect the shelf life of your black olives. 

So there’s no precise answer on how long your black olives last. 

Typically, commercially packaged olives have a “Best Buy,” “Best if Used By,” “Best Before” or “Best When Used By” date. 

But it’s usually still safe to consume the olives even a month past these dates.

However, if you’re doubtful about the quality of your olives, give them a sniff, look, or taste test. 

Rotten olives usually develop an off odor, moldy or pale and spotty appearance, and distasteful flavor profile. 

For an opened jar or can of olives, you should always follow the recommendation written on the package. 

Top manufacturers of black olive products suggest that you need to consume the olives within 14 days after opening. 

Other brands recommend eating the fruit within 10 days or up to 12 months.

How to use black olives

Black olives add rich and bright flavor to a variety of dishes including sandwiches, bread, salad, tapenade, and pizza. 

Some of these dishes in our list of 35 Italian Appetizers highlight black olives, too. 

Many Italian dishes, like Peperonata, Fusilli pasta, and Pasta Puttanesca, use black olives to add texture to the final dish. 

Oh, and don’t miss out on my version of the taco dip, too!

Other food enthusiasts around the world roast them alongside chicken and include these rich little gems in their baking recipes, as they add moistness and robust flavor to the baked goods just like these savory decadent muffins.

Black olives substitutes

It’s indeed hard to duplicate their flavor and texture, but there are alternatives you can use in case you’re running out or low on the ingredient.

1. Capers

If you can’t stand black olives, then capers may be an ideal option for you! Capers feature a briny taste that’s a bit lemony and meaty like olives. 

To use, replace 1/2 cup of sliced olives with 2 to 3 tablespoons of capers in your recipes.

2. Pickled peppers

Another great alternative for black olives is pickled peppers. 

Though it has a spicy kick component, these peppers still feature a sour and salty taste just like the olives. 

They’re best to include in your salad, pasta, and pizza dishes. You may need to drain pickled peppers before adding.

3. Mushrooms

Mushrooms have a fleshy bite similar to black olives, especially when they are cooked, making them a good candidate as a substitute. 

They’re also perfect for pizza, pasta, and salad recipes. We are so lucky!

4. Pickled tomato

Just like black olives, pickled tomato is also used to enhance the flavor and texture of a variety of dishes. 

It has umami and sweet flavor as well as a fleshy bite that can be used as a black olive replacement for dishes like pasta, sandwiches, salads.

The bottom line

While there are a handful of olives available, my personal favorite continues to be the black olive.

They are mild in flavor, a bit sweet, a bit salty, and have a magical ability to make Seven-Layer Dip pop, as well as Supreme Pizza sing. 

Mostly I love them all by themselves, eaten straight out of the can, or as the hero to my charcuterie board. 

Did you used to stick the pitted ones on the end of each finger and eat them one by one?

What Are Black Olives?

What Are Black Olives?

CookingChew shares everything about black olives, from their taste, appearance, and substitutes. Learn how to store the fruit the right way, too!

Ingredients

  • Black olives
  • Saucepan
  • Refrigerator
  • Airtight container
  • Red wine
  • Garlic
  • Crushed chilies

Instructions

  1. Put the brine into the pot. 
  2. Prepare your stovetop and bring the brine to a simmer. 
  3. Once done, add the olives into the pot then turn off the heat. 
  4. Let the olives steep for 30 minutes. 
  5. After that, place the olives in an airtight container. 
  6. Then store it in the refrigerator for up to seven days.

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