Tapenade is a delicious spread/sauce from Southern France made with olives, capers & anchovies. It's easy to make and so versatile - try it on bread, in pasta and more.
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Many years ago, when I was still a child, one of my older sisters lived in Montpellier in the South of France for a while. I visited with my mum and we explored all over the region, including the Camargue with its wild horses and flamingoes, and the medieval walled city of Carcassonne.
Being France, unsurprisingly I have many food memories as well. The fragrant smell of figs, eating ridiculously late for my age in a nice restaurant in Montpellier because it just didn't serve any earlier, and lots of great picnics.
Picnic fare was typically baguettes, various cheeses and cured meats. Sometimes other things would be added to the picnic list and tapenade was one of them.
What is tapenade?
Tapenade is a paste made with olives, anchovies, olive oil, capers and some herbs and garlic originally from the Provence region of Southern France. Despite it often being translated as an olive spread, the name actually comes from another ingredient - "tapenas" is the Provençal word for capers.
All of the ingredients are very much a reflection of the region and it combines them simply with delicious results. Traditionally, you make this with black olives but you will also find a green version. Some also add sundried tomatoes, though to me it makes a bit of a different sauce.
How to use tapenade
Probably the simplest way is spread on bread as an appetizer, or you can use it as a dip for crackers. However, you can also use it more as a sauce or spread in many more dishes. Some ideas:
- Stir it through pasta as a sauce.
- Use it as a filling for chicken, or rubbed under the skin before roasting.
- Spread it on bread instead of butter or mayo when you make a sandwich - chicken, cheese or grilled vegetable fillings would go really well.
- Use it to top grilled or roasted fish, chicken or lamb.
- Thin it out with oil to make a salad dressing.
- Come up with your own uses!
Traditionally, you would use a pestle and mortar to make this but a food processor does a great job of making it quick and easy. You can make it coarser or smoother as you like, but this should not be completely smooth. A bit of texture is good, here.
Tapenade is delicious used as a dip, spread on bread or used as a sauce in cooking. The flavors are a delicious combination of rustic, savory and briny in the best possible way. However you enjoy it, tapenade is easy to make, tasty and versatile.
Try these other delicious sauces/spreads:
- Romesco sauce (a Spanish sauce made with nuts, tomatoes and peppers)
- Chermoula sauce (a North African herb-based sauce with fragrant cumin)
- Aji verde (often called Peruvian green sauce, with herbs, mayo and a little chili kick)
- Plus get more French recipes and side dishes in the archives.
- 1 cup pitted black olives
- 1 tablespoon capers drained (well washed if they were salted)
- 2 anchovy fillets
- 1 clove garlic peeled
- 1 tablespoon parsley
- 1 stem thyme leaves removed from stem, or ¼tsp dried
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- Put everything apart from the oil in a food processor and pulse until it forms a coarse crumb texture.
- Add the oil a little at a time and pulse again to mix and so it comes together as a paste. Add a little more than the 2tbsp suggested above, if needed. (Alternatively, if your olives were in oil rather than brine you can just add everything in together and it should come to a coarse paste easily.)
- Transfer to a serving dish and serve, or cover and keep refrigerated until needed.
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This post was first shared in July 2016 and has been updated, primarily with new photos and a video.
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