Olives have a weird relationship with people. There’s no middle ground; you either eat olives or can’t stand the sight of them.
Whichever side you’re on, there’s no denying that the olives have an extremely distinctive flavor. There’s nothing quite like it, and they seem to blend in perfectly with any recipe in the cookbook.
Do you want to know the best part?
Olives taste differently depending on their shape, size, color, or how they’re fermented and cured.
So, what do olives taste like?
In this article, I’ll explore the different flavor profiles of some of the most popular types of olives. Let’s dive right in!
What Do Fresh Olives Taste Like?
If you go to the supermarket, you’ll come across the term “fresh olives” quite often.
Now, this might come as a surprise:
Fresh olives, green or black, are so unpleasantly bitter that you’ll probably have to wash your mouth to get rid of the aftertaste.
This isn’t one of these acquired tastes that eventually grow on you, either. You simply can’t eat a freshly picked olive without curing it and preserving it in salt or brine first.
The reason for that is a phenolic compound called oleuropein. Fresh olives can have up to 14% oleuropein content in addition to other bitter phytochemicals.
To make olives edible, they must be cured and fermented. This process removes the unpalatable oleuropein and introduces new metabolites that favorably alter the flavor.
What Do Green Olives Taste Like?
Green olives are harvested while unripe. They contain more salt and less oil than black olives, giving them a stronger, tangier flavor.
After fermentation, green olives are usually stored in a solution of fresh lemon juice and saltwater. Some recipes contain rosemary, olive leaves, or white vinegar.
This gives green olives a zesty undercurrent that compensates for the bitterness. If you want to try green olives that have a citrusy flavor, try Phenician or Lebanese olives.
Green or Sicilian olives are only stored in a brine solution, which makes them more bitter and less zesty compared to other types.
Spanish olives are perhaps the most common type of green olives. They make up roughly 60% of the world’s production of green olives.
They’re less bitter than Green olives but don’t have a zesty aftertaste.
Green Olives and Cooking
Green olives are the perfect accompaniment to a variety of dishes. Colorful pasta recipes won’t be the same without some sliced green olives, especially when paired with juicy cherry tomatoes!
What Do Black Olives Taste Like?
Black olives are harvested when they’ve fully matured. I prefer black olives because they’re less bitter and offer a more floral flavor profile.
The bitterness of black olives depends on the curing process. Some varieties are heavily soaked with lye to make them more palatable.
Salt-cured black olives are packed with salt to draw the moisture out and make them shrivel. They’re then soaked in oil with minor fermentation.
This type of olives is the most bitter and not preferred by many.
Some varieties of black olives include:
- Picholine olives
- Water-cured olives
- Lebanese olives
- Greek olives
Black Olives in Cooking
Black olives will never underdeliver in a roasting pan! Whether you’re cooking chicken thighs or beef, the intense flavor profile of black olives gives your dishes an extra punch.
Oh, and pizza! Homemade pizza with sliced black olives is about as good as it gets. The “meatier” texture of black olives also makes it much more satisfying on bread!
What Do Kalamata Olives Taste Like?
Kalamata olives originated in Kalamata, Greece. They’re one of the most popular varieties and have a rich and unique flavor profile.
Kalamata olives are classified as black olives, but they don’t taste exactly the same.
They’re less bitter than black olives with a fruity aftertaste. Kalamata olives are usually cured in brine and vinegar.
Sometimes, lemon wedges or even some olive oil are added for an enhanced flavor.
Kalamata olives offer the perfect balance between green and black olives. They also bring an aromatic quality to a variety of recipes.
Kalamata Olives in Cooking
I love kalamata olives with rosemary. The fruity undercurrents of the olives blended with the woodsy flavor of rosemary are to die for.
This is why you have to try olive rosemary bread. It’s extremely easy to make and tastes spectacular.
Kalamata olives also work with eggs and feta cheese. You can also add toast with some cream cheese for a light healthy snack!
What Do Castelvetrano Olives Taste Like?
Castelvetrano olives have an incredibly rich and distinctive flavor profile. They’re green, unripe olives that taste salty and sweet at the same time.
The buttery undercurrents and overall more nuanced flavor make them extremely appealing as a snack. They can be eaten alone or paired with a cheese platter or fresh burrata.
If you think olives are too bitter or salty, you have to try Castelvetrano olives. They’re tender, creamy, barely bitter, and even soothing at times.
When I first discovered Castervetrano olives, I would keep a tub in my fridge as a staple in my apartment. I was hooked!
Castelvetrano Olives in Cooking
As I mentioned, Castelvetrano olives taste delicious on their own or served with a cheese platter.
But here’s the kicker:
The buttery flavor and citrusy punch in these olives make them perfect for any salad recipe!
Don’t believe me? Add two cups of Castervetrano olives and half a cup of olive oil to your salad.
Then, squeeze a lemon over and add some finely chopped shallots.
If you want to step things up a little bit, add some pitted Castervetrano olives to your chicken with some finely chopped rosemary and oregano.
A lot of people, including myself, tried olives once, decided it wasn’t for them, and never looked back since.
Well, after squandering years of my life without an olive on my plate, I’ve finally decided to shift my stance.
And I gotta say: I’m a changed man now.
So, what do olives taste like? It depends on which one you pick. All you gotta do is choose a flavor profile that suits your taste buds, and indulge in some tasty olives!