Garlicky Olive Tapenade (gluten free, vegan, vinegar free, citrus free)

By no means is this gourmet or really even all that whole foods nutritious.  Nor does it look all that appealing - there is nothing attractive about this brown mushy stuff in the photo.  It looks more like cat food than anything you'd want to eat. 

But DANG,  it sure is tasty.  Plus, it's cheap - this tapenade can be made for WELL under a 5-spot if you use inexpensive canned olives from the grocery store.  Truth be told, I often just use the cheap stuff for this recipe and it always turns out well.  But if you make it with oil-cured moroccan black olives and big, plump green sicilian olives, it moves the dip to a whole different level (and a whole different budget).  There are countless varieties of olives available, some large, some small, some stuffed, and other packed with herbs or spices.  Whether buying bulk, canned, or jarred, if you are sensitive to vinegar, make sure you purchase olives that have been packed in water, salt, or oil.  It can be a little harder to find, but they are out there!

The great news? Those good old fashioned canned black olives from any grocery store are totally vinegar free, as are many jarred pimento-stuffed green olives.  Read labels for other ingredients you may not tolerate - like preservatives or stabilizers - with canned or jarred varieties.  Many high quality bulk olives do not include those additives and may work better for you, depending on your personal tolerances.

Since I'm not a vegan, after all, I have to be honest - I like to include anchovy filets in this tapenade.  They add a certain depth of flavor that is incomparable, and doesn't taste at ALL like fish, I promise.  Anchovies get such a bad rap.  But they are oh so good when used in sauces, dressings, and dips.  If you like real Caesar dressing, you like anchovies; they what makes Caesar Caesar, what gives it that certain je ne sais quoi.   [Veg*n friends, if you didn't know that, always check out the ingredients in Caesar dressing before eating...] Anyway, if you're vegan, too freaked by the thought of using them, you don't have any on hand (I always do!), or you don't want that extra sodium boost, leave 'em out - it will still be incredibly delicious.

This makes a bunch, and will last about 5-6 days in the refrigerator.  It awesome spread on crackers or breads, used in collard or tortilla wraps, eaten with raw or steamed veggies, or spooned over broiled fish or chicken.  Try mixing a scoop of it in with warm gluten free pasta, put a blob in the blender with cooked beans for a quick and flavorful dip, or use to season bean or grain salads.  You'll find a million ways to use it!  I think it would be the perfect addition to a holiday hors d'oeuvres table.


yield 1 1/2 cups

1 can whole black olives (6 oz drained weight) or 1 1/2 c other black olives

1 5.75-oz jar whole pimento-stuffed green olives  or 1 cup other green olives

2 garlic cloves, crushed, peeled, and coarsely chopped

2 T extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp vitamin C crystals (or a squeeze of lemon,  if you tolerate citrus)

optional: 2 anchovy filets, rinsed and patted dry (OMIT IF VEGAN)

fresh cracked pepper, to taste

Drain olives and place in a food processor or blender with blender.  Pulse a few times to coarsely chop, then add remaining ingredients.

Continue to pulse until well mixed.  If you want a smooth dip, continue to process/blend until smooth. Otherwise, process only until desired consistency is reached.  Add pepper to taste.

Transfer to a bowl and serve.  Refrigerate leftovers 5-6 days.


Herb: add 1 tsp each dry parsley, basil, thyme, and rosemary (my favorite!)

Spicy: add red chili flakes and a pinch of cayenne pepper to taste

Caper: add 2 T capers (use salt-packed if vinegar intolerant), rinsed

Red Pepper: add 1/4 c chopped roasted red peppers (store bought or homemade)