Tapenade is a tasty olive spread from Provence in the South of France. It is traditionally made with black olives, capers, anchovies, tuna, olive oil and lemon juice. It may have a little Dijon mustard, garlic and a dash of cognac added as well. I like to include a small sprig of finely chopped rosemary or thyme.

Although olives are the predominant ingredient in tapenade, the name originates from the Provencal word: tapeno meaning caper. There are many recipes and variations for tapenade and it may include green olives, dried figs or sun-dried tomatoes. It can also be made with a mix of different types of olives.

Serve tapenade as an hors d’oeuvre with toasted baguette slices, hard-boiled eggs and salad or crudité. Enjoy with a chilled glass of wine. At a recent celebration for my daughter’s birthday, I served this tapenade and as well a fresh-tasting tapenade made with green olives and artichoke hearts. You can find the recipe here.

The tapenade will taste that much better if you take the time to pit the olives yourself, but you can certainly use pitted olives for convenience. I suggest you rinse the olives and capers beforehand as tapenade can be very salty. It is best made a day or two before you need it to allow time for the flavours to mingle and mellow. Pour a film of olive oil on the surface and it will keep in the fridge for a week or longer.

I find tapenade to be quite addictive and it makes me happy to have a jar of it in the fridge. Besides being used as a spread, tapenade can be used as a sandwich filling, a stuffing for hard-boiled eggs or as a sauce to serve with fish.

Photography by Sophie Harper


  • 250g Kalamata olives (1 cup pitted), rinsed
  • 6-8 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
  • 1 x 95g can tuna in oil, drained
  • 40g (2 tbsp) capers, rinsed
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • freshly milled black pepper
  • 2 tsp lemon juice


  • 3 tsp brandy
  • 1 sprig rosemary or thyme, finely chopped


  1. Firstly, pit the olives by pressing on them with a jar or rolling pin to dislodge the stones or use an olive/cherry-pitter. You should end up with a packed cup of olives, about 200g.
  2. Tapenade can be very salty so be sure to rinse the olives and capers. You may also want to go easy on the anchovies at first and add more after tasting.
  3. The spread can be smooth or somewhat rustic as you like. Place the ingredients, except for olive oil, in the food processor and pulse chop to a rough paste or puree. Add the olive oil and process again to combine. Alternatively roughly chop the ingredients by hand and then pound with a mortar and pestle.
  4. Taste the tapenade on a piece of bread and then make any adjustments needed. Store in a glass or ceramic container with a film of olive oil poured on the surface.
  5. Serve the tapenade spread on toasted sliced baguette or rye bread with hard-boiled eggs and tomatoes. It is perfect with a chilled glass of wine on a warm evening.





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