This chunky Olive Tapenade recipe is flavored with lemon-infused olive oil and tangy feta, a delicious and memorable party appetizer!
Olives might be my very favorite party food. I love basically anything in brine, but I just can’t get enough of the salty, tangy taste of olives.
I love my deep fried olives for a holiday get together, but I wanted something even easier.
I adore olive tapenade, and while this version isn’t strictly traditional, it’s certainly easy and universally appealing. Traditional tapenades are usually made with finely pureed olives and anchovies, but since I wanted to make a vegetarian version I decided to leave out the fish.
I also love good food presentation, so I used both green and Kalamata olives and rather than pureeing them I gave them a good fine mince. I love seeing the texture of the olives!
Adding the cheese makes this a great olive and feta dip!
Table of Contents
What We Love About This Recipe
Simplicity: One of the reasons I love this recipe so much is its simplicity. With just a handful of ingredients and minimal cook time, you can whip this up in no time. Perfect for those spontaneous gatherings or when you just need a quick appetizer.
Burst of Flavors: The combination of tangy feta, briny olives, and that zesty lemon kick… it’s just divine! It’s a lovely way to tantalize the taste buds and introduce a new flavor profile to friends and family.
Travels Well: Another thing that’s great? It’s so easy to transport. If you’re heading to a party or a potluck, just pop it in a container and go. No need for reheating or any of that fuss.
Versatile Serving Options: While I’ve mentioned serving it with crusty bread or focaccia, you can get creative! Think crackers, veggie sticks, or even as a spread in a wrap or sandwich. It’s so versatile!
Healthy-ish Treat: Olives are packed with healthy fats, and with the protein from feta, it’s a treat you can indulge in without much guilt. Plus, it’s relatively low-carb!
A True Crowd-Pleaser: Every time I’ve served this olive feta dip, I’ve received rave reviews. It’s something a bit different from the usual dips and spreads, and people appreciate the uniqueness.
Garlic: Ah, garlic – one of my favorite ingredients! Garlic adds a pungent, slightly spicy kick to the tapenade. Its aromatic essence infuses the olive oil during the heating process, providing a warm and savory background note.
Lemon Zest: Lemon zest is the outer peel of the lemon and it packs a lot of intense, bright citrus flavors. It gives the tapenade that lovely zesty lift, which contrasts the richness of the olives and olive oil.
Green Olives: These bring a slightly tangy, briny, and somewhat buttery flavor to the mix. Green olives often have a more mellow and vegetal taste compared to their black counterparts.
Black Olives (Kalamata): Kalamata olives are a personal favorite! These are plumper and have a deeper, almost wine-like flavor. They’re a bit more robust and salty compared to green olives, adding another dimension to the tapenade.
Lemon Juice: This adds a tangy, fresh, and acidic element to the tapenade. Lemon juice helps to balance out the rich and salty flavors, making the tapenade more vibrant and lively on the palate.
Crumbled Feta Cheese: Feta brings a creamy, tangy, and slightly salty flavor to the dish. Its crumbly texture melds well with the chopped olives, and it rounds out the dish with its unmistakable Mediterranean flair.
See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
Different Olives: Beyond green and Kalamata olives, consider using other varieties like Castelvetrano olives (sweeter and buttery) or Gaeta olives (mild and sweet). Each variety adds its own unique flavor.
Add Some Heat: If you’re a fan of a little kick, toss in some black pepper, red pepper flakes or even a finely chopped fresh chili pepper.
Herbs: Fresh herbs can elevate the flavor profile. Consider adding finely chopped rosemary, fresh thyme, or even basil. If you’re into a more Mediterranean touch, some fresh parsley and a hint of mint could be delightful.
Anchovies: For a deeper, umami-rich flavor, you can mix in some finely chopped anchovies. They blend seamlessly with the olives and enhance the overall depth of the tapenade.
Capers: These bring an extra layer of brininess and pair beautifully with olives. Just a tablespoon or two, finely chopped, can make a difference.
Roasted Red Peppers: Adding some chopped roasted red peppers not only brings a sweet and smoky flavor but also a vibrant color contrast.
Nuts: For a bit of crunch, consider adding some finely chopped toasted pine nuts or even walnuts.
Other Cheeses: While feta is fabulous, you can experiment with other crumbly cheeses like goat cheese or even some grated Parmesan for a sharper touch.
Sun-dried Tomatoes: Chop up some sundried tomatoes and mix them in for an extra layer of sweetness and texture.
Less Chunky: I love this version, but if you want a smoother version, especially for an olive spread, then pulse the pitted olives in your food processor until you get to the texture you like, then toss with the rest of the ingredients.
How to Make Olive Tapenade
Step #1: Heat the olive oil, garlic, and lemon zest in a small saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. This infuses the olive oil with the lemon zest and the garlic.
Step #2: Place the chopped olives in a serving bowl and toss with the lemon juice, feta, and cooled olive oil.
Step #3: Serve with sliced crusty bread, like baguette slices, focaccia, pita bread or veggie sticks.
Quality Olive Oil: It might sound obvious, but using a good quality extra virgin olive oil can make a world of difference.
Zesting the Lemon: When zesting your lemon, make sure to only get the yellow outer layer and avoid the white pith underneath, which can be bitter. A microplane works wonders for this!
Mince the Garlic Finely: Since the garlic is only being lightly cooked, ensure it’s minced very finely so that there aren’t large chunks in your tapenade. This also helps to evenly distribute the garlic flavor.
Taste and Adjust: Before serving, always taste the tapenade and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Sometimes a pinch of salt, an extra squeeze of lemon, or a drizzle more of olive oil is all it takes to perfect it.
Let It Sit: If you have the time, let the tapenade sit for an hour or so before serving. This allows the flavors to meld and intensify.
Serving Temperature: This tapenade tastes best at room temperature. If you’ve stored it in the fridge, try to take it out at least 30 minutes before serving to let it come to room temp.
Bread Pairing: When serving with bread, I love toasting or grilling it with a light brush of olive oil. It adds another layer of flavor and texture to the experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely! While the combination of green and black olives gives a nice depth of flavor, using just one type is perfectly fine. Go with what you have or what you prefer.
Sure! Goat cheese is a good alternative for its creamy texture and tangy flavor. Grated Parmesan can also work if you’re looking for something with a different texture.
Definitely. In fact, making it a day ahead can allow the flavors to meld and intensify. Just store it in the fridge in an airtight container and let it come to room temperature before serving.
To make it vegan, simply omit the feta cheese or use a vegan feta cheese alternative available in many stores.
While it’s delicious on its own with bread, you can also use it as a spread in sandwiches or wraps, mix into salads, or even as a topping for grilled chicken or fish.
The tapenade itself is gluten-free. However, if serving with bread, ensure you choose a gluten-free option if catering to those with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease.
Refrigerating: To store any leftover tapenade, it’s best to transfer it to an airtight container, place in the fridge and use within 3-5 Days:
Freezing: If you’re considering freezing the tapenade (which is totally doable), I recommend dividing it into portion sizes. Transfer the tapenade into freezer bags, pressing out as much air as possible before sealing. If you’re using a container, leave a small space at the top as the tapenade may expand slightly when frozen. Label with the date. The tapenade should maintain its best quality for up to 2 months in the freezer.
Thawing Frozen Leftovers: The best method is to let the tapenade thaw overnight in the refrigerator. This ensures that it thaws evenly and retains its texture and flavor. If you’re in a hurry, you can place the sealed tapenade bag/container in a bowl of cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes until it’s thawed, then give the tapenade a good stir to combine any separated ingredients.
Lemony Olive Tapenade with Feta Recipe
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic - peeled and minced
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 cup finely chopped pitted green olives
- 1 cup finely chopped pitted black olives - I used kalamata
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Heat the oil, garlic, and lemon zest in a small saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Place the chopped olives in a serving bowl and toss with the lemon juice, feta, and cooled olive oil.
- Serve with sliced crusty bread, like baguette slices, focaccia, pita bread or veggie sticks.