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How Do I Choose the Best Olive Marinade?

Eugene P.
Eugene P.

Olives have a distinctive flavor and are almost always brined when purchased. This gives them a very strong and salty taste. A good olive marinade can work with this flavor and help to enhance it. Marinated olives can be used as an Italian antipasto, snack, appetizer or table dressing. There are a variety of different marinades, each adding a distinct flavor to the olives.

An important thing to understand when trying to find the best olive marinade is that it will take time for the marinade to penetrate the olives. A very strong marinade might need to sit in the refrigerator for only an hour, while a more subtle one could require up to eight hours. Allowing enough time for the marinade to merge with the olives will showcase the true flavor of the dish.

Kalamata olives.
Kalamata olives.

A basic olive marinade for a dish that is not too spicy might involve olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic and basil. This blend accents the slightly fruity flavor of the olives while also drawing out some of their salt into the oil. For a little heat, red pepper flakes also can be added.

Another type of olive marinade that accents the fruity taste of olives involves lemon and cilantro. In addition to pepper, olive oil and vinegar, slices of lemons are added to the mixture. Diced cilantro is sprinkled into the oil and the blend is left to marinade the olives for up to six hours.

An olive branch with black olives.
An olive branch with black olives.

A more savory olive marinade can be made with garlic, thyme and allspice. It starts with an olive oil base before the three spices are added, along with parsley and pepper. Honey and orange zest help to balance out the flavors. This is intended to be eaten as an appetizer.

A Spanish olive marinade that might be best for grilled meats consists of basil, garlic, lemon and onions. Instead of adding oil and vinegar to this marinade, one simply puts all the ingredients into the original brine in which the olives came packed. The result is a sharp, savory tasting olive.

Olive oil, when combined with vinegar, garlic, and spices, makes a light marinade.
Olive oil, when combined with vinegar, garlic, and spices, makes a light marinade.

Black olives have a distinctly different taste from green olives. An olive marinade for these types of olives needs to be slightly stronger than those for the green variety. One example mixes hot pepper flakes, rosemary, thyme, oregano, garlic and bay leaves in olive oil. Some red wine vinegar is added and the entire mixture sits for at least two days in the refrigerator before serving.

Discussion Comments


@literally45, @donasmrs-- You folks are making me crave olives now!

I've had several different kinds of marinated olives before, but the best olives I had was in France. It was green and black olives marinated in olive oil, white wine and orange slices. It was absolutely amazing!

I'm not sure if this is common practice but the olives were pierced with a knife before they were marinated to absorb the flavors better. I've also heard that some cooks heat the olive oil with spices first before adding the other ingredients. I guess these are all different methods for marinating.

I'm happy with any kind of olive marinade as long as it's homemade with fresh ingredients. Nothing beats extra virgin olive oil, fresh citrus and herbs.


@literally45-- That sounds delicious!

I think olive oil and lemon juice is the best base for an olive marinade. I always start off with olive oil and lemon juice and then experiment with different herbs and spices. Have you ever tried fennel in your olive marinade? If not, you should try it, it's a very unique flavor.

Another favorite ingredient of mine is garlic. Some people find garlic to be too strong for olives but I don't agree. I think it makes it even more delicious. If you don't mind spicy, so does chili pepper-- dry or fresh.

I've never tried dehydrated olives before. Where can I find them? I usually use Kalamata or Greek olives and I almost always soak them in warm water first before marinating. I don't like very salty olives. The salt masks the flavors of the marinade, so I like to soak some of the salt out first for a couple of days and then marinate it.


I don't think an olive marinade needs to be sophisticated. I like my olives marinated in olive oil, lemon juice and some oregano.

I don't ever remove the olives from the marinade. I keep it in the marinade and renew the marinade once in a while as long as the olives last. The marinade is so delicious that I usually end up dipping my bread in it while eating the olives. So renew the marinade every couple of days.

I should clarify though that I use dehydrated black olives, not the type that comes in the jars. Dehydrated olives are perfect for marinating because they absorb the marinade much better.

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    • Kalamata olives.
      Kalamata olives.
    • An olive branch with black olives.
      By: Subbotina Anna
      An olive branch with black olives.
    • Olive oil, when combined with vinegar, garlic, and spices, makes a light marinade.
      By: margo555
      Olive oil, when combined with vinegar, garlic, and spices, makes a light marinade.