Only one thing appears to be certain about tapenade. It is a French Provençal recipe for a sauce, condiment or spread depending on its final use, whose name comes from the French Provençal word tapena for capers.

Even so, that is no guarantee capers will feature in the recipe. In Patricia Wells recipe for tapenade in her book Patricia Wells at Home in Provence tinned tuna not only replaces the anchovies but there is not a caper in sight.

Black olives are frequently interchanged with green olives. Lemon juice is sometimes replaced by wine vinegar and the addition of the sweetness provided by dried fruit to temper the saltiness is something I learnt from Maggie Beer’s recipe for Dried Fig Tapenade.

In Richard Olney’s book Lulu’s Provencal Table, he claims Lulu’s Tapenade to be the simplest he knows – and the best. Whilst some recipes for tapenade include basil, my own has parsley, Lulu’s has her signature addition of the herb pebre d’ai fresh or dried, otherwise known as winter savory.

Lulu is not alone in advocating that a food processor produces a perfect tapenade in no time. This may be true if you are in a hurry, making a large quantity or like the final mixture to be uniform.

I like to use a mortar and pestle. The initial pounding of the garlic and anchovies results in a very smooth paste which then completely permeates the rest of the ingredients which I believe benefit from remaining course.

If you do not have a mortar and pestle, chop the garlic and anchovies finely and then using your knife against the board, crush them to as smooth a paste as you can. The remaining steps can be done in a food processor but be careful not to puree.

Image Credit: Tomasz Machnik



  • A large mortar pestle
  • Whisk or food processor


  • 40 gms anchovies drained from their oil
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled
  • 350 gms black Kalamata olives pitted and roughly chopped
  • 35 gms salted baby capers rinsed and brought to the boil twice from a cold-water start
  • 50 mls extra virgin olive oil
  • 40 mls verjuice to cover the currents
  • 40 gms currents soaked in verjuice to soften and swell, then drained. Keep these juices for another use such as a salad dressing.
  • 4 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 5 gms sea salt to taste this will ultimately depend upon the saltiness of your anchovies and should be added to taste
  • 5 gms ground black pepper
  • lemon juice to taste


  • Pound the garlic with the anchovies to a smooth paste using a mortar and pestle.
  • Add the olives and pound to combine with the paste.
  • Add the olive oil and whisk to combine.
  • Fold through the baby capers and the drained currants.
  • Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
  • I add the freshly chopped parsley as I use it. The quantity of parsley I have given is for this full recipe of Tapenade.
  • Serve with croutons and crudités, as a condiment to grilled meats and fish, or thin with a little more extra virgin oil and add to pasta dishes with vegetables.
  • The tapenade keeps well in the fridge for 7 days.
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Season: Autumn, Spring, Summer, Winter
Category: Sauces & Vinaigrettes

Did you make this recipe?

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Alex Herbert © Copyright 2021. All rights reserved.