What to Substitute for Capers

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Need a Substitute For Capers? Find top alternatives like olives and pickles, along with easy how-tos ensuring your dishes retain that classic caper tang. Let’s dive into the best picks to keep your cooking on point.

If you love capers be sure to check out our recipes for Smoked Salmon Dip.

What to Substitute for Capers

Key Takeaways

  • Olives, especially green and Kalamata, are a solid substitute for capers due to their similar briny flavor and texture. They also add their own nutritional benefits to dishes.
  • Lemons and limes don’t match capers’ flavor exactly but can bring a comparable sour and tangy note to recipes. Keep the acidity in check to not overpower your dish.
  • Pickled products like gherkins and onions, as well as alternatives like peppercorns, fresh thyme, marinated artichoke hearts, anchovies, nasturtium seeds, and white wine reduction, can replace capers in various dishes, offering unique flavors and textures.

Olive Oasis: Green and Kalamata Varieties

Picture this: You’re about to make that delicious chicken piccata recipe you’ve been craving all week. But wait, no capers in sight! Enter stage right, olives. Surprisingly, green and Kalamata olives serve as fitting replacements for capers. These olive varieties offer a similar briny flavor and have a comparable texture to our beloved caper berries.

Green and Kalamata Varieties

Beyond taste, olives also contribute their unique nutritional value. Here are some nutritional facts about different types of olives:

  • Capers: lower in calories
  • Green olives: packed with healthy fats, vitamin E, and a bit more sodium for those who love a saltier punch
  • Kalamata olives: lower in sodium, but higher in iron

Who knew switching up your caper substitute could be a tasty way to meet your daily nutritional needs?

The Briny Bunch: Large Green Olives

Examining our first substitute, the large green olive, reveals more. Green olives bring a whole new flavor profile to the table, offering a unique salty, briny taste that’ll make your taste buds dance. Not only do they taste great, but large green olives packed with:

  • Healthy fats
  • Vitamins
  • Fiber
  • Iron
  • Vitamin E
  • Other Antioxidants

How do you make a caper substitute from these large green olives? Simply chop them down to caper size. You’ve got yourself a caper substitute. You can even take things up a notch by adding some freshly squeezed lime juice to enhance the tangy flavor. And the best part? There are a variety of large green olives to choose from, such as Castelvetrano, Cerignola, or Niçoise, each offering a unique twist to your dish.

Mediterranean Marvel: Chopped Kalamata Olives

Now, focusing on the Mediterranean marvel, the Kalamata olive. Known for their smooth and meaty texture, Kalamata olives offer a unique blend of flavors that can mimic capers in recipes. They’re a mix of:

  • Sweet
  • Sour
  • Salty
  • Bitter
  • Pungent

making them a versatile substitute.

Using Kalamata olives as a caper substitute is straightforward. Just follow these steps:

  1. Use a cherry pitter to remove the pit from the olives.
  2. Chop the olives to your desired size.
  3. Use the chopped Kalamata olives in your recipe as a substitute for capers.

Whether it’s a pasta dish, salad dressing, or even a chicken picatta, these chopped Kalamata olives and chopped green olives are ready to step in and save the day when capers are nowhere in sight.

Citrus Swap: Lemon and Lime Alternatives

If olives don’t appeal to you, rest assured, there are more caper substitutes at hand. Next on the list are lemons and limes. Yes, you heard right, these citrus fruits can be a lifesaver when you’re in a caper crunch. While they don’t replicate the exact taste of capers, they do bring a similar sour and tangy flavor that can brighten up any dish.

Lemon and Lime Alternatives

But, as with any ingredient, moderation is key. Too much lemon or lime can overpower the flavors of your dish. Remember, the goal is to complement the flavors, not dominate them. So, always keep in mind the acidity of these citrus fruits. Lemon is super sour, so go easy on it, and lime is tart, so use it in moderation to avoid making your dish too bitter.

Zesty Lemon Lift

Examining our first citrus contender, the lemon, provides more insights. Lemon juice, with its tangy and acidic vibe, can mimic the flavor of capers, bringing a zesty lift to dishes. But why stop there? To truly capture the flavor of capers, add some black pepper. This combo of lemon juice and black pepper creates a flavor that mimics the zing and spiciness of capers.

Beyond taste, choosing lemon juice also brings health benefits. Packed with vitamin C, potassium, and calcium, lemon juice is a healthy swap for capers in recipes. So, next time you’re out of capers, give your dish a zesty lemon lift.

Lively Lime Twist

For lime enthusiasts, there’s good news. Lime juice can replace capers, giving your dish a strong citrusy kick. However, it’s important to use lime juice in moderation, as it is a bit more bitter than capers.

Despite its bitterness, lime juice is great in dishes like chicken piccata, different pasta sauces, and Mediterranean recipes. Its tangy flavor complements the other ingredients and adds a refreshing twist. Not to mention, lime juice offers a nice hit of vitamin C and flavonoids, so it’s a health-conscious swap for capers.

Pickle Panache: Gherkins and Onions

From citrus, we move on to a different kind of tang: pickles. If you’re a fan of the tangy and briny flavor of capers, pickled gherkins and onions are the perfect substitutes for you. Gherkins, also known as dill pickles, have a tangy and briny taste, similar to capers, while pickled red onions offer a slightly sweet undertone.

Gherkins and Onions

But it’s not just about flavor. The process of pickling gherkins and red onions also adds a unique texture to these caper substitutes. Gherkins are usually soaked in a saltwater brine overnight before being pickled in vinegar, water, and pickling spices.

Red onions, on the other hand, are pickled by immersing them in a vinegar solution and storing in the refrigerator.

Dill Delight: Gherkin Goodness

Delving deeper into pickles, starting with gherkins, offers more insights. These little cucumbers bring a tangy and slightly sweet vibe to the table, making them a perfect substitute for capers.

To use gherkins as a caper substitute, simply chop them into caper-sized pieces and use them in the same amount the recipe calls for capers. These tangy delights can be used in a wide range of dishes. From sandwiches to salads, gherkins bring a zesty crunch that’s sure to satisfy your caper cravings.

Onion Zing: Pickled Red Onions

The next feature in our pickle panache is pickled onions. When pickled, red onions develop a beautiful pink color and a sweet yet tangy flavor, making them a great substitute for capers.

To use pickled red onions as a caper substitute, just slice them into rings, remove the middle part, and chop the rings into small caper-sized pieces. Now, you’re ready to add a zesty zing to your dishes. Plus, pickled red onions are packed with folate (vitamin B9), making them a heart-healthy addition to your recipes.

Peppercorn Potential: Green and Black Options

For lovers of heat and complex flavors, peppercorns could be their preferred caper substitute. Both green and black peppercorns can step in for capers, each offering different levels of heat and flavor.

Peppercorn Potential

Green peppercorns, with their milder, peppery taste and slightly fruity note, can be a tasty swap in recipes that usually call for capers. On the other hand, black peppercorns, known for their strong, spicy kick, can replace capers, especially in dishes that need a bit more heat.

Gentle Heat: Green Peppercorns

Starting with the milder of the two, green peppercorns, reveals more. These little flavor bombs bring a unique, milder flavor to dishes with their fresh, slightly fruity note and perky, lively taste.

Green peppercorns can be used as a caper substitute in a variety of dishes, adding a mild, peppery flavor that enhances the overall taste. Just remember, green peppercorns are milder and less intense in terms of heat, making them a great option for those who prefer a more subtle spice.

Bold Bite: Black Peppercorns

For a bolder bite, black peppercorns come highly recommended. Known for their strong, spicy kick, black peppercorns can mimic the flavor of capers, especially when combined with lemon juice for that sour and acidic taste.

Using black peppercorns as a caper substitute not only adds a bold flavor to your dishes but also brings a host of health benefits. Known for their high antioxidant content and potential health benefits, including improved gut health and blood sugar control, black peppercorns are a healthy and flavorful caper substitute.

Herb Haven: Fresh Thyme and Its Derivatives

For herbaceous flavor enthusiasts, fresh thyme and its derivatives serve as excellent caper substitutes. With its strong flavor, a mix of mint, bitterness, and lemony hints, fresh thyme works wonders in slow-cooked dishes and sauces that need capers.

Whether you’re using fresh thyme leaves or ground thyme, these herbs bring a distinct flavor to your dishes, making them a great alternative to capers. So, next time you’re in a pinch and need a caper substitute, why not give thyme a try?

Thyme’s Essence: Fresh Leaves

Starting with fresh thyme leaves provides more insights. These small, aromatic leaves offer a pungent, bitter, and slightly lemony flavor, much like capers.

Using fresh thyme leaves as a caper substitute is simple. Just use the stems and leaves in your dish, and voila! You’ve got yourself a savory caper substitute. Plus, fresh thyme is packed with vitamins and minerals, making it a healthy addition to any dish.

Dried Distinction: Ground Thyme

Ground thyme is a wonderful alternative for those who prefer dried herbs over fresh herbs. It can be used in moderation as a dried alternative to capers, providing a warm, earthy taste that’s perfect for a wide range of dishes.

Whether you’re preparing a hearty stew or a flavorful sauce, adding a sprinkle of ground thyme can mimic the flavor of capers, enhancing the overall taste of your dish. Plus, it’s easy to store and can be kept for a long time, making it a convenient substitute for capers.

Artichoke Affinity: Marinated Hearts

Marinated artichoke hearts offer a caper substitute with a Mediterranean twist. With their earthy and briny taste, artichoke hearts can add a unique flavor to your chicken, fish, or pasta dishes.

Marinated artichoke hearts can be prepared in a variety of ways, including:

  • Grilling
  • Roasting
  • Sautéing
  • Adding to pasta dishes
  • Topping pizzas
  • Mixing into salads

So next time you’re out of capers, why not give artichoke hearts a try? They might just become your new favorite caper substitute.

Anchovy Adeptness: Salty Umami

For lovers of intense flavors, anchovies could be the ideal caper substitute. Known for their salty umami flavor, anchovies can add a depth of flavor to any dish, but remember to use them sparingly to avoid overpowering the dish. The capers taste, however, might be missed by some.

Anchovies can be added to a variety of dishes, including:

  • Pizzas
  • Pastas
  • Salads
  • Meats

Their unique salty flavor can really enhance the taste of your dishes, making them a great substitute for capers.

So, the next time you’re feeling adventurous in the kitchen, why not give anchovies a try?

Garden Gems: Nasturtium Seeds

Nasturtium seeds provide a garden-fresh caper alternative for those with a green thumb. These little seeds can be pickled and used as a caper substitute, offering a similar taste and texture.

Nasturtium seeds have a peppery taste, somewhat similar to capers, but with a more floral note. So, if you have nasturtiums growing in your garden, why not pickle a few seeds and use them as a caper substitute in your cooking? It’s a fun and delicious way to make the most of your garden produce.

Vineyard Verve: White Wine Reduction

Finally, but certainly not least, white wine reduction is another option. This flavorful liquid can be used as a caper substitute, providing fruity acidity to your dishes. However, it lacks the briny and lemony notes inherent to capers, so it’s best used in dishes that can benefit from a hint of acidity.

White wine reduction is versatile and can be used in a wide range of dishes, including:

  • Sauces
  • Gravies
  • Soups
  • Stews

A splash of white wine reduction can add a unique flavor twist to your dishes, making it an excellent choice for those seeking substitute capers.

Storing Secrets: Keeping Capers and Their Substitutes Fresh

Keeping your capers and caper substitutes fresh is crucial for preserving their flavor. Here are some tips for storing them:

Keeping Capers and Their Substitutes Fresh
  1. After opening, capers should be rinsed and stored in the refrigerator.
  2. Place them in a sealed container, covered in their brine to stay fresh.
  3. If stored correctly, capers can stay fresh for about 9 months.

The same principle applies to caper substitutes. For instance, once opened, green olives and Kalamata olives should be stored in the refrigerator to maintain their freshness. Proper storage can keep these olives fresh for 12 to 18 months.


We’ve explored a world of caper substitutes, each bringing its unique flavor profile to the table. From the briny flavor of olives and the tangy zing of citrus fruits to the earthy notes of fresh thyme and the umami richness of anchovies, there’s a caper substitute for every dish and every palate.

So, next time you find yourself in a pickle, missing capers for your recipe, don’t fret! With these substitutes at your fingertips, you’re well-equipped to create delicious dishes that are just as flavorful, if not more so, than the original. Now, get out there and let your tastebuds explore the wonderful world of caper substitutes!


What Can You Replace Capers With?

You can replace capers with substitutes like green olives or dill pickles. Give them a try next time you’re out of capers!

Can I Leave Capers Out of a Recipe?

Yes, you can leave capers out of your recipe. You can substitute them with roughly chopped Kalamata olives at a 1:1 ratio, or simply omit them if your recipe already calls for olives.

What Do Capers Do for a Recipe?

Capers add a tangy burst of flavor to dishes, providing a briny and pungent taste that complements savory recipes. They are commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine and are best added near the end of cooking to maintain their flavor and texture.

Can I Replace Capers With Olives in My Recipes?

Yes, you can replace capers with green or Kalamata olives in your recipes for a similar briny flavor and texture.

Can Citrus Fruits Be Used as a Caper Substitute?

Yes, you can use lemon and lime as a substitute for capers, but use them sparingly to avoid making the dish too tart.

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