Looking for some great but simple alternatives for capers? You're going to love these options!
I've combined the 14 best substitutes for capers in this article.
Need a short answer quickly? The best substitutes for capers are chopped green olives, chopped kalamata olives, lemon juice, pickles or pickled onions, green peppercorns, nasturtium seeds, anchovies, artichoke hearts, wine, and vinegar.
Table Of Contents
- What are Capers?
- What Do Capers Taste Like?
- Health Benefits Of Capers
- What Are Caper Berries vs Non-Pareil Capers?
- What Do You Use Capers For?
- Popular Caper Recipes
- Best Substitutes For Capers
- 1. Green Olives
- 2. Pickled Jalapeno Peppers
- 2. Black Olives
- 4. Caper Berries
- 5. Lemon
- 6. Lime Juice
- 7. Pickles or Pickled Onions
- 8. Green Peppercorns
- 9. Fresh Thyme or Dried Thyme
- 10. Artichoke Hearts
- 11. Anchovies
- 12. Red Wine or White Wine
- 13. Vinegar
- 14. Nasturtium Seeds
- Mediterranean Recipes With Capers
What are Capers?
First things first, so what are Capers?
Capers are a popular cooking ingredient in the Mediterranean cuisine.
These small green edible flower buds come from Capparis Spinosa plant (Caper Bush) and they bring floral, salty, and tangy notes to dishes such as Chicken Piccata, Pasta Puttanesca or Cured Salmon. Look for them in small jars near condiments or Italian ingredients in most supermarkets.
Capers are versatile enough to enhance any pasta and salad dishes, making them a must-have ingredient that brings a burst of flavor to any recipe.
While these buds have a unique flavor that is difficult to replicate, you can still substitute capers with chopped green olives or chopped pickles for a similar tangy and briny taste in your recipes.
Read along to discover those alternatives more in-depth in this post.
What Do Capers Taste Like?
Health Benefits Of Capers
Capers are not only flavorful but they bring a good amount of health benefits to the table. Rich in antioxidants and vitamins, these little buds offer anti-inflammatory properties and support bone health, making them a delicious and nutritious addition to your meals.
What Are Caper Berries vs Non-Pareil Capers?
Caper berries are like the cool, older siblings of non-pareil capers. They're bigger, juicier, and less intense in flavor, while non-pareil capers are small and mighty flavor bombs that add a zesty kick to your dishes.
What Do You Use Capers For?
Anything from salads, seafood/meat entrees, pizzas, pasta dishes to sauces. They are versatile and can be a delicious addition to various recipes, enhancing the overall taste.
Popular Caper Recipes
Capers are a popular ingredient not only in the Mediterranean diet but can be mixed in other dishes as well. Some of the popular caper recipes include:
- Piccata (Pork, Chicken, Fish)
- Pasta Puttanesca
- Sauces and Dips: Caper Tapenade, Tartar Sauce, Lemon Caper Sauce
- Potato Salads
- Remoulade Sauce
- Served with Cured or Cold-smoked Salmon Sandwiches
- Italian Pasta Salad
- Eggplant Pasta
- Caesar Salad
Best Substitutes For Capers
Just a quick note that the effectiveness of these replacements for capers may vary based on the recipe and how capers are used.
Let's explore 14 simple substitutes for capers:
1. Green Olives
Capers are the perfect addition to add saltiness, acidity, and savory flavors to your dishes, and if you're running low, you can sneakily substitute them with chopped green or Kalamata olives, maintaining the briny taste without the slight bitterness of capers, using one olive for every two capers due to their size difference.
Overall, from all the alternatives, I think green olives are a good substitute for capers.
How To Use: If substituting green olives for capers, chop the olives into very small pieces. Green Olives are often used in sauces, pasta, pasta salads, pizzas, salads, and casseroles.
Capers vs Olives
Capers and olives are both Mediterranean staples, but they bring different flavors to the table. Capers are briny and tangy, adding a zesty kick, while olives offer a rich, salty and savory taste that's perfect for complementing various dishes.
2. Pickled Jalapeno Peppers
If you don't have capers on hand, pickled jalapeno peppers can be a flavorful substitute. They bring a similar tangy but spicy kick to your dishes, providing a unique twist.
Just take care to adjust the quantity based on your preference for heat.
Related: Creamy Jalapeno Popper Dip
2. Black Olives
If you don't have capers, black olives work as a solid replacement. They give a similar briny kick and add a touch of saltiness and bitterness, making them a good alternative in recipes.
Just play around with the amount to find your desired flavor.
How To Use: Similar to green olives, depending on the recipe, you may need to chop them small close to caper-sized pieces. Black olives are often used in sauces, pastas, pizzas, salads, casseroles.
4. Caper Berries
What are Caper Berries?
Caper berries and capers are both derived from the caper plant, but they differ in size and flavor. Caper berries are larger and also have salty but less bitter taste, than briny capers.
How To Use: Cut them into quarters or chop them finely. Use caper berries in dishes involving grilled meats, dressings, pastas, roasted veggies and salads.
Lemon and capers both contribute tangy flavors to dishes, but they offer different flavor profiles. Lemon adds a bright and citrusy acidity that will bring freshness to a dish, while capers provide a briny and slightly salty taste.
To compensate for the lack of bitterness that capers deliver, add a fresh crack of black pepper to the dish with lemon.
How To Use: As lemon juice. Lemon can be substituted for capers in most of the dishes that call for capers.
6. Lime Juice
Limes make a decent substitute for capers, although they have a slightly stronger bitterness. Use lime juice in moderation to avoid overpowering the dish.
Instead of capers, replace them with an equal amount of freshly-squeezed lime juice in recipes.
How To Use: You can also enhance salads, sandwiches, and fish dishes by garnishing them with whole limes or freshly-grated lime zest or peel. To add a burst of flavor without the sodium content of capers, drop fresh lime slices into your favorite drinks like margaritas or mojitos.
7. Pickles or Pickled Onions
If you don't have capers, you can use pickles instead (dill pickles are great here). They bring a tangy and briny flavor to your dishes, although the texture may differ. Just adjust the amount to match the taste you're looking for.
Pickled red onions are also great substitute as well as they provide a similar tangy and slightly sweet flavor to your dish. Just take care in quantities as the texture and intensity may vary.
How To Use: To substitute pickles and pickled onions for capers, chop these finely and add to dish. Both of these are best to use in salads, pastas, meat dishes, roasted vegetables, casseroles and in some sauces.
8. Green Peppercorns
Green peppercorns make a great substitute for capers. They have a similar appearance but with a milder peppery flavor and less spiciness.
How To Use: You can use them straight from the jar or pickle your own, and they work well in a variety of dishes like poultry, fish, vegetables, and soups.
Black peppercorns could work too if you have exhausted all your options.
9. Fresh Thyme or Dried Thyme
Fresh or dried thyme can be a suitable substitute for capers. Thyme has quite a distinct pungency with hints of mint, bitterness and lemon, and adds a pleasant aroma to dishes.
How To Use: Use it in slow-cooked dishes and sauces, but avoid using it in recipes where capers play a prominent role. Thyme works well in braised and roasted meats, vegetables, fish, soups, stocks, and marinades.
10. Artichoke Hearts
You can use artichoke hearts as a substitute for capers, which you can buy pickled or marinated.
Besides their brininess, artichoke hearts also bring an earthy flavor that adds complexity to your dish.
How To Use: Simply drain and quarter them before adding to dips, chicken, fish, or pasta recipes, adjusting the amount to your preference.
Related: Spinach Artichoke Dip
If you're out of capers, anchovies can work as a substitute, although they have a distinct fishy flavor. Their saltiness and umami can add a punch to your dish, especially with a squeeze of lemon.
How To Use: When replacing capers with anchovies, I’d recommend making an anchovies paste (similar to caesar salad dressing) and add to salads, sauces, dips to achieve that missing umami taste. Use them sparingly to avoid overwhelming the taste.
12. Red Wine or White Wine
If you're out of capers, red or white wine can be a suitable substitute with its fruity and acidic taste. However, wine lacks the briny and lemony notes of capers.
How To Use: To replace caper vinegar brine, combine one part red or white wine with two parts caper brine and simmer over low heat until the liquid evaporates. Use this reduced wine mixture as a replacement in sauces, dressings, marinades, or other recipes.
Vinegar is a less popular but still an option for substituting capers. Vinegar is more acidic and lacks the lemony taste of capers.
How To Use: To make the vinegar more suitable, add additional seasonings. Opt for white wine, red wine vinegar and use the same quantity as you would capers in the recipe.
To counterbalance the vinegar's sharpness, a pinch of sugar can replicate the subtle briny flavor of capers. For added depth, incorporate fresh herbs such as thyme or parsley.
14. Nasturtium Seeds
Just like capers, nasturtium seeds are not the most popular ingredient in your pantry. However, if you happen to find them, these fiery seeds can be a remarkable substitute.
How To Use: Simply pickle them with vinegar, garlic, and dill, and store them in the refrigerator until needed. Replace capers with an equal amount of nasturtium seeds for a zesty twist.
Salted capers are cured and preserved in salt, providing a stronger flavor, while capers in brine are preserved in a solution of water, vinegar, and salt, offering a milder flavor. The choice between the two depends on the desired intensity of flavor in your recipe.
Chicken piccata is a delicious Italian dish that consists of pounded chicken cutlets simmered in tangy lemon caper sauce. Whereas capers are one of the main ingredients in the sauce you can still substitute them with green olives, green peppercorns, or dill pickles. Olives are a great substitute as they have a similar taste profile with their tangy and briny flavor which will work well in the sauce for chicken. Just chop them up finely and add them in the same amount as capers for a tasty twist on the classic recipe.
Capers may be tiny, but they bring a mighty flavor to the table. They have a tangy, lemony, and slightly olive-like taste that adds a burst of excitement to dishes. This intense flavor comes from the release of mustard oil, specifically methyl isothiocyanate, found in glucocapparin molecules.
You can substitute capers with salmon with chopped green olives or pickled jalapenos for that zesty, briny flavor. And if you're feeling fancy, sprinkle some dill weed or fresh lemon zest to bring out some refreshing notes.
Although not toxic, capers should be avoided in a dog's diet due to their high sodium content and potential for gastrointestinal issues.
Olives, Jalapenos, Pickles. For more in depth about each replacement, please scroll above to the blog post.
Capers will add a salty, tangy, briny, vinegary, and pungent, flavor to any recipe.
Yes, capers are 100% naturally gluten free.
The best substitutes for capers are chopped green olives, chopped kalamata olives, lemon juice, pickles or pickled onions, green peppercorns.
When it comes to Mediterranean cuisine, capers play a vital role in enhancing the flavor profile of dishes. However, in case you find yourself without capers there are several commendable substitutes available.
Consider utilizing options like green peppercorns, green olives, pickles, or nasturtium seeds. All of these offer some unique characteristics to elevate your recipes. Just take care to use them sparingly, 'cause they'll bring a whole new twist to your dishes. Get ready to rock those taste buds!
Mediterranean Recipes With Capers
In all of these recipes you can easily substitute capers with one of the above listed alternatives. Enjoy!
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