Grilled Olives are an incredibly tasty, fun and unexpected appetizer. Always a crowd-pleaser, they're fantastic for both outdoor barbecues and indoor dinner parties.
Adding the char from the grill to green olives is equivalent to adding an ingredient. The flavor the grill brings to them is outstanding. These grilled olives have become tough competition for my Warm Olive appetizer.
Grilled olives are becoming increasingly popular, and you can even find a variation of them on the shelf at Trader Joe's.
Why buy grilled olives when you can make them even better at home, right!? 🙂
Ingredients and Equipment
- large green olives - You can buy pitted or whole olives. I use whole Castelvetranos and pit them myself. (I find they're firmer even after they're pitted, when purchased whole.) You should be able to find both in most grocery stores.
- extra virgin olive oil
- black pepper - Preferably freshly ground.
- You will also need a stove-top grill and either wooden or wire skewers. An olive/cherry pitter is optional, depending on which olive you use.
(See recipe card below for quantities.)
Substitutions and Variations
- Green olives. As I mentioned above, I use Castelvetrano green olives, which are known for their delicious mild, buttery flavor and meaty texture. You can however, use any green olives you like, as long as they're on the large side and are firm. (Some good Castelvetrano olive substitutes are Manzilla or Picholine olives.)
- I do not recommend any strong-flavored olives like Kalamata, becasuse the flavor from the char won't come through as much, and they won't look as exciting since you won't be able to see the grill marks.
- Once grilled and cooled to room temperature, when the olives can either be eaten, or stored in oil, you can change up the flavor.
- Spicy grilled olives. Add about ½ teaspoon of red chile flakes to the oil (or more if you really want to kick up the heat.) Or, you can add a few slices of Thai or Serrano chile peppers to the oil.
- Citrus grilled olives. Add a couple of tablespoons of orange, lime or lemon juice to the oil -- or any combination of the three. Whichever you add, also include a teaspoon or so of lemon zest.
- A spicy citrus version would also be fantastic, combining the above two suggestions.
- Garlic-herb grilled olives. Add a couple of smashed, raw cloves of garlic and a few sprigs of rosemary and/or thyme to the oil.
- Really, the possibilities are endless -- get creative.
- You can use either wooden or metal skewers to grill the olives. If you use wood, be sure to soak them for at least 15 minutes in warm water beforehand. This will prevent them from burning.
- Both wood and metal skewers will get hot, but the metal will get extremely hot, so keep your pot holders close.
- Instead of flipping the skewers to grill both sides of the olives, use a fork or small spatula to more or less spin the olives to the other side. This way the skewers don't move, but the olives do.
- The instructions guide you to gently press the olives down with a flat-bottomed spatula. Being gentle is key here, as you don't want to break the olives.
- If you own an olive/cherry pitter tool, I'd go for buying whole olives and pit them yourself. The flavor will be slightly superior. (Don't worry though, they'll still be delicious if purchased pitted.)
- It's a good idea to taste the olives you're using before you begin. Some might be soaking in a heavily salted brine, and others might be not be. The pungency of the olives will vary and tasting them will help you decide if you want to sprinkle them with salt before grilling. Most won't need it.
- If you're grilling outside on a barbecue, the grate should be very narrow, or the olives could fall through. (Sometimes I actually place my stove-top grill on top of my outdoor grill when I'm barbecuing other things, too.)
How to Make Them
- Drain the olives, and if they're not in oil, pat them dry with a paper towel. If they are in oil, leave an excess on the olives after you drain them, and save the oil in the jar.
- If they're not already pitted, use an olive/cherry pitter tool to pit them.
- "Thread" about ten olives on each skewer and if desired (depending on how they taste out of the jar), sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
- Place a stove-top grill over high heat, and then dip a paper towel in olive oil and rub it on top -- the grill should look shiny. (Do not do this if your olives were in oil and are still lightly coated with it.)
- Once the grill is very hot, place the skewers with the olives on it. You should hear a sizzling sound when they touch down -- if you don't wait for it to get hotter. (If it's not hot enough, you they won't char properly.) After the first minute or so, turn the heat down to medium.
- Grill the olives just until marked with the grill, about 3 minutes on the first side, and 2 on the second. To "flip" them, use a small fork to spin them over.
- At some point on each side, very gently press down on the olives with a flat-bottomed spatula.
- Let them cool a bit and then use a fork to slide the olives off the skewers and into a bowl. Serve with toothpicks or tiny forks. (Alternately, put them in a jar with olive oil and store in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. And if they were originally packed in oil, reuse it rather than adding new oil.)
- Grilled green olives are amazing to serve right off the grill. Just add toothpicks and a small stack of napkins and you're set.
- They're fabulous added to salads and stews.
- It's also fun to add grilled olives to a dinner composed of small plates. Tapas style! They'd be perfect alongside Sherried Mushrooms, Glazed Carrots and Rosemary-Honey Turkey Meatballs.
Some of my Favorite Recipes with Olives
- Apricot and Olive Chicken
- Baked Feta with Olives
- Chicken Stew with Alcaparrado
- Mediterranean Burgers with Olives and Feta
Making Them Ahead & Storage
Though they're at their best served right after they're made, you can make grilled green olives up to two weeks ahead, keeping them stored in an airtight jar with olive oil, in the refrigerator. (The oil will solidify in the refrigerator. Just let it sit at room temp for about an hour or so until it softens, or you can microwave it for a few seconds.
Next time you have a few people over, spend the extra few minutes to grill your olives. I think you'll be happy you did.
Grilled Olives Recipe
- 30 large green olives
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- extra virgin olive oil for the grill
- Prepare the olives. Drain the olives, and if they not in oil, pat them dry with a paper towel. Otherwise, it's okay to leave them lightly coated with the oil after draining them. (And if they came in oil, save it!) If they're not already pitted, use an olive/cherry pitter tool to pit them.
- Skewer the olives. "Thread" about ten olives on each skewer and if desired (depending on how they taste out of the jar), sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. If you use wooden skewers, soak them for at least 15 minutes in warm water before using them.
- Grill. Place a stovetop grill over high heat, dip a paper towel in olive oil and rub it on the grill -- should look shiny. (Don't do this if your olives were in oil.) Once the grill is very hot, place the skewers on it. You should hear a sizzling sound when they touch down -- if you don't, wait for it to get hotter. (If it's not hot enough, they won't char properly.) After the first minute or so, turn the heat down to medium.Grill the olives just until they're marked with the grill, about 3 minutes on the first side, and 2 on the second. To "flip" them, use a small fork to spin the olives over. On each side at some point, very gently press down on the olives with a flat-bottomed spatula.
- Cool and serve. Let them cool a bit and then use a fork to slide the olives off the skewers and into a bowl. Serve with toothpicks or tiny forks. (Alternately, put them in a jar with olive oil and store in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. If they were originally in oil, reuse it rather than adding new oil.)