November 18, 2023

What Do Capers Taste Like?

You’ll find capers in a wide range of Mediterranean recipes, like chicken piccata and pasta puttanesca, but they are also a key ingredient in the famous eggplant caponata. These tiny, green morsels are salty and briny with a burst of punchy flavor, adding the perfect amount of contrast to savory dishes. Capers are the unopened buds of the caper plant (Capparis spinosa) and are commonly pickled in salt or in a zippy vinegar brine. They can also be preserved in olive oil, which yields a similar taste and texture to the pickled variety.

Capers have a distinct lemony, olivey, and salty flavor with a smack of floral tartness that’s all their own. Their intense flavor comes from glucocapparin molecules, which give them their tangy bite. They are often drained of their brine before using to reduce the sodium content.

Pickled capers are available in jars or cans in the condiment aisle of most grocery stores, and they have a long shelf-life. They are a great addition to salads, dressings, or as a garnish. You’ll often see capers used as a replacement for olives in a tartar sauce or as a garnish on a martini. They pair perfectly with fatty fishes, like salmon and lox.

They’re a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines, but they are also widely used in French, Italian, and Greek cooking. They can be substituted for olives in a salad with a little extra oil, and they are great in pasta dishes or thick soups and sauces such as remoulade or tapenade.


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