Ancient Greek Inspired Olive Tapenade

Now that it’s apparent why olives should be part of your everyday food routine, it is useful to have a variety of ways to include them in your diet. Of course you can eat them plain with some bread, cheese and tomato which I have to admit is one of my favorite ways to enjoy them, but another way is making an olive paste or as it is known olive tapenade.

Now a year ago I had written about olive tapenade and had mentioned that it really is not a Greek product, but Provincial French one. But is it? Well, apparently its origins may be in ancient Greece. We know that olive oil was one of the Three Fundamentals, the three most important components of their diet (the other 2 being bread and wine) of the ancient Greeks. A recipe of the time described using black olives and combining them with vinegar, honey, cumin, fennel, coriander and mint. When I had visited Crete, Cretan chefs and culinary students, explained that in Crete during times of war olive paste was a basic food for survival it was served on bread. So, olive paste really is also a Greek product.

Obviously olive paste is a healthy alternative to other spreads such as mayonnaise or cheese based spreads. You will get the good healthy fats of the olives and a lot of flavor. You can use it in sandwiches, with crackers or bread-sticks as an appetizer, in pasta, pizza, even with meat. During my visit in Crete I had the opportunity to taste 2 ancient Greek inspired olive paste or tapenades that the Cretan Chefs and students had prepared.

Here is one of them:

Olive Paste with Cilantro and Cumin

This tapenade has a rather robust taste so I find that it is better enjoyed with bread sticks, crackers or rusks.


  • 5 ounces (150 grams) pitted black olives (if you use kalamata, rinse them well)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Put olives in a food processor and mix.

2. Add all the ingredients except the olive oil and mix.

3. Add ½ tablespoon olive oil at a time until you have the texture you like. It should be somewhat “fluffy”.

4. If you have time, let it sit for about 2 hours before serving.

Special Thanks to Chef Giorgos Makris for the recipe.

Photo Credit: Olive Paste and Cretan Rusks by Olive Tomato

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  1. Very nice recipe chef . I was a bit sceptical about the cumin , but it turned out yummy . I had a bowl of quinoa with scramble eggs and a nice dollop of your tapenade on top, then I realise that this is actually a vegetarian version. Thank you for your effort

  2. great recipe. I used a mix of black and kalamata olives. It may sound weird, but I didn’t have bread or crackers so spread it on thick tofu steaks that were marinated with a touch of honey so the slight sweetness paired well with the Olive paste.