This tingling citrus-olive tapenade is filled with lemon and orange citrus zest and fresh herbs that make for a potpourri of flavors that fill the mouth with a bang.–Stacey Printz

Citrus-olive tapenade in a pottery dish, with a rack of lamb covered with tapenade on a cutting board. A serving spoon and a linen napkin next to it.

Citrus-Olive Tapenade

5 / 8 votes
This citrus-olive tapenade is filled with lemon-orange flavors, olives, and fresh herbs. Thanks to its citrus notes it’s perfect for lamb, chicken, and strong-flavored fish.
David Leite
Calories71 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Total Time10 minutes


  • 1 1/2 cups pitted green olives
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Zest of 1 orange, preferably organic
  • Zest of 1 lemon, preferably organic
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves, (flat-leaf or curly)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 small dried red chile, crushed
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


  • Place the olives, garlic, orange and lemon citrus zests, lemon juice, parsley, rosemary, fennel seeds, and red chile into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture starts to come together. With the machine running, gradually stream in the olive oil and mix until a coarse paste is formed.
  • Season the citrus-olive tapenade with salt and pepper.


Serving Suggestions

Stuff the tapenade under the skin of chicken breasts with feta cheese and bake.
Drizzle lamb chops with orange juice and olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill and top with the tapenade.

Adapted From

Pestos, Tapenades & Spreads

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Serving: 1 gCalories: 71 kcalCarbohydrates: 2 gProtein: 1 gFat: 7 gSaturated Fat: 1 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 5 gSodium: 396 mgPotassium: 22 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 1 gVitamin A: 152 IUVitamin C: 4 mgCalcium: 19 mgIron: 1 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2009 Stacey Printz. Photo © 2009 Mark Lund. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I’ve never met an olive I didn’t like, but I accidentally married a guy who is not a fan of olives. How does that happen? But even he liked this tapenade, so that has to tell you something. The citrus zest, spices, and just a hint of heat give this tapenade just enough zing to make it special.

We had it spread on flatbread over the course of a few days. The citrus flavor will increase as the tapenade ages. Whether that is desirable depends on how much you like citrus zest, but for us, it was not a bad thing at all. If you like a mild citrus flavor, make it the same day you serve it. If you want a more robust citrus flavor, make it a couple of days ahead.

This Citrus-Olive Tapenade is a little different from the traditional French tapenade I always prepare for family and receptions. It’s very easy to prepare and in my kitchen there are always all the ingredients, as I’m considered a spice-and-herb collector.

Like in many recipes with citrus, here too, the size and quality of the fruit were not given; it’s known that there are many kinds of lemons and oranges—their sizes are not the same, and the quality of the zest is different in every region and season. Now, during the winter in our region, the citrus is very large and heavy and has a nice zest that is very tasty. I’m sure that during the summer, I’ll need 2 lemons for the same recipe, and the zest will be drier with a bitter taste. I think that in these technological times when people can read the same recipe all over the world, it’s important to give precise quantities of fruit or vegetables. So, since the citrus zests were great, they gave me a little more than a cup of spread.

I used the tapenade as suggested, with chicken parts but without feta. It was served on pasta mixed with zucchini, and we liked it very much. I tried a little on bruschetta, but it was less interesting. It’s much better on the chicken.

I made this tapenade in about 20 minutes and tasted a little on a cracker. The olives, orange zest, and fennel seeds play off each other perfectly. I decided to use it as part of a pasta dish for dinner. I deconstructed the serving suggestion of chicken breasts and feta by adding cooked chicken, artichokes, and cherry tomatoes to pasta, and mixing in the tapenade. Each plate was given a healthy dose of feta cheese at the end. It was delicious.

This is quite good! I like the citrus in here a lot. I didn’t have fresh rosemary, and I think that would be lovely here. The only thing I didn’t love was the fennel seeds. First, I’d recommend crushing those, otherwise, you might still have some whole seeds left, especially if you are like me and prefer your tapenade with a bit more texture rather than a paste.

I am not sure what it is exactly, but I think I’d leave them out next time. Also worth noting is that I didn’t have a chili, so I added a little crushed red pepper. That worked. What I love the most about this recipe is how versatile it is. I served it with crackers, and I had it with chicken. Both were great.

What a lovely, easy, and versatile tapenade recipe! The flavor is bright and briny, and there are so many ways it could be utilized: as a dip or spread on a baguette or crackers, with crudité, or as an accompaniment to almost any protein or vegetable.

I served it atop sous vide Steelhead trout with roasted carrots and fennel, and it was just perfect. It’s just the ticket with something a little rich and fatty. I will try it next stuffed under the skin of a chicken breast and roasted. I used Castelvetrano olives which I just love and would highly recommend.

I didn’t end up adding any salt after tasting the finished product. Also, I only needed two tablespoons of olive oil. After adding that amount, it came together yet still had a bit of texture from the olives. It yielded about a cup of tapenade. This is my favorite kind of recipe: one that delivers maximum flavor with minimal effort. If you love green olives, you will certainly be satisfied with this beautiful recipe.

There was once a small cafe near our home that served a green olive tapenade with a homemade baguette. It was delicious, and I’ve never been able to recreate it. The owners of the cafe retired and moved to the South Pacific, so I haven’t had it in years.

This recipe comes as close as any I’ve tried. I used castelvetrano olives, 2 cloves of garlic, and about 1-1/2 or 2 teaspoons of lemon and orange zest. I stopped slightly short of “paste” in the food processor since paste is not my favorite texture. It yielded about 1 cup finished tapenade. It did not require additional salt and pepper.

We tried it with grilled chicken breast. My hubby thought the fennel was a little strong, I thought it was perfect. Hubs also said he’d eat it on a cracker, and it probably wouldn’t be a terrible adjunct to a fruit and cheese plate.

If you buy tapenade at your grocery store, as I do, this will look familiar but may taste unique, thanks to the addition of citrus. The recipe is quick and easy, and your guests will be impressed! We served this on roast pork in small dollops. Leftovers – there were plenty – went on hot dogs and in pasta sauce. If that’s not versatile, I don’t know what is.

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    So glad I tried this! I love a hint of orange in savory things, including this super easy delicious tapenade. Salty, garlic-y, and bright with citrus, it elevated my pork chop that was simply seasoned with salt and pepper. (I used the orange segments for a side salad.) I can see how this would be wonderful on lamb. I tried the tapenade in two other ways and both were a success: I put a little dollop on halved hard-boiled eggs, and spread it on bread for a grilled cheese sandwich with brie.

  2. 5 stars
    I’m addicted to olives. I enjoy them like candy and select different varieties as one would select wines to pair with food. I’m also a condiment fiend so when I saw this recipe I just had to try it!
    I used firm green brined young olives that I pitted myself although previously pitted would have worked the same.
    The brininess, rosemary, citrus , and additional herbs and spices took me on a journey to an olive grove splashed by the ocean and surrounded by the scents of a forest… No olive or condiment addiction is required for the enjoyment of this tapenade; just a penchant for a versatile fridge pantry staple that can liven almost anything on your plate.
    My first application after tastings (3 teaspoons, just to be sure…) was a slathering on fresh cod served over butternut squash and beluga lentils purée. Can’t wait to use this as a pasta topping or on sourdough toast with fresh cheese…

  3. 5 stars
    This was a versatile sauce with a great, fresh flavor. It was easy and fast to put together and didn’t require a ton of ingredients. This sauce would easily elevate a simple dinner to something worthy of serving at a dinner party. It had a beautiful Mediterranean flavor with complex layers.