Olives grow throughout Spain, and the varieties from each region have distinct flavors. Pick your favorite olives for this dish—as long as they’re from Spain! Here I’ve used a selection of the country’s best varieties.–José Andrés

LC Fancy That! Note

We know what you’re thinking. “Do I really need to be told to set out olives when company comes?” Or, if you’re one of those overachieving types of home cooks, perhaps you’re thinking something more along the lines of “Olives are a terribly unimaginative thing to plonk on the table when it comes time to pour apéritifs, don’t you think?” Yet there’s a reason setting out olives is customary in cultures as refined as Spain, Italy, France, and so forth throughout Europe. The pungent, astringent, briny-like-the-sea taste perfectly complements all manner of wine and spirits. It also literally whets the appetite and, we find, teases the palate. Olives straight up are always acceptable—and traditional, mind you—yet if you’re one of those aforementioned overachieving types, consider these elegant yet almost effortless herb-marinated olives.

A square glass container with herb-marinated olives, bay leaves, rosemary, and thyme.

Herb-Marinated Olives

5 from 1 vote
Olives grow throughout Spain, and the varieties from each region have distinct flavors. Pick your favorite olives for this dish—as long as they’re from Spain! Here I’ve used a selection of the country’s best varieties.
David Leite
Servings8 to 10 servings
Calories337 kcal
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes


  • 1 orange, preferably organic
  • 5 small garlic cloves, peeled if desired
  • 1 cup Empeltre or other cured black olives
  • 1 cup Arbequina or other small cured green olives
  • 1 cup Manzanilla olives, (large green olives also known as “Spanish” olives)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs thyme, broken up with your fingers
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, broken up with your fingers
  • 1 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil, preferably an Arbequina variety
  • 2 tablespoons Marcona almonds, (optional)
  • Coarse sea salt to taste


  • Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the orange. Halve and squeeze the orange over a small bowl to release as much juice as possible.
  • Smash the garlic cloves by placing them on a chopping board and pressing down hard with the heel of your hand, the bottom of a cast-iron skillet, or the flat side of a chef’s knife. Place the garlic, olives, bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary in a large bowl and add the olive oil and the orange zest and juice. Mix well.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate at room temperature for no more than 4 hours or refrigerate at least overnight and up to 1 week.
  • When you’re ready to serve the olives, garnish with the almonds, if using, and a sprinkle of sea salt. You want to consume the olives within a week of preparing them—chances are that will pose no problem at all.

Adapted From

Made in Spain

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 337 kcalCarbohydrates: 5 gProtein: 1 gFat: 36 gSaturated Fat: 5 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4 gMonounsaturated Fat: 26 gSodium: 789 mgPotassium: 79 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 2 gVitamin A: 256 IUVitamin C: 10 mgCalcium: 45 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 © 2008 José Andres. Photo © 2008 Thomas Schauer. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

These herb-marinated olives are easy, fast, and adaptable! I found the Lucques, Nicoise, and Picholine olives, then substituted Kalamata for the Nyons. The Nyons were not readily available to me, so I followed the headnote that this recipe could be made with my favorite olives and herbs. I stuck with the lemon and thyme combination for my first batch, perfect for this olive combination and for the summer party I brought them to as a hostess gift.

This recipe makes a lot: the 4 1/2 cups was abundantly plentiful as a gift, and I’d likely make a half batch next time, unless I was hosting a very large gathering myself. In addition to being able to switch out the olives and herbs, I think capers could be used here, too. I also used a delicious but fairly generic extra-virgin olive oil and would think about that choice next time as well: I’ve seen some citrus-infused (both lemon and orange) olive oils and would like to try these, for example, effectively doubling the impact of the citrus flavor in the marinade. One other benefit of this as a hostess gift was that it traveled well and, since it is now summer, is not easily perishable. I also believe this could hold well in the refrigerator, and could therefore be made well in advance of when it is needed, either for a gathering at home or away. Another huge benefit for the busy among us!

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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  1. Hi David
    I see mention in the tester’s notes of caper berries, but see nothing in the recipe ingredients. Different recipe?

    1. Thanks for your question, Dan. After looking at our notes, we’ve come to the conclusion that the tester had meant to say that adding capers to the olive mix would work well, too. We haven’t tested it this way, but they likely would be a nice addition.

  2. Swap out the almonds for some nice wee bocconcini and add a little red wine- or sherry vinegar…provide some sturdy bread for dipping…olive love.

    Those folks who scoff at marinated olives like this recipe usually end up eating the most, once you get them to have a nibble. 😉