Even if you have a mere hour’s notice—less, even–that company’s coming, you can pull off this elegant goat cheese with olives, lemon, and thyme. The components are familiar enough to not be intimidating yet seemingly fancy enough to be memorable in the loveliest of ways. A lot more so than simply dumping out olives onto a dish. Don’t skimp on cheap ingredients, though, as the quality of each contributes largely to the sum of the parts. If you’re especially pressed for time, forget about allowing the olives and infused oil to cool to room temperature. Just dump them over the cheese when you need and the residual warmth will work its charms, making the texture of the soft cheese even softer, to the point of being almost ooey and gooey. Just add crackers.Renee Schettler Rossi

A decorative bowl filled with a sphere of goat cheese and a few olives, topped with a thyme sprig.

Goat Cheese with Olives, Lemon, and Thyme

5 / 4 votes
This goat cheese with olives, lemon, and thyme is a ridiculously easy yet undeniably impressive appetizer made quite simply by infusing oil with thyme and lemon and then warming olives and setting them out alongside creamy goat cheese.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories118 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time25 minutes


  • 1/2 cup assorted olives, pitted if desired
  • 3 thyme sprigs, leaves stripped from stems if desired
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, preferably organic
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • One (4-to 5- ounce) fresh goat cheese medallion or two 2-ounce (56-g) goat cheese buttons, at room temperature
  • Crackers, flatbread, or baguette slices


  • Gently heat the olives, thyme, oil, zest, and pepper in a skillet or saucepan over low heat until fragrant. Do not allow the oil to simmer.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
  • Pour the olive mixture over the goat cheese. (This can be done up to 2 hours ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature.)
  • Serve with crackers, flatbread, or baguette slices.
Gourmet Weekday

Adapted From

Gourmet Weekday

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 118 kcalCarbohydrates: 1 gProtein: 1 gFat: 13 gSaturated Fat: 2 gMonounsaturated Fat: 10 gSodium: 263 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 1 g

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

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Recipe © 2012 Gourmet. Photo © 2012 Mikkel Vang. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Do not put the goat cheese out until your guests arrive. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a taste, then realize that you need to smooth out the area where you took the taste, and before you know it, you’ve eaten half the cheese and most of the olives before the doorbell even rings.

But, yes, our friends at Gourmet are right. This is a total secret weapon. The oil warms and cools in only a few minutes, giving you plenty of time to pile crackers and baguette slices on a platter. And do use baguette slices, since you’ll want to sop up all of the lemony and thyme-y olive oil.

Speaking of thyme, strip the leaves from the sprigs just to get the most out of it.

This is truly one of the tastiest dishes that I’ve ever eaten. I understand that you may consider this an appetizer. But if you feel like a light dinner, this is all that you need. It’s very easy to prepare and quite attractive.

This is wonderful–so delicious and so easy. I know I will impress folks at my next book club! It works fine as written. However, the intensity of the flavors will depend on the type of olives you use. My olives were marinated in some spices, which added additional complexity.

If you’re looking for an appetizer that will be mild and not overpower the palate, this is the recipe for you. You have the creamy texture of the goat cheese combined with the slight tang of lemon and hint of thyme. And it’s very simple to put together. Be sure to use a good olive oil for this recipe.

My only problem was that the olives kept rolling off the cracker. I think it would be easier to eat with the olives chopped instead of whole.

As the headnote says, quick but impressive. And tasty. The infused oil is light and flavorful. The lemon works well with the olives, thyme, and cheese. I might add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes next time. A big hit at cocktail hour.

I admit I scoffed a little because this didn’t look like a real recipe. Take some olives and olive oil and herbs and lemon zest and pour it all over goat cheese. Then I realized, “Well, I wouldn’t have thought of it.” So yes, that makes it a recipe—and a very delicious one at that. Couldn’t be simpler and definitely tastier than offering up cheese and olives side by side as I tend to do.

This promises to be a big hit—it certainly was at our house—and it’s so easy to put together. The irresistible aroma of the lemon and thyme is wonderful when coupled with the creamy goat cheese and the salty olives.

The extra-virgin olive oil I used had a spicy note, making this a small appetizer packed with big flavor and complexity. It’s a great leap from the usual goat cheese that’s rolled in coarse black pepper or herbs.

Simplicity, beauty, and taste. This is a simple and fast recipe to prepare ahead of time so it’s always handy when one has guests coming over or as a nice cool nosh throughout the day. The final taste was simply delicious with the citrus and sourness of the lemon along with the aroma of the thyme.

This recipe is one I will make more often for guests…and myself! I actually also added a tad of sea salt, which was a nice addition.

Love cheese but weary of the same old presentation with it plopped on a plate surrounded by bread or crackers? Here’s the solution. Simple, delicious, and able to be made ahead of time. Recipes just don’t get any better than this!

The only minor change I would make is to pit the olives before warming them in the oil, to make them easier to devour later.

So good and oh so easy! The combinations of flavors are unexpected but work well. The freshness of the lemon with the brininess of the olives gives a nice contrast to the tang of the goat cheese.

I served this on multigrain tortilla chips and it was a complete hit! The recipe comes together in no time at all and these are ingredients I usually have on hand. Try this and it will keep you wanting more!

This recipe has a wonderful Mediterranean feel to it. The balance of flavors is incredible, especially when paired with a light white wine like a Soave or a Portuguese vinho. For added depth and character, try mixing a teaspoon or so of truffle oil into the olives, just before pouring the mixture over your goat cheese. I took the liberty of taking the thyme leaves off the stems before serving, to enhance its contribution to the dish.

Wow; they were right when they said that this is one for the “secret” file. I’ve made goat cheese medallions with myriad additions, but this one far exceeds anything I’ve ever done. It seems simple, but that’s the key. Citrus, spice, and sweet undertones from the olive oil all combine to make this a great standby.

The perfect secret recipe to have on hand for all hunger and company emergencies. I like the idea of gently warming the olives and herbs until fragrant. I used two kinds of goat cheese, one plain and the other rolled in herbs. It was so easy to make and delicious.

I served it with really thin slices of baguette lightly toasted. I had some leftover so I stashed it in the fridge. Made an excellent breakfast for me and the flavors had melded even better. So I am wondering if we should instead make it ahead of time, bring it to room temperature, and serve.

This is one of those recipes that you will pull out over and over because it’s so easy yet still a huge hit with guests. It really didn’t take much longer than putting out chips and salsa but it’s a thousand times more impressive and different enough that everyone was talking about it. Even the person who said “I don’t eat goat cheese” was asking for the recipe. Simple and delicious.

Any recipe that a) tastes great and b) can be put together in under 10 minutes is a recipe for me! Really, this COULD NOT be easier. Set goat cheese buttons on a pretty plate. In a small saucepan gently warm the rest of the ingredients. Let cool and then pour the mixture over the goat cheese. And that’s it!

I served the goat cheese with wheat thin–like crackers and it was just plain delicious. I also like that the topping dresses up the goat cheese a bit. Perfect for a party.

The editors of Gourmet really hit the nail on the head with this simple and impressive appetizer! I’ve made goat cheese appetizers in many ways in the past, but never pouring warm, infused oil on the goat cheese medallion itself. What a delightful texture the warm oil gave to the cheese! It was very spreadable and tasted even creamier than expected.

I liked that I could make it 2 hours ahead of time (which I did) and leave it out at room temperature until we were ready to nibble. I would like to try it again with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes in the oil and maybe a sprinkling of pine nuts on top before serving. I served this delightful appetizer with thin sesame crackers and the added crunch went well with the dish.

This is an easy, elegant dish that can be adapted in so many ways—different olives, different herbs, etc. I think next time I would add some dried red pepper flakes to increase the flavors. A great addition to a spread of party appetizers.

I loved this recipe with all of my might. Just throw the olives, oil, lemon zest, thyme, and pepper into a small saucepan, warm gently, cool to room temperature, then pour over room temp goat cheese and it’s done! My only problem was figuring out which olives to use, pitted or not pitted. I ended up using two kinds of olives and removing the pits myself by smacking each one with the heel of my butcher knife. This also ended up making the dish look especially rustic and of course delicious.

Perfect dish with some cured meats and a glass (or three) of wine.

I loved the idea of infusing all the flavors before bathing the goat cheese with the flavorful mixture! The lemon zest woke it up and provided a lovely balance. The secret to this recipe, as with any recipe with limited ingredients, is to use the best ingredients available at the market. I took the liberty of chopping the thyme leaves roughly and I quartered the olives as well. (I find the olives to be more manageable when cut, but this is a personal choice.)

I served this yummy cheese spread with a toasted baguette, a sauvignon blanc, and a few assorted smoked meats. Needless to say, it will not be the last time this dish sees my coffee table!

My husband and I are in love with goat cheese, so when I saw this recipe I knew I had to make it. Thank goodness I did. The olive oil, thyme, olives, lemon zest, and pepper are gently heated and allowed to cool, divinely infusing the oil before being poured over the cheese. My (largish) portion of cheese was eaten with gluten-free crackers, his with baguette.

Let me back up a bit—half of mine was eaten BEFORE putting it on the crackers. For some reason I could not stop myself. Thankfully we have a local artisan cheese producer a mere 15 kilometers away, so we have another reason to go there yet again. Next time I am going to add more lemon zest and throw in some lavender for even more Mediterranean flavor. Not that it needs it; just my personal taste. [WARNING: this may cause an addiction.]

Quick and impressive? Check. Delicious? Absolutely. Keep this easy recipe handy and make it often. A couple of notes: I had kalamata olives on hand, so I did not use assorted olives and this was fine. I can’t picture an olive that this wouldn’t work with, although I do like the idea of using a mix of black and green for visual appeal. I found 1-ounce medallions of fresh goat cheese and these made lovely individual servings. I found that the mixture was already fragrant even before I began to gently heat. Nonetheless, the kitchen smelled wonderful once the olive mixture was properly heated, but watch it carefully! The mixture can come up to a simmer very quickly.

For serving, although crackers work, I recommend going with flatbread or baguette slices so you can soak up every bit of olive oil goodness left on the plate when the cheese is gone. Just one note for intrepid ambitious cooks and readers: next time I’ll use homemade goat cheese. And lastly—hooray, as always, for Gourmet, and a little tear for the now-defunct magazine.

This wonderful app is very easy to throw together. It’s quite impressive for something so simple. The recipe has you cool the olive mixture to room temperature before pouring it over the goat cheese. We served it warm instead. The warm olive oil and olives made the goat cheese silky and kept us going back for more.

The other change I made, after the first try, was to take the pits out of the olives. I’m someone who often leaves the pits in olives even when a recipe calls for them to be pitted. I like the rusticity it gives to, for example, certain chicken dishes. Here, however, spreading the goat cheese with a warm olive on crostini or crackers is difficult to do with a pit in the olive. We found that you had to hold the olive onto the cheese, and then you had the crunch of the crostini along with a pit that you needed to get out of your mouth. If you are serving this with pits, I can foresee you having to save someone who is choking on an olive pit. Not the kind of excitement you want to have before dinner. I suggest taking the extra time to do this yourself with a mixture of good-quality olives, not canned olives that have a big hole where the pit used to be.

This really is as simple as it looks—if you can zest a lemon, you can make it. Its other great virtue is in its combination and proportion of flavors—the bright citrus, salty olives, tangy cheese, and earthy thyme play beautifully off of one another.

That said, there are a couple of things I’d do differently if I made this again. One, I’d chop the olives—if you add them whole, as the recipe directs, they don’t really spread very easily. And I used whole sprigs of thyme, but next time I’d strip the leaves from the stems. Although the flavor of the whole sprig infuses the dish, I’d rather be able to disperse the leaves throughout.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also 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
    Knowing I can never leave a recipe alone, even a simple and perfect one like this, I have to say, “wedges of crispy Bartlett pears…” 😉

  2. 5 stars
    I want to try all of the recipes here. This is really a gorgeous apératif. Very simple, very luxurious.

  3. 5 stars
    Or should I say bonjour! Thanks for the shout-out on our olive turnovers, which are dynamite! I have a roll of goat cheese in the fridge, as well as olives and lemons. Am thinking your recipe will be a great way to start the evening. Of course with a glass of rosé!

    1. Hey Denise, bonjour right back atcha. Our pleasure to feature your recipe, it’s wonderful.