7 Handy Substitutes of Capers

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Capers add a lot of flavor to savory dishes when used as a garnish. When used in salads, pasta, meat, and fish they lend a briny taste to the dish and are often associated with Italian and Greek cuisine. If you fall short of these little flower buds and want to get creative with your recipe, use any of the following substitutes for capers to get the desired taste.

List of Capers Substitute

There are plenty of capers substitutes if you don’t have any on hand or want to experiment with other flavors. Green olives make for a great caper substitute as they have a pungent taste. If you want to try something new, you can also add thyme or nasturtium seeds or peppercorns to your dish.

Green Olives

A jar of green olives is perhaps the nearest substitute of capers. They can easily mimic the flavor of capers.

Use them in the same quantity as you would use capers in any dish. In fact, chopped green olives make for an amazing substitute for capers in a chicken piccata. Remove any pits, chop them to corn kernel size, and use it in the piccata or salads.

A wooden bowl of fresh olives on a wooden plank

Add olives in your piccata if you cannot find capers. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Kalamata Olives

If you leave aside the chromatic requirements, kalamata olives serve as a great alternative for capers. The ratio is 1:1 so you can add the same amount of these olives in place of capers.
Kalamata olives are able to render a good flavor to your recipes like pasta puttanesca, even in the absence of capers.

Thyme

Thyme is an herb that you can use for garnishing your dish. It gives a similar flavor as capers and also makes for a savory addition. However, it takes time to release its flavor into the dish so add it in the beginning.

As thyme takes time to flavor your recipe, it is best if you use it in dishes that require slow cooking like casseroles and sauces. Avoid using it in recipes where capers are a primary ingredient.

A bunch of fresh thyme herb on a black background

Can you smell the amazing fragrance of thyme blending into your dish? Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nasturtium Seeds

Not used by many, nasturtium seeds are a great capers substitute as they can mimic the peppery flavor. Use them in your salads and pasta in the same quantity as you would use capers.

If you are able to find pickled nasturtium seeds, you can use them in place of capers as they can make your dish savory.

Pickles

Just like capers and olives, pickles get their powerful flavor from their specific brine. This makes them a worthy swap if you don’t mind the color. You can use dill or cucumber pickles in salads or antipasto platters that call for capers.

Dice them into small pieces and add them to your recipe. The ratio, again, is 1:1.

Artichoke Hearts

Pickled or marinated artichoke hearts are an easy replacement for capers. The earthy flavor of artichokes works well with chicken and fish, and they are also fiber-rich to boot.

Cut them to four pieces each and add them to your fish, pasta, and chicken. There is no perfect ratio to replace capers with artichoke hearts so we suggest you try out different measures till you achieve the perfect taste.

Mustard Greens

If pickled foods aren’t your thing, you can still enjoy classic dishes with a twist. When cooked, mustard greens have a peppery piquant flavor.
Sauté mustard greens as a side or chop them into a salad with a little extra salt to replace capers in the recipe.

Lemon & Peppercorns

A blend of fresh ground black pepper and lemon zest can add a great bite to your dish and acts as an excellent substitute for capers. Add it to suit your taste and enjoy the dish!

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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