7 Capers Substitutes You Should Definitely Know

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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If you fall short of capers or want to get creative with your recipe, use a capers substitute to get your kind of taste in the palate.


Capers add a lot of flavor to savory dishes when used as a garnish. Capers are used to add a salty and briny taste and texture to salads, pasta, meat, and fish dishes and are associated with Italian and Greek flavors.

List of Capers Substitute

There’s nothing quite like a caper, but 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 cooking.

Green Olives

Visit the olive bar at your specialty grocer or grab a jar of green olives from anywhere. Remove any pits, chop them to corn kernel size, and use in chicken piccata or salads in place of capers. The flavors vary by producer and type, so sample a few varieties to find the ones you like.

A couple of capers spread on a white background

Capers can lend a piquant sour and salty flavor to salads, sauces, roasted vegetables. Photo Credit: Shutterstock


Thyme is an herb which you can use for garnishing your dish. It gives a similar flavor as capers and also makes for a savory addition.

Nasturtium Seeds

Not used by many, nasturtium seeds are a great capers substitute as they can mimic the peppery flavor and enhance the taste of your pasta as well as salads.

Dill Pickles

Just like capers and olives, pickles get their powerful flavor from their specific brine. The amount of salt and types of vinegar and spices vary greatly, but cucumber pickles can also be a good capers substitute. Seek out artisan varieties for more complex flavors and add a little at a time to make sure you don’t overwhelm the other ingredients. Pickles are great when diced into pasta salads and cold dishes.

Pickled Artichoke Hearts

The earthy flavors of artichokes work well with chicken and fish, and they are fiber-rich to boot. Try pickling these or any veggies at home for a simple and satisfying addition to your cooking when you choose not to use capers.

Three bowls of black and green olives on a black background decorated with leaves

The darker the olive, the riper it is. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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’ (meaning pleasantly sharp) 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 and Peppercorns

A blend of fresh ground black pepper and lemon zest will add great bite to your dish and acts as an excellent substitute for the brightness of capers.

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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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