Identifying a substitute for capers is not easy, but I’ve worked hard to complete a list of 10 options so that you can benefit from them.
Due to the capers’ pronounced and complex flavors, there might be only two types of people in the world: people who like it or who can’t tolerate it.
Either category you fall into, this blog post is for you. Keep reading to equip yourself with a lot of cooking information related to capers.
Table of Contents
What Is Caper, Anyway?
Capers are immature, unopened, and edible flower buds of caper bush which are commonly found in Mediterranean coastal regions, as well as Asia and Australia.(1)
After harvesting, these tiny green peppercorn-like buds are pickled in vinegar and used as culinary ingredients.
It is often associated with Mediterranean dishes but is loved around the world. It adds texture and richness to various recipes, including fish, salads, meats, pasta, stews, and sauces.
If, for some reason, you don’t like their pungent flavors or don’t have any of them in the pantry, you can refer to my list so that you can save your recipes as well as save yourself a trip to the supermarket.
I bet there are few you’re sure of having around your house. Check it out to see if I guess right.
What Do Capers Taste Like?
Capers bring a salty and tangy aroma to the dish and make it more interesting to taste. A food connoisseur might not tolerate the lack of these flower buds in some specific recipes because the flavor of the whole dish can be changed dramatically.
However, in some cases, using substitutes for capers is acceptable and even brings a new breeze to the dish.
Substitutes For Capers Conversion Chart
Don’t worry if capers are missing. This simple yet useful table will help you quickly master cooking with capers’ alternatives. Have a closer look at it right now!
|Green olives||1 tablespoon of capers = 1 tablespoon of green olives|
|Kalamata olives||1 tablespoon of capers = 1 tablespoon of Kalamata olives|
|Thyme||1 tablespoon of capers = 1 tablespoon of thyme|
|Pickles||1 tablespoon of capers = 1 tablespoon of diced pickles|
|Nasturtium seeds||1 tablespoon of capers = 1 tablespoon of nasturtium seeds|
|Mustard Greens||According to your taste|
|Green peppercorns||1 tablespoon of capers = 1 tablespoon of green peppercorns|
|Caperberries||Few capers = 1 caperberry|
|Anchovies||½ tablespoon of capers = 1 teaspoon of anchovy paste|
|Lemon||Few drops of lemon juice|
|Artichoke Hearts||1 tablespoon of capers = 1 tablespoon of artichoke hearts |
1 tablespoon of capers = ½ tablespoon of artichoke hearts
|Black Olives||1 tablespoon of capers = 1/2 tablespoon of black olives|
|Peppercorns and Lemon||According to your taste|
Flavorsome Substitutes For Capers Will Surprise You
The next list of 10 caper substitutes can help you get creative with your recipe. So, feel free to cook without a risk of stopping in the middle searching for capers.
1. Green Olives
The top choice in my substitute list for capers is green olives. Once you have cut them into small pieces, it might be challenging for people to recognize what they’re eating.
Moreover, green olives can deliver the same intense flavor as capers do to the dish, especially in chicken piccata. In terms of chopped green olives, the substitution ratio is 1:1.
Green olives are a champion of vitamin E, which promotes your skin health and strengthens your immune system effectively.
Let’s try to make delicious green olive sauce with me.
2. Kalamata Olives
Kalamata olives are named after Kalamata city in Greece – the first place where these olives were grown.
If you don’t have any capers and can’t find any green olives, these blackish purple, oval-shaped olives might be the next best alternative. They tend to have a fruity flavor and meaty texture.
It’s advised that you should chop them up before adding them to pasta and other dishes, and in this case, prepare them in the same quantity as you would with capers.
Kalamata olives are a great source of vitamins and minerals; therefore, you should incorporate them into your daily diet in all possible ways.
Thyme is an excellent replacement for capers because it’s prevalent in the pantry of any homemaker. Growing thyme in the kitchen is on the upswing now, you know; this helps you get the freshest herb right when you need it.
Thyme has a sharp and pronounced aroma which can render a distinct flavor to the food, primarily French and Mediterranean cuisine.
Unlike capers, thyme needs time to fully release its fragrance, so as a rule of thumb, you’re advised to toss it in the pot at the beginning of the cooking process. This way, your dish will taste as rich as you expect.
To substitute, use the same amount of thyme as you would with capers when cooking.
Pickles taste super delicious and can pair well with various main courses or be an essential ingredient for appetizers, snacks, and tea-time desserts.
Like capers, pickles are made by soaking cucumbers, dill, or any vegetable in brine – made with vinegar, salt, sugar, and other spices and herbs.
Pickles will have a different flavor depending on different brines, but it often has a sweet, sour, and salty taste. For this reason, it can mimic the briny flavor from capers and impart it to food items.
If you’re still on the fence, add a small number of pickles and taste for yourself. Otherwise, use one tablespoon of diced pickles for one tablespoon of capers.
You can rest assured when choosing this option because pickles are good at improving the way a dish tastes.
How to make crunchy pickles in 30 minutes. You can see this video to know more:
5. Nasturtium Seeds
Supposed capers are not your cup of tea; nasturtium seeds, sometimes known as poor man’s capers, might be your go-to thing, especially if you’re looking for a peppery aroma for your upcoming recipes.
You can grow your own nasturtium plant at home or buy it from the gardening store. Although the flowers and leaves of this plant are edible, you will only focus on harvesting the green seed pods.
It has a slightly spicy and mustardy flavor. Keep in mind that when substituting nasturtium seed for capers, it’s best to follow a 1:1 ratio.
6. Mustard Greens
Mustard greens (collards, kale, cabbage) feature spicy, piquant and refreshing flavor. Don’t worry about their bitterness because sauteing these greens with salt and garlic will bring out their distinct aromas and diminish the bitter taste right away.
Adding cooked mustard greens as a side dish or tossing them into your salads will be a great way to replace capers in the recipe.
To be more specific, you can use sauteed mustard greens for caper recipes, and it’s up to you to decide the right amount of these vegetables, then get a desired result.
Mustard greens have a high amount of health-boosting antioxidants that can benefit your skin and body profoundly.
7. Green Peppercorns
Green peppercorns are freshly plucked from the tree when they’re still unripe. They don’t taste as strong as black peppers, so they might be great for lighter foods, including chicken and fish.
I put it on the capers replacement list because it features a piquant flavor that is quite similar to capers without being overpowering. To keep them lasting longer, preserve them in salt, water, and vinegar brine.
Moreover, its yellowish-green appearance resembles the color of capers. That’s why it’s a perfect selection as a garnish.
The perfect substitute ratio is 1:1 so keep this in mind to achieve the flavor you expect.
Caperberries are fruits of caper bush that could replace capers if necessary. Although they share the same note of aroma, caper berries don’t taste as strong as capers. Both are kept in salty brine and used for a wide range of dishes.
These fruits appear bigger than capers in size so it’s advised that one caperberry is necessary for every few capers.
Caperberries are plucked with a stem on them and have a meaty texture. They’re usually added to the sauce for fish, chicken, pork, or veal. I’d like to serve it with cocktails or use it as a garnish for dishes.
It might sound weird because anchovies are fish while capers are a kind of flower buds; however, anchovies are still a popular substitute for capers. The reason is that they both have a rich and salty flavor.
Anchovies might be a good candidate to add to pizza toppings, salads, or casseroles. It’s suggested that you should add anchovies to your taste, and generally, one anchovy is enough.
If you want to bring more umami flavor to the food, consider having more of it, but to play it safe, add a small amount and work it up slowly. Let’s start with a recommended ratio that you should use 1 teaspoon of anchovy paste for every ½ tablespoon of capers.
Anchovy pasta tastes super delicious and let’s find out why.
My final suggestion is lemon. I guess you will indeed have it in your fridge. Come on; lemon is a staple food from almost any house. You can make a hundred things with a lemon, from lemonade, savory sauces, marinades, to lemon cakes.
A few drops of lemon juice could give your dish a quick fix, thanks to their tangy flavor. Although lemon juice doesn’t change the texture of the dish like capers do, they surely somehow replicate their taste.
Keep in mind that lemon tends to give a sourer flavor than you expect so start with a small amount and adjust accordingly to achieve the desired savor.
So, go ahead and squeeze the lemon and let your guests enjoy dishes with a little bit of improvisation.
11. Artichoke Hearts
Artichoke hearts often come in a pickled condition, which means they are immersed in brine. This makes them an excellent substitute for capers which are also preserved in the same method.
As far as I know, artichoke hearts pair well with chicken, lamb, and fish. This aromatic ingredient can be a great addition to dips, salads, pasta, and pizza or eat straight from the jar.
They not only taste good but also are an ideal source of vitamin A and C. To substitute, you need to cut the artichoke heart into four pieces and add an amount equal to the number of capers the recipe calls for or use half the amount of the artichoke hearts before adding more .
12. Black Olives
Black olives are picked when ripe, so they tend to have darker colors than green olives, harvested much sooner. So, if you can’t find green olives, this option could be a suitable replacement for caper recipes.
Although black olives taste less bitter and salty than capers, they’re able to enhance the flavor of pasta, pizza, pasta, and gnocchi. They also go excellently with many types of cheese.
Due to their bland flavors, you might use only 1 tablespoon of black olives for 2 tablespoons of capers when cooking, and everything is fine.
13. Peppercorns and Lemon Zest
The last alternative for capers comes with a blend of peppercorns and lemon zest. Peppercorns have an earthy, spicy, and aromatic flavor profile, while lemon zest is known for its intense citrus savor and a hint of slight bitterness.
Needless to say, peppercorns and lemon zest make for a great substitute when it comes to salads, pasta, and more. This combination indeed adds a kick of flavor to whatever you put it in.
The best part? Feel free to add according to your taste and enjoy the dish.
3 Amazing Health Benefits of Capers
Your bodies can get benefits from having capers; let’s elaborate on this health aspect in the following section.
- Capers help stabilize blood sugar thanks to their high content of fiber. As you might have known, fiber slows down the sugar absorption in the blood, therefore, stabilizes blood sugar and controls the glycemic index.
- Consuming capers has been linked to a reduction of triglyceride and cholesterol levels as well as a decrease of ALT and AST – two enzymes indicating liver damage.
- Capers are rich in vitamin K, which is especially important when it comes to blood clotting. It’s essential to prevent excessive bleeding both inside and outside and also promote healing.
4 Recipes With Capers Everyone Should Know How To Cook
Capers are often used as a seasoning or garnish for the food. Let’s find out more recipes in which capers are the last thing you want to omit.
This 20-minute Italian dish is so tasty that you might want to make it again and again in your kitchen.
The term “piccata” usually refers to how chicken is cooked. To be more specific, “piccata” means “slice, saute and serve in a lemony and buttery sauce with a pinch of caspers”.
It’s often enjoyed with pasta or mashed potatoes.
In this recipe, capers make up only a small amount, but they add an impressive flavor to the dish.
This chicken piccata is an easy and quick weeknight supper.
Puttanesca is a traditional Italian dish that wins the hearts of people worldwide thanks to its special sauce.
The good news is that this aromatic pasta is straightforward and can become a quick meal for busy days. It tastes savory, sweet, and spicy, which you’re sure to ask for more.
Capers, anchovies, and olives are the secret of this old recipe. If you skip one of them, the taste might not be the same unless you find a good substitute for the missing one.
Salsa verde means “green sauce” and is a Mexican staple food. This delightful and versatile sauce can pair well with eggs, meat, and veggies. In fact, salsa verde has various versions around the world.
For people who might not know, Italian salsa verde has a fresh, bright, and herby flavor, plus a vividly green color. It can elevate the aroma of food items to the next level and make diners happy.
If you are going to have crab cakes, salmon cakes, or fish sticks tonight, make sure you know how to prepare a good-quality tartar sauce. This way, your dinner will become way more enjoyable.
Mixing pickles, dill, mayonnaise, and capers, and you will have a super tasty tartar sauce. (2) Sounds amazing? They’re all easily found ingredients that might always be available in your pantry.
You can buy store-bought tartar sauce, but there is no way that it tastes as good as the homemade version.
Tartar sauce is a must-have condiment for seafood dishes. Let’s make it!
I’ve already made a list of top-rated short questions about caper substitutes. Let’s check it out since it’s guaranteed to make your kitchen work easier.
What Would Happen To Your Dish Without Capers?
Capers are a unique culinary ingredient that enriches the flavor of the whole dish. For this reason, it might be a bit challenging to find a close substitute both in appearance and taste.
However, if you are not too fastidious and like to be creative in cooking, then my suggestions above will help you a lot.
Take your time and read through each option carefully, then choose for yourself the one which suits your taste best.
Let me know what you think about my list and leave a comment below.
- Missouribotanicalgarden.org. 2021. Capparis spinosa – Plant Finder.
- En.wikipedia.org. 2021. Tartar sauce – Wikipedia.