6 Best Substitutes for Capers


Capers are one of the most popular ingredients and additions to dishes used worldwide. Their spicy and robust taste is what attracts some people and repels others.

Although they are very healthy, tasty, and aromatic, some people do not like them because of their strength.


In this case, there are excellent substitutes for capers, such as olives, pickles, peppercorns and many other options.

If you want to replace capers with similar foods with a slightly milder taste, keep reading. We bring you six great ideas on how to do it. But first, let's see what capers are and what makes them unique.

What Are Capers?

Capers are small, immature, green flower buds from the shrub Capparis spinosa. Those small fruits that grow on a thorny plant are picked by hand while still unripe. Capers can be of different sizes; some can be very small, while others grow like a grape.

Capers in a jar

After harvesting, we usually use them as a spice for pickling food. For example, we add them to cucumbers and other vegetables that we pickle or preserve through pickling. In addition, we can use capers for cooking spicy sauces, meat and salads.

Capers have a strong, sharp, tangy flavor that you either like or don't. It's great for pickling but can sometimes be too heavy in other dishes. We are using them for salads, pasta and vegetarian dishes like Eggplant Caponata.

As a result, many are looking for an alternative to capers to achieve a similar taste but slightly milder.

Best Capers substitute

If you are also looking for something that will substitute for capers, start with olives. In addition to olives, there are several other foods that you can use. Let's see more.

1. Green Olives

Green Olives

Green olives have a bitter, sour, and salty taste, which can serve as an excellent substitute for capers. They are similar in color and flavor, although the olives are milder. Olives are larger than capers, so it's good to use half a measure compared to capers.

You can also cut olives and add them to the dish. This way, you will get a similar size to the capers, so your meal will be almost identical. Also, due to olives' similar look and spicy taste, no one will notice that capers have been replaced with olives. So you can add them to salads, sauces, mixes, cooked dishes, and any other dishes you want to add flavor to.

½ tablespoon of green olives:1 tablespoon of capers

2. Black Olives

Black Olives

If you still want a slightly less intense taste, try black olives. They are riper, so their taste is not so strong, and their texture is softer than capers and green olives. However, they are ideal as a substitute for capers because they still have a bitter and salty taste like capers.

You can use them in all dishes and as green olives and capers. Chop them into quarters and add them to the dish. You will see how they go well with every meal and add a unique taste.

½ tablespoon of black olives:1 tablespoon of capers

3. Caper Berries

Caper Berries

The third food you can substitute for capers is caper berries. These caper berries are not harvested immediately and are not turned into capers but are left to grow. They are larger, similar in size to olives, but taste similar to capers. The difference is that they are milder and less intense. That's why many people use them as a substitute for capers when they don't want that spicy and intense taste.

½ tablespoon of caper berries:1 tablespoon of capers

4. Pickles


You can also use pickles as a substitute for capers. Although pickles have different appearances, sizes, and textures, they can be a great substitute because of their sour and strong taste, especially when it comes to dill pickles. Dill pickles have a sweet and sour taste that suits many people better than capers because it is less intense yet aromatic and tasty.

Add pickles to your salads, pasta, vegetables, and other dishes. You will get as much strength and acidity as necessary for a great taste. You can even make Fried Pickles for a homemade snack.

1 pickle slice:1 tablespoon capers

5. Green Peppercorns

Green Peppercorns

Another good substitute is green peppercorns. These are unripe black peppercorns with a subtle, mildly peppery flavor that will go well with dishes. In addition, green peppercorns are similar in appearance and size to capers, which means that your meal will also look similar to using capers.

1 tablespoon of green peppercorns:1 tablespoon capers

6. Thyme


Thyme is also an excellent substitute for capers. That's because it has a strong and bitter taste similar to capers. Because of this, it can improve the taste and aroma of every dish. Therefore, it's essential to use dry and ground thyme in your dishes to get a more balanced flavor. The perfect dish to add thyme is instant pot stuffed peppers.

Also, if you plan to use thyme, add it at the beginning of cooking to release its taste and aroma into the dish gradually. In this way, you will achieve the maximum effect of this spice.

1 tablespoon of thyme:1 tablespoon capers

Table of Capers substitute

Substitute Characteristics Best for
Green Olives Green Color; Bitter, Salty, and Sour Flavor Sauces, Pasta, Salads, Casseroles
Black Olives Dark Color; Soft Texture; Bitter and Salty Flavor Sauces, Pasta, Salads, Casseroles
Caper Berries Green Color; Salty and Less Bitter Flavor Grilled Meat Dishes, Dressings, Pasta, Roasted Vegetable, Salads
(Dill) Pickles Green Color; Sweet and Sour Flavor Salads, Pasta, Vegetable, and Meat Dishes
Green Peppercorns Green Color; Mild Peppery Flavor; Bright Aroma Poultry, Fish, Vegetable and Meat Dishes, Soups, Dips
Thyme Green Color; Earthy, Minty, Savory, and Bitter Flavor Braised and Roasted Meat, Vegetable and Fish; Soups, Stocks, Marinades

While finding a replacement that will be identical to capers is challenging, these six replacements we've described do a great job. So, try them and enjoy the new flavors you will discover.


Are Capers Healthy?

Capers are rich in antioxidants that help fight against inflammatory processes, chronic diseases, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

What Does Capers Taste Like?

Capers have an intensive, spicy, bitter taste with a touch of saltiness and sourness.

What Is the Best Substitute for Capers?

The best substitutes for capers are olives, chives, caper berries, thyme, and green peppercorns.

These substitutes are usually less intense than capers and go well with all dishes, just like capers.

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