Why Are Olives Pickled? A Definitive Guide

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Olives are a typical food, usually eaten raw or crushed into salads. Several dips and sauces also contain these fruits. Olives are never cooked, but they are never eaten straight off the tree. So what is the deal with the olives that we consume? Are they just regular olives soaked in vinegar and spices for a while, or how are olives pickled? Is there any benefit to eating pickled olives? These are some questions we’ll answer in this article.

Why and How Are olives pickled?

Yes, olives are pickled. Before they are cured, olives are not edible because of a bitter chemical compound called oleuropein. This compound must be removed by curing olives in salty water or oil and then pickling them in brine.

Curing media can be oil, water, brine, dry salt, and lye. The simplest methods, which are also very similar to pickling, are brine- and water-curing. The olives can then be brined in salt, water, and vinegar solution.

Pickled olives are used in many cuisines worldwide as a condiment or appetizer. They are also the dominant flavor in some types of sushi, such as uramaki and California rolls.

How to make pickled olives

You can easily make pickled olives, even though they take up some pretty long time to prickle. Several ingredients are needed to make pickled olives. Here is how to go about it:


  • 8, 250-gram bags of olives (fresh)
  • Lemons, cut thinly, unpeeled
  • 1 entire head of garlic, peeled and cut into cloves
  • 2 peppers, green
  • 1 tbsp. Coriander seeds
  • 2 drained and dried bay leaves (or three fresh ones)
  • 4 liters of water (ideally mineral water) and a half kilogram of salt (salt solution)
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Method-1: Soaking the olives/extracting oleuropein

Clean all the olives thoroughly, put them in a big bowl, and pour enough water to cover them entirely. This is to extract the bitter liquid, oleuropein. The liquid will take some time to be drained out of the olives. So you should change up the fresh water every day for a week.  If you want to cut short the waiting time, split the olive fruits before soaking them in the water.

Method-2:Pickling the olives

After the soaking period (7 days), pour out the water, and place the cured olives in a large jar or container. Add the bay leaves, sliced lemon, garlic cloves, and green pepper slices to the olives.

Pour enough salt solution to rise over the olives and then top them with extra virgin olive oil. Cover up tightly and keep the jar in a cool, dry, and dark place. If the olives were split, they would be ready for eating within 15 to 30 days. Intact olives will need to pickle for up to four months!

Method-3 :Serving the pickled olives

After weeks of curing, the pickled olives are ready to be served.

You can serve them either cold or at room temperature, and they are best eaten within a week of being made.

Eating the olives straight from the jar is not recommended due to saltiness. The olives should be first soaked in water then served.  

There are three ways to make pickled olives. First, they can be water-cured or brine-cured, then placed in a pickling solution. This process is very similar to brining olives, but the significant difference is how long they are soaked for and at what temperature they are stored.

How to pickle olives

Second, you can brine cure the olives, then dry-salt them for several weeks before pickling them in a vinegar and salt solution.

Third, you can simply soak the olives in brine for several days before placing them in oil or spices to pickle them for a few weeks.

How to pickle olives at home

Pickled olives are quick and easy to make at home. This is because you can easily replicate the above procedure in your home kitchen. Here are the steps:

If you want to cut it short, you can cure in brine for seven days without changing the water and then proceed to pickle as described.

The only uncomfortable part about this method is the wait time. Soaking and curing in brine takes a week, whereas pickling can take up to three months!

are all olives pickled

Absolutely! Fresh olives plucked from the tree have a natural bitterness. They’re like raw stories, needing a touch of processing to unveil their charm. Through brine, lye, or salt, we draw out that bitterness. This dance of transformation can resemble pickling, but it’s not always the same.

Are pickled olives good for you?

Pickled olives are not toxic at all. Instead, they taste much better than if eaten straight off the tree.

Olives contain lots of water and have healthy monounsaturated fats that help reduce inflammations.

They also have low carbohydrate levels that consist mainly of fiber necessary for aiding digestion and zero sugars.

For minerals and vitamins, olives contain sodium, copper, calcium, iron and are rich in vitamin E. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant that protects our bodies from oxidative stress.

Copper helps maintain a healthy heart; calcium builds strong, healthy teeth and bones, while iron aids in the movement of oxygen into our red blood cells.

The pickling process of olives also increases their sodium content since they are soaked in salty water. The daily recommended consumption of salt should not be greater than 6 g per day for an adult and 5g for children.

Five pickled olives contain 0.5g of salt. So, to maintain healthy blood pressure, do not consume excess olives.

are green olives pickled

Absolutely! Green olives, just like their moody black siblings, come with a natural bitterness when plucked fresh. But with a dip and dance in brine, they evolve, shedding that raw edge. It’s not quite the “pickle” story you’d hear about cucumbers, but it’s a beautiful transformation.

Are olives fermented?

Yes, olives are fermented. In the Mediterranean region, table olives are one of the most ancient fermented vegetables. Olives bought from the store, regardless of the packaging (vacuum-packed, canned, jarred, and even the olive paste), are usually fermented because it is one of the most effective ways to preserve them and improve their taste.

Olives are fermented through two methods: water-cured or brine-cured, depending on the desired flavor of the final product.

After the curing process, olives are usually pickled to be preserved for an extended period. They are then packed in brine or oil, depending on the region, and are ready to be consumed.

are olives a nightshade

Indeed, olives march to the beat of a different botanical drum! While tomatoes, potatoes, and their nightshade siblings dance under one sky, olives sway with jasmine and lilac in the Oleaceae family. Different families, but all part of nature’s grand tapestry.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Are black olives pickled?

No, there is no need to cure black olives, as these are already ripe. Oleuropein, a bitter compound found in unripe olives, is exceptionally high in green olives, making them unpalatable until fully ripened. This chemical is available in trace amounts in fully ripe olives.

Green olives have to be cured to make them edible. Black olives do not need to be cured, although they can be marinaded (brined) in either salty water or oil or even without brine by pasteurizing them.

2. Can you eat an olive straight from the tree?

Yes, from the tree you may consume it directly.Olives are fruit and are edible when they are ripe. However, green olives are too bitter to eat straight off the tree.

3. Are pickled olives healthy?

Of course! Pickling is one of the finest techniques of preserving and enhancing food.One negative thing about pickling olives in brine is that the solution raises sodium in the fruits. If you are watching your sodium intake or hypertension, it is better not to pickle the olives in brine or consume black olives, which are usually not cured.

The easiest and quickest method for curing olives is in brine. All you have to do is soak them in water for a week, changing the water every day, then marinade them in a spiced salt solution (brine) until they are cured. However, this cuts the hassle of changing the water every day but does not change the pickling time.


We have seen that olives are pickled, at least usually fermented, and good for you. Pickling also preserves the olives to be eaten later on when they are in or out of season.

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