A Guide to Black Olives

purple olives on a branch

Black olives are a versatile and delicious food that humans have enjoyed for centuries. They have a unique flavor that adds depth to any dish.

Whether you are eating them straight out of the jar or using them as a topping on your favorite pizza, they are a staple in many households.

In this article, we explore how they're made, the versatility of the fruit, and how you can incorporate them into your diet.

What are Black Olives?

Black olives are fruit that complete the entire ripening process. When the olive flower buds and the fruit begins to take shape it's entirely green. It stays green for months until it evenly begins to ripen.

You can tell that it's beginning to ripen as shades of purple slowly begin to show up on the skin. Then in a matter of a few short weeks the fruit goes from completely green to purple and then black.

This is the natural process.

Why Canned and Jarred Olives are Black?

Usually the ones that are packed in cans and jars and sold on grocery store shelves are treated with ferrous gluconate to give them the characteristic perfect black color.

They are not naturally black at the time of harvest.

When the fruit arrives at the factory to be processed they may be partially green, purple, or somewhere in between. This is because the fruit doesn’t all ripen at the same exact time. It fades to black over a series of weeks.

Therefore, when the fruit is processed it's treated and then turns black. Manufacturers do this to create a more uniform product and to hide any blemishes on the fruit.

Common Types of Black Olives

There are hundreds of cultivars used for eating. Here are a few common types that you can find canned or jarred:

  • Cellina di Nard√≤
  • Hojiblanca
  • Kalamata
  • Gaeta

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Green Olives

    How to Use Black Olives

    There are truly endless ways to use these tasty treats. Here are a few of our favorites:

    Appetizers: Serve them in a bowl next to nuts, cheese, and crackers. Make your own tapenade with some really high quality EVOO. Serve mini focaccia bites and use them as the topping.

    Cocktails: Usually green olives get all the attention when it comes to cocktails, however, black olives can be even more delicious with the right drink. The next time you shake things up with your martini add a few. They add an earthiness and saltiness to your drink.

    Salads: Canned or jarred, add them to any type of salad to give it a salty and savory flavor. They pair especially well with feta cheese, cucumber, and tomatoes.

    Pizza: Both canned and jarred work well on both Neapolitan and American style pizza. Canned is better if you're putting them on pizza before it gets cooked. Jarred under oil is best if you're putting them on pizza after it's cooked. They pair well with other toppings like mushrooms, onions, sausage, or peppers.

    Pasta: You can add them to many different pasta sauces. They go especially well with tomato based sauces. In fact, one of the most famous is pasta alla puttanesca!

    hand holding a purple olive

    How to Buy and Store

    You can find inexpensive, regular canned black olives at your neighborhood grocery store. These are best reserved for cooking purposes. It's easier if they're already pitted so you don't accidentally bite down on a pit which are very hard and can even damage your teeth!

    For snacking, happy hour, and eating fresh head to your local artisanal market and the internet. Like high-quality EVOO, fantastic black olives are usually found online and sold by smaller businesses who have a relationship with the producer. This quality of product is almost exclusively jarred in glass.

    Store unopened cans and jars in a cool, dry place like a pantry or cupboard. Once opened, they should be stored in the refrigerator.

    Can they lower cholesterol?

    Yes, they are high in monounsaturated fats, which can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.

    Are they a good source of healthy fats?

    Yes! They are an excellent source of healthy fats.

    How long do they last in the fridge?

    If submerged in a liquid like a brine they can store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

    If they're under oil they can keep for up to a month in the fridge.

    Are black better than green olives?

    Both are delicious, have incredible health benefits, and can be used in a variety of dishes. The main difference is that black are riper, therefore, have a more subtle flavor. They're also softer in texture.


    Black olives are a versatile and healthy food that can add flavor to any dish. They are high in antioxidants, fiber, and monounsaturated fats, making them a great addition to any diet.

    Whether you are adding them to a salad or using them as a pizza topping, they're a delicious way to improve your health and add some flavor to your meals. So, go ahead and enjoy the many benefits of this delicious food today!

    You might also like...

    Ultimate Guide to Italian EVOO

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    How to Host an EVOO Tasting

    Pssst, we wrote a book called The Olive Oil Enthusiast, have you ordered it yet?

    If you learned something new or have opinions on this topic, please leave a comment and let us know your thoughts! We love to hear from you and do respond to comments. If you’re on Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook don’t forget to tag us and use #EXAUoliveoil so we can repost!

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