Brine-Cured Olives

Large black olives in a small bowl

Foodcollection RF / Getty Images

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Brining Time: 1,092 hrs
Total: 1,092 hrs 10 mins
Servings: 16 servings
Yield: 1 quart
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
40 Calories
4g Fat
2g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 40
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4g 5%
Saturated Fat 0g 2%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 3445mg 150%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 0mg 2%
Calcium 41mg 3%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 5mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Brine-cured olives are an ideal salty nibble as well as an essential ingredient in a variety of dishes. They can be purchased, but they're often expensive. Making them at home is a simple process and requires nothing but time, water, vinegar, and salt. Whether you have an olive tree or can get access to fresh olives at a good price, this simple recipe makes flavorful salted olives to use in appetizers, salads, or pasta dishes, among many other recipes in which olives shine. These olives are especially delicious when served alongside dry salt-cured olives for a pleasant taste and texture contrast.

The initial water-and-salt curing process is similar to making lacto-fermented foods, and it is very close to the process used to make Kalamata olives. By soaking the olives and changing the water daily, then brining them in several changes of brine, you are leaching out the bitter compound called oleuropein, which makes raw olives inedible.

Because this is time consuming, you should start your olives around eight weeks ahead of when you want to have them ready. Jars of homemade olives make wonderful gifts, and they keep very well for many months so you can enjoy tasty olives all year-round.

Before you start, be sure to have glass jars that comfortably fit all the olives you want to cure and a pot or bowl made of a nonreactive material—don't use aluminum, copper, or non-enameled cast iron. For this process, there is no need to sterilize the jars.


  • 4 cups red or brown raw olives, preferably Kalamata or Mission

  • 4 1/2 quarts water, plus more for soaking olives, divided

  • 13 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, or other non-iodized salt, divided

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Remove any stems or leaves and compost or discard. Thoroughly rinse the olives and discard any bruised ones.

  3. With the tip of a sharp paring knife, score each olive lengthwise 1 to 3 times.

  4. Place the scored olives in a medium-sized nonreactive bowl or pot.

  5. Cover the olives with water. Place a plate that's slightly smaller than the rim of the bowl on top of olives. Weigh down the plate with cans of food or heavy objects to keep the olives submerged at all times.

  6. Let the olives soak for 24 hours. Drain the olives, then put them back in the bowl or pot and cover with fresh water. Repeat this draining and soaking process for 8 to 10 days. For less bitter olives, repeat this process for up to 20 days. You can taste the olives throughout this process, stopping when they are palatable. Be careful not to soak the olives for too long or they may taste bland.

  7. Drain the olives in a colander and return to the pot.

  8. In a large measuring cup, make a brine by dissolving 3 tablespoons of the salt in 1 quart of the water.

  9. Pour the brine over the olives. Replace the plate and weight and leave for one week.

  10. Drain the olives again and repeat the brine with the same measurements (3 tablespoons of salt per 1 quart of water). Weigh down and leave for one week. Repeat the rinsing and brining process 2 more times (4 times total), which will result in four weeks of brining in salted water.

  11. Taste one of the olives. If it is bitter, continue with the brining process (using fresh water and more salt) for another week and taste again. Continue until the olives are no longer bitter.

  12. Drain the olives and transfer them to clean glass jars.

  13. Make another brine with 1 1/2 tablespoons salt and the remaining 1 pint water. Stir in the red wine or apple cider vinegar and pour the brine over the olives in the jars.

  14. Tightly cover the brined olives and store them in the refrigerator or a cool cellar for up to one year. The flavor will improve if you wait at least a week or two before sampling.

  15. Enjoy.


  • Brine-cured olives should be ready in four weeks but can take longer. If the olives are still bitter after four weeks, allow at least two more weeks of brining, changing the brine after each week.
  • Scoring the olives before soaking is important as it helps the oleuropein leach out.
  • Make sure to choose olives that are more ripe—brown or reddish—as opposed to green.

Why do you need to brine olives?

Right off the tree, an olive is inedible. It won't make you sick, but the bitterness and texture are so off-putting that an unbrined olive is unpalatable. But a good brine makes them the delicious ingredient that we love.