What Are Niçoise Olives?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Nicoise olives in a bowl

Kevin Summers / Getty Images

Olives are one of the most diverse fruits with more than 500 different cultivars. One variety is Niçoise, grown and cured in southeastern France, around the city of Nice on the Mediterranean coast. The olives are basically the cured version of the Cailletier olive, sometimes also called the Taggiasca olive. They are small, a dark purplish color, and best known as a key ingredient in Salade Niçoise. Niçoise olives are often available at grocery store olive bars as well as in jars and cans.

Fast Facts

  • Origin: Southeastern France
  • Common Recipe: salade Niçoise
  • Where Sold: supermarket olive bar


What Are Niçoise Olives?

Niçoise olives (pronounced "NEES-wahz") are a cultivar of olives that are grown in the Alpes-Maritimes region of France; this southeastern-most part of the country encompasses the city of Nice, bordering Italy on the Mediterranean coast. The name Niçoise indicates not only the cultivar of olive but also its manner of curing, which in this case is brine-curing. The olives are left to ripen on the tree until they're a dark, purplish-brown color, almost black, and then they're cured for several months in a liquid of water, salt, and other seasonings and herbs.   

Because they originate near the sea, Niçoise olives are often paired with seafood, as in the famous salad of the same name that combines tuna, cooked potatoes, green beans, hard-boiled eggs, and Niçoise olives. The olives are small, with a low flesh-to-pit ratio.

Uses

Niçoise olives are versatile and can be used similarly to other cured olives. They can be eaten out of hand, included in salads, as a topping on pizza, and cooked into sauces and poultry and fish dishes.

How to Cook With Niçoise Olives

The olives can be left whole if served with crackers, cheeses, and cured meats, or when added to a salad. When cooking with Niçoise olives, however, they need to be pitted before incorporating into a recipe. They should also be added toward the end of cooking time as excessive heat can cause their natural bitterness to predominate.

What Do They Taste Like?

Niçoise olives are salty and briny tasting due to the curing liquid. They also have natural sour, bitter, pungent, and oily flavors with nutty, winey, and licorice notes. The flesh is firm and the pit is large relative to the olive's overall size.

Niçoise Olive Recipes

Include Niçoise olives on a cheese board, serve in a bowl as part of an appetizer spread, or toss into salad, pasta, or other savory dishes. Niçoise olives are also wonderful for making olive tapenade, a spread made of puréed olives, capers, and anchovies. 

Where to Buy Niçoise Olives

Niçoise olives can be purchased in jars and cans in the grocery store's international section or condiment aisle along with pickles and capers. They are also widely available from online merchants. You may also find them on your supermarket's olive bar, where they are sold by the pound (although most likely they originated in a can or jar).

Storage

Because they're already cured, which means they're saturated with a salty liquid, Niçoise olives are not readily susceptible to spoilage. The best way to store them is to keep them in their original brine or in some olive oil (or a combination) to prevent them from drying out. Store at room temperature or place them in the refrigerator where they'll stay good for several months.

Nutrition and Benefits

Although small in size , Niçoise olives do offer some health benefits. They contain a fat called oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat, which has been shown that it may offer heart-health benefits. Olives are also a good source of vitamin E, calcium, iron, and copper. Keep in mind, however, that since they are packaged in a salty brine there is a high level of sodium.

A 15-gram serving of Niçoise olives, which works out to about 8 olives, provides 45 calories along with about 5 grams of fat. They also contains about 180 mg of sodium, mostly as a result of the brining .

Article Sources
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  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good

  2. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1040105/nutrients