4 Spanish Olives You Need to Know

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By Justine Sterling Posted October 17, 2014

What’s your favorite olive? If you answered black, green or “the one in my martini,” then you need to do some more exploratory eating.

What’s your favorite olive? If you answered black, green or “the one in my martini,” then you need to do some more exploratory eating. A great place to begin is Spain, which grows nearly 300 different types of olives. Not all are imported to the U.S. or even eaten as table olives (some are just used for oil). But the wide variety means that there is an olive out there for almost everyone. To get started, Annie Sibonney of The Cooking Channel’s From Spain with Love shares four of her favorite Spanish olives along with the best ways to eat them.

Manzanilla
Medium-sized with a good flesh-to-pit ratio, manzanilla olives represent what most people think of as Spanish olives—so much so that another name for them is Spanish olive. “They’re tangy and nutty,” Sibonney says. “With a smooth texture.” She likes to marinate them in olive oil and fresh herbs and serve them as a pre-dinner snack.

Gordal
Large and robust, these are the ideal olives for stuffing. “A good stuffed olive is one of those perfect bites,” Sibonney says. Simply split the olive lengthwise, remove the pit and stuff it. Sibonney likes hers stuffed with roasted piquillo pepper and a whole Marcona almond, then topped with crumbled blue cheese. Get the recipe for Sibonney’s stuffed olives here.

Hojiblanca
Sibonney describes this fairly large olive as “spicy, sharp and crisp with a nice bite.” That’s because hojiblancas have thicker skin than other olives. “They’re beautiful in marinades or snacking on their own,” Sibonney says. “But you can also throw them into stews whole.”

Cacereña
Fruity and nutty, these olives are milder than most other Spanish olives, making them a perfect introductory type for people who are just starting to explore olives. Sibonney likes to use them in stews or make them into olivada, a Spanish olive paste that can be spread on bread, used as a crust for fish, or even dolloped on top of hard-boiled eggs.

Related: 22 Great Spanish Recipes
Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette Eat Their Way Through Spain
A Sherry Tour of Southern Spain

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