Castelvetrano: The Green Olive You Should Be Eating

Do you love olives? Do you hate olives? Do I have the olives for you! 

Published July 7, 2022.

Castelvetrano olives are bright green with a mild flavor and meaty texture. Here’s what you need to know about Castelvetrano olives and why they are an olive that appeals to all.

Dear Castelvetrano olives, 

Fruitful and meaty

Your enticing green color

A poppable snack

Olive you!

What Are Castelvetrano Olives?

Grown primarily in a Sicilian town of the same name, Castelvetrano olives are harvested young and cured in lightly salted water. They have a green-apple color and a meaty, firm texture. And their flavor is mild and buttery, not typically metallic or overly briny, making them a hit even among those who don’t think they like olives. 

Shopping for Castelvetrano Olives

When shopping, look for Castelvatrano olives that are bright green but not neon green, and check out the ingredients on the back of the jar to be sure there aren’t any color additives. Castelvetrano olives will oxidize and begin to lose their bright color quickly, so keep them submerged in their brine until you’re ready to use them.

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Castelvetranos versus Other Green Olives

We have tasted many different types of green olives. Manzanilla olives—the ones that are usually sold in a jar and stuffed with red pimentos—are brine-cured and can be “a little bitter” or sour. The canned olives labeled “green olives” with no specific name are very plain and watery-tasting. Many of the more specialized green olives, such as French Picholine or Italian Cerignola, are more toothsome and buttery and have greater depth of flavor than the more briny Spanish Manzanilla. Still, those olives are less accessible than the beloved Castelvetrano. Sicilian Castelvetrano olives deliver a rounded flavor and texture. 

Substitutions for Castelvetrano Olives

If you can find Picholine or Cerignola olives in a specialty foods store near you, they will likely have pits. But if you're up for an adventure, you can pit them and use them in most recipes that call for Castelvetranos, which are more commonly found pitted. If Manzanilla olives are what you can find in your local supermarket, use them but omit any added acid in the recipe, as they are much brinier than Castelvetrano olives.

What Can I Make with Castelvetrano Olives?

These crisp olives are snackable on their own but are a colorful addition that brightens up any cheese board. Castelvetranos pair well with pungent cheeses like feta, goat cheese, Pecorino, or asiago. They are delightful as marinated olives because they hold their shape—try marinating them with olive oil, orange peels, and fresh thyme and enjoy with a glass of crisp white wine like a Pinot Grigio. They are also a great ingredient in dishes such as tapenade and a sauce for roasted cauliflower.

Green Olive Tapenade

Processing the olives in stages creates the rustic texture we sought.
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For a twist on tapenade, the popular Mediterranean spread that traditionally uses black olives and a high ratio of capers for a hit of brininess, we swapped in less briny, more buttery Castelvetrano olives. To achieve the varying textures that would be achieved by grinding the olives in a traditional mortar and pestle, we pulsed the bulk of the olives into a paste before adding the remaining olives and gently pulsing the mixture, retaining some larger olive pieces. 

Roasted Cauliflower with Mint and Olive Sauce

This Sicilian-style cauliflower is a quick, delicious, and healthful side dish.
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We also like to pair them with fresh herbs and bright lemon juice for a sauce to spoon over roasted cauliflower. The contrasting vivid color from the herbs and olives against the chocolatey brown roasted cauliflower catches your eye and entices you to the table. The saturated, crisp edges of the cauliflower that melt in your mouth and the herby bites of chopped olives and pine nuts that get caught in the nooks and crannies of the florets will keep you coming back for more. I promise you will be elbowing your dinner guests for the browned crunchy bits that have soaked up extra sauce on the bottom of the platter. 

So olive haters, hear me out and give these olives a try. You don’t want to miss out on irresistibly satisfying Castelvetrano olives.

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