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Gourmet Hacks: 5 BEST Substitutes for Capers

If you love Mediterranean food, you may have tried Capers in your dish.

Capers are small brined green-colored flower buds from the perennial plant called ‘Capparis Spinosa.

Common dishes that use capers include pasta and pizza sauce, risotto Milanese, tuna salad, marinades for meats, tartar sauce, deviled eggs, and other dishes.

When you use capers, you may find that you don’t have them or that they’re too expensive.

Luckily, there are a few substitutes for these unique flavourful ingredients.

In this article, we will discuss the five best substitutes for capers.

What are Capers?

what are capers

As mentioned before, capers are the flower buds of a low shrub part of the Mediterranean region.

They are small and packed with flavor. The most common type comes from an olive-like fruit.

Depending on their size, they can be used in cooking or eaten raw.

Capers have been around for over 3000 years, with evidence suggesting that the Babylonians mashed them up to extract their juice.

In Medieval Europe, capers used as a condiment were an affordable substitute for those who couldn’t afford black pepper.

They are most commonly used in Mediterranean dishes such as sauces or garnishes in more current times.

Capers are prepared by being washed thoroughly and soaked in cold water for a day.

From there, they are drained and either pickled in a vinegar solution or packed in a salt brine before being jarred.

Capers are very strong and have a unique flavor. They have been called “the mustard of the poor”.

They are added to enhance the flavor of foods without being too overbearing.

The best ones are packed in salt brine or vinegar when shopping for capers, while those packed in water should be avoided.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Capers

Capers, known for their pungent and briny flavor, are a popular ingredient in many Mediterranean and European dishes.

However, if you find yourself without capers or simply want to explore alternatives, there are several substitutes that can provide similar characteristics.

In this guide, we will delve into the top 5 substitutes for capers, comparing their key characteristics and providing suggestions on proper ratios to ensure the best results in your recipes.

SubstituteKey CharacteristicsProper Ratio
Green OlivesBriny with a tangy flavorUse an equal amount of green olives as a substitute
Pickled Jalapeno PeppersSpicy with a tangy kickUse sparingly due to spiciness
Dill PicklesTangy and slightly sourUse an equal amount of dill pickles as a substitute
Caper BerriesSimilar taste profile to capersUse an equal amount of caper berries as a substitute
LemonBright and citrusyUse the juice and zest of a lemon as a substitute

Now let’s dive into each substitute in more detail:

1 – Green Olives

green olives

Of all the substitutes, green olives are the best and the cheapest.

They have a salty flavor and meaty texture, much like capers which make them very versatile.

After being drained, they can even be soaked, marinated, or pickled.

When purchasing green olives, it’s best to look for those packed in juice and not brine, as they tend to be less salty.

They should also appear fresh and firm with no wrinkles or brown spots.

Green olives work perfectly in pasta, bruschetta, or salads if you want to make recipes.

They can also be used to top off pizzas.

  • Key Characteristics: Green olives share a briny and tangy flavor with capers. They can provide a similar level of saltiness and add a unique taste to your dishes.
  • Proper Ratio: Use an equal amount of green olives as a substitute for capers. Adjust the quantity based on your taste preferences and recipe requirements.

2 – Pickled Jalapeno Peppers

pickled jalapeno peppers

Pickled jalapeno peppers are another excellent replacement for capers.

If you like heat in your meals, then these will be perfect.

As for the flavor, they are both spicy and sour, which is exactly what you need when looking to replace capers.

They may even add a citrusy flavor to certain dishes.

Pickled jalapeno peppers are commonly found in grocery stores worldwide and can be used to add a kick of heat to your meals.

In addition, they may also be added whole or sliced up.

These are best used in salsas, pasta dishes, chili, or stews.

  • Key Characteristics: Pickled jalapeno peppers offer a combination of spice and tanginess. While they don’t resemble the exact flavor of capers, they can add a zesty kick to your recipes.
  • Proper Ratio: Use pickled jalapeno peppers sparingly as a substitute for capers due to their spiciness. Adjust the quantity based on your desired level of heat and recipe requirements.

3 – Dill Pickles

dill pickles

Dill pickles are a great way of adding a zing to your meals.

They have a strong flavor which is often coupled with a crunchy texture.

In addition, they may be added whole or sliced up and added to salads, sandwiches, or pizzas.

As mentioned before, dill pickles are perfect for giving your dishes a strong flavor.

This is because the brine inside the dill pickle jar already contains a high concentration of salt and vinegar.

If you like having pickles with your meals, these may be used as a substitute for capers.

You can slice them up and add them to sandwiches or pasta dishes.

  • Key Characteristics: Dill pickles have a tangy and slightly sour taste that can mimic the brininess found in capers. They are a readily available alternative that can add a similar dimension to your dishes.
  • Proper Ratio: Use an equal amount of dill pickles as a substitute for capers. Adjust the quantity based on your taste preferences and recipe requirements.

4 – Caper Berries

caper berries

Caper berries are similar to capers in their appearance.

They are small with a spherical shape.

These may be added to salads, pasta, or served with seafood dishes.

When eating caper berries, you will notice the brine-like flavor of the berry itself.

This makes them perfect when looking for that vinegar taste.

Although these are considered fruits, you can still use them to substitute for capers.

Using them in salads is the best way to go about this because their strong flavor may overpower other foods.

  • Key Characteristics: Caper berries are the fruit of the caper plant and share a similar taste profile to capers. They provide a milder flavor compared to capers and are an excellent substitute.
  • Proper Ratio: Use an equal amount of caper berries as a substitute for capers. Adjust the quantity based on your taste preferences and recipe requirements.

5 – Lemon

lemon

Lemon juice is one of the best substitutes for capers.

After all, it is used in Mediterranean dishes more often than not.

When choosing lemon juice, it’s important to look around its expiration date and ensure no pips or seeds are included.

This juice is perfect when you want that tangy flavor added to your dish.

The citrusy taste is also extremely flavorful, making it perfect for seasoning fish or marinating meat.

When using lemon juice as a substitute, make sure to measure the amount of liquid you are adding carefully.

Too much may overpower other flavors in your dish.

  • Key Characteristics: Lemon offers a bright and citrusy flavor that can enhance various dishes. While it doesn’t replicate the taste of capers, it can bring a refreshing acidity to your recipes.
  • Proper Ratio: Use the juice and zest of a lemon as a substitute for capers. Adjust the quantity based on your desired level of acidity and recipe requirements.

Conclusion

Capers are an essential condiment to many dishes.

These can be found in salads, pasta, pizza, and bruschetta.

However, they are extremely expensive here in Canada.

Luckily, there are some great substitutes that you can use to make your meals taste just as good.

So, the next time you’re cooking a dish and need to add a bit of zest, use any of these five substitutes.

For example, you can get creative with it by adding olives or pickled jalapeno peppers to salads.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Capers

Craving the zing of capers but running low? Don't worry! Check out our guide on the 5 best substitutes for capers. Whether it's olives, pickles, or something else, discover alternative ingredients that will add that unique burst of flavor to your dishes.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Substitutes
Servings 4 Servings

Ingredients
  

  • Green Olives
  • Pickled Jalapeno Peppers
  • Dill Pickles
  • Caper Berries
  • Lemon

Instructions
 

  • Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  • Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
Keyword substitutes for capers
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