What Are Oil-Cured Olives and How Do You Use Them?

updated Feb 28, 2022
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Credit: Faith Durand

Olives, like many different fruits, vegetables, and legumes, come in all sorts of varieties. With their distinct tart and briney flavor, olives are available at the store in different colors and many are sold jarred and marinated and/or stuffed with pimento peppers. Plus, olives make a great addition to this easy 15-minute pasta dish. One variety of olive you might come across, however, are black oil-cured olives. If this ingredient is new to you though, you’re probably also wondering how they’re made and how you can use them in the kitchen.

Oil-cured olives are olives that are dry-cured with salt and then soaked in oil for months to rehydrate them. The most distinctive characteristic of oil-cured olives is their stark black color and shiny outer coating. On top of their color and sheen, oil-cured olives tend to have a slightly wrinkled surface, similar to prunes. If you’re looking to get your hands on some, you’ll likely find them sold in jars from brands like Cento, though they are also sometimes sold in plastic containers or in large plastic bags for bulk purchases.

How Are Oil-Cured Olives Made?

Oil-cured olives are olives that have been cured with salt. The dried olives are then soaked in oil for months for the purpose of rehydration and preservation. This process also helps tone down the natural bitter flavor of freshly harvested olives. Oil-cured olives, like most olives, have a strong salty flavor, though they often have other flavors added to them.

What Are The Main Types of Oil-Cured Olives?

The most common variety of oil-cured olives you’ll likely stumble upon are black Moroccan olives, which originate from the Atlas mountains of North Africa. In addition to the curing process they undergo, oil-cured olives are often flavored with different ingredients and spices like cumin, chiles and citrus as well as various herbs.

How Do Cook With Oil-Cured Olives?

While they can be great on their own, oil-cured olives are often used in traditional Moroccan dishes such as tagine and are commonly paired with ingredients like harissa, which is also a staple of North African cuisine. Oil-cured olives could also be great in recipes for which you might use other varieties of olives, such as this salad with orange and fennel or baked meat and poultry dishes. Given their prune-like appearance, though, oil-cured olives could actually be good in a version of Ina Garten’s chicken marbella, which traditionally used both prunes and olives.!