Olive Brine, a Secret Kitchen Ingredient

Before discarding the brine in your jar of olives, consider the ways you can tap its salty, umami flavors.
Aug 30, 2021 10:11 AM EDT
Costas Vasilopoulos

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Olives are an ancient sta­ple food of south­ern European, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern cuisines.

When peo­ple buy a jar of olives to use on a spaghetti alla put­tanesca, Greek salad or even enjoy as a snack, they are also get­ting the brine con­tained in the jar to pre­serve the olives.

While it sounds hum­ble, olive brine is a secret ingre­di­ent that stretches my dol­lar, reduces waste in my kitchen and adds depth to my veg­e­tar­ian meals.- Katy Frank, food writer, Bon Appétit

This brine is basi­cally a mix­ture of water, salt and vine­gar. With time, and as the olives mar­i­nate in the mix­ture, an infu­sion process takes place, enrich­ing the brine with the allur­ing fla­vor of the olives.

See Also: Food & Cooking

In cook­ing, olive brine can be a ver­sa­tile condi­ment that serves many pur­poses.

Once I real­ized olive brine was a sneaky short­cut to acid­ity and depth, I started using it cre­atively and spon­ta­neously, adding it to what­ever needed some,” Katy Frank wrote in Bon Appétit, an online food pub­li­ca­tion.


While it sounds hum­ble, olive brine is a secret ingre­di­ent that stretches my dol­lar, reduces waste in my kitchen and adds depth to my veg­e­tar­ian meals,” she added. The beauty of the brine is that while it adds olive fla­vor, it can be as sub­tle or strong as you like.”

An easy trick is to add some brine to a store-bought or home­made mari­nara sauce for a deep umami fla­vor. Seasoning water with olive brine to cook pasta or rice will also change the gus­ta­tory per­cep­tion of the dish by adding a slight savori­ness to it.

Olive brine (also referred to as olive juice) is found in olive jars and can also be bought sep­a­rately from many major retail­ers.

Chef and cook­book author Kate McMillan advises to first sip the brine before adding it to food to get an idea of the salti­ness and taste. Cooking the brine will also inten­sify the fla­vor as the heat causes the salt to con­cen­trate.

See Also: Recipes with Olive Oil

The brine can enhance the fla­vors in pizza sauce, olive oil vinai­grettes, veg­etable soups, home­made ketchup, scram­bled eggs, hum­mus and salad dress­ings.

It can also eas­ily sub­sti­tute the broth used in many recipes. Brine from jars of either black or green olives will do the job, how­ever with dif­fer­ent taste results.

Olive brine is also used by bar­tenders and mixol­o­gists in bars and cock­tail rooms. Bartender Eric Tecosky, the first to bot­tle olive brine to be exclu­sively used in drinks, described it as a thicker brine that is olive-for­ward with that bite of salt that peo­ple like, yet fruity at the fin­ish.”

And while dirty, extra dirty or even filthy mar­ti­nis may pop into everybody’s mind, adding olive brine to a bloody mary or a michelada cock­tail also makes all the dif­fer­ence.

Last updated Aug 30, 2021 10:11 AM EDT

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