Capers are small green buds that give a distinct flavor to many dishes. They’re favored in Mediterranean cuisine and are now used in many dishes universally.
These buds come from the caper bush that’s cultivated mostly in southern Europe, Middle East, and northern Africa. They add a piquant salty, briny flavor in addition to texture to a variety of dishes.
Some people don’t prefer the intense taste that capers give and look for an alternative to use with a milder flavor. If you’re one of those people or you’re just looking for a last-minute substitute for capers, we’ve got you covered.
7 Best Substitutes for Capers
Here’s a list of the best alternatives for capers:
Green olives carry a salty, acidic, and savory flavor that resembles that of capers. But because they’re much bigger, it’s best to use half the number of olives.
You can also use Black or Kalamata olives. Just keep in mind that they have a less bitter taste than capers. Also, you should substitute one Kalamata olive for every two capers.
This herb is a pungent herb with strong lemon and bitter flavor that’s similar to capers. The key here is adding thyme early on to give it time to release its flavor.
I recommend substituting fresh thyme for capers in a slow-cooked dish, like in a casserole or sauce. It won’t work in recipes where capers play the starring role like, for instance, in beef tartare.
Nasturtium seeds are great when capers aren’t to your liking. Instead of the bitterness of capers, nasturtium seeds give a robust peppery flavor.
Use these seeds in an equivalent amount as capers in salads, casseroles, or pasta. If you’re making a savory dish, it’s best to use pickled nasturtium seeds.
Nasturtium buds can also be used as a substitute for capers. I recommend you buy the seeds and plant them yourself. Pick the buds when they’re still green. Pickle them in a jar with vinegar, onions, dill, and garlic for at least a week.
Dill or Cucumber Pickles
Pickles are great if you want to stay away from the bitterness of capers but still want the intense brine. Keep in mind that they’re crunchier than capers. Chop the pickles into caper-like pieces and substitute them in equal amounts.
Green peppercorns look exactly like capers. This is a great option if you want to opt for a milder flavor. Use pickled green peppercorns in equal amounts as for capers.
This might sound strange to you. But they’re perfect when you need something loaded with salt and umami last minute. One anchovy is enough unless you want a fishy flavor.
Caperberries carry a less intense flavor than capers, but they still serve as excellent alternatives to capers. I recommend using pickled caperberries and substituting one caperberry for every two capers.
Capers are often used in Mayo flavor.
It’s hard to mimic the flavor of capers with another ingredient, but with the above-listed substitutes, you won’t have a difficult time creating your favorite dish that calls for capers.