9 Best Substitutes for Capers: Caper Conondrum

What are the best substitutes for Capers?

Are you looking for the perfect substitute for capers? Whether you’re out of capers or simply not a fan of their salty tang, there are several alternatives you can use. Each will add a similar depth of flavor to your dishes. In this article, we’ll explore the best substitutes for capers that you can easily find in your pantry.

One option is to use green olives. With their briny taste and similar texture to capers, they can bring a similar punch to your recipes. Another excellent substitute is pickled green peppercorns. These little flavor bombs offer a tangy and also a slightly spicy kick, perfect for adding that desired zing to your dish. Finally, you can also consider using chopped vegetables, which have been pickled in vinegar and spices.

So, get creative with your cooking and experiment with these caper substitutes to find your favorite. Whether you choose olives, peppercorns, or pickles, these options will ensure that you still achieve that delicious and unique flavor.

Try using: Green Olives, Anchovies, Pickled Vegetables, Lemon/Lime, Green Peppercorns, Thyme/Basil/Tarragon, Nasturtium seeds, Vinegar, Chopped Green Onions/Shallots.

What can I substitute for Capers?

Here are some of the best ingredients to substitute the flavor and role that capers provide in your recipes.

  • Green Olives
  • Anchovies
  • Pickled Vegetables
  • Lemon/Lime
  • Green Peppercorns
  • Thyme/Basil/Tarragon
  • Nasturtium seeds
  • Vinegar
  • Chopped Green Onions/Shallots

Caper substitutes

Green Olives as a substitute for Capers

Okay – are green olives a good substitute for capers? Well, acutally yes they are, you can happily use them if you need to.

Green olives are essentially the unripe olives harvested before they ripen and turn black. You also need to understand there is a difference size – capers are tiny, while green olives are heartier. The best way to make the swap is to give those green olives a rough chop or slice them thinly to match capers’ petite profile. The brininess remains, but you get a burst of olive flavor that plays beautifully with your dish.

Now, here’s the real secret that most guides won’t tell you: if you marinate your olives in a small splash of white wine vinegar or lemon juice you will get an extra zing. This step elevates their flavor and also mimics the tangy kick capers are known for. Toss them into salads, pasta dishes, or you can even sprinkle them over your favorite fish.

And remember, green olives not only stand in as a caper substitute, they also bring their own flavor to the dish. Next time you’re facing a caper crisis, reach for those olives, and embrace the brininess.

Green Olives

Anchovies as a substitute for Capers

Anchovies are small, oily fish packed full of umami goodness. They’re often cured and salted, resulting in a flavor bomb that can elevate any dish. Think of them as the secret ingredient that adds depth and complexity. From Caesar salads to pasta puttanescas, anchovies have been quietly stealing the show in kitchens around the world.

So, how do we use them as caper substitutes? Wwell, the secret lies in their intense savory flavor. Just chop these umami-packed little fish finely and then sprinkle them into your dishes. The salty kick and rich undertones of anchovies beautifully mimic the essence of capers. Whether it’s a pizza, a vinaigrette, or even a homemade tapenade, anchovies are the unsung heroes of the culinary world.

And remember, these little fish aren’t just a substitution; they also bring a bold and distinctive character to your dishes. So, the next time you’re in a caper pinch, turn to anchovies for a culinary adventure.

Anchovies as a substitute for capers.

Pickled Vegetables as a substitute for Capers

Why are pickled vegetables suitable as an alternative for capers? Well, it’s not just about the zingy vinegar bath. It’s also about the infusion of spices and herbs that elevate them to flavor-packed perfection. From the crisp bite of pickled cucumbers to the bold tang of carrots and even cauliflower, each vegetable slowly absorbs the pickling potion. Therefore each pickled vegetable has its own unique taste.

All you need to do is chop these tangy veggies finely, and you will have a caper substitute. The acidity and crunch also mimic the essence of capers. This allows them to blend into salads and pasta dishes, or you can even use them as a topping for your favorite proteins.

And remember, pickled veggies aren’t just a replacement for capers; they also bring a tasty pickled twist to your dishes. So, the next time you find yourself in a caper conundrum, let the pickled veggies be your go to alternative.

Pickled Cucumbers


Now, what makes lemons and limes the unsung heroes in the caper replacement saga? Well, it’s not just about the tangy citrus goodness; it’s also the versatility they bring to the table. Lemons and limes offer a bright, acidic punch that can seamlessly replace capers in various dishes. From the zesty lemon to the slightly more tangy lime, these citrus wonders will work well in your recipes. The best part? They’re a kitchen staple and readily available. You probably have some already in your fruit bowl!

So, how do we use the citrus magic as caper alternatives? Simple – it’s all about the peel! Finely chop or zest the lemon or lime peel to mimic the texture and intensity of capers. The burst of citrusy goodness will infuse your salads, sauces, or seafood dishes with a lively kick.

And consider this: lemons and limes aren’t just substitutes; they’re the zesty alternatives your dishes deserve. So, the next time you’re caperless and craving that zing, turn to the fruit bowl for a citrus hit.

Lemon & Limes as a substitute for capers.

Green Peppercorns as a substitute for Capers

So, what makes green peppercorns so good as a caper replacement, and it’s not just about the peppery kick. In fact they also have a bold flavor profile and a unique texture. Green peppercorns are essentially unripe peppercorn berries, packed with a milder heat compared to their black counterparts. The best part? They effortlessly transition into caper territory, offering a subtle spiciness that complements a variety of dishes. From salads to sauces, these little green gems are ready to play the hero.

Simply crush or finely chop these peppercorns to release their aromatic essence, providing a texture and flavor akin to capers. The gentle heat and slightly fruity notes of green peppercorns make them a great addition to your kitchen cupboard. Just sprinkle them over grilled fish, mix them into pasta sauces, or you can even experiment with salad dressings.

They aren’t just substitutes; they’re the bold, peppery allies your dishes deserve. So, the next time you’re on a caper quest, turn to green peppercorns for a taste journey.

Green Peppercorn as a substitute for capers.

Thyme/Basil/Tarragon as a substitute for Capers

Thyme, basil, and tarragon don’t just bring their aromatic charm to the substitute table; it’s also the herbal notes and distinct profiles of each herb. Thyme, has earthy undertones, basil has a sweet and slightly peppery essence, and tarragon has an anise-like flavor. Each herb offers a variety of tastes that can easily replace capers. These herbs are not just sidekicks; they’re the unsung heroes, ready to elevate your recipes to new heights.

All you need to do is take a handful of thyme leaves, basil, or tarragon and give them a delicate chop. This will help release their essential oils and flavors. Then you can sprinkle them over salads, mix them into sauces, or incorporate them into marinades to experience the herby transformation. So, the next time you find yourself caper-less, let thyme, basil, and tarragon be your herbal companions.

So, the next time you’re on a caper quest, let these aromatic allies guide you.

Herbs as a substitute for capers.

Nasturtium Seeds as a substitute for Capers

Nasturtium seeds stand out as a suitable substitute for capers due to their peppery taste and floral flavor that adds a unique layer to your dishes. The seeds, often dubbed “poor man’s capers,” offer a delicate yet distinctive flavor profile. Their peppery kick is accompanied by subtle floral notes, creating a sophisticated substitute for capers that most websites tend to overlook. These tiny seeds, harvested from the same plant that also gives us those colorful blooms, are ready to add a touch of floral elegance to your culinary creations.

You can also pick your own seeds! Harvest the seeds when they are still green and pickle them in a simple brine. We would suggest a brine of vinegar, salt, and perhaps also a hint of sugar. This pickling enhances their flavor, giving you a unique alternative to capers. Sprinkle them over salads, or incorporate them into pasta dishes. They also work well as a garnish for seafood.

So, the next time you’re on a caper quest, thik about using nasturtium seeds.

Nasturtium Seeds

Vinegar as a substitute for Capers

Vinegar isn’t just a condiment; it’s acutally a powerhouse that can step up to the plate as a great substitute for capers.

It’s not just about the sharp acidity; it’s the diverse range of flavors that different types of vinegar bring. From the mellow apple cider vinegar to the robust balsamic, each vinegar offers a wide range of tastes that can easily replace capers. These vinegary elixirs aren’t just accents; they’re the secret weapons ready to add depth and complexity to your recipes.

Simply simmer a cup of your preferred vinegar on low heat until it thickens and intensifies in flavor. This reduction can mimic the concentrated essence of capers, offering a punchy alternative. Drizzle it over salads, mix it into sauces, or use it as a finishing touch for roasted vegetables. The next time you find yourself caper-less, use vinegar to help you elevate your dishes.

Vinegar bottle  as a substitute for capers.

Chopped Green Onions/Shallots

Shallots and chopped green onions stand out as a perfect caper replacement due to their mild oniony essence and sweet flavor. Shallots, with their delicate sweetness, and green onions, with their fresh, mildly peppery notes, offer a dynamic duo that can seamlessly replace capers. These oniony delights aren’t just substitutes; they’re the flavorful sidekicks ready to add a subtle kick to your dishes.

All you need to do is dice shallots or green onions into tiny pieces to mimic the size and texture of capers. Then you can sprinkle them over salads, fold them into dressings, or use them as a garnish for fish or chicken dishes. The next time you find you have run out of capers, let shallots and green onions be their replacment.

And remember, shallots and green onions aren’t just replacements; they’re the subtle flavor heroes your dishes deserve.

Green onions & shallots as a substitute for capers.


Can I leave Capers out of a recipe?

Well, yes, you can. While capers add a unique tangy and briny flavor to dishes, you can still create a delicious meal without them. So if you don’t have capers in the cupboard, or you just don’t like the taste of them, of course, you can simply omit them from your recipe. However, if you require an alternative, hopefully you will find something suitable from our suggestion list.

What is a Caper closest to?

Capers are closest to green olives, as they both enjoy a lemony tang. However, capers also have a slight floral tartness to them. As green olives and capers also tend to be preserved in brine, they both share a salty flavor profile. Olives and capers come from different plants, so in fact they are are note related in any way. However, they are prepared in a similar fashion, and taste similar too, which is why people think they are related.

Do Capers need to be cooked?

When you buy a jar of capers from your local store it is ready to use immediately upon opening. No other preparation is required. However, some people like to rinse the capers in cold water to remove any excess brine.

Do Capers have a fishy taste?

No, caper’s don’t taste of fish! In fact caper’s aren’t fish, although you will find that capers pair nicely with fish. Capers have a salty and umami flavor which is similar to anchovies – so I guess that’s where the mix-up occurs.

Summary for Caper substitutes

Okay – that’s you all sorted with suitable substitutes for capers.

Here’s a quick recap:

  1. Green Olives: Green olives, with their robust and briny flavor, serve as an excellent substitute for capers, bringing a delightful twist to various dishes.
  2. Anchovies: Anchovies, those tiny flavor powerhouses, offer a savory and umami-packed alternative to capers, elevating the taste of your culinary creations.
  3. Pickled Vegetables: Pickled vegetables, with their tangy goodness, provide a vibrant and crunchy replacement for capers, infusing a burst of flavor into salads, sauces, and more.
  4. Lemon/Lime: The zesty essence of lemon or lime, finely chopped or zested, offers a bright and citrusy substitute for capers, adding a refreshing kick to your dishes.
  5. Green Peppercorns: Green peppercorns, with their mild heat and unique flavor, emerge as a versatile caper alternative, providing a peppery twist to elevate your culinary endeavors.
  6. Thyme/Basil/Tarragon: A finely chopped blend of thyme, basil, and tarragon creates a herbaceous symphony, serving as a flavorful replacement for capers in a variety of dishes.
  7. Nasturtium Seeds: Nasturtium seeds, boasting a peppery taste reminiscent of capers, offer a unique and floral substitute, adding an interesting dimension to your recipes.
  8. Vinegar: Reduced vinegar, simmered to concentrate its flavors, becomes a tangy and versatile alternative, adding depth and acidity to dishes in lieu of capers.
  9. Chopped Green Onions/Shallots: Finely chopped green onions or shallots present an aromatic and mild oniony replacement for capers, seamlessly enhancing the flavors of your culinary creations.

We have gathered together a lot more facts on ingredients such as herbs, spices, oils, nuts, etc. if you would like to learn some more.

Or if you need to swap out another ingredient have a look at our Substitutes section.