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12 Outstanding Substitutes For Capers To Use In Kitchen

Capers are a staple ingredient in Italian cuisine and are known for adding flavor and texture to dishes such as pasta, soups, salads, and sauces.

Unfortunately, they aren’t always readily available or affordable.

If you want to enjoy capers without breaking the bank, try these eight delicious substitutes.

Substitutes For Capers – 8 Simple Alternatives

What Are Capers?

Capers are tiny pickled green buds from the flowering plant Capparis spinosa.

The buds are harvested before they turn red and then preserved in brine.

Capers are often paired with anchovies, olives, tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, and other ingredients.

You can substitute capers for other types of pickles, such as gherkins, cornichons, or even kimchi.

Or, you can experiment with other types of herbs and spices. Try adding them to salad dressings, marinades, dips, and spreads.

How To Use Capers In Cooking

You can use capers in many different ways. They add a tangy, salty flavor to foods like pasta, soup, salad, and sauce.

Here are some ideas

Tomato Sauces

Add capers to your favorite tomato-based dish. Add them to spaghetti sauce, pizza toppings, meatballs, or chicken.


Use capers in place of salt when making vinaigrettes, mayonnaise, and other condiments.


Toss capers into your favorite salad recipes. You can also sprinkle them on top of greens, vegetables, meats, and fish.


Add capers to any vegetable soup recipe. You can also toss them into creamy potato or lentil soups.


Try sprinkling capers over penne, linguini, fusilli, ziti, rigatoni, or other pastas.

Dips & Spreads

Try using capers in place of olives or anchovies in dips and spreads.

Other Uses

If you don’t have capers on hand, you can still make tasty dishes by substituting other pickles, herbs, or spices.

Just be sure to follow the same proportions that you would if you were using capers – and we have a list of the best substitutes below.

The Best Substitutes For Capers

So, if you do not have any capers to hand, what are the best options for you to use as substitutes?

Quick Table: Capers Substitutes

SubstitutesCalories (Per 100 Grams)
Black Olives116
Nasturtium Buds364
Fresh Thyme101
Dill Pickles11
Green Peppercorns106
Green Olives145
Lemon Juice 22
Kalamata Olives105
Artichoke Hearts119
White Or Red Wine81

We have eight of the most popular options below.

1. Black Olives

Substitutes For Capers – Black Olives

Black olives are an ideal substitute for capers – particularly if you enjoy the taste and texture of capers, but do not have any to hand, and are also a great substitute for green olives in the place of capers.

Black olives are smaller than capers, so you will need fewer of them to achieve the same amount of flavor, and offer a softer, less intense overall flavor compared to capers – ideal if you need something with lower strength.

Adding black olives to your dish will create a similar effect to that of capers, but without their high sodium content, and leave your meal with a tasty, intense burst of bitterness.

How To Substitute

Black olives are delicious, but they are not as commonly used in cooking as capers. One way to use black olives in place of capers is to top a salad with black olives, like you would a Caesar salad. Another way is to replace capers in a Caesar dressing with black olives.

2. Nasturtium Buds

Substitutes For Capers – Nasturtium Buds

These small, peppery buds are commonly found growing wild around the Mediterranean region.

They are used in cooking just like capers and can be added to salads, soups, stews, and sauces.

Nasturtium buds are very mild in flavor and work well as a replacement for capers in dishes where you want a subtle hint of spice.

The secret to getting the best out of nasturtium buds is to make sure that you pick your buds when they are young, and still have a green color.

Add them to a jar containing dill, onion, garlic, and vinegar until they are ready to use, and remember to keep the flower for a unique garnish!

How To Substitute

It is a great substitute for Capers. Nasturtium buds are typically used as a condiment or garnish in salads, on sandwiches, and as a topping for seafood dishes. They can also be added to a variety of dishes such as egg dishes, soups, and stews.

3. Fresh Thyme

Substitutes For Capers – Fresh Thyme

This herb has a strong, fresh flavor which works well in both savory and sweet dishes.

It is often used in combination with other herbs, such as rosemary, sage, oregano, basil, parsley, chives, tarragon, and mint.

The leaves can be chopped and sprinkled on top of salads, roasted potatoes, steamed vegetables, and pasta dishes.

When substituting fresh thyme in place of capers, remember to use it in recipes where the main taste and flavor is not dependent on the capers; fresh thyme will not work as a great alternative in a dish such as beef tartare, which relies very heavily on the caper flavor.

For dishes such as sauces or casserole, however, adding this herb will allow you to recreate a comparable caper flavor.

How To Substitute

It is one of the best substitute options. Fresh thyme is a much more fragrant, aromatic, and versatile ingredient than capers. You can use it in a variety of ways in your cooking.

4. Dill Pickles

Substitutes For Capers –Dill Pickles

Dill pickles are another excellent option for those who cannot get hold of capers and offer a delicious, tangy flavor that is perfect for salad dressings, dips, and marinades.

You can find these pickles at many grocery stores, and they are available in jars or cans – perfect for stocking up on in case of an emergency!

It should be noted that the texture of dill pickles will be a little crispier than capers, and they are not quite as bitter.

How To Substitute

You can use dill pickles in place of capers in your next recipe! Dill pickles are a type of pickled cucumber that are popular for their distinct flavor and crunchy texture. Dill pickles are traditionally served as a side dish, and are often added to sandwiches, salads, and in many other dishes.

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5. Green Peppercorns

Substitutes For Capers –Green Peppercorns

As the name suggests, green peppercorns are part of the same family as black peppercorns but are harvested much earlier.

This means that they contain less spice and a less intense flavor profile and therefore work better as a substitute for capers – especially in dishes where you are already adding a lot of spice.

In addition, green peppercorns will allow you to recreate the visual appeal of capers in your dish; the two have a similar look, and this allows you to maintain the overall aesthetic of the dish without worrying that the balance of flavors is going to be thrown off.

How To Substitute

Green peppercorns are a great substitute for capers. Capers are a type of pickled cucumber. They have a milder flavor than green peppercorns and are typically used in salads.

6. Green Olives

Substitutes For Capers –Green Olives

Another popular alternative to capers is green olives; these are usually sold in brine rather than oil, so they are more suitable for making salads and dipping bread into.

The saltiness of the olives makes them ideal for replacing capers in dishes where there is already a salty element present.

Use one olive for every two capers you would have included; the former are larger than the latter, so this will allow you to maintain the correct balance both visually and in terms of achieving the right flavor.

How To Substitute

Green olives are a more affordable alternative to capers and offer a similar flavor profile. They are available in most grocery stores and offer a salty, earthy flavor that is not overpowering.

7. Lemon Juice

Substitutes For Capers –Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is another common ingredient that is used to replace capers in various dishes.

This is because lemon juice adds a sour note to any dish, and is also a good way to add acidity to a recipe.

It is important to remember that most people do not like the taste of lemon juice straight from the bottle, so if you want to include this in a dish, make sure you dilute it first to achieve a caper taste.

How To Substitute

Lemon juice can be used in place of capers to give a flavor boost to dishes such as fish, salads, and soups. It can also be used in place of vinegar in a marinade. The juice of a lemon can also be used as a cleaning agent.

8. Anchovies

Substitutes For Capers –Anchovies

It may seem a little unusual, but anchovies can actually be used as a substitute for capers – as long as you don’t overdo it.

Both substances contain a high amount of sodium, and this is why they are often paired together in recipes.

Remember, however, that anchovies are generally too strong for their own good, and tend to overpower other ingredients in a dish.

If you decide to use them in place of your usual capers, try using only half of what you would normally use, and see how it goes- you can always add more slowly to build up to the perfect taste.

How To Substitute

The use of anchovies in place of capers is a great way to add a little more flavor to your dishes. Anchovies have a slightly salty, buttery taste that makes it perfect for adding a savory flavor to salads and sauces. Anchovies can be found in cans, jars, or cans of water. They are also commonly sold dried, but it’s not as flavorful as the canned variety.

9. Kalamata Olives

Kalamata olives are Greek olives shaped like a football with a distinctive, narrow-crowned head. Kalamata olives are commonly used in Greek salads, providing a salty, briny taste and a unique texture. 

They have a nutty, salty flavor that is popular in many Mediterranean dishes. These olives have a smooth, soft texture and are not very spicy. 

The fruit is oval-shaped, and the flesh is firm, dark purple, and dense. It is often used as a condiment or to flavor salads, sandwiches, and other dishes.

These olives are also the perfect addition to any antipasto platter or Italian pasta dish. They have a rich, salty flavor that’s perfect or paired with tomatoes, garlic, basil, and other herbs.

How To Substitute

One way to substitute capers with kalamata olives is to grate the cheese into a bowl and add some chopped kalamata olives.

10. Artichoke Hearts

Artichoke hearts are tiny purple or green heart-shaped vegetables with tough, fleshy stems. They are commonly eaten in Italy and France and have a mild, slightly lemony taste. They are usually cooked with olive oil, garlic, and herbs.

Artichoke hearts are a delicious and healthy food low in calories and fiber. Artichokes are full of antioxidants and fiber, which help with digestion.

They can be eaten raw or cooked. Artichoke hearts are a popular appetizer or side dish in many countries. They have a strong flavor and crunchy texture that is not overpowering, and it is typically richly flavored in addition to salads or sauces. 

How To Substitute

Artichoke hearts have a similar texture and flavor to capers and can be used similarly. Artichoke hearts are also a good substitute for capers in pasta salads and can be substituted for capers in many other dishes.

11. Vinegar

Vinegar is a liquid produced by the fermentation of ethanol (alcohol) and acetic acid by certain types of bacteria, yeast, or fungi.

Vinegar is used as a condiment and a cooking ingredient, as well as in beverages such as wine vinegar, malt vinegar, and rice vinegar.

Vinegar is used in many foods, such as salad dressings, barbecue sauce, and pickles. It can also be used in place of baking soda for quick bread.

How To Substitute

Vinegar is a great option to substitute it with capers. Capers are often used as a flavoring in a dish, although they can also be eaten raw. They can be substituted for vinegar in many dishes to give them a different taste.

12. White Or Red Wine

Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grapes or other fruits. Wine is typically made by a combination of processes that extract and preserve the liquid component of a grape, grapefruit, or other fruit. 

The wine typically ferments naturally because of the yeast cells present on the skin of the grape. 

The wine has a bold and intense flavor with notes of berries and oak, with hints of tobacco. Wine is often drunk as an alcoholic beverage but is also commonly used in cooking and baking.

 It can also be used as a cooking ingredient in dishes such as braised meats, sauces, and desserts.

How To Substitute

For those looking for a healthier alternative to capers, red and white wine are excellent substitutes. In place of capers, use red wine for a more delicate flavor and white wine for a more robust one.

Final Thoughts

Capers are a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of ways. They are great when added to salads, pasta sauces, soups, and even desserts.

However, if you are unable to source them, then there are plenty of alternatives out there that you can use instead.

If you need to replace capers, then feel free to experiment with different options until you find something that works well for you.

You should also bear in mind that some of the substitutes listed here may require a bit of experimentation on your part before you get the right combination.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Olives And Capers The Same?

Olives are a small, green fruit that are typically found in brine. Capers are pickled buds of the caper bush, which are then usually eaten as a garnish on salads and seafood dishes. Capers have a salty, tangy flavor and can be used as a condiment.

What Does A Caper Taste Like?

A caper is a small, round, salt-flavored flower that is used as a condiment in cooking. The flavor of a caper is similar to the flavor of salt, so it goes well with many foods.

Are Capers A Spice Or Vegetable?

Capers are a type of small, pickled green flower buds from the caper bush, a plant in the family Umbelliferae. They are popular in Mediterranean and Southern European cuisine, especially in salads and pastas.

Substitutes For Capers – 12 Simple Alternatives

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Capers are a delicious addition to a number of dishes – but what happens when you are running low? We have some tasty, simple alternatives for you to try.


  • Nasturtium Buds

  • Black Olives

  • Fresh Thyme

  • Dill Pickles

  • Green Peppercorns

  • Green Olives

  • Lemon Juice

  • Anchovies

  • Kalamata Olives

  • Artichokes Heart

  • Vinegar

  • White Or Red Wine


  • Choose your favorite substitute from the list given above
  • Follow the directions given in the recipe after having substituted the ingredient in the correct ratio

Recipe Video

Jess Smith