Give olives the spotlight they deserve with this olive salad recipe, complete with buttery Castelvetrano olives, fresh herbs, bell peppers, and a sweet-tart pomegranate dressing. It’s ready in 10 minutes or less!

A close up of olive salad in a serving bowl.
Photo Credits: Suzy Karadsheh

Olives are rarely the star of a meal, but they ought to be—especially Castelvetrano olives, which are my favorite. Buttery and tender with a nice bite, I love them as a flavor-maker for Tapenade, Greek Sheet Pan Chicken, and Italian Potato Salad, just to name a few. 

But what if we gave them their chance to shine, dressing them whole with a few beloved Mediterranean pantry staples, like spicy Urfa biber and sweet-tangy Pomegranate molasses? 

The result is a totally unexpected, elegant salad that takes about 5 minutes to make. And while olive salad may have you thinking of Muffaletta sandwiches, you’ll want to eat this one all on its own: briny, lemony, bold but not too overpowering, and completely addictive. 

Table of Contents
  1. Olive Salad Ingredients and Substitutions 
    1. For the Salad
    2. For the Dressing
  2. Ingredient Spotlight
  3. How to Make Olive Salad 
  4. What to Serve with Olive Salad
  5. Beautifully Briny Recipes for Olive-Lovers
  6. Olive Salad with Lemon-Pomegranate Dressing Recipe
Ingredients for olive salad including castelvetrano olives, pomegranate molasses, urfa biber, paprika, cumin, olive oil, shallots, tomato, a bell pepper, parsley, mint, and walnuts.

Olive Salad Ingredients and Substitutions 

I wanted to give this olive salad a very strong Mediterranean flavor, so I used many go-to ingredients from my Mediterranean pantry that might not be essentials to you (yet!). Happily, there are easy substitutions if necessary. You’ll need:

For the Salad

  • Olives: I love Castelvetrano olives, which are nicely firm, buttery, and not too assertive. I would not recommend your standard canned black olives here, but another high-quality variety like Taggiasca could work, or use a mixture of different types of olives. 
  • Shallots are nicely mild and sweet, which goes well with the briny olives without overpowering. If you need to substitute, go for another mild allium variety like red onions or scallions. One small clove of finely grated garlic could also work. 
  • Tomato adds a welcome freshness. Go for a variety that’s rather firm when ripe, like Roma. 
  • Bell pepper adds a nice crunch and bright summery flavor. Yellow or orange work best, as they’re in between earthy and sweet.
  • Parsley and mint add a refreshing quality not to be missed! I would not substitute with dried herbs, but other tender herbs would work, like basil, cilantro, or dill. 
  • Walnuts add a lovely crunch, and complement the similar buttery flavor of the olives. Any nut you like works here, like pine nuts, almonds, or pistachios. 

For the Dressing

  • Pomegranate molasses and fresh lemon juice add a good hit of acidity and sweet-tart flavor. 
  • Extra virgin olive oil ties everything together. A high quality extra virgin variety is essential for a pleasant flavor. I love our smooth Italian Nocellara for a milder option, or our peppery Spanish Hojiblanca for a more robust approach. 
  • Urfa Biber adds an earthy, mildly sweet and spicy kick.
  • Sweet Spanish paprika adds a mild, sweet pepper flavor. Cumin adds a warming, earthy, and aromatic quality. You can stock up on both at our spice shop.
A close up of olive salad in a serving bowl.

Ingredient Spotlight

Pomegranate molasses is a sweet-tart syrup made by concentrating pomegranate juice. It’s a key ingredient in the dressing, as it adds body and a subtle sweetness that is balanced by the briny olives and citrus from the lemon juice. It’s what makes this olive salad so special. 

  • READ MORE: Our guide to Pomegranate Molasses, including how to make it from scratch and our favorite ways to use it.
  • TRY IT: If making it from scratch isn't your thing, we offer 100% natural Pomegranate Molasses from O-Florale in our shop. Use it in this olive salad recipe or to make Fesenjan, a Persian walnut chicken dish.
  • BEST SUBSTITUTE: This is not always the case, but Balsamic Glaze would be a good substitute in this recipe. 
A close up of olive salad in a mixing bowl.

How to Make Olive Salad 

There are only three steps to make this olive salad recipe. Feel free to taste as you go and play with the amounts for each of the flavor-makers.   

  • Make the dressing. In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses, the juice of 1 lemon, 1 teaspoon Urfa biber, ½ teaspoon paprika, and ½ teaspoon cumin. Whisk as you drizzle in enough oil to make a nicely emulsified dressing, about ¼ cup.The dressing for the olive salad in a mixing bowl. Next to this is a whisk, 2 juiced lemon halves, bottles of olive oil and pomegranate molasses, jars of paprika, cumin and urfa biber, and an bowl of lemons.
  • Make the salad. In the same bowl with the dressing, add 2 cups pitted Castelvetrano olives, 2 chopped shallots, 1 chopped tomato, 1 chopped bell pepper, and ½ cup each chopped parsley, mint, and walnuts. Mix well with a spoon. A close up of olive salad in a mixing bowl with a spoon. Next to this is a bottle of olive oil and 2 juiced lemon halves.
  • Enjoy! Transfer to a platter and serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. A close up of olive salad in a serving bowl. Next to this is a bowl of lemons, some crusty bread and three forks.

What to Serve with Olive Salad

Castelvetrano olives go particularly well with fish. For a light, summery meal that packs a flavor punch, serve with Greek-Style Roasted Branzino or Baked Trout with Lemon, Garlic, and Fresh Herbs

For a vegetarian feast, salty-creamy-tangy feta cheese is a great match for the olives. Serve with Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Lemony Whipped Feta and plenty of Pita Bread to go around.

Beautifully Briny Recipes for Olive-Lovers

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The 4 bottles of olive oil included in the signature bundle of olive oils from the Mediterranean Dish shop.
5 from 1 vote

Olive Salad with Lemon-Pomegranate Dressing

Suzy Karadsheh
A close up of olive salad in a serving bowl.
Let olives be the star of the show with this 10-minute recipe, which balances the buttery-briny nature of Castelvetrano olives with a zippy pomegranate dressing, summery fresh peppers, crunchy walnuts, and fresh herbs. Somewhere between a salad and a condiment, it's particularly talented at bringing simple baked fish and/or roasted vegetables to the next level.
Prep – 10 minutes
Total – 10 minutes
Cuisine:
American/Mediterranean
Serves – 6
Course:
Sides/Salad

Ingredients
  

For the Dressing

For the Salad

  • 2 cups pitted Castelvetrano olives
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup chopped fresh mint
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts

Instructions
 

  • Make the dressing. In a large serving bowl, combine the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, Urfa biber, paprika, and cumin. Whisk as you drizzle in enough oil to make a nicely emulsified dressing, about ¼ cup.
  • Make the salad. In the same bowl with the dressing, add the olives, shallots, tomato, bell pepper, parsley, mint, and walnuts. Mix well with a spoon.
  • Enjoy! Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Video

Notes

  • No salt? You can, of course, season the dressing with a small pinch of salt. But since olives are so briney on their own, I don’t think you’ll need it. 
  • If you buy olives with this pits: Turn this into a “smashed olive salad.” Hit the olives with the side of your knife, just like you’re smashing garlic. Then remove the pits and mix as usual.
  • Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams, and spices.

Nutrition

Calories: 181.4kcalCarbohydrates: 15.9gProtein: 3.1gFat: 13.5gSaturated Fat: 1.6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gSodium: 712.4mgPotassium: 263.6mgFiber: 4.1gSugar: 7.7gVitamin A: 1639.5IUVitamin C: 46.4mgCalcium: 62.7mgIron: 1.5mg
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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. Hi. What is the alternative for urfa biber? Nigella seeds? Thank you kindly. Terrific sounding recipe and cannot wait to make this.

    1. Hi Michelle, Devin here from the Mediterranean Dish team. Urfa Biber is a dried Turkish chili pepper–we carry it at our shop if you want to give it a try. The best substitute would be another dried chili pepper like Aleppo pepper or your standard red chili flakes. Keep in mind standard red chili flakes are a bit spicier, so you may want to start with less and add more to taste. Let us know how it goes!