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Photo: Annabelle Breakey

These salty bites pack a heavy flavor punch. 

Briana Riddock
December 11, 2017

If you’ve ever made chicken piccata, you can likely relate to having a half-full jar of capers lingering in your fridge, seemingly without purpose. However, with their signature briny flavor, these small, olive-like spheres are the perfect ingredient to bring a new life to many of your favorite dishes.Capers are the unopened, immature flower buds of the caper bush, Capparis spinosa. When the buds are left on the plant to bloom, they turn into flowers, followed by the caper berry fruit. The berry is much larger (about the size of an olive) and, like the bud, it is also brined and pickled. 

The mighty caper bud has been featured in Mediterranean dishes for centuries, and the best capers are said to come from Pantelleria, a tiny island off the coast of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea where the plant roams wildy all over the island. Capers are not only salty, but they also add acidity to any dish. They are satisfying to eat straight out the jar like pickles, but if you want to incorporate them more into your daily meals and entertaining menus, here are a few excellent ways to utilize capers.  

Salads - Throw a handful of capers into leafy greens or grain bowls. They add texture, and a pop of bright and briny flavor. They’re also great to incorporate into salad dressing; if you’re not a fan of anchovies in a Caesar salad, they are a great alternative to provide a comparable salty flavor. 

Soups - Simple creamy soups made from your favorite vegetables are certainly tasty as is, but adding capers to the pot provides that little something extra that will have friends asking for your recipe. Capers would be delicious in tomato, onion, or butternut squash soup.  

Eggs - When you throw a gathering or dinner party at home with deviled eggs on the menu, top them with a few capers in place of paprika for the finishing touch. You can also fold them into omelettes, fluffy scrambled eggs, or frittatas.        

Oysters - Top freshly opened oysters with a few capers for a quick and easy topper or mix them into your mignonette sauce. 

Salmon - Whether you prefer lox, gravlax, or smoked salmon, serve your deli-style salmon with a bowl of capers, slices of red onions, and a fresh-out-the-oven baguette or bagles. Even if you prefer your salmon warm, capers are a delightful complement to salmon that’s been poached with lemons, baked in the oven, pan-seared on the stove, or lightly fried as salmon patties/croquettes.     

WATCH: How to Make Chicken Piccata with Capers


Salsa/ Nachos - Add a bit of distinct oomph to your chip-and-dip spreads by stirring capers into salsa verde, mango salsa, or Pico de Gallo. They are also perfect to sprinkle over a sheet pan of nachos or a skillet of fajitas for a casual game night meal.  

Canned/Jarred Fish - Assemble a quick meal on the fly with your favorite preserved fish, such as sardines, anchovies, or tuna, and season with a squeeze of lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, capers, and a drizzle of olive oil. This can be used as a spread on crackers or tossed into a pan of pasta.      

Herby Condiments - Any fresh condiment that utilizes green herbs such as parsley, dill, oregano, mint, thyme, or basil can benefit from the salinity of capers. Think along the lines of bright, herbaceous mixtures like gremolata or chimichurri.  

Sandwiches and Wraps - Whatever carby vehicle you prefer for your deli meats, cheeses, and other fillings, it’s a real pro move to go ahead and tuck a few capers in the middle of your sandwich or wrap to add a burst of acidity without using a splash of pungent vinegar.    

Pasta - Virtually any pasta dish is game to be enhanced with capers. These little buds compliment the natural barely sweet umami flavor in tomato sauces and can do wonders to pump up a basic white cream sauce. Traditionally, puttanesca already calls for capers in most recipes, so that’s a perfect caper-pasta scenario to start with if you’re feeling unsure. 

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