Super Easy Marinated Olives

marinated olives with orange, garlic and fennel seeds

Today I find myself awaiting the arrival of a few dear friends, and for the first time in a long time, I feel very unprepared. You see, they’ve all gone paleo, and as a result, my usual tricks just won’t fly. I’ve stashed away the biscotti; eaten all of the cheeses; frozen all of the bread.

While my friends have assured me they are all on holiday-paleo hiatus, I can’t help but want to have some treats for them. We’re having chicken drumsticks for dinner — I’m pretty sure that’s what cavemen ate? — and I have some nuts to get us through the early dinner hours, so we certainly won’t starve. I also, without doing any research, made a batch of marinated olives, which I have since learned die-hard paleos don’t even eat. Oops. I hope my friends were being sincere about their paleo-hiatus statuses.

In any case, marinating olives is about as easy as it gets as far as sprucing up the hors d’oeuvres spread goes. Of course it’s totally unnecessary — olives on their own are delicious — but a little garlic and orange zest along with a few spices (crushed red pepper flakes and fennel seed) go a long way, and these flavor elements look so pretty in the serving dish as well. What’s more, you shouldn’t have to make yet another trip to the store to assemble this dish — it’s made with pantry staples.

Hosting a non-paleo party anytime soon? I have few ideas. Perhaps I’ll just save these olives for New Year’s?

marinade ingredients

marinade ingredients in pan

heated marinade

Marinated Olives with Orange Zest, Garlic and Fennel Seeds

Inspired by a recipe in Italy in Small Bites
Yield = 1 cup

1 orange
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 teaspoon fennel seed (optional)
crushed red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup assorted olives with pits

1. Remove the zest of the orange using a vegetable peeler trying as best as you are able to remove as little of the white pith as possible. Try to make some nice long strands. If you have really long strands, cut them into shorter (2- to 3-inches) strands. Working with one strand at a time, roll it up into a tight coil, then cut crosswise down to create long thin strips.

2. Slice the garlic thinly. Place it along with the orange strands, fennel seed, crushed red pepper flakes and olive oil into a small skillet. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then turn down to low and let simmer for two to three minutes. You do not want the garlic to brown at all, so keep an eye on the pan and remove it from the heat completely if necessary.

3. Place olives in a bowl. Pour marinade over top. Let sit for at least one hour (if possible) at room temperature before serving or storing. Bring olives to room temperature before serving.

tossing olives with marinade


  1. Christine says

    I eat Paleo, and I have no clue why “die-hard paleos” wouldn’t eat olives. Everything in the recipe meets the standards for even the strictest Paleo followers. Regardless, these look delicious AND lovely. I’ve got a jar of olives open that I’m not loving and wasn’t sure what to do- now I’ll be trying these this weekend!

    • says

      Christine — very reassuring to hear this. I read somewhere that because olives can’t be eaten directly from the tree, cavemen probably wouldn’t have eaten them. Glad to hear that you approve! Enjoy the olives and happy New Year!

  2. says

    These look delicious, Ali! Paleo? I just couldn’t do without flour. I mean, I COULD, but why? I’d rather exercise more :) Love the idea of marinating my own olives. Hope you all had a Merry Christmas!

  3. Siti says

    This olive recipe really looks lovely & I’d love to try making it but I am not very sure what I can eat it with as I am used to Asian food & do not have experience eating olives except on pizzas.
    Could u give me suggestions as I’d love to try out olives in my diet too (Gee, I just eat about anything ;))
    Thanks and Happy New Year.

    • says

      Siti — I would suggest finding a nice market — something like a small independent shop is ideal, but places like Wegmans and Whole Foods offer nice service — and just start sampling the olive selection to see what you like best. Picholine and Arbequina olives are my favorite, but I love kalamata and anything on the firmer side. Hope that helps. Happy 2013!

  4. says

    I hope that 2013 is rich in experiences, filled with love and happiness and of course great food Alexandra. Have a safe and happy New Year. Keep smiling it is contagious.

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