Marinated Olives and Feta

Marinated olives and feta are staples in Mediterranean cuisine, celebrated for their bold flavors and versatility. As an appetizer or snack, they bring a taste of the sunny Mediterranean to your table.

The combination of briny olives and creamy, tangy feta cheese creates a perfect harmony that awakens the palate. This duo is often served as a simple yet sophisticated beginning to a meal or as a part of a larger mezze platter.

A bowl of marinated olives and feta on a rustic wooden table

When you marinate olives, you enhance their natural flavors with a blend of herbs, spices, and citrus zest.

Infusing feta cheese in a mix of olive oil and aromatic seasonings not only preserves it but also imparts depth and richness to the cheese.

The beauty of these dishes lies in their simplicity and the ease with which you can prepare them.

With just a few minutes and a selection of ingredients, you can create a dish that’s both traditional and personal.

Whether you’re using kalamata, castelvetrano, or your preferred variety of olives, the key is to select good quality ingredients.

Choose a block of authentic feta cheese that comes in brine for maximum flavor and texture, and consider extra virgin olive oil as your base for marination.

These elements come together to create a snack that is not only delicious but reflects the healthful eating style of the Mediterranean diet.

Historical Background

In this section, you’ll uncover the roots of marinated olives and the rich past of feta cheese, both anchored in the warm climates of the Mediterranean.

Origins of Marinated Olives

Olives have been an integral part of Mediterranean cuisine for thousands of years.

The practice of marinating olives likely began as a preservation technique in the region, with evidence dating back to ancient civilizations such as the Minoans on Crete.

These marinated olives were at first a practical way to extend shelf life and enhance flavor with local herbs and spices.

Feta Cheese History

The origins of feta cheese are deeply rooted in Greek tradition, stretching back to the 8th century B.C.

References to cheese made from sheep’s milk can be found in Homer’s Odyssey. The term “feta,” however, wasn’t officially recorded until much later, during the 17th century, and it became tightly regulated as a Greek product.

Packed in brine, feta’s tangy flavor and crumbly texture have made it a staple in Greek cuisine and a beloved ingredient worldwide.

Health Benefits

Marinated olives and feta cheese offer a rich blend of nutrients beneficial for your health, fitting well within the constituent elements of the Mediterranean diet, a pattern of eating linked to numerous health advantages.

Nutritional Values

Olives, known for being high in vitamin E and antioxidants, are low in calories but high in fiber, which is essential for digestive health.

They contain monounsaturated fats, specifically oleic acid, which is linked to improved heart health. Olives also offer some calcium and iron.

Feta cheese provides a moderate amount of protein and calcium, important for bone health. However, it is higher in saturated fat and sodium, so moderation is key.

Here is a concise nutritional profile per typical serving:

NutrientAmount (olives, 30g)Amount (feta, 28g)
Saturated Fat0.4g5g
Vitamin AVariesVaries
Calcium2-3% of DV14% of DV
Iron2% of DV0-1% of DV

(DV = Daily Value)

Mediterranean Diet Benefits

When you include marinated olives and feta cheese as part of your Mediterranean diet, you embrace a pattern of eating that emphasizes healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables.

The diet’s benefits are supported by studies showing reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases and overall mortality.

Incorporating olives and feta into your diet contributes to these protective effects, provided the rest of your eating pattern is balanced and varied, including richly colored vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and additional healthy fats from sources like olive oil and nuts.

The emphasis is on high nutrient intake, with a particular focus on heart-healthy unsaturated fats and fiber, while limiting refined grains, sugars, and unhealthy fats.

Choosing Ingredients

The success of marinated olives and feta begins with selecting high-quality ingredients. Your dish will stand out if you choose the right types of olives and feta cheese and complement them with the finest oils and seasonings.

Selecting Quality Olives

When choosing olives for marination, look for firmness, color, and size.

Two popular varieties are:

  • Castelvetrano: Bright green, buttery, and slightly sweet.
  • Kalamata: Deep purple, rich, and fruity.

Consider the brine as well, as this affects the olives’ flavor profile.

Types of Feta Cheese

Feta can vary in texture and taste, so opt for a cheese that suits your preference:

  • Traditional Greek Feta: Rich and tangy with a crumbly texture.
  • Sheep’s Milk Feta: Creamy and less salty, often found in fine food stores.

Always buy your feta in blocks rather than crumbled, as it maintains better texture and flavor.

Olive Oil and Seasonings

To enhance your dish, use extra virgin olive oil; it’s less processed, providing a pure taste.

For seasonings, consider the following:

  • Lemon: Fresh zest or peel for a bright accent.
  • Garlic: Freshly minced for a sharp bite.
  • Herbs: Dried oregano or fresh herbs like parsley for depth.
  • Heat: Red pepper flakes to introduce a subtle kick.

Marinating Techniques

Marinating olives and feta cheese transforms simple ingredients into a flavorful delicacy.

The key is to infuse your olives and cheese with a blend of oils and seasonings, allowing enough time to absorb the flavors fully.

Infusing Flavors

To begin, you want to choose a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil as the base for your marinade; it serves as the carrier for other flavors.

Add freshly squeezed lemon juice for acidity and zest, while garlic and red pepper flakes introduce a pungent kick and heat.

For a fragrant touch, incorporate fresh herbs such as rosemary and thyme.

Layer these ingredients with your olives and feta cheese to ensure even flavor distribution.

Here’s a simple breakdown of the infusing process:

  1. Select your olives and feta cheese.
  2. Prepare your marinade with a generous amount of extra-virgin olive oil.
  3. Mix in your aromatic components: minced garlic, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes.
  4. Gently fold in whole sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme.

Marinating Duration

The infusion of rich flavors into your marinated olives and feta cheese is a gradual process. For the best results, allow your mixture to marinate for at least 20 minutes before serving.

However, for a deeper and more complex flavor profile, you might consider an extended marinating time of several hours or even overnight.

Here’s a quick reference on marinating times:

  • Minimum Marination: 20 minutes
  • Better Flavor Development: 2-4 hours
  • Optimal Flavor Absorption: Overnight

Remember to stir the mixture occasionally to keep the flavors melding together. Also, store your marinating dish in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage. When you’re ready to serve, bring the marinated olives and feta to room temperature to best enjoy their fully developed flavors.

Serving Suggestions

A rustic wooden board with a variety of marinated olives and chunks of feta cheese, garnished with fresh herbs and drizzled with olive oil

Marinated olives and feta elevate your appetizer spread with their blend of tangy, savory flavors and are versatile enough to pair with a variety of dishes. Use them to add a Mediterranean touch to any gathering.

Pairing with Dishes

  • Appetizers: Marinated olives and feta can stand alone as a vibrant and flavorful appetizer. Consider pairing them with crusty bread for an easy snack that your party guests will enjoy.
  • Salads: Toss marinated olives and a few cubes of feta into your salad. They can easily replace or enhance your usual salad dressing with their seasoned oil.
  • Main Courses: Complement the strong taste of grilled fish or chicken with a side of marinated olives and feta. Alternatively, mix them into a warm skillet dish for a hearty meal.

Presentation Tips

  • Cheese Boards: Create a visually appealing cheese board by displaying a mix of olive varieties like Kalamata and Castelvetrano, ensuring you include both pitted and stuffed olives. Accent with capers and sun-dried tomatoes for more flavor and color.
  • Baked Feta: A block of feta baked until soft, drizzled with the marinade from your olives, and served warm makes a compelling centerpiece for your appetizer table. Surround it with crusty bread for dipping.
  • Dips: Puree marinated feta with some of its own olive oil to create a creamy whipped feta dip. Serve it alongside your marinated olives or use it as a spread for a flavor-packed appetizer.

Recipes and Variations

In this section, you’ll find the core elements to prepare Classic Marinated Olives and Feta, as well as ways to infuse your dish with Creative Twists. Use high-quality ingredients for the best results, and don’t be afraid to adjust the flavors to your liking.

Classic Marinated Olives and Feta

To begin your classic marinated olives and feta recipe, you’ll need:

  • Olives: Castelvetrano or Cerignola, 2 cups, preferably unpitted
  • Feta Cheese: 8 ounces of high-quality feta in brine; block form is recommended
  • Garlic Cloves: 3, peeled
  • Lemon: 1 for zest and juice
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: ¼ cup
  • Red Pepper Flakes: ½ teaspoon for a hint of spice
  • Thyme: 4-5 sprigs for an aromatic touch


  1. In a small skillet over medium-low heat, combine olive oil, whole garlic cloves, and thyme. Heat until garlic is fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add olives and red pepper flakes, warming through for another 3 minutes to infuse the flavors.
  3. Remove from heat, add lemon zest, and allow to cool.
  4. Crumble feta into a shallow serving dish, pour the marinated olives and oil over the top, and gently mix.

Creative Twists

To add a personal touch or cater to different tastes, try experimenting with these ingredients and techniques:

  • Citrus Variations: Replace lemon zest with orange or lime for a different citrus note.
  • Herbs: Incorporate rosemary, oregano, or basil alongside thyme for layered herbal flavors.
  • Spices: Swap chili flakes with a teaspoon of smoked paprika for a smoky twist.
  • Serving Style: Instead of marinating, bake the feta with the olives and selected herbs at 400°F for about 20 minutes to create a warm, comforting appetizer.

Storing and Preservation

Olives and feta in glass jars, submerged in olive oil and herbs, sealed with lids, stored on wooden shelves in a cool, dark pantry

When looking to maintain the quality and flavor of marinated olives and feta, proper storage is crucial. Use these techniques to ensure freshness and extend shelf life.

Refrigeration Techniques

Marinated Olives:

  • Store your marinated olives in the refrigerator inside an airtight container.
  • Opt for glass jars as they do not absorb odors and are easy to clean.
  • Ensure the olives are fully submerged in olive oil to create a barrier against air.

Feta Cheese:

  • Refrigerate feta in a sealed container with a bit of brine or the marinade to keep it moist.
  • Avoid plastic containers as they can impart flavors to the cheese.

Long-term Storage

Marinated Feta:

  • For extended storage, keep marinated feta submerged in olive oil inside an airtight glass jar.
  • The olive oil may solidify; simply leave the jar at room temperature for an hour before use.

Purchasing Options

When selecting the components for marinated olives and feta, you’ll find a variety of choices at your local supermarket and the increasingly popular olive bars. Quality of ingredients is key, so opt for the best available options within your budget.

Supermarket Selection

At most supermarkets, you can easily find a range of feta cheese and olives. For feta, look for options sold in blocks submerged in brine as these tend to retain better texture and flavor. Your olive selection often includes varieties such as Kalamata, Castelvetrano, and Manzanilla.

  • Feta: Purchase in block form, preferably in brine.
  • Olives: Look for whole, pitted options.

Exploring Olive Bars

Olive bars allow you to handpick a custom mix of olives, providing an opportunity to explore different flavors and textures.

  • Kalamata: Dark purple, rich and fruity.
  • Castelvetrano: Bright green, mild and buttery.
  • Manzanilla: Small and green, slightly salty.

Culinary Techniques

Mastering the culinary techniques for preparing marinated olives and incorporating feta into dishes enhances the flavors and textures of your recipes, especially when creating snacks and appetizers.

Cooking with Marinated Olives

When cooking with marinated olives, the key is to season them correctly to complement their natural flavor profile.

Castelvetrano olives are mild and buttery, ideal for a subtle olive oil-based marinade. Meanwhile, Kalamata olives, with a more robust taste, pair well with zesty lemon and garlic.

  • Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  • Add your choice of aromatics, like garlic or lemon peel, and herbs such as thyme.
  • For a spicy kick, introduce a pinch of red pepper flakes.
  • Incorporate your olives, ensuring they’re coated and heated through without frying, to infuse the flavors.

Incorporating Feta into Dishes

Feta cheese adds a creamy, tangy element to a variety of dishes. You can crumble it over salads or bake it as a standalone snack.

For a cohesive taste experience:

  • Combine feta with the marinated olives for a satisfying snack.
  • Consider baking the feta in a dish. Spoon over some of the marinade from the olives for added complexity.
IngredientApplication in RecipeNotes
Castelvetrano OlivesServed whole in marinadesMild and buttery, suits subtle marinades
Kalamata OlivesServed sliced or wholeStronger flavor, great with garlic and citrus
Feta CheeseCrumbled or bakedProvides a creamy, tangy quality to dishes
Olive OilUsed in marinades and bakingEnsures richness and helps to carry flavors

By following these techniques, you ensure that snacks such as marinated olives and feta imbue your dishes with Mediterranean flair.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, you will find concise answers to some common questions regarding marinating olives and feta, ensuring you get the most flavor and enjoyment from your appetizer.

How can I prepare a simple marinated olives and feta dish?

To prepare a simple marinated olives and feta dish, combine olives with good quality feta cheese in a bowl.

Add olive oil, citrus zest, and herbs like thyme or rosemary. Then, let the mixture marinate for a few hours for flavors to develop.

What are some tips for making olives and feta appetizers?

For the best olives and feta appetizers, use a variety of olives for contrast and depth of flavor.

Add extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs, and spices like red pepper flakes for a kick. Serve with crusty bread to soak up the marinade.

Is a combination of olives and feta cheese considered a healthy snack?

Yes, a combination of olives and feta cheese is considered a healthy snack.

Olives are rich in healthy fats and antioxidants, while feta provides a good amount of calcium and protein. However, be mindful of portion sizes due to the high fat content.

Which cheeses pair well with olives besides feta?

Besides feta, cheeses that pair well with olives include Manchego, Pecorino Romano, and Havarti.

These cheeses complement the salty flavor profile of olives and can be used in a marinade or served alongside.

What is the shelf-life of feta cheese when stored in olive oil?

When stored properly in olive oil, feta cheese can last up to a month in the refrigerator.

Ensure the cheese is fully submerged in oil and stored in an airtight container to maintain freshness and prevent spoilage.

What is the best way to marinate olives similar to famous chefs like Jamie Oliver?

To marinate olives like famous chefs, use high-quality olives and mix them with ingredients such as minced garlic, lemon zest, fresh herbs, and chili flakes.

Let them sit in the mixture for several hours, occasionally stirring to enhance the flavors.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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