Substitute For Capers – Top 9 Caper-Like Suggestions

Some people try to find a milder ingredient to substitute for capers due to their strong flavor. Or, in some other cases, they simply ran out of this ingredient in the kitchen while cooking.

Yet, finding food ingredients that mimic the texture and taste of these edible plants is challenging. As a result, this article has compiled 9 capers alternatives. Continue reading to find out how to select the best one for you.

What Are Capers?

What Are Capers

Capers are the unripened, immature of Capparis Espinosa’s flower bush. It has two common types: caper brine and caper pickles. They also vary in size from being as small as peas to as big as grapes. 

This plant is an indispensable condiment in many recipes, from Asian cuisine to stable Italian food, especially Spaghetti alla puttanesca.

They are well-known for their peculiar flavor, sweet mixed with sour, salty yet a little bit of bitter. Caper preservation is also critical. That’s why it’s hard to find ingredients that perfectly imitate their taste. 

Substitute For Capers – Top 9 Easily Available Ideas

1. Olives (Green And Black Olives)

Olives (Green And Black Olives)
Olives (Green And Black Olives)

A must-mentioned substitute is green olives. Their flavor has comparable bitter, salty taste characteristics. Furthermore, these two also have the same color.

Use green olives in the 1:1 ratio with the caper amount. Chopped olives can work well as a substitute for capers in salad and chicken piccata.

Yet, if green olives are not available, the black ones are also excellent. This is because black olives are only plucked after staying on trees for a time.

It makes this fruit softer and less intensely flavored. Thus, they will offer a far less powerful rush of bitter and salty flavor to your food.

If you’re not slicing these olives, use the 1:2 ratio. You might buy them from the delicatessen for a product with higher quality and more incredible flavor.

2. Anchovies


It’s maybe strange while anchovies appear in this list. Although the anchovy and caper flavors are diametrically opposed, you can still use anchovies to boost the dish taste with a bit more saltiness and umami.

However, do not overuse it, or you might end up with a fishy dish.

You can try different ratios, yet one or two anchovies are perfect. This is an alternative to add a salty touch to the slow-cooked dish, such as sauces and casserole.

3. Thyme

tips when using thyme in cooking

If you are looking for a substitute in the medicinal herbs and fungi list, thyme can be a good one. Thyme is a Mediterranean herb.

Many botany studies have shown that thyme effectively treats diarrhea, arthritis, sore throat, and stomach aches effectively.

Thyme also usually pops up in cuisine as a garnishing herb. It has a similar taste to chopped capers. Thus, you can add it to a savory dish for a caper-like flavor.

Thyme takes time for its taste to be released into your dish; so, add it at the start of cooking.

Furthermore, due to needing time, thyme is best used in foods that need slow cooking, such as casseroles and stew.

4. Nasturtium Seeds

Nasturtium Seeds
Nasturtium Seeds

Nasturtium is an edible plant. You can eat both its leaves and the whole flower. It carries a peppery note that may significantly improve the taste of pasta or salad. When pickled, its seeds can be used in place of the caper.

You can make pickled nasturtium seeds at home with these quick steps:

  • Combine about 500ml vinegar, a tablespoon of dill seeds,  some onion slices, garlic, and peppercorns.
  • Put nasturtium seeds into the mixture.
  • Pickle it for about one week.

5. Pickles

Main Reasons Why Do Claussen Pickles Have To Be Refrigerated

Pickles are a must-mentioned choice if you are still asking, “what is a substitute for capers?“. Dill pickles are an excellent substitute for capers in tartar sauce.

It also works well with antipasto and pasta salads. Dill pickles carry a crisp texture and a bittersweet tone.

Their texture is different, and they may be less intense than capers. Still, they are an excellent capers replacement, especially for individuals who cannot bear the caper’s strong flavor.

Pickles can also serve as a caper brine substitute. To alternate, you may chop pickles into tiny cubes. Then, replace with the ratio of 1:1.

6. Caperberries


Capers and caperberries are both derived from the caper shrub. However, while the former is the bush’s unopened buds, caperberries are the bush’s fruit.

Although these two have comparable flavor undertones, caperberries have a milder taste. You can use a few extra caperberries as a capers substitute for getting the desired flavor. If you want a more intense kick, add more.

7. Green Peppercorns

Green Peppercorns
Green Peppercorns

Green peppercorns can be known as the unripe black peppercorns version. However, thanks to an early harvest, you don’t have to stand the excessive spiciness of black peppercorns.

Their appearances are pretty similar, while the difference between green peppercorns in brine vs capers is that the former doesn’t contain bitterness.

So for those who need the same visual impact for their dishes, green peppercorns can be an ideal substitution for capers. 

You may buy a jar at the local grocery or pickle it at home to serve as a sub for capers. If you can’t get your hand on it, other peppercorns substitutes can also do the trick.

8. Artichoke Hearts

Artichoke Hearts
Artichoke Hearts

The Artichoke heart is one of the popular medicinal plants, which is helpful in the treatment of indigestion, fats in the blood, or high blood pressure. European cuisine has many ways to cook Artichoke hearts: stew, salads, braise.

Depending on your favorite, you can use pickled artichoke hearts or marinated versions. Yet, remember to drain and chop them into the desired size before utilizing them in place of capers in your recipes.

9. Lemon


Lemon is a widespread ingredient worldwide, especially for vegan cuisine needing an intense flavor. Thus, if these ingredients above are not available and you still wonder “what to use in place of capers”, lemon is recommended.

Lemon gives a similar acidity but a bit more pinch. Depending on your preferences, you may adjust the adding amount to avoid such a robust flavor. To have more bitterness, add a little grounded black pepper.

How To Choose A Caper Substitute

In agriculture, the plants above are all popular, and the plant crops are easy to follow. Thus, there is definitely one of them to use in case of running out of capers in your kitchen. The section below will give you some tips for selecting an appropriate one.

Substitute Purpose

First, you should determine the substitute role in the dish to choose a suitable substitute. Here are some examples and suggestions:

  • Have a caper-like flavor and texture: olives, thyme, pickles.
  • Adjust to a milder flavor: caperberries, green peppercorns.
  • Garnish your dish: green olives, green peppercorns.

Cooking Methods

You should also consider the cooking method. Again, since these substitutes are different, they will have different cooking methods to bring effective caper-like effects to your dish.

For example, if your dish is slow-cooking, you might pick anchovies, thyme, or artichoke hearts. Yet, if you prepare salads, olives or nasturtium seeds are better.


It is challenging to get one substance to taste exactly like another, especially with the caper. However, in some unavoidable cases, you will wonder, “what can I use instead of capers?”. This article has introduced 9 alternatives for your recipes.

Yet, olives are the best substitute for capers. There are not many differences between capers vs olives in taste and appearance.

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