People variously recommend adding small amounts of something to boost and deepen a dish's flavor, without the enhancer being noticed for its own profile. Like frying some tomato paste, a little anchovy, fish sauce, soy sauce, Worcestershire, brandy... but just a figurative drop.

I'm thinking olives too should fill that role. How do you best employ them that way? Is it common?

  • 2
    You might want to look into ‘olive relish’ or ‘olive tapenade’. They’re usually added towards the end of cooking, though. It’s never going to completely disappear into the background, though, as it has texture. (You could add a splash of juice from them, though)
    – Joe
    Nov 9 at 0:15
  • 3
    @joe if you get olives packed in oil instead of brine, the leftover oil works very well to add a little flavour to dishes (used sparingly)
    – Chris H
    Nov 9 at 6:50
  • I have some difficulty understanding your question, and had to remove some subquestions which are off topic for the site, such as a request for recipes. What do you mean by "explanations of any established way of doing it"? I have trouble picturing such an explanation.
    – rumtscho
    Nov 9 at 11:18
  • @rumtscho Since outcomes sometimes depend significantly on an ingredient's treatment, established ways to a given outcome can exist, and the particular treatment necessary would be something to note. Like perhaps crushing when fine mincing weren't fine enough. OTOH where a usage has not achieved technique status like that, recipes make for a fallback. I'm putting in a less convoluted formulation.
    – ariola
    Nov 9 at 12:40
  • @Joe, Your comment and Chris' together would make an answer I'd accept over moscafj's for specificity. Is relish added late because it would overbear or because it would diminish with cooking?
    – ariola
    Nov 11 at 16:57

2 Answers 2


Unlike the other ingredients that you mention, olives don’t break down to disappear.

Instead, they’re often added at the end of slow cooked dishes. In some cases they might be diced up into an ‘olive relish’ or ‘olive tapenade’, and then added as more of a condiment at the end.

If you wanted to get some of that olive flavor into your dish without it being so obvious, you could try using some of the liquid that the olives are packed in (brine or oil), but you may need to experiment with when to add it; long cooking might make it disappear too much.


All of the items you mention, including olives, add umami. They are high in glutamates. Every culture's cuisine has glutamate boosting ingredients. It really doesn't take much, and is often an ingredient or step in the process of creating a dish. They often come in different forms. If you want to experiment with olives, it would certainly depend on the flavor profile of the final dish. For stews or braises, you could add a few chopped or even whole olives...for roasted items, maybe whole olives...There is not really an established universal way to add these ingredients. As with any culinary experiment with ingredients, start small. It is easier to add than to remove.

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