I tried some black olive on the pizza from a USA style pizza shop and it taste really bad. Given that it is praised as a really good stuff I am wondering if it is a matter of taste or the black olive also have some grading.

What should a good black olive taste like?

  • 1
    I'm not sure many people like their first olive. Just try them at every opportunity and with some degree of certainty I can say one day you'll just start loving them.
    – vwiggins
    Oct 9, 2012 at 7:05
  • 1
    'good' black olive is subjective -- there are the people who love the salt packed ones, which I think are completely foul. Of course, those don't tend to be used on pizza. Black olives in general don't tend to have the fruity notes that you may find in green olives. (crap ... I think I've eaten too many olives)
    – Joe
    Oct 10, 2012 at 13:51

3 Answers 3


Olives are naturally bitter and often fermented in brine to give a salty flavour - so they should taste bitter and salty.

American black ("California") olives are not fermented, which is why they taste milder. If you've never had European (fermented) olives then you'll notice a bit of a kick. It may be that you've never had non-fermented olives and the flavour was just new to you. Olives are an acquired taste.

Also, given that olives are either preserved in brine or fermented they're not likely to go bad for many years. They should keep at least a year, unrefigerated.

Read more about the fermenting process here.

  • Which are the unfermented ones - American or European? Oct 9, 2012 at 14:01
  • The OP asked about US style pizza which, assuming it was like the widespread average American pizza, means it was the mild kind.
    – Cascabel
    Oct 10, 2012 at 0:08
  • @PeterTaylor American olives are NOT fermented and more mild. Non-American olives are usually fermented and have a stronger flavour. Both are commonly pickled in brine.
    – Coomie
    Oct 10, 2012 at 2:22
  • So is "European (non-fermented)" supposed to say "European (fermented)"? Oct 10, 2012 at 7:12
  • @PeterTaylor Yes, sorry. I've editted the post
    – Coomie
    Oct 10, 2012 at 7:56

Some black olives are not black olives, meaning they are not ripe, but instead green olives that have been made black through a certain treatment with lye and ferrous gluconate. The former for ripening them and the latter for fixing the color. If you compare the two, you'll notice quite a difference in colour and taste.

Too black olives

Black (ripe) olives does not look like this ...

Ripe olives

But rather like this. Notice how the colour is more towards a brown or dark burgundy and also varies between olives.

These olives are also not pitted, and you will find that pitted olives often will have lower overall quality (not being real black olives e.g.) and having a slight aftertaste of cardboard.

In short: Yes. At least here in Sweden it is a lot easier to find bad olives than good ones.

  • Even in Spain, one of the biggest olive producers in the world, it's easier to find the 'mild' ones. Oct 13, 2012 at 7:09

I love both green and black olives. However they have very different tastes whether fresh or in brine. Green olives tend to have a much stronger taste than black olives. Green olives have an aquired taste and are bitter whereas the black ones barely have any taste but both are very good sources of both olive oil and fiber. I think the fresher the green olives are the stronger the taste. And when they are put in brine both green and black are milder and easier on the palate. I've never seen an olive go bad and never tasted on that was off. So to answer your question black olives should really taste very mildly bitter if fresh but milder again and salty if from a tin or jar. Also green olives are just black/purple olives picked before they ripen. So it's understandable the green ones will have a more bitter taste.

  • Literally fresh olives are normally considered completely unpalatable, so anything you can buy as olives ready to serve will be somewhat processed. Jan 9, 2017 at 9:45

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