If you’re a fan of Mediterranean cuisine, you’ve likely come across capers. These tiny, tangy buds pack a flavorful punch and are commonly used in sauces, salads, and pasta dishes. But what happens when you run out of capers or can’t find them at the grocery store? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with the 10 best substitutes for capers.
What Are Capers?
Capers are the unopened flower buds of a shrub called Capparis spinosa. They’re typically brined or pickled in vinegar or salt and have a distinctive tangy, salty flavor that’s similar to olives. Capers range in size from tiny nonpareil (the smallest) to larger capotes. The smaller the caper, the more intense the flavor.
Capers have been used in Mediterranean cuisine for centuries, especially in Italian, French, and Spanish cooking. They’re a popular ingredient in sauces like puttanesca and piccata, as well as in salads, pastas, and fish dishes.
Why Substitute Capers?
While capers are a delicious and versatile ingredient, there are a few reasons why you might need to substitute them:
Capers can be difficult to find in some areas or may not be available year-round. If you can’t find capers at your local grocery store or specialty food store, you’ll need to find a suitable substitute.
2. Dietary Restrictions
Some people may need to avoid capers due to dietary restrictions. For example, capers are high in sodium, which can be a concern for people with high blood pressure or heart disease. Capers are also not suitable for those following a low-histamine or low-FODMAP diet.
Capers can be expensive, especially if you’re cooking for a large group or need to use them frequently in your cooking. If you’re on a budget, you may need to find a more affordable substitute.
Best Substitutes For Capers
Here are 10 substitutes for capers that you can use in your cooking:
1. Green Olives
Green olives are a great substitute for capers, especially if you’re looking for a similar salty, briny flavor. Use pitted green olives that are brined or marinated in vinegar or salt. Roughly chop the olives and use them in sauces, salads, or as a garnish.
2. Pickled Nasturtium Buds
Nasturtium buds are the unopened flower buds of the nasturtium plant. They have a similar flavor to capers and can be pickled in vinegar or salt. Use pickled nasturtium buds as a substitute for capers in sauces or salads.
3. Pickled Green Peppercorns
Green peppercorns are the unripe berries of the black pepper plant. They have a mild, tangy flavor that’s similar to capers. Use pickled green peppercorns as a substitute for capers in sauces or marinades.
4. Pickled Green Beans
Pickled green beans have a similar salty and tangy flavor to capers, making them a great substitute in dishes like pasta salads or potato salads. You can also use them in sauces or as a garnish. Look for pickled green beans that are brined in vinegar or salt for the best flavor match.
If you’re looking for a substitute that’s similar in flavor to capers, but larger in size, try caperberries. Caperberries are the fruit of the caper bush and have a similar tangy, salty flavor to capers. They’re typically pickled in vinegar or salt and can be used whole or sliced in sauces, salads, or as a garnish.
6. Dill Pickles
Dill pickles have a similar briny flavor to capers and can be a great substitute in dishes like potato salad or tuna salad. Look for dill pickles that are made with vinegar and salt, rather than sugar or sweeteners, for the best flavor match.
7. Lemon Zest
If you’re looking for a substitute that’s less salty than capers, try using lemon zest. Lemon zest has a bright, citrusy flavor that can add a tangy, acidic note to dishes. Use lemon zest in sauces or as a garnish for fish dishes.
8. Preserved Lemons
Preserved lemons are a staple in Moroccan cuisine and have a unique, salty flavor that’s similar to capers. They’re made by curing lemons in salt and lemon juice for several weeks or months. Use preserved lemons in sauces or stews, or chop them up and use them as a garnish.
Anchovies are a classic Mediterranean ingredient that can add a salty, umami flavor to dishes. Use anchovies in sauces, salad dressings, or as a topping on pizza. You can also chop them up and use them as a substitute for capers in recipes that call for a salty, briny flavor.
10. Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Sun-dried tomatoes have a sweet, tangy flavor that can be a great substitute for capers in some dishes. Use them in pasta sauces, salads, or as a topping on pizza. Look for sun-dried tomatoes that are packed in oil for the best flavor match.
While capers are a delicious and versatile ingredient, there are plenty of substitutes you can use if you can’t find them or need to avoid them due to dietary restrictions. Green olives, pickled nasturtium buds, pickled green peppercorns, and pickled green beans are all great substitutes that have a similar flavor profile to capers. Caperberries, dill pickles, lemon zest, preserved lemons, anchovies, and sun-dried tomatoes are also worth trying as substitutes. Experiment with these substitutes to find the ones that work best for your favorite recipes.