Capers can add a delicious taste in a variety of recipes and they have a unique flavor that might be hard to substitute.
However, if you don’t have these pickled berries, there are still potential alternatives you can use so you can still prepare your favorite recipe.
Common substitutes for capers include green olives, kalamata olives, lemon, pickles, lime, green peppercorns, thyme, artichoke hearts, anchovies, nasturtium seeds, vinegar, red or white wine.
Let’s learn more about each substitute below!
Best Substitutes for Capers
Use the following substitutes for capers according to the recipe you make. It will help you significantly to taste the replacement you want to use to know how much of it you can use and if you like its flavor too.
1. Green olives
One of the best substitutes for capers is green olives.
You will have to chop them in the sizes you want so that they can fit your recipe because green olives can be bigger in size than capers. Green olives are fairly salty, oily, and acidic which makes them taste similar to capers.
When you use green olives, you will have to use one green olive instead of two capers. No one will be able to tell easily that you replaced capers with green olives and your recipe will still have a delicious and savory taste to it.
2. Kalamata olives
Another great substitute for capers is the famous Kalamata olives.
Just like green olives, Kalamata olives will have an acidic, oily, and savory flavor. Meaning, you will definitely like in your recipes.
Keep in mind that these olives are darker in color and they will alter the color of your food as well. Chop them in the size that you want to use according to your recipe.
As for the ratio, it depends on the size of the olives that you use. Two capers for one olive is still the thumb rule here as well.
This might come as a surprise but you can also use lemon to replace capers. You will use lemon juice but you can also add a bit of pulp if you want some texture.
Lemon provides the acidity of capers with a bit more of a pinch but you will be able to use less of it if you don’t want such a stronger taste. Meaning, you will have to use your personal preference as a guide when you replace capers with lemon.
Pickles can save the day if your recipe requires capers but you don’t have them at hand. You can use all kinds of pickled veggies according to your preferences and the texture you want in your food.
Pickles tend to be crunchier than capers so the texture of your food will be a bit different. You will also have to chop the pickles in the size that you prefer for your recipe. In terms of ratio, use as many pickles as you want as not all of them have the same level of acidity.
You can use lime juice in the same way you use lemon juice. However, the taste of lime is different from the taste of lemon and more bitter compared to capers.
You can also use the pulp of lime, depending on the recipe but keep the seeds out of your meal. Use as much lime juice as you like to get the acidity of capers or similar to that.
6. Green peppercorns
If you have green peppercorns, you will be glad to know that you can use them instead of capers as well. Green peppercorns are not as spicy as black peppercorns and they have a milder flavor, making them a great substitute for capers.
They also look similar and they can maintain the aesthetic of your final dish too. You can use the same amount of green peppercorns as you would use capers. They will work amazingly for all recipes that call for capers.
Thyme can substitute capers successfully as well.
This replacement will give your food a more pungent taste, so you do not want to overdo it. However, thyme also resemblances capers in its lemony flavor and bitterness.
If you use dried thyme you want to use even less of it than if you used fresh thyme as the flavor is much more intense. You can use thyme instead of capers, this will work best in cooked dishes where capers are not the main ingredient.
8. Artichoke hearts
If you can find artichoke hearts, you will be glad to know that they will work as a substitute for capers in many dishes. Not all stores have artichoke hearts but you might be able to find them in the big supermarkets easier.
You can use artichoke hearts pickled or marinated, depending on how you are able to find them. Just drain and cut them in the appropriate size before using them instead of capers in your dishes.
We know that anchovies and capers are very different. However, you will be impressed by how well anchovies can replace capers in almost all your dishes.
The only aspect you have to keep in mind when it comes to using this thin fish is that you will use significantly less of it compared to capers. Anchovies are oily, very salty, and with an intense fish flavor.
Use anchovies according to your taste in different foods like cooked dishes or sauces and salads. Also, keep in mind that anchovies will melt when you cook them so they will not offer your food the texture that capers do.
10. Nasturtium seeds
Nasturtium seeds can save you when you are preparing a recipe that calls for capers. However, this alternative is even rarer to find so you might not have access to it at grocery stores.
These peppery seeds come in a pickled form and you can use them straight from the jar or the can. Use these seeds instead of capers in all types of dishes and maintain the same amount.
Vinegar can save your recipe once again if you are lacking capers.
However, be ready to obtain a lot more acidity if you use vinegar instead of capers and no lemony flavor to it. You can use vinegar just as you would use lemon or lime juice, as long as you consider that there will be differences in terms of flavor.
Vinegar can provide the bitter and acidic taste in all types of dishes from cooked ones to salads.
12. Red or white wine
If you don’t have any of the substitutes in this guide handy, you can try using red or white wine to your recipe, instead of capers. Wine will not offer you the same flavor as capers but it will give your dish a fruity and acidic taste that you will like.
Note that wine has alcohol and you don’t want to use it in dishes served to kids or people who don’t want to eat alcoholic foods.
Substitute for Capers in Pasta
Pasta with capers is absolutely delicious and one of the most popular dishes in Italy. However, if you don’t have capers, you can always use anchovies instead.
You can mix anchovies with all types of sauces that you want to make for your pasta being it white sauce based on sour cream or yogurt or red sauce based on tomato paste. You can also use green olives or kalamata olives instead of capers in all types of pasta dishes.
Use all these substitutes according to your preferences and you will actually love the results. You can keep cooking your pasta dish the same way even if you use a substitute for capers.
Substitute for Capers in Piccata
Piccata is an Italian dish that is made of a type of meat such as chicken or beef and served with a specific sauce. This sauce is traditionally made of lemon, capers, and butter.
Now, what if you don’t have capers to make this sauce, however, you still want to enjoy a piccata? Your best capers replacement in this case is green olives.
Just make sure you don’t get the filled green olives as you will have to chop them anyway. Green olives are bigger than capers so you will need to use one olive for two capers. Chop them in the size that you want and you will get a great piccata sauce along with the other ingredients.
Substitute for Capers in Tartar Sauce
If you love tartar sauce, which is traditionally made with capers, you will be happy to know that you can make it even if you are missing this important ingredient.
You can use dill pickles instead of capers anytime you want a tasty and rich in flavor tartar sauce. You can make your sauce as you usually would by replacing capers with pickles.
Make sure you cut the pickles inadequate sizes in order to be able to use them in the sauce.
Can You Leave Capers Out of a Recipe?
Leaving capers out of your recipe because you don’t have them in your kitchen should be your last resort. If you are lacking this ingredient, make sure you replace it with one of the substitutes in this guide.
Capers add a different flavor to food, being it a cooked dish, a sauce, a salad, or a topping on pasta. They have a strong taste so your meal will not taste the same without them.
However, you can always replace capers with one of the substitutes above to obtain a taste that is as close as possible to the original flavor.
What is the Flavor of a Caper?
The flavor of capers is quite interesting and impossible to replicate.
You will find them salty and saur as well as acidic. They have a mild herbal taste that adds personality to any type of dish you use them in. But to obtain this taste, capers are pickled in a vinegar brine or in salt.
If you want to eat raw capers, expect a very bitter taste that doesn’t have much in common with the capers you find in vinegar brines.
Capers can add a special flavor to any dish you add them on. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use an alternative to them.
Try out any of the substitutes in this guide and you will not regret it. They keep a similar taste to your dish and some of them offer you even a similar texture to it.