Warm Olives

This is barely a recipe, but warming your olives is a game changer when it comes to serving this easiest of appetizers. Just a couple of extra ingredients and a little heat takes olives to the next level.

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Looking straight down into a non-stick skillet with olives, orange peel and fresh thyme.

Why Warm Olives?

If you’re like most people, you probably take olives out of the fridge, pop them into a bowl and serve them. However, if you take 5 minutes to warm the olives, you’ll end up with something so tasty, satisfying and comforting that you’ll never serve cold olives again. Warming the olives is a game changer!

A bowl of olives, an orange, some fresh thyme, a bottle of olive oil and a channel knife on a counter.

What Flavors Can You Add to Warm Olives?

You can really add so many different flavors to your warm olives. I always choose some citrus zest – orange or lemon – and some fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano), but you could add a crushed clove of garlic if you like, slices of hot chili pepper or chili pepper flakes, capers or any variety of dried herbs (think fennel seed, anise, coriander seed). Olives pair so nicely with so many different flavors. 

Hands using a channel knife to cut peel from an orange over a skillet with olives in it and thyme beside it. A gadget set in the background.

How to Make Pretty Peels of Orange

When I add either orange or lemon zest to the olives, I want it to look pretty so I use a channel knife. Channel knives take off one long strip of citrus peel and are often found on traditional zesters. I think they are so handy, I included one in my 8 piece gadget set. (you can learn more about that here)

A skillet with olives, orange peel, fresh thyme on a wooden counter top with a blue and grey striped kitchen towel.

What Olives to Use

The end result of this dish depends entirely on the quality of your main ingredient – the olives. I recommend olives that are selected from an olive bar in a grocery store. Ideally, it should be an olive bar that has a frequent turnover and the olives should still have seeds in them. When these olives are heated, they swell a little and become so plump and tender. It changes the whole eating experience.

A ceramic dish of warm olives with a dish of toothpicks and a cocktail nearby.

How Long To Warm Olives

Olives don’t take long to warm – about 4 to 5 minutes. Just swirl them in a pan with a little extra olive oil, the flavors you’ve chosen and then serve warm with toothpicks. Don’t forget to put out a bowl for used toothpicks and olive pits. It’s all part of the game… the game that has been changed!

Warm Olives

  • Cook Time: 5 m
  • Total Time: 5 m
  • Servings:
    to 10 people


  • 1 pint of fresh olives
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 orange
  • 1 – 2 sprigs rosemary
  • toothpicks


  1. Place the olives and olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Swirl around for several minutes, until the olives are warmed through and puffed up a little.
  2. Use a channel knife or chef's knife to cut long strips of orange peel and add that to the pan, along with the sprigs of rosemary. Continue to swirl the olives over low heat for a few more minutes. You can hold the olives warm on the lowest setting at this point.
  3. When ready to serve, transfer the olives to a serving bowl and place some toothpicks near by.
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Comments (4)Post a Reply

  1. Question! The recipe says “fresh olives” – which with anything else I’d assume meant raw/uncured/uncooked. But those look like ordinary cured olives … and nothing here seems to be the sort of thing that would replace curing, and eliminate the inedible bitterness of raw olives.

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