Cheap Substitutes for Capers And How To Use Them

Cheap Substitutes for Capers And How To Use Them

Capers have a really unique and delicious flavor and they work in a variety of recipes so there is no surprise that they are such a popular ingredient!

That being said, there are still some who may not really like the taste of these pickled berries but would still like to try some recipes that contain them.

In that case, you might need to find a replacement for them that plays a similar role so you can still try out that delicious dish you’ve had on your list for the longest time!

Another reason why a substitute may be needed is if you simply do not have capers and are wondering what else works that you are more likely to already have in your pantry or fridge.

Thankfully, there are plenty of options out there, a lot of them much more common and easy to find.

But before we get into that, you might not even know whether you can tolerate the taste of capers or not or what they even are if you’re planning on trying a recipe calling for some for the first time.

Capers have been used as either flavor additives or to pickle foods for a very long time.

They are one the best when it comes to seasoning, but it makes sense that some may not be the biggest fast since they have such an intense and acidic taste.

As a result, people are often looking for ingredients that can successfully replace them.

Unfortunately, nothing can perfectly replicate the unique taste capers can give a dish but some come pretty close if you really can’t tolerate the piquant flavor.

Capers are actually the pickled flower buds of a Mediterranean shrub known by its scientific name as Capparis Spinosa.

Credit: Unsplash
Credit: Unsplash

They are usually preserved in salt and water brine but also in a mixture of brine and vinegar.

There are also some fancier options that involve capers being cured in salt.

As for the taste, they give a slightly sweet and vegetal taste and they are quite acidic, sour, tangy, bitter, and salty.

As mentioned before, they can be used in a variety of foods, from eggs to antipasti.

They are really able to add complexity to fish and chicken dishes of many kinds as well!

Salad dressings, veggies, pasta, and sauces are taken to the next level by this wonder ingredient too.

And the best part is that they can virtually last forever as long as they are kept in their brine so if you grab a jar from the store you don’t have to worry about using it all before it goes bad.

But if you know you don’t like capers or would rather not run to the store right now for whatever reason, here are some of the best substitutes you may have in your pantry already!

Green Olives

Green olives have an acidic, salty flavor, just like capers, which is why they are a great replacement!

Not to mention that there is quite a good chance you have a jar of green olives in your fridge already that you don’t really have many other uses for anyway.

When substituting capers for green olives in a recipe, use a 1:2 ratio and also chop your olives a little so the size is more similar for taste and texture’s sake.


Credit: Unsplash/Han Lahandoe
Credit: Unsplash/Han Lahandoe

Squeezing some lemon juice can make a huge difference for a lot of different meals.

It can really provide that acidity so specific to capers, taking your dish to the next level.

For a bite of bitterness, you can also add some ground-up black pepper.

Just be careful when substituting capers for lemon as it is really sour and acidic so use your personal taste as a guide instead of a specific ratio.

Nasturtium Seeds

Just like capers, nasturtium is also a flower that can be eaten, along with the leaves!

It has a peppery taste and will enhance the taste of dishes like pasta or salad, making the food even more delicious.

The seeds of this flower can easily replace capers when pickled and the buds can also be used.

Not to mention that these plants are easy to grow yourself too if you would prefer.

All you have to do is purchase some seeds and plant them in your garden and you’re set! With just healthy soil and water, they will thrive.

Besides, it’s really not recommended to use any pesticides on this plant since it’s edible and you don’t want those chemicals in your system.

When the pods start to appear and are still green, it is time to pluck them and then pickle them for about a week in vinegar along with a slice of onion, a spoon of dill seeds, some garlic and a couple of peppercorns.


Thyme is a great herb that can be used in any season and makes any food more delicious!

That being said, it can also replace capers quite well as it has a similarly strong flavor.

Since the flavor gets released slowly, just like it happens with most herbs, it is advisable to add it in the early stages of cooking so you can get the closest flavor to the one of capers.

Whether you use the leaves with or without the stem, it is a personal choice and you can also use dried or ground thyme instead of fresh.

The end result will always be the same regardless so don’t overthink it.

Kalamata olives

Kalamata olives are another great substitute for capers.

Like green olives, Kalamata olives have an acidic and savory flavor as well.

Just keep in mind that they are darker in color so that will also change the color of your food too.

Depending on the recipe, chop them to the appropriate size.

The substitution ratio varies as well, generally depending on the size of the olives you use.

A good rule of thumb, however, is to use one olive for every two capers the recipe calls for.


If you’re cooking something that requires capers but don’t have any around the house, pickles can really come in handy!

In fact, you can use all sorts of pickled veggies depending on what you have, your taste and the texture you want your dish to be.

Speaking of texture, pickles are usually crunchier than capers, which is why your food will feel a little different.

Of course, you also need to keep in mind that your pickles will need to be chopped in the appropriate size depending on the recipe.

Finally, when it comes to the substitution ratio, you are free to use your taste to determine how much the dish needs since not all pickles have the same level of acidity anyway.


Credit: Unsplash/Glen Carrie
Credit: Unsplash/Glen Carrie

Just like you can use lemon juice, you can also use lime juice just as well!

Of course, the main difference is that lime tends to be more bitter than lemon and capers so be careful when assessing the ratio.

Depending on the recipe, you can use the lime’s pulp as well, not just the juice.

Green peppercorns

Green peppercorns are a great replacement for capers as well so if you have some, don’t hesitate to use them.

They are not as spicy as black peppercorns, having a milder flavor which makes for a better substitute.

Not to mention that they look similar to capers as well, which will help with obtaining the dish’s presentation, making it look similar to how it was intended to look.

Another advantage of using green peppercorns as substitutes is that the ratio is 1:1 meaning you can use them in the same quantity you would capers, making everything a lot easier for you.

Artichoke hearts

Artichoke hearts work perfectly as replacements for capers in a lot of different recipes.

Unfortunately, they are not so easily available in any store but you will most likely be able to find them in the bigger supermarkets.

They can be used either pickled or marinated, so whichever version you can find is perfectly fine.

Once you have them, make sure to drain and then chop them into the appropriate size before using them in your favorite dish that calls for capers.


Anchovies and capers are obviously very different but you will be pleasantly surprised to realize just how well anchovies can replace capers in a lot of recipes!

This is because they are really salty, oily and have an intense flavor.

The only thing you need to know is that you need a lot less of this fish when replacing capers in a dish.

Use anchovies based on your personal taste in foods such as salads and sauces.

Another thing to keep in mind is that anchovies melt when cooking them so the texture of your dish will ultimately not be the same as when you use capers.


This simple ingredient can really save your dish if you realize you don’t have any capers for the recipe to be complete.

Just be careful since vinegar provides a lot more acidity than capers.

You can use it the same way you would use lime or lemon juice but the taste will be quite different in the end.

But if you have no issue with that vinegar can be a really good substitute for capers in a lot of foods, whether they are cooked or fresh salads.

Red or white wine

Credit: Unsplash/Zan
Credit: Unsplash/Zan

If none of the previously mentioned substitutes suit your taste or you just don’t have any, you can even try using white or red wine!

Of course, the flavor will be pretty different but wine will still give your dish an acidic and fruity taste you might really like.

The only thing you need to keep in mind is that wine is obviously an alcoholic drink so don’t serve food that contains it to kids or sober people.

Caper berries

The difference between caper berries and capers is that the berries are what is ultimately formed if you let the flower buds grow instead of plucking them for pickling early on.

With that being said, they are bigger but have a milder taste.

Despite this, they are still a great replacement for capers.

They are similar in size to olives so it is recommended that you replace every few capers with one single caper berry based on the recipe.


Anna is an avid blogger with an educational background in medicine and mental health. She is a generalist with many other interests including nutrition, women's health, astronomy and photography. In her free time from work and writing, Anna enjoys nature walks, reading, and listening to jazz and classical music.

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