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Fried Olives: A Quick and Easy Italian Appetizer

Fried Olives

Our resident expert on all things Italian and edible, Chris Atwood, spent years studying and sopping up Italy’s varied food cultures. While you’ll find plenty of pasta on his plates (he teaches hands-on classes in Atlanta and other U.S. cities), Chris is committed to sharing Italy’s lesser known dishes and regions. Chris wants diners to know that slow-simmered sauces and astounding antipasti are simple to prepare and worthy of your Sunday supper. He joins the Feastly blog today to share a recipe for fried olives — a crowd pleaser served at his recent class. Read below for his insights on this tasty and time-honed dish. You can find more of Chris’ authentic Italian recipes in his recently-published book, Italy for All Seasons.

Sicilian cooks bake them until the flesh has softened.  Neapolitans make a pasta sauce out of black ones, tomatoes and anchovies.  Bars in Italy serve bowls of them alongside boozy drinks. They are olives.

Grown from regional varietals, Italy’s olives differ in color, shape and size. Some are large and emerald green. Others are almond-sized and eggplant purple. While canned olives in the U.S. tend to taste like brine, Mediterranean varietals are cured in herbs and extra virgin olive oil. In the latter form, you can still taste the inherent qualities of the olive.

Fried olives are a classic appetizer in central Italy.  Some recipes call for stuffing the olives with grated cheese and prosciutto.  Others keep things simple — dredging them in breadcrumbs and frizzling the crusted olive in hot oil.

Fried Olives by Chef Chris Atwood

  • 1.5 – 2 cups pitted green Mediterranean olives
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 3/4 cup of bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmigiano or pecorino cheese
  • Oil for frying — olive or sunflower oil

Whisk the 2 eggs in a bowl until frothy.  Pour the breadcrumbs into another bowl. Then, mix the 1/4 cup of grated cheese into the breadcrumbs.  Dip the pitted olives in the egg and then dredge in the cheese-breadcrumb mix.  (Personally, I pour the breadcrumbs into a ziplock bag and then shake it once the egg-coated olives have been added).  Repeat this process a second time to ensure that the coating sticks to the olives during frying.

Heat 3 cups (at least) of oil over medium high heat in a large sauce pan. Olive oil begins to burn at 375F. So, if you want to fry in olive oil, be sure it hovers around 350F.  For frying, it is better to use a lower grade — ahem, cheaper– olive oil. Keep your extra virgin for another time. (For more on frying, see this New York Times piece).

Using a candy thermometer, test the oil’s temperature. When it reaches 350F, it’s ready.  Fry the olives in batches until golden brown: 2-4 minutes per batch.  Each batch should have 8-10 olives.  If you add more than that, the oil will get too cold and the olives won’t brown.  Remove the fried olives to a paper towel with a slotted spoon.  Serve immediately.


The finished product: Italian Fried Olives. Learn more about Chris and his tasty home cooked meals from his Feastly portfolio of menus.

See more stories & recipes from Chris. 

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