Olive brine is the salty, flavorful liquid that canned olives are packed in. When you open a can or jar of olives, you’re often left with leftover olive brine that many people simply pour down the drain. However, this is a huge waste of a versatile ingredient that has many culinary uses. Olive brine is packed with robust, concentrated olive flavor that can add a delicious briny kick to recipes. So don’t throw out your leftover olive brine – read on to learn about all the creative ways you can use it!
Use it as a marinade
One of the easiest and most effective uses for olive brine is as a marinade. The brine infuses meat, fish, and vegetables with bold olive flavor. It’s particularly good for marinating chicken or pork chops before grilling or roasting. For a quick chicken marinade, combine olive brine, garlic, lemon juice, and herbs like oregano or thyme. You can also brush olive brine on meat or fish as it cooks for an instant flavor boost. Marinating fish fillets in olive brine before searing or baking results in wonderfully moist, Mediterranean-style seafood. For veggies like potatoes, mushrooms, or eggplant, marinating in diluted olive brine imparts delicious flavor.
Make a vinaigrette
Olive brine adds a wonderful briny, fruity flavor to salad dressings and vinaigrettes. For a simple olive brine vinaigrette, whisk together olive brine, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic or red wine vinegar, minced garlic, Italian herbs, and pepper. Taste and adjust the vinegar and oil as needed to suit your tastebuds. Drizzle this zippy vinaigrette over fresh greens, roasted veggies, pasta salads, grilled chicken, or fish. You can also use olive brine as a base for creamy salad dressings. Whisk it with mayo, Greek yogurt, or buttermilk for a rich, tangy dressing.
After pan-searing meat, fish, or vegetables, deglaze the pan with a few splashes of olive brine to lift up the flavorful browned bits. Bring the olive brine to a simmer and reduce briefly to concentrate the flavors. Then drizzle the pan sauce over your cooked food for a delicious finishing touch. Deglazing with olive brine adds tons of flavor with minimal effort.
Boost soups and stews
For deep, savory flavor, add a splash of olive brine to soups and stews. It’s especially good in Mediterranean-style soups like minestrone, but also enhances chowders, bean soups, and vegetable soups. You can also add it to the cooking liquid for grains like rice, farro, or barley. The brine infuses the whole dish with a subtly briny note. Start with 1-2 tablespoons olive brine and add more to taste.
Bake better bread
This secret ingredient takes homemade bread to the next level. Substitute 1⁄4 cup of olive brine for an equal amount of the water or other liquid when making bread. The olive brine adds incredible depth of flavor and also gives the bread a denser, chewier texture. It’s especially good in focaccia, bagels, sandwich loaves, and rustic peasant breads. The olive flavor comes through subtly without being overpowering.
Make olive oil
You can actually use olive brine to make your own infused olive oil. Combine olive brine and extra virgin olive oil in a bottle (a ratio of about 1 part brine to 3 parts oil). Let it sit for a week or two so the olive flavors can fully infuse the oil. Then drizzle it over pizza, bread, salads, pasta, or use for sautéing. It’s a great way to stretch your olive oil budget while adding homemade flair.
Olive brine makes a fantastic brine for pork, chicken, or turkey. The salinity helps seasoning permeate and tenderize the meat, while the olive flavor provides a Mediterranean twist. Bring diluted olive brine to a boil to fully dissolve the salt, then let it cool completely before submerging your meat in the brine. Brine in the fridge anywhere from 2 hours to overnight depending on the size of the meat. Olive-brined pork chops and chicken are incredible grilled or roasted.
One of the most classic uses for olive brine is dirty martinis! Add a splash of brine to a vodka martini for a deliciously bold, salty, olive-y twist. It pairs perfectly with the botanicals of gin too. Add olive brine according to taste, starting with 1⁄2 ounce or so. Stir it into the cocktail instead of shaking to maintain the cloudy “dirty” look. Garnish with green olives of course!
You can transform regular olives into homemade cured olives using leftover olive brine. Simply combine brine with water in a ratio of about 4:1 water to brine so the olives aren’t too salty. Add raw olives and refrigerate for anywhere from 2 weeks to a few months until they fully absorb the flavors and turn deliciously briny. Add aromatics like garlic, citrus, or herbs to the curing liquid for extra flavor. Home-cured olives make fantastic gifts!
Rinse meat and produce
This may seem unusual, but you can use leftover olive brine as a final rinse for raw meat, seafood, and vegetables. The acidic brine kills microbes that can cause spoilage and contamination. It kills bacteria, helping perishable foods stay fresh longer in the fridge. Olive brine rinses are especially good for chicken, fish, and fresh produce that tends to spoil quickly. Always pat foods dry after rinsing to remove excess moisture before cooking or eating.
Olive brine’s balanced flavor and acidity make it a stellar pickling liquid. You can pickle all kinds of veggies in reused olive brine, like carrots, onions, cucumbers, green beans, cauliflower, turnips, and peppers. Combine brine with water and vinegar, then add aromatics like garlic, bay leaves, mustard seeds, and black peppercorns. Submerge prepped veggies and refrigerate 1-2 weeks until pickled to your liking. Olive-brined homemade pickles are delicious additions to sandwiches, charcuterie boards, and salads.
Substitute for salt
You can harness the salty flavor of olive brine to replace some of the added salt in recipes. Use it anywhere you’d normally add salt to boost flavor, like salad dressings, marinades, pastas, bean dishes, grains, roasted veggies, and more. Start by substituting 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 of the salt with olive brine and adjust amounts to taste. You’ll reduce your sodium intake while infusing food with delicious olive flavor. The umami notes in olive brine enhance overall flavor intensity.
Make a dirty pasta sauce
For an easy pasta sauce with a briny kick, simmer olive brine with canned crushed tomatoes and seasonings like garlic, red pepper flakes, and Italian herbs. The olive brine’s flavor concentrates as it reduces down into a decadent, chunky pasta sauce. Toss with cooked pasta and finish with Parmesan. Or stir a spoonful of olive brine into ready-made marinara sauce for an instant flavor upgrade. A little olive brine goes a long way towards adding depth and dimension to tomato-based pasta sauces.
Wet brine for chicken
A wet brine is a saltwater solution used to deeply season and tenderize chicken before roasting. Replace some of the water in a wet brine recipe with reused olive brine for amplified flavor. The olive brine infuses the meat with moisture and seasoning. Brine chicken pieces or a whole bird in the fridge for 4-8 hours before cooking. Pat dry, rub with oil and spices, then roast at a high temperature until browned and cooked through. Olive brine helps ensure juicy, well-seasoned meat.
Glaze roasting meats
For roast chicken, turkey, or pork with beautiful browned, crispy skin, make a glaze with olive brine. Combine brine, mustard, brown sugar or honey, and seasoning and brush over the meat during the last 15-30 minutes of cooking. You can also drizzle olive brine combined with balsamic vinegar over roasting vegetables like Brussels sprouts, carrots, and asparagus. The sugars caramelize as the food roasts for incredible depth of flavor. The olive brine adds a wonderful savory contrast.
Replace salt in curing
Olive brine can substitute for a portion of the salt when curing foods like salmon, lox, prosciutto, coppa, and salami. The olives’ salty flavor reduces the amount of salt needed while providing a nuanced, Mediterranean flavor profile. Use about half olive brine and half salt in dry curing recipes. For wet curing in a brine, do a 4:1 ratio of water to olive brine. Always use cure #1 for food safety. Olive brine delivers bold flavor in cured meats and fish.
Boost canned tuna and salmon
Drain and rinse a can of tuna or salmon, then marinate the fish briefly in reused olive brine. Start with just 1-2 tablespoons brine and let it sit 5 minutes. The olive brine adds a pop of flavor to the fish, giving it more complexity and taste. Use olive brine-marinated canned fish in salads, sandwiches, patties, pasta, and more. It takes the fish up a notch with the savory brine.
House salad dressing ingredient
Restaurant-style house salad dressings often include olive brine for flavor. At home, blend about 1⁄4 cup olive brine into 1 cup of neutral oil and 1⁄4 cup vinegar. Then build on the base with additions like garlic, herbs, mustard, honey, citrus, and dried spices. Emulsify the dressing in a blender. The olive brine gives the tangy, bright dressing a rich, ultra-savory flavor profile. It brings depth and complexity that balances the acidity of the vinegar.
Round out bloody Mary’s
For a bloody Mary with even more savory, umami notes, use olive brine instead of plain tomato juice. Combine vodka, olive brine, lemon juice, Worcestershire, hot sauce, black pepper, and other flavorings. Then top with all the fixings like celery, pickled vegetables, bacon, shrimp, and olives. The olive brine amplifies all the delicious flavors in a bloody Mary for a supremely savory brunch cocktail. Play with the olive brine-to-tomato juice ratio to suit your tastes.
Artichokes marinated in olive brine is a classic Spanish tapa. Trim and quarter artichokes, then toss with a combination of olive brine, olive oil, garlic, and lemon. Marinate at least 30 minutes, but can refrigerate overnight for more flavor. The artichokes soak up the seasoned oil and brine beautifully. Grill, bake, or sautée the marinated artichokes until tender and serve warm or at room temperature. Scatter with parsley and shaved Parmesan to finish.
Give collard greens a kick
For Southern-style collard greens with a Mediterranean twist, use olive brine instead of plain water when cooking the greens. Sauté aromatics like garlic, onions, and smoked ham hocks or turkey wings first. Then add chopped collards and a blend of olive brine and chicken broth. Simmer until the greens are fall-apart tender, then season with hot sauce and pepper vinegar. The olive brine adds a tangy punch of flavor that complements the hearty collards beautifully.
Boost boring beans
Cooking canned or dried beans in olive brine instead of plain water makes a huge difference in flavor. The brine infuses the beans with savory, slightly salty depth. White beans, chickpeas, lentils, and black beans all shine when cooked with reused olive brine. Start with a half and half mix of brine and water, or do all brine if you want bold olive flavor. Simmer beans until tender, then use them in salads, soups, stews, dips, and more. The brine takes the beans up a notch.
Give Caesar cocktails a briny twist
The next time you make a Caesar cocktail, replace Clamato juice with olive brine for an extra dirty take. Combine olive brine, vodka or gin, Worcesteshire sauce, Tabasco, black pepper, celery salt, and lemon juice or lime. Run a celery rib around the rim of the glass and garnish with olives. The reuse of olive brine reduces waste while letting you take advantage of its intensely savory umami flavor in cocktails.
Chopped olive tapenade is delicious spread on bread, used as a sandwich condiment, or served with cheese and crudités. To make an easy tapenade at home, pulse olives, olive brine, capers, anchovies, garlic, herbs, lemon zest, and olive oil in a food processor. The brine adds moisture and helps bind the ingredients together while providing a hit of briny olive flavor. Tapenade also freezes well for longer storage.
Add depth to sauces
Elevate sauces and condiments with a splash of olive brine. It’s particularly good in mayonnaise, aioli, tartar sauce, and creamy salad dressings. Start with 1 teaspoon per cup of sauce and adjust to taste. You can also simmer it into tomato sauces, barbecue sauces, gravies, and pan sauces for a hit of rich flavor. Thebriny savoriness plays well in a wide range of recipes. Just take care not to overdo it or the olive flavor will overpower other ingredients.
Give deviled eggs a twist
For an instant flavor upgrade to basic deviled eggs, add a bit of olive brine to the filling. Roughly mash the cooked yolks with mayo, Dijon, and seasoning. Then mix in 1-2 teaspoons of olive brine before filling the egg whites. Top with paprika and a final drizzle of olive brine if desired. The brine provides a whack of savory richness and saltiness that perfectly complements the creamy filling and hard cooked eggs.
Make a condiment for grilled meats
Combine olive brine, whole grain mustard, and herbs like rosemary for an easy condiment to liven up simple grilled meats like chicken, pork chops, sausages, or steak. The olive brine adds a nice acidic bite that cuts through the richness of charred meat. Whisk together equal parts olive brine and mustard, then season with dried or fresh herbs, lemon zest, black pepper, and a bit of honey or maple syrup if desired. Serve alongside grilled food.
Perk up potato salad
Olive brine can replace part of the vinegar or lemon juice in potato salad recipes. The savory brine balances the starchiness of the potatoes beautifully. For creamy olive brine potato salads, whisk some of the brine into the mayo dressing. For a lighter Greek-style version, dress the cooked potatoes with olive oil, brine, dried oregano, and red wine vinegar. The brine adds bold flavor without overpowering. Start with a couple tablespoons of brine and add more to taste.
Make quick refrigerator pickles
Refrigerator pickling is an easy way to use up excess olive brine quickly. Thinly slice veggies like cucumbers, radishes, carrots, onions, or cauliflower and toss with brine. Refrigerate for just 20-30 minutes for quick bright flavor. You can also brine for a few hours or overnight if you want stronger pickled flavor. Add aromatic spices like coriander, peppercorns, garlic, and dill. Quick olive brine fridge pickles add crunch and flavor to sandwiches, tacos, salads, and more.
Turn into rim salt
For a fun presentation and pop of flavor, turn your olive brine into flavored rim salt for drinks. Spread some coarse salt on a plate. Paint the rim of glasses with lemon, lime, or orange juice. Roll and twist the rim of each glass on the salt so it sticks. Then drizzle a bit of olive brine over the salt-rimmed glasses so the salt absorbs the brine as it dries. The salty, zesty rim adds a great finishing touch to cocktails or margaritas.
Pickle red onions
Pickling red onions in olive brine is incredibly easy and adds a flavorful condiment to meals. Simply slice red onions thinly, place in a glass jar or bowl, and pour in enough olive brine to cover the onions fully. Let them pickle in the fridge 1-2 days. Drain and use the pickled onions to top tacos, nachos, sandwiches, grain bowls, and charcuterie. You can also add aromatics like garlic, bay leaf, coriander seeds, and black peppercorns to the brine.
Mellow out bitter greens
Bold olive brine can help mellow the bitterness of vegetables like kale, chard, rapini, dandelion greens, or mustard greens. Sauté the greens with garlic and oil first