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California Greek Olive Salad Recipe

You can find many a Greek olive salad recipe, but there’s a lot that separates the excellent from the mediocre. You don’t need a recipe for authentic Greek salad because it’s more of an idea, and you can put as many or as few of the various ingredients as you prefer. But, with a few essential tips, this classic dish becomes an excellent recipe for summer entertaining, be it as a side or a lighter main. 

Unfortunately, many Greek salads are made with out-of-season ingredients or too much dressing. Ideally, you’d make this salad when you get the best in-season ingredients (from summer through early fall).

Greek Olive Salad Recipe

Why You’ll Love This Greek Olive Salad Recipe

The key that separates this dish from any other Greek olive salad recipe is the infused smashed citrus olives — they add a ton of flavor without extra effort. And, because they’re made with always-in-season ingredients, you can make the smashed citrus olives anytime you want a flavor boost, be it to top this Greek salad or some grilled salmon or just as an appetizer with crusty bread and your favorite creamy cheese (looking at you, burrata). 

Known as Horiatiki salad or Greek village salad, this Greek olive salad recipe is not the most traditional of Greek recipes. Though most consider it iconic Greek food, this fresh salad is not all that ancient. Accounts as to the origin of Greek salad vary, with some claiming it dates back to the turn of the 20th century and others saying it has only been around since the 1960s.

At its most basic, a traditional Greek salad is made with fresh tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, green bell peppers, kalamata olives, raw red onion, and feta cheese. However, many versions of the classic Greek salad recipe are available, so you may see other ingredients like capers added. Even more non-traditional versions of Greek olive salad recipes (read: in the United States) will include ingredients you’d never see in Greece, like Dijon mustard, Romaine lettuce, pepperoncini, or even beets.

Smashed Infused Citrus Olives

We created this Greek olive salad recipe in collaboration with our friends at California Grown and California Ripe Olives, and, seeing as we’re all from the Golden State, we couldn’t help but California-fy it. How? Add fresh oregano, firm-ripe avocados, and the flavor enhancer, the infused smashed citrus olives. 

Right now, you may wonder if the olives are a recipe in and of themselves. Why, yes, they are! They’d be at home on a cheese board, as a standalone appetizer, or on top of some grilled pork or chicken for an easy sauce. But adding them to this salad is a must because the result is a take on Greek olive salad, which is a big hit!

Spread of summer vegetable

Greek Olive Salad Recipe Ingredients

This Greek Olive Salad recipe is a refreshing, healthy, plant-based twist on the classic Mediterranean dish. It’s ideal in the summer months when the fresh veggies are at their best when you don’t want to turn on the stove but want to entertain for everything from Father’s Day to the 4th of July. 

If you’re looking for an easy side dish or a spread with classics like pasta salad and watermelon salad, this California twist on Greek olive salad should be a serious contender. 

Here, we kept the classic ingredients in a Greek olive salad recipe and added smashed citrus olives and avocado, which upped the ante. To make this recipe, you’ll need the following ingredients: 

  • For The Smashed Citrus Olives:
    • Your favorite olives: Kalamata olives are the classic for Greek salad, but here, we use canned whole green pitted olives from California for a mild, fruitier flavor. 
    • Olive Oil: Warming up extra virgin olive oil allows it to get infused with all the flavors 
    • Garlic: A few cloves added to the olive oil bring a lot of flavor. 
    • Lemon Peel: Or orange peel to add brightness to the olive oil.
    • Black Peppercorns: A few peppercorns usher in a nice peppery bite. 
    • Oregano: Use a pinch of dried or loads of fresh oregano
  • For The California Greek Salad:
    • Cucumbers: We prefer Persian or English cucumbers for their crunch and because you don’t need to peel them. 
    • Tomatoes: Use the best-quality, in-season tomatoes, be they Sweet 100s, heirlooms, or Sugar Bombs. 
    • Avocados: Firm-ripe avocados work best as they’ll hold their shape but still be creamy. 
    • Red Onion: Slice them into 1/8-inch half-moon shapes to get the perfect combo of crunch and thinness. 
    • Warmed Citrus Olives: The olives are the dressing, so add lots to bring out the flavor!
    • Fresh Lemon: One halved lemon squeezed over the top is perfect for adding acidity and brightness to the dish. 
    • Feta Cheese: Keep it in large slabs (or cut into triangles) like they often do in Greece, so you can add as much or as little as you’d like. Again, other Greek recipes call for the feta to be mashed into the other ingredients. 
Smashed Green Olives
Spoonful Of Warmed Olives

How To Make This Recipe

This is a super easy Greek Salad recipe because you don’t need to make a salad dressing. Instead, the infused smashed citrus olives — loaded with garlic, peppercorns, lemon peel, and olive oil — bring flavor and act as a sauce for the final dish. Combined with the liquid from the salted tomatoes (aka tomato water), they make for a simple dressing.  

Once the infused smashed citrus olives are made (they can be made up to 4 days ahead of time, FYI), you only need to assemble the salad ingredients on a serving platter or in a large bowl and then spoon the olives over the top. Add a squeeze of lemon (if you’d like) and flaky sea salt, and it’s go time!

Pan Of Smashed Citrus Olives

All About California Ripe Olives

One of the things that make the infused smashed olives so simple? We keep all the ingredients needed to make them around at all times because a well-stocked pantry should include a few cans of California Ripe Olives. 

Olives are grown in the fertile inland valleys from San Diego County to north of Sacramento, California. The two main varieties are Manzanillo and Sevillano. Thanks to the Mediterranean climate, California is a prime olive-growing territory. As such, over 95% of the nation’s olives are produced in California. That amounts to over 50,000 tons of olives each year!

You can find California Ripe Olives at your grocery store in many forms (ranging from S to XL, green or black, whole or sliced), but this recipe is best with whole pitted green olives. They make the infused olives even easier (since they’re already pitted) and add a lot of meaty texture and vegetable flavor without taking attention away from the rest of the salad.

Spoonful Of Greek Salad

Tips For Better Greek Olive Salad Recipes

  • Use the most flavorful ingredients: Traditionally, Greek salad is only made in the summer, when tomatoes and cucumbers are at their best. 
  • Skip the vinaigrette: Many American versions of this call for an oregano vinaigrette, but that’s not traditional, and it often overwhelms the vegetables. At its simplest, the dish is just topped with olive oil and salt. Here, the smashed citrus olives (and the olive oil they’re infused in) bring a taste boost that’s not overwhelming. 
  • Salt the tomatoes: To amp up their flavor, toss the cut tomatoes in a big pinch of salt for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the accumulated liquid (“tomato water”) to the salad.
  • Add lemon (or don’t) Some of my Greek friends claim you shouldn’t add fresh lemon juice, while others add a squeeze. None we talked to ever add red wine vinegar to this dish as it can, like the vinaigrette, overtake the fresh vegetables’ flavors.
Burrata Smashed Green Olive Bruschetta Recipe

More Recipes Using California Ripe Olives

Feeling inspired to make even more olive recipes? Here are a few of our readers’ favorites:

What To Do With Leftover Greek Salad

It will last if you make this perfect Greek salad with good-quality, crunchy vegetables in season. While we still think it’s best made just before serving, you could store leftovers refrigerated in an airtight container and enjoy them up to one day later.

Frequently Asked Questions

A traditional Greek olive salad, often referred to as a Greek salad or Horiatiki, includes ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, kalamata olives, and feta cheese. It is typically dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar or lemon juice, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and dried oregano. Some variations may include green bell peppers and capers for additional flavor.

Greek olive salad can be served as a refreshing starter, a side dish to complement grilled meats or seafood, or as a hearty addition to a mezze platter. It pairs wonderfully with crusty bread to soak up the delicious dressing.

Leftover Greek olive salad should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will typically last for 1 to 2 days. Note that the tomatoes and cucumbers may release water over time, which can dilute the dressing, so it's best enjoyed fresh. Before serving leftovers, give the salad a good stir to redistribute the dressing and seasonings. If needed, add a little extra olive oil or oregano.

Greek Salad Recipe With Spooned Olives

California Greek Olive Salad Recipe

Whip up a tasty, healthy dish with our vibrant California Greek olive salad recipe! Fresh, flavorful, and perfect for any occasion, this dish will bring the Mediterranean to your table.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 245 kcal


For The Smashed Citrus Olives:

  • 1 (6 ounce) can medium green ripe pitted olives (or black olives if you'd like)
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 peeled garlic cloves smashed
  • 1 medium bay leaf
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • Peel of 1 lemon
  • 6 sprigs fresh oregano leaves  or 1 large pinch dried oregano

For The California Greek Olive Salad:

  • 4 medium Persian cucumbers or Japanese cucumbers ends trimmed, halved lengthwise, and cut on the bias into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 large heirloom tomatoes or 2 pints mixed tomatoes (cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, or Sweet 100s)
  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 medium red onion peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 handful fresh oregano leaves  or 1 large pinch dried oregano
  • 1 firm-ripe medium avocado cut into wedges and pitted and peeled
  • 8 ounces Feta cheese cut into large triangles
  • 1 recipe Smashed Citrus Olives
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Maldon sea salt or other flaky sea salt, for garnish


Make The Smashed Citrus Olives:

  • Using the back of a chef's knife (with the blade pointing away from you), press on the olives to gently smash them. You want them to crack open but not be totally flattened.
  • Warm the olive oil in a frying pan or medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, bay leaf, and peppercorns, and cook until the garlic is softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the smashed olives, the lemon peel, and the oregano, swirl to combine, then remove from the heat.
  • Set aside to infuse for about 10 to 20 minutes before using. (Olives can be made up to 4 days ahead and stored refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use. Leave room temperature for 15 minutes to warm up (and for the olive oil to become liquid) before serving.

Make The California Greek Olive Salad:

  • Place the cucumber and tomatoes in separate bowls, add a few pinches of Kosher salt, toss to combine, and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before plating. Meanwhile, place the sliced onion in iced water and set aside (this helps to mellow out the flavor).
  • Transfer the tomatoes (plus any accumulated tomato liquid) to a serving plate. Drain accumulated water off the cucumbers, remove the red onion slices from the ice water, and arrange on the serving platter. Tuck avocado wedges, oregano leaves, and feta triangles into the salad.
  • To serve, spoon all the smashed citrus olives over the top (include some of the flavored olive oil!). If you'd like, add a squeeze of lemon, then stir to mix the flavors and serve topped with flaky sea salt.



Serving: 1 servingCalories: 245kcalCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 7gFat: 21gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 34mgSodium: 442mgPotassium: 412mgFiber: 3gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 1249IUVitamin C: 19mgCalcium: 243mgIron: 2mg
Keyword california salad, Easy salad, healthy salad
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