What’s the difference between a Castelvetrano and a Kalamata? Plenty! Use this guide to five of the most popular olives—with flavors ranging from mild to hoo-boy!—and you’ll never again be stymied at the supermarket olive bar.

assorted olives
Photography by Peter Ardito
| Credit: Photography by Peter Ardito

From left to right


These meaty, tender, buttery, bright-green Italian olives are easy to snack on and mild enough to add to most recipes. They're also the largest of all.


The classic green Spanish olives are often stuffed with pimientos or garlic, making them a tasty addition to that happy hour Martini.


They're tiny but pack a salty punch. These deep-brown French olives are a must on a classic niçoise salad, and are great in seafood dishes or as a snack.


It's not a Greek salad without these meaty and tart black olives. Finely chopped, they're also an easy way to wake up a basic marinara sauce.

Oil-cured (Moroccan) 

Curing gives these black, wrinkly, easy-to-pit olives a concentrated flavor. They work beautifully in salads and tagines.