tapenade cabbage boats

In these strange times, so-called pantry food or fridge food are essential as they save us a trip to the supermarket. So let’s all look at our fridges and pantries and get creative! One thing I’ve done with the last cabbages I still have from the winter are these low carb tapenade cabbage “boats”. I love cabbage for both its taste and the fact you can buy one and put it in the fridge, where it is staying patiently without turning bad, until we pull it out to make something delicious from it.

Olives, capers and anchovies are items we always have on the pantry shelf. All of them, together with olive oil, are the foundation of this healthy low carb snack.

chopped olives capers and 4 anchovy fillets in a steel mixing bowl, with a smaller bowl containing olive oil to mix in

From Italy or France?

Do you like tapenade? That’s the tangy olive paste with capers that restaurants serve in Italy and the South of France with warm white bread before your meal. Olive-based dishes with anchovies or vinegar like this one are ubiquitous in Italian cuisine, yet tapenade’s origins are disputed between Italy itself and the French Provençe region.

While the name tapenade comes from the Provençal word for capers – tapenos – the first written record of people eating the paste has been credited to the Romans in what’s today’s Italy (for those interested in geeky food history: The Roman senator and historian Cato the Elder included a tapenade recipe in his book On Agriculture in 100 AD).

A red cabbage leaf topped with tapenade, mozzarella cubes and a slice of smoked salmon

I love tapenade, and so have always wondered what to spread it on, now that white bread is no longer an option. Head-scratching continued until just recently, when cabbage came to my mind while staring at my fridge and pantry content. I remembered how in Thailand people would eat raw white cabbage leaves as a crunchy snack alongside barbecued fish or meat, dipping the leaves into an ultra-spicy, salty and slightly sour dip. Light crunch combined with strong savoury taste: That’s it.

How to combine tapenade with cabbage and other goodies

The strong umami of your tapenade needs to be balanced by more neutral tastes – which the cabbage is ideal for. And these low carb tapenade cabbage boats are even better when you add some other goodies: Feta crumbs for yet additional saltiness and some acidity – or as a milder option, small Italian mozzarella balls and smoked salmon. Chopped walnuts are also great (caramelized ones if you feel your sweet tooth itching). If you have both red and green cabbage, combining them looks great on the table! Serve with seedy crispbreads or some low carb crackers.

Tapenade can be store-bought which allows you to serve this snack in a matter of 5 minutes. But if you’d like to make your own tapenade, it is super easy too. Actually, tapenade is such a standard fare in Italy, that it isn’t much of a recipe. Different people add different things to it but the core is olives, capers and anchovies. While most recipes use black olives, I prefer to use both green and black ones, because I love the slightly stronger note of the green variety. Feel free to use whichever colour you like and have in your pantry.

In a sealed container, tapenade easily lasts for a week in the fridge. You can use your tapenade to give a little zing to a salad, spread it on a slice of camenbert, sliced tomatoes or grilled cauliflower steaks. Just use your imagination!

If you tried this recipe, let us know! Maybe you like different toppings you’d like to share or another way of making tapenade. So it’d be great if you’d like to leave a comment and rate the recipe!

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Italian tapenade spread on red and green cabbage leaves, sprinkled with feta cubes, mozzaralla and salmon, served on a wooden tray

tapenade cabbage boats

  • Author: Christiane
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 1 jar of tapenade and several cabbage boats 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian


Quick tapenade cabbage boats: A healthy low carb snack based on cabbage leaves and the famous Italian olive spread. Add other goodies such as feta, salmon, nuts or small mozzarella cubes!



For 1 jar of tapenade:

50g pitted black olives

50g pitted green olives

100g capers

3 anchovy fillets

Olive oil to taste

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

For the cabbage boats:

Leaves of red and white cabbage

Optional toppings include feta cubes, Italian mozzarella balls, smoked salmon, fresh herbs (parsley, dill) and chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans).


  1. Drain the olives and capers. Chop the olives and the anchovies and put all ingredients into a bowl. Blend into a paste, mixing in some olive oil along the way to achieve a thick creaminess. Add salt and pepper to taste. Be careful not to overdose on the salt, as the other ingredients are already quite salty.
  2. To serve the cabbage boats, cut a chunk out of your cabbage and carefully separate the leaves without breaking them. Generously spread the tapenade on the leaves and add your goodies. Feel free to experiment with anything you believe would be delicious together with tapenade and crunchy cabbage.
  3.  Fill your tapenade in a sealed glass container and it will easy last for a week in the fridge.


Nutrition info covers one jar of tapenade. Cooking time includes making tapenade yourself

  • Category: snacks and starters
  • Method: chop and mix
  • Cuisine: European


  • Serving Size: 1 jar
  • Calories: 317
  • Fat: 19.8g
  • Carbohydrates: 4.8g net carbs
  • Protein: 27.8g

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