green olives vs black olives differences & similarities

Green Olives vs Black Olives – Differences & Similarities

Very few people really understand all the differences between green olives and black olives types. Green olives are unripe, early harvest olives with exceptional nutritional attributes and unique taste. In contrast, black olives are fully riped juicier and softer olives with a mellow taste.

In this article, we will really break down those differences and also talk about the areas where they are more similar than different. We will start with what factor really makes green olives vs black olives different and then discuss other subjects like the taste, nutritional value, culinary uses, texture, etc.

Let’s start green olives vs black olives journey!

Ripeness

Green olives are unripe; black olives – fully ripe

Ripeness is the many things that make green olives and black olives different. A green olive is unripe and harvested early on before it has the chance to ripen much at all. Some green olives are harvested so early that they look almost yellow rather than green.

Therefore, black olives have a great level of ripeness and gets this darker color when they are fully. Even more, they get more darker or black during the curing process. In some cases, ripe olives are dark color but not fully black, so most commonlty manufactures use iron sulfate to dye olives in full black.

Koroneiki variety is the most suitable for great olive oil
These are green unripe Koroneiki olives which turn into dark purple color when fully ripe

Taste

Fresh green olives have more flavor vs black olives

Taste is the difference that most people seem to care about. When olives are first harvested fresh, it does not matter what stage they are at ripe or unripe, they are extremely bitter. However, after going through a curing process, they get the taste that you are probably more familiar with.

Green olives tend to have more tastes: peppery, with notes of grass and green leaves flavor, while black olives mellow taste with little bitterness and more floral flavors. However, many people consider both varieties of olives to be more of an acquired taste, so if you are starting to eat olives for the first time, you may want to try a mild variety of black olives.

Also, both green olives and black olives taste depends on their preparation method. For instance, green olives often come stuffed with garlic, jalapenos, tomatoes, cheese, almonds, etc. Thus, black olives are often cured in spices that really affect the olives’ flavor. Some black olives are even sundried, and then they taste almost fruity.

Green olives vs kalamata olives by Oliviada
When fully ripe olives turn dark color, can be dark purple or brown; they can get darker color closed to black when brined

Texture

Unripe green olives are firmer; black olives are softer

Olives, believe it or not, are a fruit, so like most other forms of fruit, they get softer as they ripen. That means that black olives tend to be very soft, and some kinds will almost fall apart in your mouth.

Contrastingly, green olives tend to be much more firm, so they are often used above black olives for stuffed olives. Green olives are much meatier, and there are even varieties of green olives that are almost crisp to bite into.

Of course, just like the taste, the texture can be influenced by how they are prepared. When they are soaked for a really long time or cooked, the texture may change a lot.

Nutrition

Green olives are higher in antioxidant properties vs black olives

According to the studies, there is a positive correlation of a high level of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties in green olives with the early time of harvest.  Green olives are usually higher in polyphenols, phytochemicals with antioxidant properties compared to black olives.

Both are very high in monosaturated fats, which is a form of healthy fat. Monosaturated fats are really good for your cholesterol levels, they decrease your risk of heart disease, and they may even help lower your chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

Both olives are also very high in minerals like iron and copper, and vitamins such as Vitamin E. Overall, both green olives and black olives are really packed full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Also, black olives have more calories than green olives per serving. However, it depends on olive variety and ripening level.

Greek olives vs Kalamata olives for table by Oliviada
Green olives vs Kalamata olives as well named as Greek black olives

Also, read my article on why Greek olives are good for you.

Curing Process

Green olives are soaked in salty water; black olives in lye solution

Green olives and black olives actually can have a very similar curing process.

After they are harvested, both green olives and black olives are soaked in lye, which is a kind of alkaline solution. With black olives, iron or lye treatment result in natural phenolic compounds in the olives oxidizing to a deep black color. After they are done soaking in the lye solution, CO2 is typically added before canning to neutralize the solution.

How to cure Kalamata olives in 3 different ways
Find out 3 ways on how to cure Kalamata olives at home!

Also, green olives are often soaked in a salt solution before packaging. Once they are canned in sealed, they are often cooked with steam before being sent to the market.

black olives white bowl 1
Olives improving black color when brined; soaked in lye black or dark brown olives oxidize to a deep black color

Culinary

Both green and black olives have wide culinary uses

Black olives and green olives can be used for very similar purposes, so it is really about which kind of olive you prefer taste-wise.

You can just snack on them, but they can also be cooked or mixed into sauces and dips to add more depth. They can also be added to salads, sandwiches, pizza, wraps, pasta, platters, and more. They can also be made into tapenades, though black olives maybe a little bit more common for this.

Mediterranean Diet Snacks
Black olives as well as green are widely used as appetizer (check out our snack with sun-dried tomato recipe)

Olive Oil

Early harvest olive oil is more valuable vs oil made from ripe black olives

Green olives are unripe, early harvest olives, and the olive oil made from them is named Agoureleo olive oil in Greece. It is an early harvest olive oil, full of nutrients with an astonishing peppery flavor, considered a top-tier olive oil that is highly-priced.

Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components are responsible for the pungency that comes from unripe olives in fresh olive oil and that irritates the throat. Furthermore, when olives are picked early in the harvest season, they tend to produce green-colorer oil since they have higher levels of chlorophyll. 

Since early harvest olive oil from green olives are rich in polyphenol and antioxidant properties, it interest foreign markets for both pharmaceutical use as well as main ingredient to kitchen and gourmet restaurants all around the world.

In terms of black olives, almost every olive oil you come across is made of some combination of black olives and green olives. When they are both used, most of the flavor comes from the green olives simply because they have a more strong, robust flavor that takes over.

Black olives are usually added to give the olive oil its suppleness, not to add much flavor and its olive oil has a higher acidity. If you are going to get olive oil that is only made of one kind of olive, it will probably be made of just green olives.

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Conclusion on Green Olives vs Black Olives

Black olives vs green olives: both early harvest green olives and fully ripen black olives may be technically of similar quality but they are completely different in style. They have mainly different nutritional values because they are harvested at different ripeness stages, which leads to green olives have much more nutrients and potent flavor and black olives being much softer and less acid.

Also, both olive types can be used for similar things, are cured in similar ways, and can be even commonly used together to make a delicious taste, well-balanced flavor olive oil.

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