Often used in the classic New Orleans sandwich, a good Muffaletta Olive Salad is delicious in its own right. Spread it on top of grilled chicken or serve with pita chips as a dip!
This post may contain paid links. For more information, please see our disclosure policy.
If you had told me some years ago that I would not only eat a sandwich topped with olives, but I would love it, too, I would have called you crazy. The much-younger version of myself would’ve turned his nose up at a muffaletta sandwich. The current version of myself would eat a muffaletta sandwich for lunch and dinner…heck, maybe even breakfast, too!
What is a Muffaletta Sandwich?
A muffaletta sandwich is an iconic New Orleans sandwich. The sandwich was first created in 1906 at Central Grocery on Decatur Street in New Orleans. They still make amazing muffalettas at Central Grocery, and I would say a stop there for lunch is a foodie requirement when visiting The Big Easy.
A muffaletta (also spelled muffuletta) is a sandwich layered with Italian meats and cheese – delicious. But the gamechanger when it comes to a muffaletta is the olive salad that goes on top. As if the layers of salami, ham, mortadella, Swiss cheese and provolone are not enough, a thick layer of olive salad gets spread onto the sandwich as well. I know olives in a sandwich might seem odd, but the muffaletta is one heck of a delicious sandwich. The line out the door at Central Grocery on a daily basis is proof of that!
What is Muffaletta Olive Salad?
So what exactly goes into the olive salad that makes the muffuletta such a unique sandwich? A Muffaletta Olive Salad is a tapenade of sorts. The ingredients are finely chopped so that you can spread the mixture on top of a sandwich.
Speaking of ingredients, a classic Muffaletta Olive Salad includes olives (both green and black) as well as giardiniera, olive oil, garlic, oregano and a bit of red wine vinegar. I also like to throw some pepperoncini into the version I make – the acidity from the pepperoncini balances the olives quite well. #Trust
The most obvious use of Muffaletta Olive Salad is to put it on a muffaletta sandwich. That’s obvious enough. But we actually like to make this salad as an appetizer of sorts. We just serve it with pita chips or toasted pieces of sesame bread for a tasty (and unique!) snack. A muffaletta sandwich is always made on round Sicilian sesame bread. Serving the olive salad as an appetizer with toasted sesame bread is a fun nod to the sandwich itself.
This Muffaletta Olive Salad recipe is super easy. I typically use canned olives for simplicity, and I pulse them several times in a mini-chopper until they’re finely chopped. (Just be careful with this step – the olive salad isn’t supposed to be smooth. You just want to pulse the ingredients a couple of times to chop ’em up.)
If you’re looking for a good mini-chopper, I recommend this Cuisinart immersion blender + mini-chopper. Whether it’s chopping olives for olive salad, making a tiny bit of whipped cream for a dessert or blending up a soup, this is one heck of a handy kitchen tool!
Whether you’re getting into the Mardi Gras spirit or looking to recreate some classic New Orleans food at home, I highly recommend this olive salad. We love it, and I hope you do, too!
Did you make a batch of this Muffaletta Olive Salad at home? Leave a comment, or snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (@Spicedblog) – I’d love to see your version!
Muffaletta Olive Salad
- 1 10-oz. jar pitted green olives, drained
- 1 6-oz. can pitted black olives, drained
- ½ cup giardiniera mix celery, carrots, cauliflower, peppers, etc., drained (see note)
- ½ cup pepperoncini sliced
- 1 Tbsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Finely chop green olives, black olives and giardiniera and pepperoncino; place mixture in a medium mixing bowl.
- Add remaining ingredients (garlic, parsley, basil, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar and olive oil); stir until well combined. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Serve on crusty bread, sandwiches or on top of grilled chicken.
Looking for some more classic New Orleans recipes? Check out these other favorites, too: