Brain-Boosting Olive Anchovy Tapenade

by Amylee Amos PhD, RDN, IFMCPRecipes
Homemade olive anchovy tapenade in a bowl

Oh, the cocktail party. It can be so much fun, but it can, without a doubt, be a minefield of nutrition sabotage. Cheeses, crackers, dips, breads- if the goal is avoiding or recovering from chronic disease, this scenario can become a nightmare, but get togethers such as this are also a necessary and social part of life. I often talk to my clients about bringing a dish to these types of events whenever possible so that there will be at least one option that won’t completely negate all the hard work you’ve done to optimize your diet.

This Olive Anchovy Tapenade is the perfect appetizer to bring to the cocktail party. It’s packed full of flavor, but it also contains ingredients that will fuel your brain. The brain is about 60% fat (1). Like with the rest of our body, the brain is constantly using the fats, carbohydrates, and proteins that we consume through foods to make new cells. So your brain needs a lot of good quality fats to be able to replenish its supply of neurons- especially when recovering from cognitive decline. In other words, your brain’s integrity and function depends on the types and amounts of fatty acids you consume.

Aptly named, this tapenade is made from olives and anchovies. Olives are especially rich in monounsaturated fatty acids. Monounsaturated fats, specifically those found in olives and olive oil, have been extensively studied and are linked with significant health benefits. Many peer reviewed research papers show the anti inflammatory effect of of monounsaturated fats, as well as the decreased risk of heart disease and all cause mortality in diets high in monounsaturated fats (2). Olives also have uncommonly rich amounts of fat soluble vitamins and antioxidants, which protect cells from damage that occurs on a daily basis. Beyond the clinical trials, many long lived and relatively disease free communities of the world have diets rich in olive oil and olives. All of this together certainly presents a strong case for olive consumption.

In addition to the olives and their benefit, this recipe includes anchovies (and if you’re new to anchovies and feeling apprehensive, this is the recipe to try because the olive flavor is so potent!) Anchovies are very small, silver fish that contain some of the highest amounts of omega 3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats are cardio and neuro protective and provide important fuel for the brain (3). Additionally, anchovies have some of the lowest levels of mercury, reducing the risk associated with eating large amounts of fish. Feel free to increase the amount of anchovy fillets in this recipe to boost your omega 3 intake! Just make sure that you are buying wild caught, salt cured anchovies packed in cold pressed olive oil.

Again, your cells are literally made from the foods that you eat. They are broken down into their basic parts: fats, proteins, and carbohydrates and then re purposed into your cells. This is why nutrition plays such a crucial role in our health. So you need to ask yourself the question, do you want your neurons to made out of the fats from a Big Mac and milkshake, or this nutrient dense Olive Anchovy Tapenade?


  • ½ cup kalamata olives, rinsed
  • 1 ½  cup green olives, rinsed
  • 5-6 anchovy fillets
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon capers
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley


  1. Combine all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until the mixture is slightly chunky.
  2. Serve along side endive leaves, crudites, or use as a spread.


  1. Chang, C.Y, et al. (2009). Essential fatty acids and human brain. Acta Neurol Taiwan 18 (4), 231–241.
  2. Schwingshack, L. & Hoffman, G. (2014). Monounsaturated fatty acids, olive oil and health status: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Lipids Health Dis (13), 154.
  3. Ehrlich, S.D. (2015). Omega-3 fatty acids. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved from: