Why Are Kalamata Olives So Salty?

Olives are small fruits with a singular hard seed in the center. They can be pressed into an oil, eaten whole with or without their seed, and used in a variety of dishes when cooking. Why are Kalamata Olives so salty?

Why Are Kalamata Olives So Salty

Kalamata olives are grown in the Kalamata region of southern Greece. They are dark brown and have a meaty texture. They are cured in brine to remove the bitterness found when they are fresh. This gives them a salty, slightly bitter, and sour-tasting olive.

Below we look at Kalamata olives and how they get their bitter taste.

What are Kalamata Olives?

Kalamata olives are named for the region in Kalamata Greece where they are originally grown. Now they can be grown in many places in the world including the United States and Australia. They are a dark brown olive with a meaty texture. They are typical twice the size of other olives.

Kalamata olives cannot be harvested until they are ripe and must be hand-picked to avoid any bruising to the olives.

Why Are Kalamata Olives So Salty?

Kalamata olives are prepared in two different methods. These methods are known as the long method and short methods. The long method consists of placing the brine for three months to allow it to lose its bitter taste.

The short method involves removing and replacing the brine daily for a week straight. After that week, they are packed in brine, wine vinegar, olive oil, and slices of lemon. The olive can even be slit to further decrease the time it takes to process.

Soaking the Kalamata olives in the brine mixture is what causes them to become so salty. Without the brine mixture, a fresh olive would be too bitter to eat. The preparation removes most of the bitterness for the taste of the olive. The result produces a salty, slightly bitter, and lightly sour olive taste.

This combination is found very pleasant by most people and compels them to eat olives over and over.

The Cure for Salty Olives

If you find Kalamata olives too salty you can reduce the salty taste of the olives.

Soaking the olives in fresh cold water for a few hours will help reduce the saltiness of the olives. You can soak them for 2 to 24 hours depending on your preference.

Keep in mind that this will also reduce the bitterness as well as the sourness of the olive as well.

Are Salty Olives Bad for You?

By itself, the salt in Kalamata olives is not bad for you. If you are eating salty olives alongside other salty foods, or you continually eat Kalamata olives every day can lead to high blood pressure.

If you are on a low-sodium diet or your doctor has recommended that you should cut back on your sodium intake, the salt that is found inside the olive will not help. You will need to soak the olives to remove the salt content before you can enjoy the olives.

Eating Kalamata olives should be treated no differently than other foods that have high salt content. It is ok when done in moderation but should not be something that is done in excess or daily.

Washing Olives

Just rinsing or washing the olives off will not help reduce the salt content drastically. They will need to be soaked to help reduce the content of salt in the olive. It will reduce some of the salt found on the surface of the olive but most will not notice a difference in the taste of the olive.

Washing olives may do more harm than good. You should only wash the olives that you intend to eat soon. Washed olives will tend to go bad sooner than unwashed olives that are left in brine. Washing adds new bacteria to the olive and should not be left after they were washed. If left this bacteria could begin to grow and will be unsafe to eat. 

Reducing the Bitterness in Olives

Most of the bitterness found in the olive has already been reduced when they were processed and soaked in the brine. If they were not treated and soaked in brine they would be more bitter and most people would not enjoy eating them. The process of treating them with brine is what reduces their bitterness.

If they remain too bitter, you can soak Kalamata olives in freshwater. This will reduce the bitterness along with the saltiness of the olive. While soaking, the water will replace some of the brine moisture and decrease the overall taste of the olive.

Rinsing the olives will not reduce the bitterness of the olive and you will need to soak them for 2 to 24 hours to help reduce the saltiness and bitterness of the olive.

If you do not have a few hours to soak the olives, adding a dash of vinegar or lemon juice is found helpful by some people looking to reduce the bitterness of their olives.

Health Benefits of Olives

Despite their salty taste, there are numerous health benefits found in Kalamata olives. Olives are found to be rich in antioxidants that help reduce the risk of chronic diseases. They also contain anti-inflammatory properties that act similarly to ibuprofen.

Olives are also known to contain fatty acids that help reduce the risk of heart disease. Oleic acid, found in olives, can help regulate cholesterol and reduce blood pressure. Some studies involving animals have also suggested that olives support bone health.


Kalamata olives are soaked in a brine mixture for three months or rinsed in a brine mixture every day for a week to reduce their bitter taste. This leaves the olive with a salty, sour, and bitter taste that many people enjoy.

If you find Kalamata olives too salty you can soak them in fresh water for 2 to 24 hours to help reduce their saltiness and overall taste. The water will replace some of the brine mixture and salt found in the meaty part of the olive.

Andrea Arthur