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Pitted versus Unpitted Olives

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2009

Are there any differences in flavor or texture among pitted and unpitted olives?

To evaluate any differences between pitted and unpitted olives, we gathered both green and black brine-cured olives from deli sections at supermarkets, as well as olives packed in plastic and glass containers. After tasting many samples, it became clear that the pitted olives suffered on two counts: They tasted saltier and their flesh was mushier. They also lacked the complex, fruity flavors of the unpitted kind. Here’s why: Before being packed for sale, fresh-picked olives are soaked in brine for periods of up to a year to remove bitterness and develop flavor. Once pitted, the olives are returned to the brine for packing, which can penetrate the inside of the olive and turn it mushy and pasty, as well as increase the absorption of salt. That saltier taste can mask subtler flavors. If you have the time, it makes sense to buy unpitted olives and pit them yourself.