Crispy, nutty, and briny, Fried Capers are magical little flavor bombs that add an incredible dimension of flavor and texture to salads, pasta, meat, and vegetable dishes.
Something magical happens when you quickly fry capers. They lose a lot of their pungency and become nutty, crisp and incredibly light. Imagine a flower bud immediately blooming on contact with hot oil, each of its petals becoming ethereally light and crispy. Their salty, briny flavor makes them an addictive little garnish.
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What are capers?
Capers are the unopened flower buds of the spiny caper bush (Capparis spinose). They get their sharp pungency from a sulfurous, mustard-like compound called glucocapparin. Capers of all sizes may be cured in salt or brined in salt and vinegar. They are found in dishes like veal piccata, tapenade, and spaghetti alla puttanesca.
Capers are not the same thing as caper berries. While capers are the immature flower buds of the bush, caper berries are the fruit the bush produces once the buds have flowered and then been fertilized. Caper berries are about the size of a grape and are often harvested with their stems attached. They are also cured in vinegar like capers.
Capers are not naturally sour; to obtain the briny, salty flavor for which they are famous they must be cured in seasoned vinegar, a process that been used for thousands of years.
What do fried capers taste like?
Capers have been valued since ancient times for the burst of salty, lemony, briny flavor they give to foods. Get past the brine, and they have a floral, grassy flavor. Frying capers takes away some of the vinegary sharpness and brings out a nutty, crispy, crunchiness. When fried, the flower buds open up and each petal becomes as light as gauze and crackly crisp. Even the stamens inside the flower become crispy.
Where do capers come from?
Capers are grown in parts of Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, North Africa, Southern Europe, Turkey and California.
Pickling capers is a long and tedious process. The plant from which the tiny flower buds are plucked is prickly, and they’re too small and delicate to be plucked by machine, so they have to be harvested individually by hand. After being picked, capers are sorted by size. The smallest are named “non pareilles” and are the most expensive. Next in size are surfines, capuchins, fines, and capotes. Then they are dried, brined, or salted.
How long have capers been around?
Capers have been around since ancient times. The use of capers dates back to 2000 BC where they are mentioned as a food in the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh.
He brought her gifts all the things that he had come to know and love in the forest and from the open steppes; wild cucumbers and cassia melon, grapes and figs and caper buds from the dry rocks. He brought her blossoms of golden mimosa and fragrant branches of jasmine.
— The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Greeks and Romans both highly regarded capers as an aid in digestion.
How to make fried capers
Use capers that are brined in a jar. Drain the capers and put them on a paper towel or kitchen towel to dry them as much as possible.
In a small saucepan, heat ⅛ inch vegetable or olive oil until it shimmers (350°F). Add the capers to the hot oil (they’ll give off some liquid at first, so watch out for spattering oil) and fry until they turn golden brown and begin to crisp. This takes me about 2-3 minutes, depending on the size of the caper. Fry in batches if you’re doing a lot, otherwise you’ll cool the oil down too much.
Drain carefully and put on paper towels to absorb excess oil. The capers can be made 3 to 4 hours ahead; keep them uncovered at room temperature.
How to use fried capers
Fried Capers add a pop of briny, fruitiness to any dish. They’re an elegant garnish for pasta, salads, fish, or grilled meats. They’re also addictive little nibbles on their own! Leftover frying oil will be infused with caper flavor and can be used again to sauté fish, chicken, or vegetables, or wherever you might like the flavor of capers.
How to store fried capers
The capers can be made 3 to 4 hours ahead. Keep them uncovered at room temperature so they stay crispy. Any leftover can be stored at room temperature, covered, for up to 3 days.Print
Fried Capers - Magical Flavor Bombs for Your Food
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Jarred capers in brine
- vegetable or olive oil to fill small saucepan ⅛ inch deep
- Pour oil into small sauce pan to ⅛ inch deep.
- Heat oil until shimmering or 350F.
- Drain capers and dry on paper towels or kitchen towel.
- Add capers to pan without overcrowding, in batches if making a large quantity.
- Fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.
- Carefully remove capers from oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.
- Let rest a few minutes before using. If making ahead, they can stay uncovered at room temperature for several hours.
- To store, keep in covered container at room temperature for several days.
- Prep Time: 2 minutes
- Cook Time: 3 minutes
- Category: Side Dish
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: fried capers
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I love to use fried capers for my salads too!
They're fabulous on salads! Thanks so much, Angie!
Gosh! they sound fabulous <3
They're pretty amazing! Thanks so much, Taruna!
Haylie / Our Balanced Bowl
Kelly, these look amazing! Being from the South, I love anything fried...but like you said, these look like pure flavor bombs for your food! YUM! I've actually never had capers...but this recipe will change that 🙂 Awesome one as always!
I use capers a lot for the shot of flavor they give. And of course one of our favorite dinners is a lemon chicken with capers. Frying them just makes them so much more wonderful. Same great flavor, but with this amazing light and crispy crunch. Thanks so much, Haylie!
Rocky Mountain Woman
What a great idea! I use capers a lot in my cooking, but have never tried them fried.
Thanks for the tip!
They're so cool fried! And the oil they cooked in has a wonderful, briny caper flavor! Thanks so much!
What a delightful idea and we love capers in this house! I can't wait to try them 🙂
They're so good! Hope you enjoy them as much as we do! Thanks so much, Susan!
I've never even thought to fry capers, now it's all I want to do! I love capers, and the way you describe them after they've been fried sounds amazing! These are on my list to try. 🙂
They're so incredible fried, Marcie! So light and so crispy! And of course we love the flavor. Thanks so much!
Thao @ In Good Flavor
That's incredible! Who would have that you could fry capers?! I have to give this a try. Thanks for enlightening me, Kelly!
It's such a nifty trick! It's amazing to see the buds bloom open. Thanks so much, Thao!
I've never fried capers before Kelly. Always just used them straight from a jar and only ever in making tartar sauce, ha ha! Now at least I have a new use for them. My try this!
We love capers here, Neil! They're briny flavor is so good with fish and of course in our favorite lemon chicken with capers. Frying them adds a whole new dimension. Thanks so much!
Kathy @ Beyond the Chicken Coop
These look so interesting. I love crunchy foods and I'll be these capers are delicious. This is a recipe I will need to try!
They're so easy and add such a fun flavor and texture. They're incredibly light! Thanks so much, Kathy!
Healthy World Cuisine
Frying capers really add so much flavor and fun to so many dishes. We love adding them on top of baked lemon fish as a garnish. Beautiful photos and lovely post. Pinning to all of our favorite boards.
I just want to sprinkle them on everything! Well, almost! They're terrific with lemony flavors. Thanks so much, Bobbi!
So interesting! I knew they came from a Mediterranean bush, but not anything else. I'm actually surprised they don't cost more! I've fried capers because it was part of a salmon crudo recipe I followed. Really fabulous.
They're technically supposed to be more expensive, but I get them for about a $1.50 a bottle. Not complaining though! Salmon crudo sounds amazing. Thanks so much, Mimi!
I decided to fry up some capers last minute to add to an nduja pesto pasta and it elevated it massively. Brought another texture and nuttiness to the dish (to which I also added a lemon-Parmesan pangratatto and rocket.)
Amy, that sounds absolutely fantastic! It's amazing what fried capers can add to a dish, isn't it? Thanks so much!
Capers are one of my favorite ingredients and I use them all the time. I haven't ever thought to deep fry them. Can't wait to try it. Thank you! 🙂
They're such a great garnish. I love their briny flavor. Thanks so much, Valentina!
Katherine | Love In My Oven
I would LOVE these!! I would scatter these all over a salad or in a stir fry. Salty is my kind of topping! I have never had fried capers, Kelly. Now I've got to try!
Their flavor is so addicting. Once I tried it, I was hooked! Thanks so much, Katherine!
Great info on capers. We serve capers sautéed in butter and shallots under grilled flatfish, but never fried. A great idea and one I look forward to tasting soon.
That sounds delicious, Ron! I'll have to give it a try. Thanks so much!
Kelly dear, you have opened a new Universe for me ! Never fried only pickled these beauties !!!! Thank you so much for this idea 🙂
How I'd love to have my own caper shrub and pickle them myself! Thanks so much, Davorka!
Leanne | Crumb Top Baking
I've never had capers! I'm not sure why that is, but these crispy fried capers look so delicious! They would make such a great salad topping. I would love the crunch!
They have a lovely briny, salty flavor that's wonderful as a garnish on foods. Thanks so much, Leanne!
David @ Spiced
Fascinating! I've never even heard of fried capers, but now I'm craving a handful of these like there's no tomorrow! I love capers, but we typically use them straight from the jar. Now I want to try my hand at frying up a batch. Talk about a great appetizer for summer gatherings!
We love capers and these are so much fun! Thanks so much, David!
I love capers in or on just about anything savory! I’m going to have to try frying them - I imagine we would love them on anything, just like the brined capers! Thanks for all of the info on capers, too!
These are good on so many things! Such a fun little garnish. Thanks so much, Laura!
I adore crispy capers (and capers in general!) - I've always baked them until crisp, but you have me wanting to fry them! Love how they blossom!
Oh, I'll have to try baking them! They're just so good on so many savory dishes. Thanks so much, Marissa!
Oh, wow! You can fry the jarred capers?. I never knew that. I simply add it to salads.
I use them both ways. Frying them adds a lovely crispiness that is so much fun as a garnish. Thanks so much, Balvinder!
My husband LOVES capers!!! I've never had them this way. I am excited to try your recipe!!!
They're so much fun this way! Hope you like them. Thanks so much, Mindee!
Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen
What a great idea! My husband is a huge capers fan. Can't wait to try your recipe Kelly.
They add such a wonderful flavor to so many foods! Thanks so much, Mary Ann!
John / Kitchen Riffs
Fried capers are wonderful! Haven't had them for ages, though -- thanks for reminding me how good they are. 🙂
They're so addictive, aren't they?! Thanks so much, John!
Karen (Back Road Journal)
We always have capers in our pantry and I can't wait to try the fried capers. Do you suggest using the very small ones or the large one?
Beautiful capers! I have never even heard of frying them before, very interesting idea! I would love to have some.
Their texture becomes so light and crispy. Their taste gets a little nutty, while keeping the salty, briny flavor. Thanks so much, Adina!
Karen (Back Road Journal)
I can't wait to try the fried capers Kelly. Would you suggest using the small or large ones for frying?
You can fry any size capers. Mine are on the small size, about 3-4 mm in width. Hope you love them! Thanks so much, Karen!
Karen (Back Road Journal)
Thank you Kelly, the small ones are what I always have in my pantry. 🙂
Sure thing, Karen! 🙂
Okayyyyy - What?! Not only have I not ever tasted them, I've never even thought to fry a caper! And I love them!! I must try this! Thank you!!
Oh you have to try them, Annie! Their texture is so amazing when they're fried! So light and crispy!
These Fried Capers are Magical Flavor Bombs that add an incredible dimension of flavor and texture to my meal. Thanks for sharing <3 🙂
Thanks so much, Marie!
Make sure to keep the oil. You can use it on all sorts of dishes for a caper infused flavour.
It's so good! Thanks for the tip, Mariana!
I had fried capers for the first time two weeks ago in Athens, Greece. They were sprinkled on top of FAVA, a hummus-like appetizer made from yellow split peas. Also on top were some caramelized red onions and a drizzle of olive oil. Your beautiful description of an amazing, exciting flavor bomb is right on. My friend Kay found your recipe. THANKS!
Those flavors sound fantastic, Ineke! So happy you share my love of fried capers! Thanks so much!
I will be trying this recipe today. My inspiration to try was a local restaurant (Frankie’s) who has poached eggs with lemon hollandaise sauce on toasted English muffin with fried capers as a garnish. At first I wouldn’t try the capers because of past experiences when served right out of the jar . But these little jems with the lemon hollandaise is a breakfast I want to create at home. Can’t wait !! Hoping I get it right Or else I will have to go to Frankie’s Hmmmm anyways thanks for the info and inspiration!! Patricia in Victoria
That sounds fabulous, Patricia! Thanks so much!
You talk about fried capers, and from the looks of it, you use the entire bottle of capers to fix them. Can you tell me, is there any use for the brine the capers are in, in the bottle? It would mean no waste of anything!
The fried capers sound WONDERFUL!!! I can't wait to try them that way!
Hi Tari, You could add it to the marinade for chicken or maybe a spoonful to the dressing for macaroni or pasta salads. Thanks so much!
This recipe was super easy and cooked perfectly. The capers are light, flavorful, and crunchy - great for nibbling and as a topping for dinner.
Next time, I'll rinse the capers first before draining. The brand I used wound up kind of salty. I'll definitely do this recipe again!
So happy you liked it, Bee! Thanks so much!
What about using an air fryer?
I'll have to try that and see how it works!