The etiquette rules on how to serve and eat capers. Tips to be the ideal host or the perfect guest and avoid any embarrassment.

What capers etiquette is

Capers etiquette is the set of rules to properly serve and eat capers. Such rules help avoid behaviors that can disrespect your hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.

If you are hosting, follow the etiquette to serve capers to your guests appropriately.

As a guest, respect the etiquette rules to properly eat capers at the dining table and avoid offending your hosts or embarrassing yourself.

how to serve and eat capers

What you should know about capers

Capers are the immature flower buds of the Capparis spinosa plant, which grows in Mediterranean and Asian countries.

Capers are small, round and firm with a green-gray color. They have a slightly salty and tangy flavor, with a texture that is slightly crunchy.

Etiquette rules to serve and eat capers

1) How to store capers

Store capers in a cool, dark place, ideally at a temperature between 40-50°F (4-9°C). You can store capers in the pantry for up to one year, in the fridge for several months, and in the freezer for up to one year.

Store cooked capers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.

2) How to clean capers

To clean capers, rinse them in cool water and then soak them in cold water for 10-15 minutes to remove excess salt. There are no significant risks associated with cleaning capers.

Capers that have turned bad will have a foul smell or a slimy texture.

3) How to prepare & cook capers

Capers can be eaten raw or cooked. They are a common ingredient in pasta dishes, sauces, and salads, and as a garnish for fish dishes.

Some popular dishes with capers include chicken piccata, pasta puttanesca, and tuna salad.

You can add capers to salads and sandwiches. They are not common in juices, smoothies, jams, or preserves.

Capers are suitable for guests on a vegan, keto, or paleo diet. Be aware that capers are among the most disliked foods. So, it is best to include some alternative food options for your guests.

4) How to serve & present capers

Capers are appropriate for both formal and informal meals, including brunch and snacks. You can serve them as a side dish, appetizer, or garnish.

Serve capers in a small bowl or on a plate as a garnish. The ideal serving temperature is room temperature. Use a small spoon to serve the capers.

You can accompany capers with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and herbs such as parsley or basil.

5) Food and wine to pair capers with

Capers pair well with flavors such as lemon, garlic, and olive oil. You can pair them with vegetables such as artichokes, tomatoes, and potatoes. Capers do not pair well with sweet fruits or vegetables.

Capers pair well with cheese such as goat cheese, feta cheese, and parmesan cheese. They do not pair well with creamy or sweet cheeses.

Capers pair well with fish and seafood such as salmon, tuna, and shrimp. They also pair well with chicken and pork. They do not pair well with red meat.

Capers pair well with dry white wines such as Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. They can also pair well with dry red wines such as Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Capers do not pair well with sweet wines or beer.

6) How to eat capers

Eat capers with a fork. On informal occasions, you can eat them with your fingers too. It is polite to eat the whole caper, including the peel.

Capers etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. Read more about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the most common capers etiquette mistakes:

  • 8/10. Serving capers that have gone bad.
  • 8/10. Not properly cleaning capers before serving.

Additional information for properly serving capers

How many calories per serving?

Counting calories is important to stay healthy and correctly plan a menu.

Capers contain about 1 calorie per caper and around 23 calories per 100 grams.

How to buy the best capers

A crucial factor in capers etiquette is serving your guests the best product possible.

Season and availability 

Capers are available year-round, but the best season to buy them is in the spring.

Choose the best

Capers can be found in commerce in various forms, including fresh, canned, and brined.

The most popular varieties of capers in commerce are the nonpareil, capucines, capotes, and surfines. The nonpareil variety is the smallest and the most prized of all the caper varieties.

When buying capers, look for capers that are plump, firm, and uniformly sized. They should have a bright green color and be tightly closed. Avoid capers that are soft, have a dull color or are discolored. You can also look for capers that are packed in brine, as this helps to preserve their flavor and texture.

Alternatives to capers

Some common alternatives to capers include chopped pickles, green olives, chopped celery, and chopped chives. While they may not have the exact same flavor as capers, they can be used in recipes that call for capers as a substitute.