portuguese black olive cookies

Think of these as biscuits to enjoy with your coffee or tea.  Or as a crispy companion to a serving of vanilla ice cream.  These guys are sweet, savory & salty …all at the same time.  But not too much.  Just a hint of each.  Now imagine a smattering of chopped cured olives along with just a bit of orange zest.  The original recipe for these cookies comes from David Leite, as featured in his cookbook “The New Portuguese Table.”  My version is one that I came across on FOOD52, presented by Emma Laperruque.  Emma recommends using orange zest instead of the lemon zest used in David’s version.  I agree.  The orange zest definitely adds a unique layer of flavor.

The prep on this one is not too intensive.  Really.  Just get the olives pitted and chopped.  Then grab your Microplane and gather your orange zest.


This part is actually fun.  Add the orange zest to the bowl with the sugar and get your hands dirty.  Pinch the sugar and orange zest together until it is well incorporated.  You’ll end up with coarse orange sugar.  This step intensifies the orange flavor in each cookie.

This dough is mixed by hand, literally.  Once you blend it all together with a fork, get your hands in there and work the mixture until you are able to form the dough.  It will be dry and crumbly.  That’s okay.  Just make sure it holds together when you pinch it.  Using a rounded measuring spoon, you’ll scoop out a tablespoon at a time and form it into a small ball.  That will then be coated in sugar and flattened out to form a disc.

You’ll be baking these one tray at a time.  Don’t load up each tray …give each cookie some breathing room but, just so you know, they won’t spread a lot during baking.

These cookies are delicious on their own, but how about adding them to your next cheese tray?

portuguese black olive cookies

Salty, sweet & savory, laced with bits of oil-cured black olives and a hint of orange zest.

Original recipe from David Leite.  Adaptation from Emma Laperruque at FOOD52

Servings 16 to 20 cookies


  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted & chopped (about 1/3 cup when chopped)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Position a rack in the upper half of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.  Cut two sheets of parchment to fit a sheet pan.  (You'll bake the cookies 1 sheet pan at a time.)

  2. Combine the sugar and orange zest in a bowl.  Pinch together with your fingertips until the sugar begins to blush (this intensifies the citrusy flavor). Add the flour, chopped olives, baking powder & salt. Stir with a fork until everything is evenly distributed.  Add the egg to the measuring cup with the olive oil and beat with a fork until smooth.  Add to the dry ingredients and stir first with a fork, then your hands until a dough forms—no dry spots, should hold together when squeezed.

  3. Fill a small bowl with sugar.  Scoop the dough into rounded tablespoons and roll into balls. Roll each in sugar.

  4. Place one piece of parchment on a work surface. Add a dough ball a few inches inward from one corner.  You’ll be baking 4 cookies on the pan—one in each quadrant—any more and you won't be able to roll them out.  Place the other piece of parchment on top.  Use a rolling pin to gently roll the cookie into a 3-to-4-inch circle (you don’t need to apply a lot of pressure, especially if your pin is heavy since the dough is so soft). You'll end up with ragged edges which is normal.  Repeat with 3 more cookies. Lift off the top layer. Transfer the parchment with the cookies to a sheet pan.

  5. Bake the cookies until pebbly on top, for 10 minutes.  Let cool for 1 to 2 minutes, until you can use a spatula to transfer them from the pan to a cooling rack.

  6. Repeat the rolling/baking process with the remaining cookie dough balls.  Once cooled, store cookies in an airtight container for several days. 

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