July 25, 2012

Baked Grapes, An Olive Alternative

I read books. As long as you count Fifty Shades of Grey.

But my preference for literature lies strongly in culinary novels. Of every kind. Cookbooks, blogs, and most definitely magazines. And yesterday, I splurged. I bought four food glossies and spent an afternoon poring over every word. Every recipe. Every picture.

And then I found this: Baked grapes.

I thought my pickled cherries were a snazzy party trick. But man, Sunset magazine really raised the bar for olive substitutions. And when you pull these out at your next cocktail night or brunch with friends, you too will set a new standard for classy party eats.

Now here’s the nitty gritty: Simply rub the grapes in oil. The original recipe calls for olive oil, but that felt a little inconsiderate to olives since they getting majorly shown up by these baked grapes. So I used grape seed oil instead. And I felt really good about it.

Then, it’s time to replace the salt with some spices. Of course, you can always stick to sweet flavors and use cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, and even cardamom. But go for savory and sprinkle the grapes with a little all spice, freshly ground black pepper, and some red pepper chili flakes.

Mix and pour onto a baking sheet.

The, with a quick trip to the oven, theses fruits get juicy, oozy, and impossible to stop nibbling. They look amazing — shriveling down to mimic a mix of artisanal olives — and they taste even more extraordinary. So good, that I wished I had people coming over for dinner.

And if you’re lucky enough to have guests (lucky!), you can serve the baked grapes on a platter with some toasted no-salt added bread for spreading.

Or … stick with me for a moment … mix them with pasta, thinly sliced chili pepper, and some fresh parsley.


Yes! True story, this was delicious. And I may be biased, but how pretty does that look? It’s a fresh, salt-free take on a simple dish that is sure to impress anyone.

Keep it vegetarian. Add chicken. And definitely save some for lunch the next day.

So, Sunset, thank you for a wonderful reminder that you can teach old ingredients new tricks.

And olives, move over. There’s a new nibble in town.

Chow on.

SALT-FREE BAKED GRAPES (a.k.a Salt-Free Olive Alternative) 

adapted from Sunset Magazine Roasted Grapes with Oozy Cheese


  • 1 cup red seedless grapes
  • 1 cup green seedless grapes
  • 2 tbsp grape seed oil
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • optional: freshly torn parsley and thinly sliced bird pepper/cayenne pepper


Preheat oven to 425 dgF.

In a medium bowl, toss the grapes with the oil and spices. Spread them on a baking sheet and place into the oven to cook for 10 minutes.

Then, carefully remove the baking sheet and shimmy it with your hand or use a spatula to move the grapes around. Place the baking sheet back into an oven and cook for 8 more minutes.

Remove the grapes and pour them onto a platter. Serve with toasted no-salt added bread, over pasta, or refrigerate and use them any way you want the next day.

+ Sodium Count: Parsnip: 13mg per cup

Susan Tweeton July 25, 2012 at 11:46 am

Another great idea! You’re right — between the pickled cherries and thee savory baked grapes, we’ve been given some fantastic olive substitutes.

Gary Conway July 25, 2012 at 1:11 pm

This looks crazy! But I also want to try it. I don’t eat pasta but could maybe make an interesting salad with this and some chicken

jessg23 July 26, 2012 at 7:42 am

Definitely! Great ideas, Gary!

Marion Taylor July 26, 2012 at 9:08 am

Great post Jess! This is perfect for summer entertaining too! I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve inspired a restaurant chef somewhere with this unique take!

Sharon July 28, 2012 at 9:57 am

or you could make an orzo salad with them. This is SUCH a great idea!

rodney July 30, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Baked grapes wow I must try those.


Oui, Chef August 3, 2012 at 5:39 am

Too cool! I’m thinking some baked grapes would be delicious over polenta.

Michele August 8, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I just found your blog today as I was searching for low sodium choices at the ball park. While my need for a low sodium diet is not as severe as others (I have and inner ear problem, Meniere’s Disease, which causes vertigo), I believe it’s important for me to adhere to a low sodium diet as best I can. I am excited to find this blog filled with great information and recipes. Thank you!

Timmy August 26, 2012 at 7:06 am

Grapes are easily digestive so you don’t necessary need to cook them to make healthy. Pears and apples have pectin which is hard to disgust. This breeds endotoxin. I think though it pretty safe to cook grapes. Your not going to lose a ton of nutrition like most think you will.

Susan February 9, 2013 at 1:03 pm

My mother made a regular meal we called “chicken and grapes” and that is now known as “Gracie’s chicken”. She used chicken pieces, chopped mushrooms, cream of mushroom soup (a no-no!), milk, white wine, and green grapes and baked. Served over white rice or mashed potatoes. I make the same dish with homemade “cream of mushroom soup” (1 1/2 cups of milk, few tablespoons flour in a blender with black pepper, then add chopped mushrooms and cook over a low heat until combined and thickened, will not be as thick as canned cream of mushroom soup but you also do not need to add extra milk). So I use chicken breasts, homemade cream of mushroom soup, white wine, sliced mushrooms, and seedless green grapes. I usually add extra black pepper and just “eyeball” everything. Bake at 350 until chicken cooked through. I serve over brown rice of garlic smashed new potatoes (and occasionally white rice as a nostalgic comfort food). Everyone loves this and so easy. I once served to friends (with the garlic smashed new potatoes) thinking everyone had this dish growing up but they were blown away.

jessg23 February 10, 2013 at 11:16 am

Oh my god, Susan, I’m making this. Sounds wonderful.

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