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THE BEST RELISH TRAY {A Modern Pickle and Olive Tray}

Do you remember having relish trays at parties? Check out my MODERN TWIST on an old-fashioned relish tray and see if it doesn’t become your new FAVORITE FINGER FOOD for a crowd!

Close up of pickles on the relish tray

If you’d rather skip my essential cooking tips and tricks and get straight to this delicious recipe – simply scroll to the bottom of the page where you can find the printable recipe card.

WHAT IS A RELISH TRAY?

Did your parents entertain a lot while you were growing up? Whether it was a party or just a large family dinner, my parents loved having people over and feeding them. 

One of my favorite appetizers that my mom always put out was a relish tray. Simple to put together, she always had the ingredients on hand, and it was the finger food tray that was empty first!

Full of tangy pickled beets, salty olives, and sour pickles, I hung around the relish tray and stuck black olives on the ends of my fingers and slowly ate them off one by one.

A Relish Tray is different from a Crudite Platter, a Charcuterie Plate, or a Cheese Board because it contains produce or vegetables that have been brined, pickled, or marinated. 

And each item can be eaten alone and doesn’t require a vehicle like a cracker to get it into your mouth.

Relish is technically a condiment or sauce that is added to another dish to add flavor, but the items can also be eaten by themselves. Pickles are usually added to burgers, but who doesn’t pop a pickle spear in their mouth every once in a while?

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Close up of olives and toothpicks on a relish tray

WHAT KIND OF PICKLES DO YOU USE FOR A RELISH TRAY?

A Relish Tray is often called a pickle tray or an olive tray because these tend to be the most popular items on the tray. Olives and pickles are often the easiest to find, and I think everyone on the planet has a jar of olives or pickles in their pantry or fridge.

My favorite olives to have on my Relish Tray are jumbo black olives, Castelvetrano, and olives stuffed with things like cheese, garlic, and jalapeño. All those flavors really get my mouth watering for dinner later.

For the pickle side of the pickle and olive tray, I like bread and butter pickles, super sour dill pickles, and extra garlicky and spicy pickles for the more adventurous types.

Other popular choices for a Relish Tray are pickled asparagus, pepperoncini peppers, pickled cauliflower and vegetables known as Giardiniera, and beets.

IDEAS FOR THE PERFECT RELISH TRAY

  • artichoke hearts
  • radishes
  • peppadew peppers
  • garlic cloves
  • eggs
  • onions
  • mushrooms
  • green beans
  • pickled okra
  • green tomatoes
variety of containers for holding foods on a relish tray

RELISH TRAY IDEAS

If you are tired of a boring appetizer there are some easy ways to bring your mom’s Relish Tray of black olives and baby pickles on toothpicks into the modern age.

  1. add some unique pickled items that you can make yourself or pick up at a specialty food store or online.
  2. trade in her clunky glass tray that weighs 1000 pounds and doesn’t fit into your dishwasher for a new container that you can find in your kitchen or craft room. Wine glasses and mason jars work great!
  3. have plenty of ways for your guests to get their pickle on. I suggest toothpicks, tiny tongs, and these mini forks.
  4. don’t take yourself too seriously and try to follow too many “rules” that no longer apply.

Relish Trays make great Thanksgiving appetizers and are perfect Christmas Party foods. Everyone needs a few party trays for your guests to nibble on while you are greeting new guests or making cocktails.

Relish Trays aren’t just great for holidays parties, they are a staple at your summer BBQ or Easter brunch!

Small jars of pickles before not on the relish tray

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These are questions that I frequently get regarding making pickle and olive trays. If I don’t have our answer listed, please email me or leave a comment.

IS A RELISH TRAY JUST A PICKLE AND OLIVE TRAY?

Yes, it is but it can be so much more!

DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE PICKLED?

Technically, no. You can add marinated items or ones tossed in a tangy dressing.

CAN I INCLUDE RAW VEGETABLES AND DIPS?

You can, it’s your tray but these are typically reserved for a crudité tray or cheese platter.

CAN I USE ALL STORE BOUGHT PICKLES AND OLIVES?

Absolutely not! Not everyone is into home preserving and pickling, plus I can’t find those baby carrots raw, so feel free to grab all the items you need at the store. It is great for last minute guests as everything is shelf stable and ready in your pantry!

Technically a Relish Tray is for pickled items only but you can walk the line and serve items that are marinated in a tangy sauce, tossed in a vinaigrette dressing, or have a natural vinegar flavor. 

Think marinated cheese, tortellini tossed in a homemade balsamic dressing, or even some marinated chickpeas.

overhead view of relish tray ingredients

Looking for a unique dish to take to a party you’ve been invited to? How about a quick appetizer you can make ahead of time for a get-together that you are hosting and are already stressed to the max? Check out all my party food recipes, both sweet and savory, to fit your special occasion!

Overhead view of a relish tray for Pinterest viewing with text "how to make a relish tray" "better than mom's"

The only rule to follow when making your Relish Tray is that there are no rules. It’s your Relish Tray and your party, so fill it with what you like to eat!

MORE EASY PARTY FOODS

overhead view of relish tray ingredients

Modern Relish Tray

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Do you remember having relish trays at parties?  Check out my modern twist on an old-fashioned relish tray and watch it become your new favorite finger food!

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Arrange all your ingredients in small containers and place on a tray.
  2. Enjoy!

Notes

*If you like this recipe, please leave me a comment and rate it with some stars.  Thank you!

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 25Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 128mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 1g

This nutrition information was generated via a third party, Nutritionix, and can not be held liable for any discrepancies in the information provided.

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{Originally Published 11/6/18 – recipe notes updated 4/23/20}

@TakeTwoTapas.com. Content and photographs are copyright protected. Sharing of this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited.

Paulette

Thursday 23rd of September 2021

I’ve been doing this for years using my great grandmother’s relish trays (smaller) but now I want to find a tray like yours! How did you keep your parsley from wilting?

Jennifer

Friday 24th of September 2021

I got it at Michael's on a clearance sale:) For the parsley, I trim the ends, then wrap them loosely in a wet paper towel to keep them fresher longer. The one thing about relish trays that I love is that they can sit out for longer so I have duplicate jars of goodies in the fridge that I can just switch out. Same with the parsley. I keep a few extra bundles in the fridge. You can also try rosemary sprigs! They last a little longer at room temperature:)

Laura

Sunday 19th of September 2021

I’m going to do this for my book club next month! Now for the cute tray, container….have plenty of cute clear jars and plastic wine glasses…thanks!

Fran

Saturday 18th of September 2021

Absolutely love this Will do it for a party Thurs night Thank you !

Misti K

Saturday 10th of July 2021

It’s beautiful! I love this idea and I can’t wait to try it!

Kaitlyn Bornman

Wednesday 9th of December 2020

How do you plan on how much to put out? I know we have to adjust it to the amount of guests. However, not having a good idea of guest:snack ratio, knowing the amount of guests seems irrelevant. Do you have any insight?

Jennifer

Wednesday 9th of December 2020

I usually follow the rule of 2-3 pieces per person per hour if you are serving this as an appetizer. If your meal is all appetizers then I would plan 4-6 pieces per person per hour. Noting that some of the items are smaller, you might just double the amount for those items. Thanks!

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