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The Best Relish Tray – A Modern Pickle and Olive Tray

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

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

If you’d rather skip my (very helpful, I think) tips and tricks, essential cooking info, and similar recipe ideas – and get straight to this delicious easy Relish Tray recipe – simply scroll to the bottom of the page where you can find the printable recipe card.

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.

Additional ideas for pickled foods that are perfect for a 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

Take Two Tapas Tips for making your Relish Tray

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.

Am I a loser if 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.

The only rule to follow when making your Relish Tray is that there are no rules.

overhead view of relish tray ingredients

It’s your Relish Tray and your party, so fill it with what you like to eat!

Other great Party Trays to try!

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!

If you love this Relish Tray Recipe as much as I do, please write a five-star review in the comment section below (or on Pinterest with the “tried it” button – you can now add pictures into reviews, too!), and be sure to help me share on facebook!

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

How to make a relish tray

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 encourages and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited.

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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!

Paula

Thursday 27th of February 2020

what is a good cheese to go with this relish tray?

Jennifer

Thursday 27th of February 2020

Great question! Because the veggie tray is meant to be light, I would stick with cheeses that are also light to eat. I would avoid a heavy gouda or cheddar and go with something like a feta, a fresh mozzarella (they make tiny balls called bocconcini that are poppable :)) and maybe a Swiss. If you are looking for something with spice or herbs go with a pepperjack or spiced monterey jack cheese. And then a herb/nut crusted goat cheese log is a great choice too. I hope this helps!

Barb

Tuesday 26th of November 2019

I remember mom and grandma had a small relish tray every family gathering. I did the same thing as you as a child — I’d put black olives on my fingers and eat them Off. Good memories! Now that I am older, I have found I adore Greek kalamata olives and will use those instead. Love the idea of Putting each item in its own mason jar. Those older glass trays are quite heavy to bring with you, and this modernizes the look. Thanks for reigniting an oldie but a goodie! Happy holidays!

Jennifer

Tuesday 26th of November 2019

I did that too! Now I really like Castelvetrano green ones as they are bigger and fit my fingers better. Thank you I hope you have a great holiday too!

Charlene G. D. Walton

Monday 18th of November 2019

Was looking for ideas for a pot luck relish tray. These were very good suggestions. Thank you!

Paula Rosa

Monday 18th of November 2019

Great idea for a relish tray going to make for a friendsgiving this week. Thanks for this great idea.

Jennifer

Monday 18th of November 2019

Post some pictures so I can see! I hope you enjoy!