What Is Olive Loaf?

I am on the record as being a huge fan of olives. I know that not everyone is in this camp. Olives are an acquired taste, along with mushrooms, lupini beans, and other slightly slimy savory treats. Even I, an absolute champion on the green olive, took a while to come around to the black olives on my pizzas and in my salads. But now I embrace olives of every variety—Kalamata, Castelvetrano, Manzanilla—as unparalleled delights.

And yet, even for olive enthusiasts like me, the concept of olive loaf is something somewhat eyebrow-raising. Olives…in a loaf? Olives alongside meat? What exactly is this concoction? What is olive loaf made of? How do I eat it? Let’s slice into some answers about this cold cut curio.

What is olive loaf?

Olive loaf is a sliced deli meat that has green olives with pimentos inside the meat. Olive loaf is probably most similar to the Italian deli meat mortadella which is a sausage of finely ground pork that contains black pepper grains, pistachios, or sometimes even berries. However, olive loaf seems to be a distinctly American creation. 

It should not be confused with olive bread, which is bread that contains olives. While olive bread can certainly come in a loaf, when we talk about “olive loaf,” we’re generally referring to the luncheon meat.

What is olive loaf made of?

If you want to know what is in olive loaf, but are afraid that the answer might be slightly disgusting because it is, after all, a processed meat product, you should check out the description from Boar’s Head. They know how to make meat sound good. As their site notes, their olive loaf is made from, “A blend of select cuts of beef and pork that is studded with imported pimento-stuffed Manzanilla olives.” 

See? Not so bad. Select cuts studded with olives in a European style? Sounds downright sophisticated.

Is olive loaf bologna?

Yes, olive loaf is, essentially, bologna with olives. While the texture of the meat may be ever slightly different than the Oscar Meyer variety of bologna you may be familiar with, it is essentially accurate to say that olive loaf is made with bologna.

How is olive loaf made?

Without getting too far into the nitty gritty of how sausage gets made, essentially the process is thus: Cube your meat, chill it down, and then grind those cubes down and mix them together into paste along with a whole bunch of spices. Next, get your whole, pitted green olives, coat them in a binding agent and fold them into the paste. Then, smush the whole thing inside a sausage casing, cook it, and let it cool. There’s your olive loaf! 

By the way, in the process of looking up everything olive loaf related, I also stumbled upon this recipe for a “Mediterranean Olive Loaf,” which is more like a chicken-based meatloaf with olives than a luncheon meat. To be honest, it looks pretty good, and if you want something called olive loaf but don’t want bologna, this is probably your best bet. Enjoy!

About the Author

Matt Crowley

Matt Crowley is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles. He likes maple-flavored snacks, loves every kind of cheese, and is slowly learning to accept mushrooms.