Olive oil has been a cooking staple for many many years, but avocado oil has a loyal following as well. With some similarities in color and consistency, it can be hard to decipher which one is for you. After much research and experience, we have one of each that we think outshines the rest, but comparing them to each other is a different story.
For seasoned and new chefs, many times the preference between olive oil and avocado oil comes down to the nitty-gritty. We analyzed both in terms of their taste, smell, and uses to find the overall better oil…but the results may not be as black and white as the question which oil is supreme? begs. Here is everything we learned when comparing our favorite olive oil and avocado oil.
The Main Takeaways
Low smoking point
High smoking point
Higher in price
Upon first look and taste, you may not notice any huge discrepancies between olive oil and avocado oil, but there are some. They come from two different fruits—yes, olives and avocados are members of the fruit family—but can both range in color from slightly green to golden to a clear yellow. Depending on if the oil is refined and how old it is can determine the color of both. Taste and smell between the two are different stories, however.
The taste of olive oil is reliant on the type of olives used, how and where they are grown, how ripe they are, and much more. The result is usually a somewhat nutty and earthy oil that tastes great with Mediterranean flavors. It can make you cough, thanks to polyphenols that give it a peppery, pungent finish, Joanne Lacina, the president of Olive Oil Lovers, says. It is also very fragrant, she says, so you should typically smell things like green grass, garden vegetables, and fresh fruit—sometimes even banana. Its taste and smell make it ideal for drizzling or dipping—it’s more of an experience, especially when paired with balsamic vinegar and herby, fresh bread.
Avocado oil on the other hand does not have as much flavor but is sometimes described as "mushroomy" if it is extra-virgin. It also has a more bitter smell.
Another difference has nothing to do with any of the senses, but your wallet. Both oils have varieties that range in price, but usually avocado oil will be more expensive than olive oil. This is because olive oil is more popular, and more of it is made.
Winner: Avocado Oil
The smoke point of olive oil technically depends on its age and whether it is unrefined, but most extra virgin olive oil’s is 375 degrees Fahrenheit. For other types of olive oil, the fresher it is, the higher the smoke point. But even at its highest—around 468 degrees Fahrenheit—avocado oil can go higher without leaving your food tasting burnt.
Spray veggies, meat, tofu, ground-up chickpeas, or anything else you are roasting with one of our favorite oil sprayers or with Chosen Foods' 100% Pure Avocado Oil spray and then cover with your favorite seasonings before placing food in an oven up to 520 degrees Fahrenheit. Avocado oil won’t drastically change the flavor but still allows the food to cook, often resulting in a crispy outside and soft inside.
Deep frying is a commitment—it requires a lot more oil than simply roasting or sauteing, has to reach a certain temperature (usually about 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit), and then has to be disposed of properly. Even though both olive oil and avocado oil fit into the ideal temperature range for deep frying, they both are more expensive than other oil options. If you are making homemade fried chicken or french fries and need enough oil to fully cover the food, we recommend canola oil because it is significantly cheaper, has a high smoke point, and has a neutral flavor. If you are willing to pay the bill, though, you can use olive oil or avocado oil to fit your preference.
Winner: Avocado Oil
If you are only frying with a little bit of oil at a high temperature for a short amount of time, avocado oil will do the trick and you won’t have to worry about the exact temperature of it in the pan. Thanks to its high smoke point, avocado oil won’t emit dark smoke or an unpleasant flavor as you are trying to cook with a high heat.
Pure, unrefined, or light olive oil can be used if you have no other option because they have a higher smoke point than extra virgin, around 390 to 470 degrees Fahrenheit, but you should be extra mindful of the heat of the pan.
Winner: Olive Oil
Sautéing is a slower process at a cooler temperature than stir-frying, and this means olive oil is a better fit for this cooking method. Varieties like light olive oil are great for this, as they have a higher smoke point than extra virgin. If the latter is what you have to work with, keep an eye on the temperature of the pan and keep the heat to a low to medium to avoid burning.
Winner: Olive Oil
There’s a reason restaurants often give diners olive oil to dip bread into and why different regions of the world from Greece to the Middle East have used olive oil for dipping. Extra virgin olive oil is especially delicious for this because it is the freshest, least processed type. It sticks to bread well and has a bold, peppery flavor that can be combined with others like spices or balsamic vinegar. You won’t get a serving to dip into if you are dining in Italy as opposed to Italian restaurants in the U.S., as it is more traditional to use olive oil when making bruschetta and bread is mostly for wiping up extra pasta sauce.
Winner: Olive Oil
With a larger flavor profile, olive oil is the one to get for topping off dishes. Lacina likes to have a few options for finishing olive oils to bring out the flavors of the food. "It’s actually quite fun to play around with pairing different varieties of olive oils with foods in your kitchen to see how it affects the flavor," she says, adding that the best variety for drizzling is extra virgin olive oil.
Lots of salad dressings use olive oil as a base thanks to its flavor profile that is delicious with savory, leafy, fresh vegetables and fruits. Usually it is combined with a type of vinegar, as well as herbs, spices, salt pepper, and sometimes an additional boost of taste like peanut butter, mustard, or yogurt. However, avocado oil works well as a dressing, too. The virgin type is less potent, as is refined, so if you are looking for an oil that won’t add too much, those are good options.
Winner: Olive Oil
Not many baking recipes require super high temperatures, so technically you can use either olive oil or avocado oil when creating something sweet. But oftentimes you’ll see it as the star of the show in a dessert recipe, for example, olive oil lemon curd, olive oil donuts, or, of course, olive oil cake. In these the flavor of olive oil shines in ways avocado oils cannot.
In other instances, olive oil can be substituted for butter in certain recipes. Usually it can’t stand on its own as a full replacement for butter, but it works well in recipes that require a liquid sweetener like maple syrup or honey, a solid fat like peanut butter, and an emulsifying agent like eggs or egg substitutes. You can also swap olive oil for vegetable oil in recipes for things like brownies. Doing so won’t add a savory, grassy taste to your desserts, but rather enrich the flavors already present.
Both olive oil and avocado oil gift sets have become trendy in recent years, and you can’t go wrong with picking either one as a present for a food lover in your life. There are a ton of options from olive oil brands like Brightland and many avocado oil sets include quite a few different types like this one.
Of course, if you know the recipient likes one oil over the other that will determine which one you choose. Additionally, olive oil is more versatile and more people are familiar with it, but opening up avocado oil as a gift will never be like getting a lump of coal.
Should You Buy Avocado Oil or Olive Oil?
This isn’t what you want to read, but the answer to this question is pretty personal. If you like the taste of olive oil and don’t do much high-temperature cooking, then that is the one you should rely on. If it's winter and you are roasting in the oven more often or if you like to fry things like meat or fish, avocado oil is a better choice, especially the Chosen Foods 100% Pure Avocado Oil.
If you absolutely, positively must only choose one, then olive oil is more versatile, well-known, and should be the winner—and the California Olive Ranch Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil is an excellent option.
In an ideal world, every kitchen would have both!
California Olive Ranch Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil
What It’s Best For: Using in recipes
This extra virgin olive oil from California Olive Ranch is certified kosher, non-GMO, and has a seal from the Olive Oil Commission of California which means it passes strict quality standards. It is cold-pressed to retain the most amount of nutrients and flavor and features mild hints of herbs and fruit. This grassy olive oil pairs well with salads, but can be used for sauteing, cooking, and baking, too.
Price at time of publish: $11
Chosen Foods 100% Pure Avocado Oil
What It’s Best For: High-heat cooking
Chosen Foods is known for its avocado products, so it’s no surprise that its Avocado Oil is one of the best on the market. It comes in a tinted bottle, making sure any light doesn't spoil the pale golden-yellow oil. Its smoke point is 500 degrees Fahrenheit and so it is great for frying, roasting, and grilling, but it can be used for other things, as well. "The neutral flavor of our oil combined with its high smoke point make it extremely versatile in the kitchen," says Kendyll Neveau, the Communications Manager at Chosen Foods.
Price at time of publish: $13
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Amanda McDonald is an editor at The Spruce Eats and has over seven years of experience researching, writing, and editing about all things food — from what new products are at the grocery store to chef-approved hacks that keep tricky leftovers fresh for days. Both olive oil and avocado oil are always in her pantry, and she uses both fairly often. Most recently she used avocado oil to roast ground-up chickpeas to add as a crunchy topping to caesar salads, and olive oil as a substitute for vegetable oil in fudgey, rich brownies.
Food and Drug Administration. How GMOs are regulated for food and plant safety in the United States. Updated April 22, 2020.