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Of the many cooking oils on the market today, olive is among the most versatile. Often used in European and Mediterranean cuisine, it is highly touted in home and restaurant kitchens around the world, whether it's being used to craft a dressing for salad or pasta, fry, sauté, or bake.
Olive oil has a low smoking point (about 375 to 470 degrees Fahrenheit), so it's best for no-cook uses and low- to medium-heat cooking. That said, it comes in various grades, and the quality differences within each can be significant. Furthermore, while it was once assumed that good olive oil only came from Italy or France, today varieties from Spain, Greece, and California have gained recognition for their unique flavor profiles.
Here, we rounded up the best olive oils for cooking, dipping, shopping on a budget, and more.
Best Overall: California Olive Ranch Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Made from cold-pressed olives
Smooth flavor with herbal notes
Approved by the Olive Oil Commission of California
A bit expensive
California Olive Ranch describes its extra virgin olive oil as freshly pressed juice. Unlike light or refined oils, which are made with exposure to high heat, this cold-pressed olive oil is made by crushing fresh olives mechanically.
The “Everyday” blend combines several different types of olives to create a versatile oil that contains herbal, fruity, and grassy notes all in one. And, as the name implies, it’s ideal for everyday sauteing, baking, roasting, and even drizzling over salads, as many customers can attest. If you’re looking for something that tastes a little milder, the “Mild” blend has a less intense, buttery flavor.
All of California Olive Ranch’s oils are certified extra virgin by a third-party lab that tests the chemical and sensory properties of the oil. The extra virgin olive oil is also certified kosher, verified non-GMO, and carries a seal from the Olive Oil Commission of California (or OOCC).
While some customers say a bottle of this oil is a bit more expensive than some brands they buy from the grocery store, many say it's worth the cost, particularly because of its quality and flavor.
Grade: Extra virgin | Processing: Cold-pressed | Origin: California, Argentina, Chile, and Portugal | Size: 16.9 fluid ounces
Best Cold-Pressed: Ellora Farms Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sourced from one region in Greece
Great for drizzling
Not ideal for cooking
Although many of the olive oils on this list are cold-pressed, Ellora earned the spot of best cold-pressed olive oil for several reasons. Unlike other olive oils, which combine several olive varieties from various regions, the Ellora Farms Extra Virgin Olive Oil—and all of Ellora Farms’ oils—come from a single region: Crete, Greece. But it’s not only sourced from Greece, it’s produced right on the spot using low temperatures and cold pressing to preserve both flavor and quality.
The Ellora Farms Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a rich, fruity aroma and a bold, peppery flavor that earned it a gold medal at the Mediterranean International Olive Oil Competition in 2019. Although you can cook with it, as long as you’re using low temperatures, it’s best as a finishing or drizzling oil. Customers gave this oil high marks for its well-balanced flavor.
Grade: Extra virgin | Processing: Cold-pressed | Origin: Crete, Greece | Size: 17 fluid ounces
Heat, light, and air all affect olive oil. Olive oil is best stored in sealable metal tins or dark glass bottles to protect the oil from the light. These darkened containers should then be kept away from light and heat.
Best for Dipping: La Tourangelle Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Bright, peppery flavor that isn't overpowering
Recyclable, BPA-free packaging
Design of container could be improved
While you can certainly use it for cooking, the La Tourangelle Extra Virgin Olive Oil really shines when paired with a big piece of fresh crusty bread. That’s why it’s earned the spot of best olive oil for dipping. To make the extra virgin olive oil, La Tourangelle harvests olives from Andalucia, Spain during the early season and cold presses them the same day.
This process creates an oil that has a fresh, bright, and peppery taste with hints of almond, olive leaves, and freshly cut grass. Customers love that its flavor isn't overpowering, though some say the container could use a redesign so that the oil doesn't dribble down the side of it.
The La Tourangelle olive oil is also 100 percent organic and non-GMO verified and the tin container it’s packaged in is BPA free.
Grade: Extra virgin | Processing: Cold-pressed | Origin: Andalucia, Spain | Size: 16.9 or 25.4 fluid ounces
Best Organic: Napa Valley Naturals Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Smooth flavor with fruity notes
Flavor might be too mild for some tastes
Napa Valley may be known for wine, but Napa Valleys Naturals, a brand of Stonewall Kitchen, puts the Northern California region on the map for olive oil, too. While the company started as a roadside produce stand, its operation has expanded throughout the world. Its organic extra virgin olive oil is now made of a blend of regional olives that come from the Mediterranean and are cold-pressed to create a smooth buttery flavor mixed with light, fruity notes. Customers love the taste of this olive oil, though one notes that it's a bit mild for her taste. Another says it works great as a salad dressing.
All five of its olive oil sizes, which range from 12.7 ounces to 128 ounces, are packaged in wine bottles, which just makes them feel kind of fancy.
Grade: Extra virgin | Processing: Cold-pressed | Origin: Mediterranean | Size: 25.4 fluid ounces
Best for Cooking: O-Live & Co. Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Not too thick or thin
Light, fruity flavor
Great for dipping
May be too mild for some palates
If you’re looking for the best olive oil for cooking, the O-Live and Co. Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil checks all the boxes. Its flavor profile—which is best described as mild and fruity—is designed to complement any type of cooked dish. Customers praise that its mild flavor doesn't have a bitter aftertaste, saying it works equally well for drizzling and cooking. The olive oil comes from Chile and exceeds the purity standards set by the International Olive Oil Council.
In addition to their regular Everyday olive oil, O-Live and Co. also offers a certified organic option. And if you prefer a more intense, peppery olive oil over a fruity one, O-Live and Co. has your back with its “Robust” extra virgin olive oil.
Grade: Extra virgin | Processing: Mechanical extraction | Origin: Chile | Size: 16.9 or 25 fluid ounces
Best Flavored: Mantova Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil Variety Pack
Light, fresh flavor
Some flavors not as strong as others
If you’re looking for flavored olive oil, the Mantova Extra Virgin Olive Oil variety pack covers all of the bases. It combines four 8.5-ounce infused olive oils in basil, garlic, lemon, and chili. Each flavored olive oil is made from Italian olives and cold-pressed to create full-flavored oils.
This four-pack makes a great addition to any kitchen—you can use the oils for finishing or dipping—or is a perfect gift for any food lover. And after tasting them yourself, if you decide you like one flavor better than the others, you can buy them each individually instead of in the variety pack.
People gave these flavored oils high praise for how versatile they are: they work great for dressing salads, sauteing, marinating, and—according to more than a few customers—drizzling over popcorn.
Grade: Extra virgin | Processing: Cold-pressed | Origin: Italy | Size: 8.5 fluid ounces
Best Budget: Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Great price for the quality
Comes in three other flavor profiles
Oil is a blend from many sources
Good olive oil doesn’t have to come at a high price, and Filippo Berio’s extra virgin olive oil proves that. For a very budget-friendly price, you can get 25.3 ounces of cold-pressed olive oil that’s made in Italy from a combination of olive varieties from Italy, Spain, Greece, and Tunisia, a North African country that borders the Mediterranean Sea. The result is a robust rich-tasting olive oil that’s ideal for cooking, dressing, and marinades. Several customers who typically buy more expensive oils say it's a worthwhile purchase due to its quality and versatility.
In addition to getting olive oil at a great price, you also get some additional options. If you’re looking for different flavor profiles, you can opt for the Robusto, which has a peppery finish, the 100% Italian, which is light and fruity with a spicy finish, or the California, which combines a delicate balance of fruity and peppery.
Grade: Extra virgin | Processing: Cold-pressed | Origin: Italy, Spain, Greece, and Tunisia | Size: 25.3 fluid ounces
Best Bulk Buy: Bragg Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Smooth flavor profile
Made from cold-pressed organic Koroneiki olives
Gallon size comes in plastic packaging
You may know Bragg from their wildly popular raw apple cider vinegar, but their commitment to quality extends to olive oil, too. Bragg makes its extra virgin olive by cold pressing organic Koroneiki olives cultivated from Greek orchards. Customers rave about this oil's smooth flavor profile, which is ideal for all applications, including light sauteing and drizzling as a finishing oil.
Although you can get smaller sizes, their gallon (128-ounce) jug is one of the best bangs for your buck. While there are other, less expensive oils on the market, this one is a USDA-certified organic, non-GMO, and certified kosher oil at an excellent price of around 40 cents per ounce.
Grade: Extra virgin | Processing: Cold-pressed | Origin: Greece | Size: 128 fluid ounces
What to Look for When Buying Olive Oil
There are three edible grades of olive oil: extra virgin, virgin, and refined. Extra virgin has no more than 0.8 percent acidity and virgin olive oil has an acidity of 2 percent or less. While refined olive oils have the lowest acidity level—less than 0.3 percent—they’re oils that are almost clear, odorless, and flavorless.
When it comes to taste, extra virgin olive oils are considered the best choice, but they’re also more expensive than refined oils.
There are different types of processing involved in the extraction of oils. Extra virgin olive oil is only made through mechanical or hand-pressing, while refined oils may be exposed to heat or chemical solvents. Cold-pressing, which is a type of mechanical processing that’s similar to chewing—a machine masticates the olives until oil is made—is generally considered the gold standard.
Extra virgin and virgin olive oils are sensitive to light. If exposed to bright lights, the fats can oxidize and the oil can go rancid. When choosing an olive oil, look for one in a dark bottle that blocks light. You shouldn’t be able to see the color of the olive oil through the bottle. This ensures that the oil is protected.
Cooking Uses for Olive Oil
By Molly Watson
When you go to the trouble and expense of buying high-quality olive oil, use it where it can shine: to dress salads and drizzle on dishes. Lesser-quality olive oil can make good cooking oil.
While olive oil gets used in scads of recipes, here are a few where the flavor and even the unique texture of olive oil play an important role:
- Marinated Baby Artichokes are cooked in a vinegar bath before being "cured" in jars of olive oil
- Smoked Paprika Soup and Fava Bean Soup both get a hit of flavor and soothing smoothness from a swirl of olive oil as a garnish
- Skordalia is a mixture of potato, almond, and olive oil used as a dip or a spread and full of olive oil flavor
- Aïoli is a garlicky homemade mayonnaise made primarily from olive oil
- Spanish Gazpacho depends on olive oil to soften the acidic edge of tomatoes
Tasting and Storing Tips
How to Taste Olive Oil
Professionals taste olive oil plain, from a spoon or small cup. They smell it first, noting aromas before tasting it. They then sip the oil and let it coat their mouths, noting levels of acid, pungency, and fruitiness.
At home, feel free to taste olive oil by dipping a piece of plain white bread into the oil (baguette or ciabatta works well) or do as the professionals do and simply slurp it plain. If it's turned rancid, it will have a sharp bite that isn't the desired pungency. It will make your mouth pucker instead of the kick to the back of your throat that more pungent olive oils tend to have.
How is olive oil made?
Olive oil is made through a combination of crushing and mechanical extraction. Olives are harvested from trees and then brought to a mill, where leaves and stems are removed from the fruit. Once the fruit is isolated, it’s washed and then crushed into a paste, usually with stainless steel rollers. From there, the paste is stirred for up to 40 minutes and then sent through a centrifuge that separates the oil from the solid pieces. The process is similar to how cold-pressed juice (and yes, olives are a fruit) is made.
At this point, the oil may be bleached or refined, but if it undergoes any heat or chemical processing, it’s no longer extra virgin olive oil.
Does olive oil go bad?
Olive oil is technically a perishable item that has a shelf life of 4 to 24 months, depending on the type of oil. Extra virgin oils go bad more quickly than virgin or refined oils. If the olive oil is in a clear bottle, or exposed to bright light, it spoils the olive oil, causing it to go rancid sooner.
Can you fry with olive oil?
Many people think you can’t cook or fry with olive oil, but you can, as long as you make sure you’re keeping the temperature in the right range. Olive oil has a smoke point—the point at which it will burn and smoke—of 350°F to 410°F. When you fry food, the temperature of the oil should stay between 350°F and 375°F, so olive oil would be suitable for the job.
Can you substitute olive oil for vegetable oil?
You can substitute olive oil for vegetable oil in most cases, but you may not want to. Vegetable oil is mostly flavorless, while extra virgin olive oil has a strong, distinct taste. While this taste lends well to most savory dishes, it can overpower and/or clash with the flavors in baked goods, like cakes or brownies.
What makes olive oil extra virgin?
Extra virgin olive oil is unrefined olive oil that’s the highest quality you can buy. In order to be classified as extra virgin, the olive oil must have no more than 0.8 percent acidity. The extra virgin label also means that it’s free of defects in odor and flavor and that no chemicals or heat have been used in its processing. All extra virgin olive oil is mechanically pressed or cold-pressed.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Lindsay Boyers is a certified holistic nutritionist with extensive nutrition knowledge and cooking experience. She’s developed over 1,000 original recipes and is constantly on a mission to find the best tasting foods and beverages at the best prices.