Olive oil means different things to different people. For some, it’s simply a healthy alternative to other oils. This, of course, leads to picking the cheapest bottle on the shelf and using it to grease pans or occasionally drizzle on a salad. Others, who sit at the opposite end of the scale, use olive oil in a different way entirely. For them, picking the best olive oil is the same as picking the right cheese, wine or balsamic vinegar, and the process requires time, passion and knowledge. In essence, it requires love.
If you’ve yet to discover your love for olive oil, we’re here to guide you along the way. The first major step is understanding the factors that go into picking the right oil. This starts with knowing there are many kinds of olive oil. One example of an olive oil category you probably already know is extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), which represents the highest quality of the oil. Past understanding the various types of olive oil, you also need to know there are a number of ways to process olive oil and different countries of origin can bring about different flavors. Beyond normal olive oils, flavored oils are also available. Love lemon? Try a lemon-infused oil!
There are many more reasons why olive oil is one of the best ingredients to utilize when dipping, cooking, or frying. Here are a few of them:
- Superfood – Famous for being a major part of the oh-so-healthy Mediterranean diet, these oils are a natural superfood, stuffed full of antioxidants, polyphenols, and vitamin E. Plus, they are naturally free of cholesterol, gluten, and sodium.
- Vs. Other Oils – Although there has been a recent boom in alternative cooking oils, such as coconut and avocado, olive oil remains king when all benefits are considered. All oils are fats, but olive oil (especially EVOO) is more versatile and promotes a healthier lifestyle than others.
- Disease Prevention – It’s often documented that olive oil has anti-inflammatory abilities and can fight against the early drivers of diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and obesity. There is a particular focus on extra virgin olive oil’s effect on cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and heart attacks, as it has, in some cases, been proven to help manage cholesterol, improve blood vessel quality, and lower blood pressure.
- Shelf Life – Olive oil should be kept in a cool, dark place. Steel tin or dark-colored glass containers promote a longer shelf life, as they protect against UV light which can damage the oil. In the right conditions, olive oil can last for up to 24 months, and possibly longer. If you’re unsure whether your oil is still good, take a small taste before pouring it onto your food. It won’t harm you, and you’ll be able to tell if it’s gone rancid from a sharp hit of unwanted bitterness. This process is similar to testing a possibly corked wine.
- A Spoonful a Day – Many people, especially in the Mediterranean region, commit to drinking a spoonful of olive oil first thing in the morning. The reason for this is everything we have mentioned above, combined. Plus, doing so can improve your digestive system and aid in weight loss.
How is Olive Oil Made?
Olives can be picked at various times to deliver a variety of flavors. Brands select different stages of ripeness to create their oil’s recognizable identity, and that’s the very first step in producing a quality bottle of oil.
Then, farms must actually pick the olives. Some smaller farms still utilize hand picking, but most have invested in automated olive pickers which can complete a person’s full day’s work in an hour.
Once the olives are picked, leaves and twigs are removed prior to grinding. To produce the best quality oil, olives must be transferred from tree to grinder as quickly as possible, and the grinding should be completed slowly. It’s important that the heat created by the friction from grinding is controlled carefully. If olive pulp exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit, then it cannot be classified as cold-pressed. Cold-pressed olive oil features the most delicious taste and the highest commercial value of all olive oil.
After grinding, there are two main ways to extract oil from the pulp. The most traditional approach is to layer pulp between large hemp discs and hydraulically press them. The modern alternative is using a centrifuge to spin the pulp and siphon out the oil. This is a simple process that delivers an entirely natural product. Finally, rather than disposing of the remaining pulp, it can be recycled and used as animal feed to ensure there’s zero waste in the production process. Olive oil just gets better and better, doesn’t it?
How Long Has Olive Oil Been Used for?
Although there are reports of olive oil being discovered around 7,000 BC, the intentional production of it for modern uses was likely first considered around 2,500 to 3,000 BC. Olive trees began to be transported far wider than their Asia Minor origin as far back as 6,000 BC, with a particular focus on other countries bordering the Mediterranean, such as the areas now known as Greece, Spain, and Italy.
In 1492, when Columbus arrived in America, olive trees broke the realm of the Mediterranean, as they were taken from Spain to the West Indies. Less than one hundred years later, olive groves began popping up in Mexico and several South American countries, such as Argentina and Chile. These days, olive trees can be found more or less everywhere with a warm climate, even as far as Japan and New Zealand.
Olive oil has now been produced on American soil for over 150 years, although that production only accounts for roughly five percent of the olive oil consumed in the USA. The vast majority of quality olive oil is still imported from the Mediterranean.
If we’ve convinced you to jump on the olive oil train and discover all the delicious dips and homemade vinaigrettes that can be created with these versatile kitchen additions, take a look through our favorite 16 olive oils below.
1. Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Whether it’s pasta, rice, veggies, or fish, this versatile Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a great accompaniment to almost every dish. The Italian olive oil delivers a beautiful balance between fruit and spice, meaning it can be used for roasting, baking, marinades, and dressings. In addition, the oil is created from a mix of the finest arbequina, picual and koroneiki olives.
2. AmazonFresh Mediterranean Extra Virgin Olive Oil
If you love the sound of a budget-friendly, buttery, and mild-flavored olive oil that is great for everyday use, the AmazonFresh Mediterranean Extra Virgin Olive Oil is an excellent place to start. It uses a combination of olives sourced from across the Mediterranean region and works to finish dishes, help with cooking, or take center stage in your meals. This Italy-packed product is perfect for use as your go-to olive oil around the kitchen.
3. La Tourangelle Extra Virgin Olive Oil Spray
Olive oil spray is a highly useful alternative to classic pouring bottles. It’s ideal for spritzing your frying pan or dressing your salad without wasting a drop. The La Tourangelle Extra Virgin Olive Oil Spray features flavors of freshly cut grass, almond, and fresh olive leaves. Plus, the can is non-aerosol and chemical-free for a safer application. Simply remove the lid, press lightly on the button, and direct the nozzle towards the target zone, as you spray your way to an olive-oil-enhanced dish.
4. California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil
BEST AMERICAN-MADE OLIVE OIL
The California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil is an ideal choice for those who prefer an everyday olive oil produced in the United States. This appealing oil features notes of fresh herbs, green grass, and fruit, giving it the versatility to rival any of the other choices on our list. It’s ideal for roasting, baking, mixing dressings, and more, and is free from any sensory flaws. Plus, it meets standards set by the Olive Oil Commission of California to prove its quality as a virgin olive oil option.
5. Tony Gemignani Hot Pepper Olive Oil
Spice up your cooking with Tony Gemignani’s hot pepper-infused olive oil. Three naturally sourced ingredients are combined to deliver the ideal drop of heat for Italian cuisine. The red peppers that provide the spice include Calabrian, and the olive oil is extra virgin for a quality finish. A touch of sea salt is added, but there are not any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives in the oil. Gemignani is a world-renowned restaurant owner and 12-time pizza champion, so if anyone knows how to best spice a pizza or pasta, it’s him.
6. Garcia de la Cruz Organic Extra Olive Oil
BEST BOTTLE DESIGN
The bottle of Garcia de la Cruz’s Organic Extra Olive Oil is uniquely designed with a blue, white, and yellow symmetrical pattern. Both the presentation and the oil itself are finished to a top-quality standard. Organic olives are harvested while green to deliver an oil packed with almond, fresh grass, kiwi, and apple flavors. Additionally, the oil is made purely from Spanish cold-pressed olives to ensure the finest finish and the most delicious taste.
7. Great Value Extra Virgin Olive Oil
BEST BULK BUY
Because olive oil is such a handy ingredient to have laying around the kitchen, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have plenty in reserve. In this bottle of Great Value Extra Virgin Olive Oil, you get 101 fluid ounces, which can be used for all kinds of cooking jobs. Whether you’re dressing a salad, roasting a chicken, or frying bacon, this versatile oil is made for the job. As an added bonus, the bottle sports a handy screw top to ensure your oil stays fresher for longer.
9. Saratoga Olive Oil Co. Tuscan Herb Olive Oil
BEST FOR DIPPING
The Saratoga Olive Oil Co. Tuscan Herb Olive Oil is another USA-made oil and it’s 100% natural and free from gluten and GMOs. Saratoga is a cold-pressed oil that delivers a taste to savor with hints of oregano, basil, garlic, and rosemary. This herb-filled concoction makes the oil ideal for dipping or for use as a dressing on your salad, while the classy glass bottle presentation makes the oil a great gift idea for friends.
10. Théa Premium Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil
BEST GREEK OLIVE OIL
The highly-rated Théa Premium Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a popular and well-reviewed kitchen addition. The oil is made from hand-picked, world-famous Koroneiki olives from a number of groves across the Peloponnese region in southern Greece. That means this versatile oil is great for use as a dressing or dipping sauce. Alternatively, you can use it to sauté or grill meat and vegetables with it. And if you want to use olive oil for health benefits, you can substitute this version for butter on most items. The bottle includes a screw-top cap, a built-in pourer, and has a darker than normal exterior to prevent light from damaging the contents.
11. TruffleHunter White Truffle Oil
MOST INTENSE FLAVOR
No matter whether you love them or hate them, there’s something about the flavor of truffle that just tastes fancy. If you’re a lover, you’re definitely going to enjoy the intense truffle flavor in this TruffleHunter White Truffle Oil. It’s presented in a classy bottle, which makes it a great gift idea for friends and other truffle lovers. And, because of its strong flavor, it’s great as a dipping sauce, a dressing, or for adding flavor to other dishes, like a plate of french fries. Truffle fries, anyone?
12. Sky Organics Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Made on small, organic farms in Greece, Sky Organics Extra Virgin Olive Oil is cold-pressed, unfiltered and USDA certified. This Greek-influenced oil is ideal for both cooking with and making salad dressing. The rich taste is highly recognizable and full of antioxidants and monounsaturated fats. In addition, this quality oil can also be used as a luxurious and natural body treatment. Add a touch to your face, body, or hair for an extra boost of shine.
13. Partanna Extra Virgin Olive Oil
BEST ITALIAN OLIVE OIL
Italy and great olive oil go hand in hand. In this Partanna Extra Virgin Olive Oil, you’ll get an award-winning olive oil presented in a colorfully eye-catching, steel container. Its unique look makes it traditionally charming, and the rich, peppery, herbaceous olive oil is only going to further please. The complex flavor is enough to enjoy alone or drizzled over your favorite foods for a more complete meal. Only Nocellara del Belice olives from Sicily are used in this oil, and the metallic can in which it is presented ensures a dark enclosure, which helps the product last longer.
14. Mantova Flavored Olive Oil Variety Pack
BEST GIFT SET
You don’t always feel like eating the same food and drinking the same beverage for every meal, so why should you always use the same oil? With this Mantova Flavored Olive Oil Variety Pack in your home, you won’t have to. Included in the pack are four different oils: chili, garlic, lemon, and basil. The variety means that you can pick specific oils for specific dishes. Having fish? Use the lemon-infused oil. Dipping bread? Try the garlic. It’s a versatile pack to have in your kitchen and also makes a great gift for friends who love olive oil.
15. Papa Vince Lemon Olive Oil
BEST FOR SALADS
Want a healthy way to give your salads a little extra pep? Then add this Papa Vince Lemon Olive Oil to your kitchen and start giving yourself a reason to really enjoy a salad. This extra virgin olive oil has been infused with natural lemon flavor and can also be used for grilling, roasting, marinades, and more. It’s even great as a dip when used with a loaf of fresh bread. The oil inside the bottle is cold-pressed and delivers a full-bodied flavor, which will have you coming back time and again.
16. Ellora Farms Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The Ellora Farms Extra Virgin Olive Oil is another serial award-winning option. It’s created at the site of harvesting on the island of Crete in Greece. Constant warm weather on the island ensures the perfect conditions for producing the best olives, leading to olive oil that is hard to beat. After harvesting, the olives are pressed and bottled on the same day to preserve flavor and quality. The oil itself offers a combination of fruitiness with a mild amount of peppery and herbed flavor. It also comes in one-liter tins, meaning there’s plenty for all of your olive oil needs.
17. Pompeian Smooth Extra Virgin Olive Oil
BEST FOR SAUTEING
If you’re looking for olive oil that pairs perfectly with your next stir fry or goes with vegetables that need sauteing, check out Pompeian Smooth Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The light olive oil is ideal for cooking since the textures in its flavors come out when it’s added to heat. Made from first cold pressed olives, the non-allergenic olive oil can also be enjoyed as a light dip or drizzle.
18. The Duo by Brightland
Brightland has become one of the most popular suppliers of olive oil thanks to their award-winning releases. The Duo features the company’s popular Alive, which is ideal for salads, baked goods, and drizzled on chocolate, as well as their Awake, which is perfect for heavier foods, including soups, stews, bread, chicken, and vegetables. The oils can even be used as beauty products to help bring some shine to the face and hair or to make a lip scrub.
19. Williams Sonoma Infused Olive Oil Gift Set
BEST GIFT SET
Looking for a gift set for someone who likes to add olive oil to everything that comes out of their kitchen? Then you’ll want to check out the Williams Sonoma Infused Olive Oil Gift Set. Four flavors, including Blood Orange, Roasted Garlic, Aromatic Basil, and White Truffle make it easy to find the perfect olive oil for any dish. The award-winning California olive oil comes with a pairing guide to help aspiring chefs bring out the flavor in the oils, which can be used in everything from egg dishes to seafood.
20. Oro In Cucina Natural Extra-Virgin Olive Oil with Winter Black Truffle Slices
FEATURES TRUFFLE SLICES
Truffle fans will love the bold flavor of Oro In Cucina Natural Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. Oro In Cucina is made in Alba, Italy, which is known for its truffles. Each bottle is sold with actual slices of winter black truffle in the olive oil, providing an earthy flavor. The olive oil makes a perfect accompaniment to pasta, salad dressings, and as a drizzle over cheese.
21. Global Gardens Cold Pressed Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
BEST COLD PRESSED
For an olive oil that has a fresh taste and boasts only organic ingredients, it’s tough to beat the Global Gardens Cold Pressed Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. The set includes six flavors with names that add character to your kitchen, including Kiss My Grass and Best of the West. Global Gardens may have fun with their packaging, but they’re serious about flavor. The organically grown olives are overseen by a certified olive oil sommelier and pressed only hours after they’ve been harvested.