Olive oil is a versatile cooking oil that is extracted from olives, the fruit of the olive tree. It’s widely known for its delicious taste and potential health benefits.
Let’s dive deeper into how olive oil is made, and explore its uses, types, benefits, and more!
What is olive oil?
Olive oil is a type of oil that comes from olives. It’s made by pressing the olives to extract the oil from them.
People have been using olive oil for centuries, and it’s a staple in Mediterranean cuisine. It has a distinct flavor that can range from mild to robust, depending on the variety and quality. You might have come across terms like extra virgin, virgin, or regular olive oil – these labels refer to the different grades and processing methods (I’ll get to those later).
How is olive oil made?
The process of making olive oil involves several steps…
First, the olives are washed to remove any dirt or impurities.
Then, they are crushed or ground into a paste using mechanical methods or traditional stone mills.
The paste is then pressed to extract the oil, which is separated from the water and solids through a centrifuge or by allowing it to settle naturally.
The extracted oil undergoes filtration to remove any remaining impurities before it is bottled.
Types of olive oil
These are the main types of olive oil you will probably come across:
Extra virgin olive oil: This is the highest quality and most flavorful olive oil. It is made from the first pressing of olives without the use of heat or chemicals. Extra virgin olive oil is ideal for drizzling over salads, dipping bread, and enhancing the flavor of cooked dishes.
Light/pure/regular olive oil: This type of olive oil has a milder flavor and is suitable for everyday cooking. It is made from a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil.
Virgin olive oil: Virgin olive oil is produced using a similar process to extra virgin olive oil but has a slightly lower quality and flavor intensity. It is still a good option for cooking and baking.
Olive pomace oil: Okay, so this is not considered a “true olive oil”. It’s obtained using solvents to extract oil from the leftover olive pulp, skins, and pits after the initial pressing. It has a higher smoke point and more bland flavor compared to olive oil.
Benefits of olive oil
Apart from its yummy taste, olive oil is also considered a healthier choice compared to some other cooking oils.
It’s rich in monounsaturated fats, which are good for your heart.
Plus, it contains antioxidants that can help fight inflammation and promote overall well-being.
The different types of olive oil and olive pomace oil may look identical according to the nutrition facts in the table below, but extra virgin olive oil is higher in antioxidants and vitamins and is the most natural! If you’re interested, here’s how to choose the best olive oil.
Olive oil nutrition facts
|Per 1 tablespoon (15mL)||Olive Oil (Extra Virgin)||Olive Oil (Light/Pure/Regular)||Olive Oil (Virgin oil)||Olive pomace oil|
|Polyunsaturated||1.5 g||1.5 g||1.5 g||2 g|
|Monounsaturated||10 g||10 g||10 g||10 g|
|Saturated||2 g||2 g||2 g||2 g|
|Trans||0 g||0 g||0 g||0 g|
|Total Fat||14 g||14 g||14 g||14 g|
Note: The primary fat source is bolded.
How to cook and bake with olive oil
Olive oil is incredibly versatile. Extra virgin olive oil is best used in its raw form, such as in salad dressings, homemade mayonnaise, dips, or drizzled over soups, grilled meats, roasted vegetables, or bread for a finishing touch.
You can also use olive oil for cooking eggs, grilling vegetables, or as a base for pasta sauces, such as aglio e olio or marinara. In baked goods, you can replace vegetable oil with olive oil in muffins, cookies, cakes or bread to add moisture and healthy fats.
Extra light or light/regular olive oil is best for everyday cooking and baking due to its mild flavor and slightly higher smoke point.
However, keep in mind olive oil should not be used for deep frying or high-heat cooking, as it has a lower smoke point compared to oils like avocado or grapeseed oil. For high-heat cooking, it’s best to use oils with higher smoke points.
Ways to use olive oil
Here are some of the most common uses for olive oil:
- Focaccia bread
- Olive oil cake
- Greek salad
- Caprese salad
- Pasta dishes
- Roasted vegetables
- Pesto sauce
- Ciabatta bread
- Lemon olive oil cookies
- Mediterranean-style roasted chicken
- Baked fish (such as Mediterranean-style baked cod)
- Roasted garlic cloves
How to make olive oil at home
Making olive oil at home requires a significant amount of olives and specialized equipment. However, if you’re interested, you can use the following steps to make a homemade version:
- Harvest ripe olives from trees and wash them thoroughly.
- Crush the olives to a paste-like consistency using a blender or food processor.
- Mix the crushed olive paste to allow oil extraction.
- Separate the oil from the solid material using a centrifuge or press.
- Let the oil settle for a few days to remove any sediment.
- Filter the oil through a fine mesh or cheesecloth for clarity.
Keep in mind that producing high-quality olive oil requires expertise and proper equipment, so it’s often best to leave it to the professionals!
How to store olive oil
To preserve its freshness, keep olive oil in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight, heat, and moisture.
Once opened, olive oil should be used within 6 months to ensure freshness and optimal taste.
Unopened bottles can typically be stored for up to two years, but it’s still a good idea to check the expiration date for specific guidelines and consume the oil before it goes bad (yes, that can happen).
What are the best substitutes for olive oil?
Out of olive oil? No problem, you have other options.
Avocado oil is an excellent all-around substitute for olive oil, especially for high-heat cooking. It has a high smoke point and a mild flavor.
For raw or low-heat applications, hemp seed oil can be a good substitute. It has a nutty flavor that pairs well with salads, dips, and dressings.
For something more neutral-tasting, go with grapeseed oil.
Olive oil is made solely from olives, the fruit of the olive tree.
Olive oil is generally considered healthy due to its high content of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, which can contribute to heart health and overall well-being when consumed in moderation.
Olive oil is a flavorful oil made from olives, known for its health benefits such as being rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, which can promote heart health and reduce inflammation.