Baking with Olive Oil

Baking with Olive Oil

High quality extra virgin olive oil is an excellent healthy substitute for other fats in baking. When a recipe calls for a liquid fat such as melted butter or vegetable oil, why not use olive oil? In fact, it might even make your baked goods taste better. Just make sure you use the good kind because not all olive oils are equal.

What’s so healthy about olive oil? 

Oleic acid and polyphenols found in olive oil make it a healthy choice.

Oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) is responsible for lowering cholesterol levels and helps with blood sugar control. And it so happens that MUFAs are higher in olive oil than any other vegetable fats. A good quality olive oil should have at least 65% of oleic acid because then your olive oil will be more stable and have a higher shelf life.

That tingling sensation you feel in the back of your throat after swallowing olive oil? Those are polyphenols, another healthy reason for using it in your baking. These help to protect our bodies from oxidative stress and disease.

Olive Oils come in various intensities that can impact baking.

Depending on the type of olive cultivar and growing conditions, an olive oil can come out to be mild, medium or robust.

The various intensities can impact the flavor of the cookie, cake or the bread you bake. Keep in mind that the more robust the olive oil, the more olive flavor will come through. If you don’t want a strong olive flavor, start with a mild, fruity olive oil.

Another good rule of thumb is to use the olive oil that you like for dipping your bread.

If you are baking something more savory or making nice rustic crusty bread, a medium or robust olive oil will work great.

Baking With Flavored Olive Oil

Whether you bake from scratch or from a box, flavored olive oils can take your baking to another level.

Lemon or blood orange agrumato olive oil work well when a recipe calls for a citrus flavor. What makes these flavored olive oils special? The entire fruit and olives are crushed together giving the olive oil an outstanding concentrated flavor. No need to zest lemons or oranges.

How do blood orange brownies sound? Grab your favorite brownie recipe or box mix and substitute with blood orange olive oil.

Do you have a go to favorite yellow cake mix? Add lemon olive oil to make a lemon cake. The lemon flavor will shine right through. I find that it gives a better flavor to the cake than zesting a lemon.

Baking something more savory? A rosemary olive oil will does well when making crusty rosemary olive oil bread.

How about spicy corn bread? Replace the fat with a chili olive oil.

Try these Blueberry-Coconut Lime Muffins using Persian lime infused extra virgin olive oil.

More Baking Tips

When a recipe calls for vegetable oil, you can be substitute the vegetable at equal measure. But when the recipe calls for butter or margarine the conversion rate is slightly different.

See the olive oil conversion guide for substituting olive oil for butter in your recipes.


Now by no means should olive oil replace butter if you are making buttercream frosting because then you will have a glaze instead. Sort of. BUT what you can do is add a few teaspoons lemon olive oil or blood orange olive to add flavor to the buttercream icing. Just make sure you have a higher ratio of butter.

When making cookie dough, a high speed mixer or a food processor works best. These appliances incorporate the oils with the flour and sugar much better than by hand. You might need less oil when replacing the butter than what the conversion chart calls for. Cookie dough can become very oily.

Pie crust with olive oil? It can be done AND it’s easier. Use a mild, fruity olive oil for a sweet pie and a medium to robust oil for savory quiche crust.

For more olive oil baking ideas, take a look at our Pinterest Board for olive oil dessert recipes.


How To Find The Best Olive Oil

How To Find The Best Olive Oil

When we search for a high quality olive oil we look to reputable sources to tell us what is the best. We look up best olive oils and hope our search pulls up a list of extra virgin olive oils for us to buy. But is that the strategy we should use?

I would say NO and let me explain why.

Finding the best olive oil depends on two factors:

1. Chemical Analysis

2. Personal Taste 

Chemical Analysis

Let’s start with the first factor; chemical analysis. This one is backed by science.

Feel free to skip down to the taste factor, but if you do, you’ll miss out on some important information. I’ll explain this as painless as possible.

We will focus on six chemical parameters.  These parameters determine if an olive oil is extra virgin grade.

1. Free Fatty Acid (FFA)

2. Peroxide Value (PV)

3. Oleic Acid

4. Phenol content

5. Diacylglycerols (DAGs)

6. Pheophytins a, a’, pryopheophytins (PPP)

The first three are the main parameters initially set forth by the International Olive Oil Council (IOC) and used by the USDA, California (COOC), and Australia. The last two are newer testing methods developed by the Australian Olive Association (AOA).

Let’s define what these are in relation to olive oil:

1. FFA indicates the condition of the fruit at the time of crush. The higher the FFA, the greater the indication that poor quality fruit was used, the temperature was too high during extraction, or there was too much time between harvest and crush.

2. A high PV is responsible for the musty, rancidity found in poor quality olive oil. Unsaturated free fatty acids react with oxygen and form peroxides, which is accelerated by heat, light and oxygen exposure.

3. Oleic acid is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid generally higher in olive oil than other vegetable fats. Extra virgin olive oil that is high in oleic acid is more stable and has a higher shelf life.

4. Phenols in olive oil decrease over time or when exposed to heat, oxygen and light. Polyphenols are a class of antioxidants that delivers the flavor intensity of the olive oil such as its pungency, bitterness, and other desirable characteristics. Recent studies indicate that polyphenols such as oleuropein, oleocanthal, and hydroxytyrosol are responsible for many of the health benefits associated with consuming fresh, high quality extra virgin olive oil.

5. DAGs determines the freshness of an olive oil. DAGs are a chemical compound consisting of two fatty acid chains bonded to a glycerol molecule which can come in the 1,2 form or the 1,3 form. Fresh olive oil has a higher proportion of the 1, 2 form while poor quality oil has high levels of the 1, 3 form.

6. PPP measures the chlorophyll pigments pyropheophytin and pheophytins in olive oils. The ratio of pyropheophytins to the Total pheophytins distinguishes fresh olive oil from refined, deodorized olive oil. When PPP ratio exceeds 17%, the oil is more than 2 – 2.5 years old and rancid.

Here is a chart that shows existing olive oil standards by organization.

Existing Olive Oil Standards

Note that the IOC, USDA, COOC, and Australia share similar standards. The differences are that COOC has lower free fatty acid allowances and Australia measures DAGs and PPP while the other organizations do not include them in their standards.

Are you aware of standards much higher than the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC)?

Look at the chart again, the furthest column on the right highlighted in yellow is the UP standard or Ultra Premium. UP is a new standard in olive oil quality, it’s the freshest and finest quality of olive oil in the world. The numbers speak for themselves.

And that’s where we come in. All of our single varietal extra virgin olive oils follow the UP standard. The effort and the cost to produce this olive oil is much higher, but the health benefits and taste is worth it. Every six months or so we switch between the northern and southern hemispheres. Usually, around Jan/Feb we stock UP northern hemisphere olive oils and around Jul/Aug we stock UP southern hemisphere olive oils to keep a fresh supply year around.

Discover UP single varietal extra virgin olive oils.

If an olive oil producer can provide you their chemical analysis and the date of crush, then you are on your way to finding a good extra virgin olive oil. Keep in mind that consuming good quality, healthy olive oil is important because rancid olive oil forms harmful free radicals in the body known to cause cellular damage over time.

Personal Taste

Now let’s go to the second factor; personal taste. Personal Taste is subjective.

How would you know what is the best olive oil if you have not tried it?

Would you rather have someone tell you or would you rather discover the best for yourself?

You see, each olive oil has its’ own unique flavor characteristics. As there are hundreds of different variety of olives, each produces its own variety of olive oil. Soil conditions, weather, and how the olives are processed impacts the flavor. This is why I believe that what one person likes about one kind of olive oil may be different from what another person likes. Just like food, not everyone has the same taste in food.

Let’s talk a little more about the various flavor characteristics of olive oil.

First, extra virgin olive oil should always smell fresh and green. A great way to find out if your olive oil smells fresh is to put it in a small glass or plastic cup. Warm it in your hands for about 20 seconds and take a deep whiff. If it does not smell fresh, chances are that your olive oil is old. Olive oil does deteriorate with age, heat, and light.

Furthermore, olive oil comes in three main intensities; mild, medium, robust. The more robust the olive oil the more chances that it has a higher phenol count. Some olive oils are more creamy while others have floral notes. Some are very fruity while other varieties are pungent and have a lingering bitterness (another indication of high polyphenols). Some olive oils are better for baking while others are better for sautéing or frying. Some taste better in salads, and the list goes on. The variation is endless.

Check out our step-by-step guide on discovering your favorite olive oil.

To find the best olive oil, we believe knowing the chemistry of the olive oil and tasting your way to your favorite is the way to go. No one should decide for you the best. Even if learning about the chemistry seems too much at first, at least knowing the olive oil crush date and finding your personal taste is a good way to start.


Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Real vs. Fake

Some of you may be familiar with the 60 minutes segment on fraudulent olive oil.  If you have not seen it, here is the story that aired on 1/3/16.

Although olive oil fraud is not new, it reveals that large-scale fraud is still persistent in the olive oil industry. In the U.S., the lack of standards and testing conducted by the USDA and FDA makes it easy for poor-quality olive oil to flood the U.S. market. The fraud is so great that even respected nutritionists and food shows are telling the public not to cook with olive oil when fresh, high-quality olive oil has the highest smoke point of any cooking oil in the world! High phenol content and low free fatty acids protect against harmful chemical breakdown when cooking on high heat up to 400°F.

At So Olive, we have been teaching our customers what high quality olive oil should smell and taste like and how it differs from olive oil sold in grocery stores. Why does our olive oil smell and taste fresher? Our store is part of the Ultra Premium (UP) certification program.

Before our olive oil can be UP certified, our olive oils are produced using strict quality standards from tree to bottle. Each drop is double tested by an independent third party laboratory (most accredited lab in the world) and it must go through a full panel of accredited tasters to receive the UP certification. Click here to see how our standards compare to current standards. 

Our olive oils cook better, tastes great, and is good for you. We ensure that you will get the real deal.


How to Taste Extra Virgin Olive Oil Like A Pro

Olives are stone fruits and just like fresh squeezed juice, olive oil is the juice of an olive. As there are hundreds of variety of cultivated olives, each produces its own varietal of olive oil with its own unique flavor characteristics. Not only that, but soil conditions, weather, and how the olives are processed impacts how the olive oil will taste.

Professional tasters look for three main characteristics in olive oil: fruitiness, bitterness, and pungency. Fruitiness is the olive oil’s aroma or smell. Bitterness is the taste that should appear on the back of the tongue, and pungency is the stinging sensation in your throat after the oil has been swallowed. Note that all three characteristics must be present. If one is missing, the olive oil is defective.

So how does one find those main characteristics and eventually choose a favorite varietal?

This step-by-step guide will help you in discovering your favorite varietal olive oil.

1. Start with a mild olive oil. Olive oil usually comes in three flavor intensities; mild, medium, and robust. After you have gone through the steps of tasting a mild one, work your way to medium intensity and then to the robust olive oils. Sip some water in between each tasting.

2. Pour 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small cup.

3. Warm the olive oil in your hands. Nest the cup into the palm of one hand and cover the top with your other hand. Gently twist the cup in your hand for about 20 seconds to warm the oil. This releases the aroma in the oil.

4. Make a note of the nose (Fruitiness). Raise cup to your nose and tuck nose into the cup, then take a deep whiff of the oil. This is the first insight that professional tasters assess when tasting olive oil. The first fragrant notes are clues to its flavor. Is it heavily fragrant? Can you identify the characteristics? Is it fruity or is it grassy? Is there something more subtle? Good quality olive oil should always have a fruity or green, herbaceous smell such as fresh cut grass.

5. Taste the oil (Bitterness). Draw a long, slurping sip while curling your tongue upward, taking a fair amount of air into your mouth along with that first sip in order to aerate the olive oil. This is called strippagio. Roll the oil across your tongue and all the way to the back of your mouth, allowing tongue to identify as many aspects of the flavor as possible. Remember that bitterness should be present.

6. Swallow the oil (Pungency). By now your tongue and your nose have all the information they need to tell you how the olive oil tastes. Is it fruity? Peppery? Pungent? Bitter? What did you like the most? Note the flavor characteristics and any lingering sensations of pungency in the throat. These distinctions will point you toward your favorites and rule out other oils.

When you know how to taste and identify the flavors of an extra virgin olive oil, you can start to narrow your choices down to the varietals you like, and you’re on your way to finding a favorite.