Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil a Substitute for Vegetable Oil

Dear Home Ec 101,
If a recipe calls for vegetable oil, is extra virgin olive oil a suitable replacement or is there a specific reason for vegetable oil?
Signed,
Slick in Slatesville

Heather says:
It depends on the recipe in question. In baking, oils are often specified for their lack of taste, so for baking it depends mostly on the quality of the oil you are using. If your extra virgin olive oil is the generic store brand, it may not be the best oil for the job. High quality extra virgin olive oil should be just fine. There is good news, in late October olive oil will have stricter labeling standards so this should be of less concern.

For marinades, salad dressings, and savory sauces, extra virgin olive oil is a fantastic substitute for vegetable oil and may even be preferable. When it comes to frying and sauteing it depends on the manufacturer and the quality of the oil. The oil listed in fried recipes is often chosen for its smoke point. High quality extra virgin olive oil can have a very high smoke point above 400°F (204°C), but lesser quality versions can be significantly lower in the 220°F (104°C) range, which is much too low to use for frying. Use your judgment when making your decision.

Before anyone flips out about how oils break down at high temperatures becoming <scary hand motions> toxic </scary hand motions> keep in mind that the temperature of the oven or burner is not the actual temperature of the food. Just because the oven says 350°F does not mean the oil inside the cupakes is 350°F degrees. That is the temperature of the air, if your cupcakes reached 350°F degrees, it would be a sad, burnt mess. Those of you with professional grade equipment need to be slightly more concerned than those of us schlumps with standard home grade appliances.

In the case of baked goods, unless they are savory, plain olive oil may be a better choice.

Send your domestic questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

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Comments

  1. Embarrassing story- do NOT substitute a little EVOO in place of butter when making boxed mac n cheese! It's bad, really really bad. 2 years later and the thought still makes me gag.

  2. Kenneth Andrews says:

    The "scary hand motions" tag MUST be adopted in HTML5. I love it!

  3. Olive oil has a distinct taste, Extra Virgin even more so. If you want the flavor of olive oil in your food, go for it. If not, then don't

    What is labeled as vegetable oil is usually soybean oil, or sometimes a blend. I do not use soybean oil, or canola. So what do I use when I want a neutral flavor oil? Peanut or sunflower oils. I'd use sunflower more often, but it's more expensive.

    Once I made homemade mayonnaise with extra virgin olive oil as the ONLY oil — I could not eat it, though my husband seemed to like it very much. I do use olive oil in mayo still, but only as a small part – I also include sunflower, peanut, and some expeller pressed coconut oil (no coconut flavor)

    • I hate that I'm excited about stricter labeling standards, but they are going to make a difference. I hate not knowing how one bottle will taste compared to another with the same title.

      Also, I only recently learned that there is a significant flavor difference in types of coconut oil. The kind I use has no flavor, which is why I was so confused when people were all, doesn't it taste like coconuts?

      • Heather, which brand of coconut oil do you use that has no taste? Every kind I’ve bought has a strong (and yummy) coconut odor so I assume it would taste like coconut. Good for some dishes (and my homemade deodorant) but not for others.

        Thanks,
        Sarah

  4. caryn verell says:

    although expensive…a little bit goes a long way and can be used in baking as well as sauteing- walnut oil. and walnut oil is also very good in salads too…plus it is very high in the good stuff and no cholestral-actually if you have high cholestrol it is recommended to eat walnuts because they are so high in omegas.

  5. EVOO is too fruity for me in most applications. I keep a pint of it on hand for making salad dressings and bread dipping oil, and that's about it. I keep a gallon of pure olive oil for making mayo, and our generic "vegetable oil" for consumption is a homemade blend of canola, soy, and the pure olive. (I also keep a quart of corn oil on hand for making cornbread. Believe it or not, it makes a difference. They come out much more … corny. :)

  6. I made boxed brownies with olive oil, EVOO, because I had already started making it (bad planning) and didn’t have anything else. It turned out fine in terms of texture and such, but I definitely tasted the olive oil. However, nobody else could taste it–there were probably four or five others who ate them. I don’t get it, but my point is that if you’re desperate, use it, but don’t expect amazing results.

  7. We have tried various oils with a healthier option in mind, but of course, one has to consider taste. Recently we’ve been buying Hemp Oil, and find it’s a great all-rounder. OK, it’s a little more expensive than plain ole veggie oil, but it’s got a good flavor.

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