Olive Oil Versus Vegetable Oil

Ever wonder why some recipes specifically call for vegetable oil while others call for olive oil? Well, here's a quick compare between the two products that should shed some light.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is obtained from the fruit of the olive tree, a plant that is native to the Mediterranean region. It is used for stir-frying, cooking, sauteing, salad oil, and as a recipe ingredient. Olive oil is produced by grinding whole olives and extracting the oil by mechanical or chemical means.

There are several different varieties of olive oil including extra virgin, virgin, extra light, and refined. Virgin means the oil was produced by mechanical means and no chemical treatment. Refined means that the oil has been chemically treated to neutralize both strong tastes and the acid content.

Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oil is a general category that encompasses several different types of oils such as canola, corn, cottonseed, grape seed, palm, peanut, soybean and sunflower. Many vegetable oil products are actually a blend of several oils. When a recipe specifies "vegetable oil", this typically means an oil that does not include olive oil.

Taste Differences

Olive oil has a pronounced flavor that is too strong for certain foods such as cakes, mayonnaise, and popcorn. This is one of the main reasons recipes call for generic vegetable oil or a milder vegetable oil such as canola or grapeseed. On the other hand, quality olive oils have a pleasant flavor and aroma that can compliment many dishes.

High Temperature Cooking

Most vegetable oils have a higher smoke point than olive oil, making them a better choice for high-temperature cooking such as pan-searing and high-heat stir fries.

Health Considerations

Olive oil is considered to be the most healthy of the vegetable oils because it's rich in monounsaturated fats and some antioxidants. In fact, many people use it on a daily basis, drizzling it over bread, salads and various other foods. Other vegetable oils that have a high unsaturated fat content include flax, olive and canola oils. Less-healthy vegetable oils include palm kernel, coconut and cottonseed oils.