Fresh extra virgin olive oil can range in flavor from buttery and mild to bold and grassy with a cough-inducing peppery finish. The variety of flavors and styles of olive oil opens a world of possibilities to a home cook but it can also be overwhelming. We put together a simple guide to demystify EVOO and help you choose the best olive oil to pair with your favorite foods.
Extra virgin olive oil generally falls into three categories: delicate, medium, or robust. There are a few factors that determine an olive oil’s flavor profile, and while weather and climate during the growing season play a role, the varietal of olive and harvest date are of most important. Here’s what you need to know about each style of EVOO.
Delicate Olive Oil
Delicate olive oil is made with olives harvested in the later stages of ripeness. The oil will have a smooth and buttery taste, you’ll notice a fruitiness in the nose, no bitterness at all, and a slightly peppery finish.
Delicate varietals – Arbosana, Picual, Mission can be delicate and buttery when harvested later.
How to Use Delicate Olive Oil
Delicate olive oils are ideal for baking or as a substitute for butter or mayonnaise.
Baking – Try a delicate extra virgin olive oil as a substitute for butter or vegetable oil in any of your favorite baked goods. It’s especially nice in cakes and muffins.
Recipe to try – Banana Oat Bran Muffins
Seafood – Because of the buttery flavor and richness of a delicate EVOO, they work well with shellfish and fish as a finishing oil or for cooking.
Recipe to try – Olive Oil Poached Salmon
As a butter swap – You can use our butter to olive oil conversion chart to swap out the butter in your favorite recipes, but you can even use delicate olive oil as a condiment.
Recipe to try – Olive Oil & Herb Popcorn
Medium Olive Oil
A medium EVOO is made with a combination of olives harvested in both the early and mid-stages of harvest. This oil offers a fruity taste, a grassy scent, and a peppery or spicy finish.
Medium varietals – olive oils made from Arbequina, Koroneiki, and Ascolano olives can be medium-intensity, depending on the harvest.
How to Use a Medium Olive Oil
Medium olive oils are fantastic on vegetables and in vinaigrettes and make delicious bread dipping oils.
Salads – Fruit, medium-intensity olive oils work nicely on any greens, from mild butter lettuce to peppery arugula.
Recipe to try – One Vinaigrette, Four Ways
Roasted Veggies – Toss veggies with EVOO before roasting and then drizzle those tender, caramelized beauties with more olive oil to finish.
Recipe to try – Roasted Acorn Squash
Bread Dipper – Crusty bread, fresh EVOO, sea salt. Done.
Recipe to try – Bread Dipping Oil
Robust Olive Oil
Robust olive oil offers bold flavor, a balanced bitterness, and a very prominent peppery finish. You’ll also enjoy a fruity scent to the nose with this oil.
Robust varietals – Tuscan varietals like Frantoio and Leccino tend to be more robust.
How to Use a Robust Olive Oil
In general, robust olive oils are best used for bold flavors: grilled or roasted meats, tomato dishes, and as a finishing oil.
Grilled Meat – Robust, peppery oils are a natural pairing for beef or lamb.
Recipe to try – Olive Oil Marinated Skirt Steak
To Finish – Intensely flavored oils are perfect drizzled on soups, roasted vegetables, and pasta to add a bold, punch of flavor.
Recipe to try – Spaghetti with Olive Oil, Chile, & Garlic
Tomato Dishes – Tomatoes and olive oil are a natural pairing and we especially love robust, grassy olive oil on our tomatoes.
Recipe to try – Savory Yogurt with Balsamic Tomatoes & Cucumbers