Dear Home Ec 101,
If a recipe calls for vegetable oil, is extra virgin olive oil a good substitute or is there a specific reason for vegetable oil? Should I stick to olive oil or am I safe to swap it out with any kind of oil I have on hand?
Slick in Slatesville
Whether or not extra virgin olive oil will work in your recipe will depend on several factors. What kind of recipe are you using?
Why was the oil chosen for the recipe?
Specific oils are used for recipes for reasons such as: fat content, melting point, flavor, caloric content, and personal preferences like dietary considerations such as allergies, intolerances, and restrictions.
Substituting Vegetable Oil When Baking
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. And unfortunately in the USA extra virgin olive oils can be so hit and miss in the flavor department we cannot just say yes, go ahead. the one you have may actually have a lovely, strong flavor (lucky you!).
Give it a taste, if it has a strong olive flavor give it a pass and see if you have any other vegetable oil in the house.
If you don’t have any of these other vegetable oils:
you may be better off swapping out your oil with butter, coconut oil, shortening, or lard.
Please remember that if you are cooking for others that you do need to be aware of allergies to some of these oils.
With some baked recipes, you can get away with using apple sauce or even mayonnaise to provide the moisture that the vegetable oil would provide. To use mayonnaise, it is a 1:1 swap. This means for every tablespoon or cup of oil, you would use a tablespoon or cup of mayonnaise (an equal amount).
What about using extra virgin olive oil as a substitute for vegetable oil in recipes that aren’t baking?
For marinades, salad dressings, and savory sauces, extra virgin olive oil is a fantastic substitute for vegetable oil and may even be preferable.
High-quality extra virgin olive oil is absolutely lovely on salads with balsamic vinegar, salt pepper and fresh herbs.
And other cooking methods?
When it comes to frying and sauteing it depends on the manufacturer and the quality of the oil. The oil listed in recipes for frying is typically 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.
Don’t waste your expensive extra virgin olive oil for deep frying, please. I know that peanut oil is getting pricey, but it’s not THAT bad, please do the math, you’ll see.
When sauteing, it’s generally recommended to use avocado oil for its high smoke point, if you can stick with that. Avocado oil is generally found in the grocery store lumped in with the fancy oils and not with the rest of the vegetable oils. You may have to look for it, but it’s also ok to just use vegetable oil in this situation if that’s what you have. Just watch the temperature of your pan or skillet. Again, you don’t want to scorch your oil, that doesn’t taste great and it’s really not good for you.
Use your judgment when making your decision and if you see smoke before your oil is up to temperature, throw it out. Your results will be poor.
A note about temperate and smoke points:
Yes, we do say to throw out oil if you burn it. Yes, we do say to choose your vegetable oils based on their smoke points. No, it’s not conflicting to say to put it in a 400ºF oven.
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 400°F does not mean the oil inside the cupcakes is 400°F degrees.
That is the temperature of the air, if your cupcakes reached 350°F degrees, they 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.
TL;DR In the case of baked goods, unless they are savory, plain light olive oil would be a better choice, in the case of other recipes, your mileage may vary, but save your high quality expensive and extra tasty extra virgin olive oil for recipes where the taste can shine through.
Send your domestic questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
14 thoughts on “Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil a Substitute for Vegetable Oil”
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.
Or to replace some butter on a grilled cheese, yuk!
it's not grilled cheese if you don't use butter! double yuck
The "scary hand motions" tag MUST be adopted in HTML5. I love it!
I agree, love the “scary hand motions” – I’ll have to remember that term if and when I may need to use that term:)
It does come in handy. I love it for when people add things like “ogens” to the end of words.
Just because it sounds scientific doesn’t make it so.
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.
Definitely NOT good for scrambled eggs! They tasted terrible.
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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.