Olive oil 101

Olive oil is a great ingredient for pasta dishes, and you can even dip a nice piece of warm bread into it. The problem is, there are a number of olive oils on the market, and it can get overwhelming when it comes to picking out the right one.

Extra Virgin — The fruitiest, most flavorful and, obviously, the costliest of them all. It is a cold-pressed product of the first extraction/pressing of the olives, with 0.8-1% acidity. It comes in a myriad of colors from deep to golden green, to champagne.
In general, the darker the color, the deeper, the more reminiscent it is of the olive flavor, with exceptions, of course. But color does not necessarily reflect quality.

Virgin — First-press oil, good flavor and aroma with acidity not exceeding 2%.

Refined — Containing the same chemical structure and the same amounts of monounsaturated fat as regular olive oil, the oil goes through a refining/filtration process. Refining reduces the acidity and makes the oil lighter in color and flavor. It is sometimes labeled as pure olive oil or light olive oil.

Olive oil — A combination of refined olive oil and virgin or extra virgin oil.

Extra light — The term “extra light” refers to an olive oil that is lighter in color and flavor, not lower in fat or calories. This type of oil might also be called “light” or “mild-flavored.” The mild flavor makes this olive oil ideal for baking.

Nutritionally, all types of olive oil are the same. They have the same amount of calories, fat grams and all provide hearth healthy monounsaturated fats. It’s the cost and taste that differ.

Let’s take it a step farther….

Estate olive oils are the cream of the crop. Estate oils are produced using olives from a single olive farm. These olives are usually handpicked, then pressed and bottled right at the estate. Expect to get the best flavor out of these varieties, but also expect to pay more.


  • Spain is the largest producer of Olive Oil worldwide.
  • Spanish olive oil is typically golden yellow with a fruity, nutty flavor. Spain produces about 45 percent of the world's olive supply.
  • Italian olive oil is often dark green and has an herbal aroma and a grassy flavor. Italy grows about 20 percent of the world's olives.
  • Greek olive oil packs a strong flavor and aroma and tends to be green. Greece produces about 13 percent of the world's olive supply.
  • French olive oil is typically pale in color and has a milder flavor than other varieties.
  • Californian olive oil is light in color and flavor, with a bit of a fruity taste.
About the Author...
Taryn Vanderford
Taryn Vanderford is an Emmy-winning journalist who currently works on "First at Four", "Pure Nebraska" and "Moms Everyday" for 10/11 and Gray Television.

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