Cooking With Olive Oil

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Why Cook with Olive Oil

The health benefits of olive oil make it an extremely attractive ingredient to use for cooking. Packed with polyphenols, amino acids and healthy, monounsaturated fats, olive oil can be a key factor to not only establishing a balanced diet, but to add depth and flavor to food.

Most importantly, the main difference between using olive oil as opposed to refined vegetable oils is its aroma and taste. Olive oil is not just a cooking oil; it is an ingredient that can add depth and flavor and enhance the more traditional tastes of the dishes you love. No other oil can match the organoleptic complexity of olive oil and the thousands of varieties that carry their own unique flavor characteristics.


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Frying with olive oil

Since heat is such an integral part of cooking, yet is also one of the factors that can lower the quality of an olive oil, many people assume that applying heat to olive oil in cooking applications such as shallow and deep frying, stir-frying or sauteing, is a combination that should be avoided.

This is a myth.

Heating an extra virgin olive oil to frying temperature does not hurt or substantially alter the chemical composition of the oil if kept below the smoke point, and is still very good for you due to their polyphenol content and high levels of oleic acid which is very stable and does not easily oxidize.

Smoke point

The smoke point of a true extra virgin olive oil is 410°F, well above the 350-375°F that is required for most frying. If the olive oil is higher in acidity and/or contains impurities (often representative of lower grade, mass produced oils), the smoke point can lower some 50°F. That said, you should always fry foods with a high-quality olive oil and should avoid mixing it with other types of oils.


To properly fry with extra virgin olive oil without destabilization, first heat the oil in a heavy pot or pan to the suggested temperature by using an oil thermometer (sometimes called deep fry thermometer). Starting at the burner’s medium setting will allow you to raise it little-by-little until you achieve the right temperature. Adding the food to the pot or pan after the oil is fully heated will prevent the food from absorbing too much oil and becoming soggy.

Frying with olive oil has been a standard practice in the Mediterranean diet for centuries. Try shallow frying eggs, sliced potatoes or fish in extra virgin olive oil and you will be amazed by the results.

Baking with Olive Oil

When a recipe calls for butter or margarine for frying or sauteing, olive oil is an oft-practiced substitute and is widely recognized as a much healthier alternative.

All extra virgin olive oils range in strengths of intensity and pungency, so while some varieties work wonderfully with almost anything, others may prove too overpowering. For cakes, cookies and other baked desserts, sweeter, more mild olive oil varieties - such as Arbequina, Peranzana, Mission, Nocellara and the fruity Koroneiki - are less likely to overpower the flavors of a dessert when compared with more bitter, pungent varieties like Picual, Coratina and Moraiolo.

Substituting extra virgin olive oil for butter in baking is also a healthy option and can be surprisingly delicious. Since ingredient measurements are critical when baking, the index below will help you adjust your recipe appropriately:

An Index For Substituting Butter / Margarine With Olive Oil
Butter / Margarine Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon 3/4 teaspoon
1 tablespoon 2 1/4 teaspoon
2 tablespoons 1 1/2 teaspoon
1/4 cup 3 tablespoons
1/3 cup 1/4 cup
1/2 cup 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons
2/3 cup 1/2 cup
3/4 cup 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon
1 cup 3/4 cup