Best Olive Oil Reviews 2019: Top 5+ Recommended
Top 6 Olive Oils 2019
Finding the best olive oil out there is quite hard to do. But, it’s not impossible. Here’s what you need to know to pick the best one.
Nothing brings an overwhelm of emotions and memories to me like fine olive oil. I married my sweetheart in Tuscany, and we had a dreamy reception and party.
The meals were absolutely fantastic; several of dishes I can’t remember how they’re called, fantastic wine, all in a fantastic environment, with several of our best friends.
After falling in love with Italian cuisine, I’ve realized the potency and importance of olive oil in food preparation. Since then, there’s never been a day without us having a bottle of quality extra virgin olive oil in our house.
I’ve developed the taste I’m going for and picked my favorite brands.
Still, that was not an easy job, as it took me more than a few brands and lots of testing. Now I know which olive oil is the best for me.
If you want to find the best olive oil for yourself, you’re at the best place. Let’s dive in!
The Nectar Of Gods And Its Health Benefits
Since ancient times, olive oil has been used in a plethora of occasions. Its health benefits and strong aroma was recognized by many cultures and the Mediterranean region was famous for it.
Hippocrates used the olive oil as a remedy for dozens and dozens of diseases, providing a remedy for countless people.
Since ancient history, we evolved and realized that olive oil is even more healthy than it was perceived before.
Olive oil is stacked with healthy nutrients that benefit the human body in various ways, and here are some of them:
- Olive oil lowers the stroke due to clogged arteries percentage by 41%.
- Olive oil combats osteoporosis, stimulates bone density, especially for women in menopause
- Olive oil prevents diabetes, maintains sugar levels and controls insulin
- Olive oil promotes mental health - lowers depression
Basically, the micronutrients responsible for the olive oil impact on health are:
- Polyphenols (fat-soluble antioxidants that are great for both your heart and brain)
- Mono fatty acids (great for the heart, supports balancing hormones and helps lubricate joints).
- Vitamin E (great for the heart, and supports the skin).
These facts combined demonstrate that olive oil is basically a superfood, and we should all enjoy it every day. But, there’s a lot of different olive oils on the market. Dozens of brands and products. Which one to pick, and why? Let’s start with the basics.
Difference Between Regular/Standard/Virgin And Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Because the market is flooded with thousands of olive oil products, many claiming all kinds of stuff, I’ve decided to dig deep and inform you about the core difference between the classes of olive oil.
There are many olive oil brands out there with various labels (cold-pressed, extra-virgin, etc) which might confuse you, but for the sake of simplicity, I’ll sort the olive oil products in two types.
As their names imply, the two differ in the method and ingredients used in production.
Unrefined olive oil is the best, purest, and highest-quality oil you can consume. Most commonly known as extra virgin olive oil, it is made by hard pressing the olives directly in large presses, squeezing the oil out of them.
The olives used for this process have to be green, and fresh, never ripe. The manufacturers have developed a precise process of development and selection when they gather and process the olives so the finalized product has no flaws.
You can recognize a high-quality extra virgin olive oil by the aroma it gives, the perfect balance in business and bitterness in the taste, and the rich green color. This oil is full of minerals, enzymes, vitamins, and phenols.
The packaging is usually premium and enclosed so you can’t see the inside of the bottle, and the price is usually higher. (more on this exact topic below)
Extra virgin is best for dressings, salads, and as a finisher (you grill something on refined oil, and when the meal is finished, you pour some extra virgin over to spice it up).
Virgin olive oil is made in the same process, but from ripe olives, which will affect the taste and aroma significantly. There are other treating processes involved as well, which might include heat treatment, or mixing with other types of oils like canola.
The color of the virgin olive oil is usually not deep green, the aroma is weaker, and depending on how much it was processed, there’s little to no bitterness at all.
These olive oil products range from very bad to quite decent, varying from quite decent virgin olive oils to the distilled, mixed-with-canola types which can be quite cheap, and bad.
Refined olive oil, finally, is a distilled product made from olive derivatives, with heavy processing and mixing. Refined olive oil products have an advantage, though - they are much more resilient to heat.
You can use a quality refined olive oil for frying, baking, grilling, or any kind of food preparation which is not quite advisable for the extra virgin olive oil.
This is because extra virgin olive oil is much more sensitive to the heat - anything over 320 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celsius) will make it smoke, killing all the nutrients in the process. Nutritive benefits of these oils start to ‘melt’ on anything above 200 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius).
Here are the smoke points of all olive oils:
- Extra virgin: - 320 F / 160 C
- Virgin: - 420 F / 216 C
- Refined: - 460 F / 240 C
International Olive Council Standards list acidity of olive oil as a measure of quality. When an olive oil product has less than 0,8% of oleic acid content, it is considered as extra virgin. Products with 1.5-2% of oleic acid content are labeled as a regular virgin, and refined oils usually have more.
- Here’s a fun fact: From the same amount of olives, you’d get one amount of extra virgin, and double to triple the amount of standard or refined olive oil!
The refined olive oil is less nutritious, because of the impurity of the oil itself, and heating involved in the process. Still, it is more healthy than standard sunflower oil.
So, now you know the difference between the types of olive oil products.
Still, the question remains:
Why Is Quality Olive Oil Expensive?
Having a healthy habit of using and consuming olive oil has become a regular thing nowadays. Foodies around the world are enjoying this condiment on a daily basis, be it garnishing, finishing, or heat treating.
Around 350 thousand tons of olive oil was consumed in the United States in 2018, and the trend is on the rise since the start of 2000. Check out this fine graphic that illustrates it:
This information alone shows that as a nation of food-loving people, we’re enjoying olive oil more and more every day. The production, on the other hand, isn’t quite as developed.
Thank goodness for the importers.
Olive oil production is the strongest in the Mediterranean area, with Spain, Italy, Greece, and Tunisia as leaders of the region.
However, climate change affects global production significantly.
The latest example was in 2014-2015 season when a massive drought was caused by bad weather conditions in Italy, swamping the lands with a lot of rain, and then drying out for an extended period without a rainfall.
Furthermore, the disease (Olive Ebola for the most part) rate grew, and the population of flies increased significantly. That resulted in a 50% production loss, and it was impossible to fulfill the massive global demand.
Why am I telling you this? Because that’s when the authentic, high-quality olive oil price has risen to an incredibly high level.
Manufacturers had to respond to the situation, and they doubled down on the product refinement, heat treatment, distilling, and watering the oil out to create milder, cheaper alternatives which were not so popular before.
The most common material for watering out original extra virgin olive oil is canola oil and its derivatives. Furthermore, they stocked up with these and didn’t release a lot of genuine product on the market, in order to fight the fluctuations.
The market was FLOODED with cheap, low-quality olive oil products which claimed the authenticity and quality, but in reality, were never as good as the real thing.
How does this relate to you?
- Well, the chances are that you’re buying a fake “extra-virgin” olive oil, or an expired product (or one which is about to expire). To fight the potential situations like this, manufacturers often opt to keep the product in warehouses for some time before releasing to the general market. This can last up to a year and a half.
- Considering that the usual shelf life of well-preserved olive oil is around 24-30 months, you can easily end up buying a product which was stored for a year, then spent some time in transit, a bunch of warehouses, and finally ended on a shelf after 15 months.
How To Make Sure You’re Getting The Best Olive Oil Possible?
To make sure you’re getting a fresh olive oil, you need to pay close attention to several things. Here they are in order of importance:
- Harvest/best by date
- Packaging color and quality
- Origin and Labeling
1. Harvest/best by date
- Harvest date is the most important information you can gather on a bottle of olive oil, because it will showcase how much time has passed from the harvest. I’ve pointed out above how manufacturers had to manipulate the market in order to fight fluctuations, but they won’t do that to you.
- So, if a product doesn’t feature this date on the labeling, you can discard it from the purchasing decision. But there’s one more thing, though.
- Since there are no regulations that require harvest date to be printed on bottles, many manufacturers won’t list it. Because of this, the ‘best-by’ date is indicated on many quality products.
- This date is factored by the manufacturer and indicates how long the oil will be in the usable, healthy state. It is based on the factors of freshness, the type of olives (different olives hold freshness longer), storage time and manufacturing process.
- Simply said, with the best-by date, you don’t have to calculate time from the harvest, just follow this date and make sure to use the oil before it expires.
Olive oil is usable for two years after the harvest, and around 3 months after the bottle has been opened.
2. Packaging color And quality
Packaging color and quality is the second feature to observe closely.
- First of all, even though it would seem like a good idea to be able to see the color of the oil from outside, a see-through bottle is not a good idea.
- Wondering why? It’s quite simple - olive oil doesn’t pair well with the light. Regardless of the type, the color, or the quality, olive oil should be concealed from any type of light. Light degenerates the oil and kills the nutrients inside.
- Always look for dark or opaque bottles. Dark green is what you’ll find the most, and it’s usually ok, but not ideal. The thickness of the glass also represents quality; the thicker the glass, better the protection.
3. Origin And Labeling
Origin and Labeling brings us to another area where you could get confused.
Like I mentioned before, olive oil is produced the most in Spain, Italy, Tunisia, and Greece. Products from these countries usually vary in some degree, but the diversity of tastes and aromas produced is simply too random to sort everything based on the country.
Aside from above-mentioned countries, chances are you’ll encounter oils from Portugal, Australia, the United States (of course), South Africa, and South America.
When we talk about the regions, I’ll try to explain the taste of each popular country by default, but please take this with a grain of salt, since we all have different taste.
So, the olive oil flavor differences by origin:
- Italy - The staple of the species. The original. The flavor can range from fruity to potent, ideally pungy and bitter.
- Spain - Sweetness is the classic characteristic of these oils. They go with the bread the best.
- Portugal - Very similar to Spanish olive oils, Portuguese can be even sweeter.
- Tunisia - These tend to be lighter, and a bit more bitter than Spanish/Portuguese, but weaker than Italian.
- Greece - Olives from Greece are the strongest, and oils from this country are usually the most bitter, earthy, and potent.
- United States - Overall, the US produce resembles Italian but tends to be of less quality and character. So far I’ve tried bitter one and didn’t like it so much. Again, it’s all about your taste.
- South America - One of the biggest surprises for me lately. Very near to Italian, with rich taste and aroma. Range from fruity to bitter.
- South Africa - Fruity, fruity, fruity.
- Australia - Usually light, oils from Australia are good for various purposes. I’ve noticed there are stronger ones, but I haven’t tried these yet.
When you try enough oils, you develop a deeper sense for the olive oil flavor — like a sommelier for the vine. You’ll be able to distinct mild, earthy, piquant, fiery, peppery, — and which one you like best.
One important thing, though - you can often find something like "Product of [specified country]" which might make you think that a product is made in that particular country.
It is often used for this purpose, but the real truth is that these products are just manufactured there, with the olives as resources being imported from other countries. (Remember, the four main countries are the leaders of production, but many more countries are cultivating olives).
Manufacturers and marketing gurus often use Italy in their labeling to deceive the buyers, so be careful - if an olive oil product is labeled to be from Italy, it doesn’t have to be of high-quality, necessarily.
Labeling can also be misleading, using terms like “light”, “pure”, or “plain olive oil” to raise buyer’s attention. Again, these are most often used as marketing tricks - be careful.
Still, there are labels that might bring you good. For example, my recent findings brought me to the term Ultra Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which is actually a thing, and a good one. It represents the finest quality in resources, production, packaging, and storing.
If you see a bottle with this label, and it’s affordable for you, go for it. You won’t get disappointed.
When talking about pure, high-quality olive oil, certifications are your best friend. There are three global organizations that stand as staples of quality standards in the world, and are the ones which seals or logos you’d want on your olive oil bottle label:
- California Olive Oil Council: This organization provides Grade Certification for olive oil products, and encourages manufacturers to join the program.
- UC Davis Olive Center: This is a university/industry coalition assembled to provide resources for both olive oil growers and consumers. Their seal on a bottle ensures high quality and perfectly manufactured product.
- International Olive Oil Council: A seal from IOOC is a representation of a globally present brand and a product you can trust.
Finally, buying only from a reputable brand or a brand you’ve tried and tested will ensure you’re getting the highest-standard olive oil for your needs. Still, if you haven’t bought olive oil before, you’ll have to start from something.
A report from UC Davis showcased that many mainstream brand olive oil products don’t meet the production standards. They’re simply not legit.
In my research, three brands that received a lot of praise lately, especially from UC Davis were:
- California Olive Ranch
- Cobram Estate
- Kirkland Organic
- Lucero (Ascolano)
- McEvoy Ranch Organic
If possible, grab some of these and try them out. They might be of high quality, but they might not suit your taste buds or cooking preferences.
Furthermore, some of the mentioned brands aren’t available online, and you have to go to the physical store to get them, and we all know how convenient is to tap on Amazon.com and wait for that box on our doorstep.
Speaking of that…
The Best Olive Oils: Detailed Reviews 2019
Colavita is a big brand and a reputable name in the condiment industry. Their company provides quality products for 31 years and still going strong. Their extra virgin olive oil is a true representative of a typical Italian character and features that a fine olive oil should possess.
Starting from the packaging (this product comes in a stack of two bottles), you get the premium experience and sensation. The glass is thick and dark, the materials are of fine quality, and the label is beautiful. The color of oil itself is rich dark green, representing quality and ensuring that the oil is extra virgin.
However, there are no harvest or best-by date anywhere on the label. Still, to compensate for this lacking, Colavita offers a plethora of other certifications (HALAL, BRC, International Food Standard, CERMET, KOSHER, and ISO 9001, which are all international quality standards), and brands its oil as 100% Italian olive oil. The chances of it being mixed with other types like canola are very slim, especially after the refrigerator test (you refrigerate it for two hours - it should harden).
How does it taste? Well, the answer is - pretty good.
The balance between the character and bitterness goes in favor of the latter, while the best impression it leaves on the palate is the spiciness. If you like stronger olive oil taste, you might want to pass on this. On the other hand, if you’re after original Italian extra virgin olive oil, this might be a very good choice.
Things I Liked
Things I Didn’t Like
Here I found a product from a brand which is praised by UC Davis - California Olive Ranch. Their offer is available throughout many vendors and retailers and in various forms and package sizes. When an olive oil manufacturer receives praise from an organization such as UC Davis, we have to consider it as the runner up for the best olive oil to buy.
I personally like the bigger bottles, for a single reason - packaging is better, stronger, more robust, and more protective. The glass on this bottle seems like it’s not dark enough at first sight, but in reality, it protects the oil very well.
Let’s talk about clarifications - California Olive Ranch Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil has them.
First of all, the harvest date is prominent on the back, and represent one of the best indicators that you’re dealing with an authentic extra virgin olive oil here. The California Olive Oil Council seal is also very prominent on the back label, followed by the Non-GMO certification.
(One small addition on the Harvest Date: If you head over to Amazon.com to check the oil out, you’ll notice that the Harvest Date is blank on the images. This is because they change over time.)
Let’s talk about the main point - the taste.
The front label says ‘cold pressed’ and when you taste it, you’ll know that this is true. The taste is rich, potent, and very distinctive. By my personal taste, I’d say it’s a bit earthy/buttery than fruity.
You’ll definitely feel the burn in your throat and feel the amazing aroma as soon as you pop the bottle. The color is deep green, very rich and vibrant. Simply said, this oil is amazing. I just can’t wait to pour it over some feta cheese!
Things I Liked
Things I Didn’t Like
Monini is a reputable worldwide brand, coming from Italy. They are present since 1920 and are quite popular among foodies worldwide. They aim to serve authentic, representative olive oil to the customer, and their slogan is “A Squeeze Of Olives” has made a big impact on the market in the previous decade.
They advertise their products as top-tier extra virgin, but there have been many articles and reports that undermined these claims. I’ve researched a bit and found that they were copied by unscrupulous people, who did it to piggyback on a successful worldwide brand. The olive oil crisis from the last five years (talked about it above) was hard for this brand.
So how this one fares in the competition for the best olive oil?
Well, it’s decent. The package is their standard, not premium but not bad as well. The glass is of good quality, and quite protective to the oil. The oil itself tastes balanced, quite Italian I would say. Not as bitter as Californian I could say, and not as fruity as any Spanish or Portuguese.
The color is green, with a small trace of brown (at least to my eye). For me, Monini is a go-to brand if you don’t want to spend much for olive oil while enjoying quite good quality.
The most I could say about this oil is that you need to be careful about which oil you’re getting, mainly because of the fake Monini products. Buying from Amazon.com makes me feel secure, so I opt out for them the most.
For example, their labels say “Imported from Italy” which might make you feel comfortable, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be like that. Furthermore, you’re not going to get certifications I mentioned today, which is quite important.
Things I Liked
Things I Didn’t Like
Now, this is what I call a great offer for a household where olive oil is a must. Stocking up with 2 x 2 liters or one whole gallon is the way I go, and Kirkland Signature is the brand I trust. Let’s examine them in more detail using the knowledge we piled up in this article.
Kirkland Signature is a subsidiary brand from Costco, and they operate from the first Costco store ever, which started in Kirkland, Washington. The first impression one would get when hearing about this would seem like we’re talking about second-grade products...
Which would be absolutely wrong, when we’re talking about their olive oil. Kirkland Signature olive oil leads the way for American branded olive oil products, ensuring the high standards from UC Davis are met entirely and certified.
The above-mentioned study from one of the most respected olive oil organizations praised Kirkland Signature products as pioneers of high-quality standard and certification acquiring.
What’s the product like?
Well, it does come in plastic which is bad, but the plastic is thick and dark, great for pantries. You won’t have to worry about protection or transportation. The labeling is not quite detailed, doesn’t feature any of the above-mentioned certifications, especially from UC Davis. So strange. On the bright side, it does have USDA organic certification, which is a plus; still, I wouldn’t be so sure about it, and I yet have to test this. (stay tuned for future updates)
The taste is earthy, bitter, and quite potent, especially when you taste it solely. I remember when I gave a teaspoon of this oil to my hubby, he jumped out of his chair.
To sum it up, this is a trusted company, which brings quality products to people for long. With them, you won’t have to worry about authenticity. The taste is great, and for this price, you can stock up your pantry for a long period.
Things I Liked
Things I Didn’t Like
I had to include this brand on the list because I wanted to show that a product can be quite good even though it’s not from a big, worldwide popular brand. Olio Taibi comes from Sicily, Italy, as an authentic Italian olive oil product.
They are around for the last 150 years and have won some serious awards lately. These are some of the most prominent promotional features of the brand, and the oil itself. They received a gold award on International Olive Oil Competition, held in New York in 2018. This exact product, NOCELLARA DEL BELICE won the prestigious award. That’s what lured me to try it.
How does an award-winning olive oil taste like?
Well, for the first impression, it’s mild. Fruity, and not as bitter. The color is on the lighter side of the green, and aroma is a bit milder too. I presume this is important for the fancy international olive oil competitions. Which brings me to the next thing...
The packaging is fantastic - it comes in a dark bottle, which is perfect for oil protection. The bottle comes in a bubble wrap, protected for any damage in transport, and I’m really impressed by it. You might think you’re paying a high price with this one, but the overall sensation and packaging definitely make up for it. I’m using my bottle for special occasions, exclusively on salads.
This company follows the best practice (like they’ve read this article, hehe), and states the exact harvest date (October 2018 for my bottle and current listing), which is amazing. This way you’re absolutely 100% positive you’re getting a fresh, high-quality olive oil.
Next, their label features several certifications, with the USDA Organic being most prominent. Because this is an authentic Italian company, it’s ok for me that they don’t have clarifications from the organizations I mentioned. Although I’m positive they will score these pretty soon.
Overall, this is not your everyday olive oil. This is a premium experience, special occasions, giftable type of olive oil. Definitely recommend.
Things I Liked
Things I Didn’t Like
Here’s one of the popular brands, coming from Baltimore (not actual Italian brand - surprise).
Since 1906 Pompeian Olive Oils company focused on quality, customer satisfaction, and transparency. Their olive oil is usually imported, and they cover a range of different blends of oil to suit the customers' needs.
So, let’s talk about the current product we’re reviewing here - Pompeian Robust EVOO. First of all, the packaging. The oil comes in a plastic bottle, of neutral green to somewhat yellowish color. Not the strong point of the product for sure. Still, have in mind that this is everyday olive oil, for various utilizations.
There’s a prominent North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) seal present, followed by a Quality Assurance International certification for an organic product. Quite a decent amount to ensure that you’re choosing a reputable brand for your meals.
What’s this oil like?
Well, the taste is mild, somewhat pungy and fruity, with a decent amount of spiciness. The aroma seems a bit weaker compared to other oils on this list, but when tasted alone, it definitely leaves the mark on your nostrils and throat. The color is also a bit bland, not on par with other brands on this list.
The company states that they mix the olives from their various groves to ensure the best blend which might be a good thing for some people and a downside for others. Simply said, you won’t get consistent taste and aroma from different bottles of this oil - I particularly found some reviews that confirmed this theory.
Overall, this oil is quite good, certified as organic (I will have to test this in order to have more info), and with quite decent taste and aroma. It’s nothing extravagant, but still worth the price. Definitely, recommended for everyday use.
Things I Liked
Things I Didn’t Like
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s talk about some of the most common things people ask considering the olive oil purchasing decision.
Q: How Many Calories In Olive Oil?
- A: Even though many brands differ in nutritional facts and ingredients of their products, the average number of calories in olive oil is 884. As you can see, olive oil is very caloric, so be careful with consumption, especially if you’re on a diet of some sort.
Q: Is Olive Oil Good For Hair?
- A: Even though this is a food blog/article, I was surprised to see how many people have asked this. YES, it is. If you have dry hair, dandruff, and dry scalp, massaging your hair with olive oil and leaving it to work for a few minutes (up to 15) before continuing with the shampoo can have a positive return.
Q: How High Is Olive Oil Smoke Point?
- A: I’ve already mentioned these facts above in the article. Still, here are the olive oil smoke points: Extra virgin: - 320 F / 160 C; Virgin: - 420 F/ 216 C; Refined: - 460 F / 240 C
Q: Does Olive Oil Go Bad?
- A: Yes. The average consumption period is two years after the harvest date.
Q: Canola Oil vs. Olive oil?
- A: The difference between the two is quite obvious, in various areas. From looks, aroma, taste, to health benefits and viscosity. Olive oil is green, while canola is yellow. Canola is considered a bit healthier, but there’s an endless discussion about this on the web - I like to consider them both healthy, but I strive to use products that are 100% pure, regardless of the type, canola or olive. Canola olive oil is milder in taste, not as bitter, and with a different aroma.
Q: Avocado Oil vs Olive Oil?
- A: These two types of oil are different, but quite close to each other in healthy nutrients, the number of healthy fats per unit, and overall quality for the standard American diet. Avocado olive oil has a bit higher smoke point, and a milder aroma and taste. The color is slightly different, with olive being a bit darker green.
Conclusion And My Personal Recommendation
We’ve reached the final point of this guide. The culmination of the knowledge gathered and products reviewed. What have we learned today? Yes, olive oil is a superfood, and it should be (carefully) utilized in your nutrition daily.
There are a lot of olive oil brands out there, and you should be very careful when deciding which one to buy. You shouldn’t be afraid of trying a product from an unknown brand and be open to new things and tastes. With time, you’ll develop the precise taste and preference.
Speaking of oils mentioned today, I could say that each one of them has its advantages, and as a person educated about olive oil, you should definitely try them all.
My personal preference:
- For stocking the house - Kirkland Signature 2 x Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2 Liters
- For taste - Colavita Premium Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- For gifts - Olio Taibi Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil NOCELLARA DEL BELICE
I know I didn’t include many, many more brands and products, but these six were the ones which tingled my interest at the point of writing the article. If you want to suggest one for addition, let me know, but please include exact reasons for it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to pour some Colavita over baked bread and feta cheese.
La Vida Es Bella! 🙂