There’s a reason olive oil has been around for more than three thousand years: whether drizzled on cooked pasta, shaken up in salad dressing, substituted for butter in baking, slathered on a roast chicken, or used to sauté vegetables. It’s a wildly versatile staple in the kitchen, one that elevates every food. When it comes to olive oils, extra virgin olive oil (or EVOO if you’re nasty) is the best out there. The highest-standard for olive oil bestowed by such organizations as the International Olive Oil Council, extra virgin olive oil is made from pressed olives without using heat or chemicals and has no defects or refinements. It’s liquid gold.
Of course, not all extra virgin olive oils are created equal. There are different bottles, different prices, different stamps of designation. Then, there are different flavors: some are herbaceous, some are peppery, some are grassy, some are very light in taste. So how do you find the best extra virgin olive oil?
For advice, Fatherly spoke to Greg Bernarducci, owner of the boutique olive oil shop O Live Brooklyn, for tips on what to look for when choosing the best extra virgin olive oil. Based on his criteria, here are some of the best extra virgin olive oils based on quality, freshness, and flavor.
5 Tips for Olive Oil Shopping
Check the harvest date. According to Bernarducci, an olive oil should be used within 12 to 14 months of its harvest date (sometimes called a crush date). “This date can be really hard to find, and many brands won’t have it, although you’ll have more luck in a store like Whole Foods,” he says. If you’re ordering online, ask the seller to confirm the harvest date before you complete your purchase.
Note the country (or countries) of origin. The harvest season for northern hemisphere growing regions (such as Europe) tends to be in November, while it’s May for southern hemisphere spots like Australia and South America. Bernarducci says that sometimes companies will blend olives from different countries together, which isn’t a huge deal unless they’re from different hemispheres. “Think about it, if it contains oils from, say, Spain and Chile, those are two different hemispheres, so obviously some oil was sitting around for a long time before it was blended—that should be a flashing light,” he says.
Avoid refined oils. Sometimes companies blend extra-virgin olive oil with refined olive oil, which has been heavily processed. (You can spot it because instead of just “extra-virgin olive oil” the label may say “light” or “pure” olive oil, two terms that are just marketing jargon.) “The process of refining uses very high heat, even higher than cooking, as well as chemical solvents that can strip out flavor and health benefits,” he says.
Remember HALT. That stands for heat, air, light and temperature, all of which will shorten your olive oil’s life. Don’t choose a product in a clear bottle (it should be tinted glass or a tin) and don’t store your oil near the stove. Keep it tightly closed in a cool, dark spot like a pantry, and it should last about four to six months after you open it. “I advise customers to not buy too much, because if you go through it fast, a larger bottle is a better value, but if it will sit around, I recommend a smaller one,” he says.
Taste it. It might sound odd to slurp it straight from a spoon, but that’s the best way to get a sense for your chosen oil’s freshness and flavor. “Good olive oil should have an herbal, almost grassy taste, and it should be kind of pungent so it makes you cough. You might also taste hints of pepper, green banana, tomato or artichoke,” Bernarducci says.
Best Extra Virgin Olive Oils
This olive oil from the Lone Star state is a 2019 New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC) silver medal winner for its delicate flavor. It's grassy and delicate, with a nutty, peppery fish.
A 2019 NYIOOC gold medal winner, this Italian olive oil has subtle notes of artichoke. It's made mostly from Correggiolo olives, which lends it its vibrant green hue. Flavor-wise, it's on the fruitier side and has a touch of green pepper.
A very versatile olive oil, this is is ideal for toasts and all types of salads. It's equally at home in pastas, risottos, and rice. Very aromatic, it has tones of fresh grass, and a nice hint of tomato and almond.
A Tuscan olive oil with tones of green fruitiness and a subtle sweetness. You can use it to flavor just about anything, provided you're a fan of notes of fresh grass, olive leaf, artichoke, and almonds. Each bottle is sealed with inert gas in dark green glass bottle to reduce oxidation.
A repeat award winner that's consistently praised for its fruity taste, this olive oil has a medium-intense pungency and bitterness. Notes of artichoke, almond, black pepper, fresh cut grass, and herbs shine through. Use it for cooking and baking.
O-Live & Co. olive oils are a fresh mixture of Arbequina, Arbosana, and Koroneiki olive varieties. They're great for everyday use, and pair nicely with everything from veggies to seafood. This one has a mild, fruity taste and is perfect for dipping, grilling, and roasting. If you want something more peppery and robust, pick another varietal.
Hailing from Spain, Venta del Barón extra virgin olive oil is cold-pressed less than 15 hours after the olives are picked. It has an intense aroma full of green herbs, peppermint, almond, banana and apple. As with other olive oils, it's all a matter of taste, and this is too watery and bitter for some.
- DOP Certified - only given to Italian olive oils that have undergone a scrupulous quality process that assesses the quality of the territory where the olive oil has been produced. Our DOP is consistently rated in the top 5 of all Italian DOP's.
- Bottled in a dark coated steel can that light cannot penetrate (exposure to sunlight causes olive oil to spoil.)
- Ripe, bright and fruity with incomparable grassy and peppery nuances.
- USDA Certified Organic
- Trans Fat Free & Kosher
This unfiltered ultra-smooth olive oil is deal for cooking, in salad dressings, or when baking. It's cold-pressed, unfiltered, and sourced from small organic farmers in Greece. It is very light in flavor, which might not appeal to some.
- KORONEIKI VARIETY - The Koroneiki olive is considered the “queen of olives” in Greece, and is recognized worldwide as one of the preferred olives for olive oil production. This olive variety is native to the Peloponnese region of southern Greece.
- HEALTH BENEFITS - The health benefits of olive oil are unrivaled, and research reveals more benefits nearly her day. Olive oil is the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet - an essential ingredient for the world’s longest living cultures. Extra virgin olive oil is a natural superfood, and contains antioxidants, polyphenols, is naturally gluten/cholesterol/sodium-free and is a source of Vitamin E.
- THE PERFECT INGREDIENT - Use it for grilling, sautéing, dipping, dressings, marinades, pasta, seafood, and just everything else! Replace butter with extra virgin olive oil, and immediately transform your diet into a healthier one.
- BOTTLE - Screw on cap, built-in pourer for easy use, and sealed in a dark bottle to protect the oil from light.
This olive oil PDO-certified, meaning it's got the European Union's quality certification so you know exactly what you're getting and where it comes from. Each bottle is sourced directly from Ellora in Crete, Greece. It's not particularly intense in flavor, so it's a better fit for those who like lighter-flavored oils.
Every product on Fatherly is independently selected by our editors, writers, and experts. If you click a link on our site and buy something, we may earn an affiliate commission.