Olive Oil vs Vegetable Oil

Cooking tip – Olive Oil vs Vegetable Oil: What’s the difference?

For Professional Chefs, the type of cooking oil you use is important. To those of us who are everyday home cooks, the difference may not be something to overthink. Olive Oil tastes like olives and vegetable oil tastes like, well, not much.

Vegetable oils (Soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, safflower oil) are all basic neutral oils.  They do have slight flavors of their own, but for the most part, you can use them interchangeably.

The only Olive Oil most home cooks need in your pantry is what Rachel Ray calls “EVOO” – Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  There are also virgin olive oils and refined olive oils.  These have less flavor than extra-virgin olive oil, and cost less, but they’re still more expensive than neutral oils. Peanut oil is also neutral, with a little peanut taste.  Use that for baking.  Also, use Vegetable Oils for frying, since they have a higher heating point before they begin to break down and start smoking.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil – Extra-virgin olive oil is an unrefined oil and the highest-quality olive oil you can buy. Because of the way EVOO is made, it retains more true olive taste.  EVOO is considered an unrefined oil since it’s not treated with chemicals or altered by temperature. While you can cook with EVOO, it does have a lower smoke point than many other oils, which means it burns at a lower temperature.


Virgin Olive Oil – Next in quality, is virgin olive oil. It’s made using a similar process as extra-virgin olive oil and is also an unrefined oil, meaning chemicals or heat are not used to extract oil from the fruit. Virgin oil is rarely found, in grocery stores; usually your choice will be between extra-virgin, regular, and light olive oils.

Pure Olive Oil – Oil labeled as simply olive oil or pure olive oil  is what we’d call “regular” olive oil. This oil is typically a mixture of virgin olive oil and refined olive oil (heat and/or chemicals are used to extract oil and remove minor flaws from the olive).

Pure olive oil is a lower-quality oil than EVOO or virgin olive oil, with a lighter color, more neutral flavor. This oil is an all-purpose cooking oil.

Light Olive Oil –  “Light” doesn’t refer to this oil being lower in calories. It is just a marketing term used to describe the oil’s lighter flavor. Light olive oil is a refined oil that has a neutral taste and a higher smoke point. It can be used for baking, sautéing, grilling, and frying.

Can They Be Substituted for Each Other?  The simple answer is yes. If a recipe calls for olive oil, you can use extra-virgin or regular olive oil. But for simplicity sake, I suggest having just one Olive Oil (EVOO) and just one of whatever vegetable oil you would prefer in your pantry.

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