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Difference Between Pure Olive Oil and Extra Virgin and how to choose - image of olive oil being poured into a glass bowl near olives and kitchen tools

Difference Between Pure Olive Oil and Extra Virgin

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Decoding the Difference: Pure Olive Oil vs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Navigating olive oil choices can be a tedious task when faced with options like pure olive oil vs extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). While both are derived from olives, their production processes and qualities vary significantly. Understanding the difference between pure olive oil and extra virgin helps you know when to use one versus the other. Especially because EVOO is so much more expensive than pure, you’ll want to be sure not to waste it.

What is Pure Olive Oil?

Pure olive oil, also known as just “olive oil,” “refined olive oil” or “regular olive oil,” is a type of oil that undergoes a refining process. This refining process involves filtering and refining the oil to remove any impurities and neutralize strong flavors. As a result, pure olive oil has a milder flavor compared to extra virgin olive oil. Brightland, a California olive oil company has a good article explaining the refining processes that pure olive oil undertakes.

What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the highest grade of olive oil, renowned for its superior quality and flavor. It is extracted from olives using mechanical methods, without the use of chemicals or excessive heat. This gentle extraction preserves the natural flavors, nutrients, and antioxidants present in the olives. The result is a rich, fruity taste with a distinct peppery finish.

Key Differences Between the Oils

  1. Flavor: Pure olive oil has a more neutral flavor profile, making it suitable for cooking applications where a subtle taste is desired. On the other hand, EVOO oil boasts a robust flavor profile, characterized by fruity notes and a peppery kick, making it ideal for drizzling over salads or dipping bread.
  2. Acidity: Extra virgin olive oil has a lower acidity level (below 0.8%) compared to pure olive oil. Pure olive oil may have a slightly higher acidity due to the refining process. The lower acidity of EVOO contributes to its superior taste and quality.
  3. Nutritional Value: Extra virgin olive oil retains more of the natural antioxidants and beneficial compounds found in olives. These compounds, such as polyphenols and vitamin E, make it a healthier option compared to pure olive oil.

Cooking Applications

When to Use Pure Olive Oil

Due to its mild flavor and higher smoke point compared to extra virgin olive oil, pure olive oil is well-suited for sautéing, frying, and baking. Refined olive oil can be heated to 470 °F which is higher than EVOO’s 400 °F smoke point. Thefore, some like to use it for high-heat applications. It also does great in baking applications where you would not want the intense flavor of EVOO. Pure olive oil flavor is more neutral, like a vegetable oil’s flavor. A good rule of thumb to help you decide to use pure olive oil is this: if you aren’t highlighting the olives flavor and want to save money, choose pure olive oil.

When to Use Extra Virgin Olive Oil

With its bold flavor and low smoke point, extra virgin olive oil is best used in recipes where its taste can shine, such as salad dressings, dips, marinades, and finishing drizzles. EVOO should not be subjugated to extreme high heat if you want to keep the intense flavor of the oil. When heated, the delicate flavors of the oil may degrade due to exposure to high temperatures. High temps can potentially alter its taste profile and reduce its antioxidant content.

However, in Mediterranean countries like Greece and Italy, it’s common to fry foods in extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). While some caution against frying with EVOO due to its lower smoke point compared to other oils, many Mediterranean cultures have a long history of using EVOO for cooking, including frying. The key is to use fresh, high-quality EVOO and not let it reach its smoke point (around 375-405 °F). When used properly, frying in EVOO can result in delicious and flavorful dishes.

Embrace the Versatility of Olive Oil

In summary, while both pure olive oil and extra virgin olive oil originate from olives, their distinct production methods and flavor profiles set them apart. Understanding the differences between these two varieties empowers you to make informed choices in the kitchen. So, next time you reach for that bottle of olive oil, you’ll know exactly what sets them apart.

We love to bake with olive oil. Below are some of our baked goods where we have substituted olive oil for butter.

Buckwheat & Olive Oil Brownies
This Buckwheat & Olive Oil Brownies recipe is our favorite, favorite brownie of all time! These brownies come together quickly so we make them often.
Buckwheat flour is naturally gluten-free and has 18% more protein and a much higher fiber content than all-purpose flour. Buckwheat flour's earthy flavor pairs incredibly well with cacao powder. And olive oil's velvety richness turns these into fudgy moist delicacies. They have a fudge-like texture with a hint of sea salt.
Please note that we don't like overly sweet things, so we reduced the amount of sugar in this recipe. If you like things sweeter, add more!
Check out this recipe
Healthy high protein buckwheat olive oil brownies fresh from oven cut into squares
Sourdough Pumpkin Coffee Cake
Indulge in warm, comforting flavors of fall with our Sourdough Pumpkin Coffee Cake. This tender and moist cake features the rich essence of pumpkin and a heavenly pecan streusel topping. It's the perfect healthy, wholesome treat for cozy mornings or any time you crave a slice of autumn goodness.
Check out this recipe
Photo of a piece of moist sourdough pumpkin coffee cake with pecan streusel topping
Oat Pancakes
These healthy oat pancakes are a nutritious and delicious breakfast option. Made with oats, whole wheat pastry flour, and optional sourdough discard, they are filling, flavorful, and easy to make.
Check out this recipe
cooked whole wheat oat pancake made using oat pancakes recipe
Buckwheat Gingerbread Pancakes with Sourdough
Indulge in a delightful blend of flavors with our Buckwheat Gingerbread Pancakes with Sourdough. This recipe seamlessly combines the earthiness of buckwheat and a medley of aromatic spices—cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and more—creating a harmonious fusion of warmth and richness. The addition of sourdough starter or discard infuses each pancake with a unique tang, while optional fillings/toppings like blueberries, nuts and maple syrup enhance the experience. Enjoy a cozy morning treat packed with wholesome ingredients and enticing flavors that redefine the classic pancake.
Check out this recipe
close up photo of a stack of gingerbread buckwheat pancake topped with butter, crushed gingersnaps and maple syrup
Chocolate Buckwheat Granola with Dehydrated Cherries
Delightful and nutritious homemade chocolate granola made with a blend of rolled oats, buckwheat groats, and cacao powder. Sweetened with natural ingredients like coconut sugar, maple syrup, and enhanced with the richness of coconut oil and pure olive oil. Customize your crunchy creation with nuts and dehydrated cherries or your choice of dried fruits.
Check out this recipe
photo of chocolate granola with oats, nuts, buckwheat, chocolate chunks and cherries
Sourdough Discard Strawberry Banana Bread with Spelt
This moist and flavorful banana bread recipe makes use of sourdough discard, ripe bananas, and strawberries for a delightful twist. Spelt flour and yogurt add a mild nutty and tangy flavor, while a hint of cinnamon adds warmth to each bite. Feel free to use any flour in this recipe you like. Perfect for breakfast or as a snack, this bread is a delightful treat for any occasion.
Check out this recipe
loaf of sourdough discard strawberry banana bread on parchment paper

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