For the last few months, we've been taste-testing a new cooking staple every month to find the best products for your pantry. (Just hearing about this now? Check out our past picks for our favorite creamy natural peanut butter, jarred tomato sauce, boxed chicken broth, and gluten-free pasta!)
This month we searched for the best everyday olive oil, because olive oil may be the most essential cooking staple of all! We cook with it. We bake with it. And then we cook with it some more! The Simply Recipes editors go through a lot of olive oil, which is why we wanted to find a solid, go-to bottle that wouldn't break the bank and was versatile enough to be used both for cooking and dressing and drizzling.
We tasted 10 brands of extra virgin olive oils in two rounds, and it was a tight race to the finish!
How We Tested
As with every Pantry Power series, we tried to pick olive oils that were readily available nationwide, either online or in grocery stores. We only tested extra virgin olive oil, because it's the highest-quality oil you can buy and most likely to meet the dual standards we set for finding one bottle of olive oil we could use for both cooking and dressing. We kept pricing to $20 or under for a 33.3 fluid ounce (1 liter) bottle.
We started with 10 bottles from a variety of brands for our first-round taste test and then considering taste, price, and overall accessibility, we selected five olive oils to move on to a second-round test with the whole Simply Recipes team. We tasted each olive oil plain on a spoon and with a piece of bread.
Zoe Extra Virgin Olive Oil!
Description: ZOE EVOO is a supple balance of fruit and butter with an aromatic bouquet of fresh basil, almond, and artichoke heart with a peppery finish. Fruity and rich, it's ideal for sautéeing, salad dressing, and pastas.
Coming in at #1 in our taste test was Zoe's Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which is a cold-pressed Spanish olive oil. We found this olive oil to be well-balanced, smooth, and a little slow to arrive to a spicy finish, which meant the flavor was present but not overpowering—in other words, a great everyday oil!
Emma thought it tasted "buttery, rich, and interesting," while Megan called it "pure sunshine, the perfect essence of ripe olives!"
Zoe Extra Virgin Olive Oil is certified by the North American Olive Oil Association, which tests for adherence to the purity and quality standards set by the International Olive Council (IOC). This is important because there is a lot of fraud in the olive oil industry! At around $12 per liter, Zoe olive oil is also a great value, so you can stock up and use it with abandon for all your cooking needs!
California Olive Ranch Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil!
Description: California Olive Ranch’s Everyday extra virgin olive oil is a great versatile oil to keep in your kitchen. Its mild balanced flavor profile makes it a go-to oil for any cooking preparation. With notes of fresh herbs, fruit, and green grass, we recommend it for your everyday baking, sautéing, and roasting.
Mild-tasting and slightly fruity, California Olive Ranch's Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a very "classic, middle of the road olive flavor" (Megan) with a "light, grassy scent and mild taste" (Claudia). We found it to have a clean, simple flavor that wasn't overpowering and is a great option for everything from roasting vegetables to baking and bread-dipping.
Good to know: California Olive Ranch oils used to be made entirely of California-grown olives, but after a disastrous growing season in 2017, the company created their "Destination" series (shown above), a blend of extra virgin olive oils from California and select growing partners in Argentina, Chile, and Portugal. Both the 100% California (now back in stock but more expensive at $34 per liter) and the Destination series extra virgin olive oils are certified by the Olive Oil Commission of California (OOCC), which sets strict quality and authenticity standards for olive oil produced in California.
Lucini Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil!
Description: A celebration of Italian heritage throughout the world, our Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil is made of 100% Argentinean olives grown in estates throughout the Andean foothills specially selected for their quality and flavor. Picked at the precise ripeness for the taste and quality Lucini is known for. Our everyday extra virgin olive oil is ideally suited for everyday cooking.
Not all of us loved Lucini's peppery Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but it was a top place finisher for half of us, so it deserves a mention!
Lucini is known as an Italian olive oil company, and its "premium select" varietals are made from 100% Italian-grown olives.
But their Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil, launched in 2017, is made from olives grown in the Andean foothills of Argentina. This change was likely shepherded by California Olive Ranch – yes, from our #2 pick! – which acquired Lucini Italia in 2015. The two companies continue to operate under their own labels, but as we know from their Destination series, California Olive Ranch has strong ties to olive producers in Argentina.
Lucini's Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a more entry-level price, at about $18 per liter, than the company's premium select bottles. We found the olive oil to be "floral, fruity flavored, with a big spicy kick at the end" (Summer) and "smooth, with some bitterness and a good bit of spice" (Andy). I thought the flavor was rich and spicy, and particularly great with bread, glugged over pasta, and in this salad dressing.
What's your favorite everyday olive oil? Have you tried our picks?