Your recipe needs olive oil but you only have vegetable oil in the kitchen. Do you think will it make a difference to use vegetable oil instead of olive oil? If not, what is the conversion ratio between them?
You can substitute olive oil with vegetable oil in most recipes in a 1:1 ratio. The key difference between vegetable oil and olive oil is their flavor, smoke point, as well as health benefits. Vegetable oil has a milder taste and can handle higher cooking temperatures without burning, compared to olive oil.
So if your recipe relies on olive oil for its flavor, then substituting vegetable oil for olive oil may affect the taste of your dish. If you use olive oil for cooking at medium temperatures (not for the purpose of the flavor it adds), you can use vegetable oil to replace olive oil because vegetable oil is a basic universal oil that can be used in almost any recipe.
What Conditions You Need To Consider Before Using Vegetable Oil Instead Of Olive Oil
If you’re considering replacing vegetable oil with olive oil, the suitability of the substitution depends on what you are using it for.
Are you using it for cooking, pizza dough, pasta, salad dressing, marinade, frying, or for another purpose?
Understanding how olive oil and vegetable oil are similar and different can help you decide if it’s okay to use vegetable oil as a substitute for olive oil in specific recipes.
One of the most obvious differences between olive oil and vegetable oil is the flavor. Olive oil will impart the flavor to food as it has a distinct taste while vegetable oil has a neutral taste. Extra virgin olive oil contributes more flavor than pure olive oil.
2. Smoke Point
The smoke point of an oil is the temperature at which it starts to smoke and break down. Vegetable oils, such as canola oil or sunflower oil (smoke point 486–489°F), generally have a higher smoke point than olive oil. This makes them more stable at high temperatures and suitable for high-heat cooking methods like deep frying.
According to the North American Olive Oil Association, the smoke point of extra virgin olive oil ranges from 350°F to 410°F, for regular olive oil and light-tasting olive oil, the smoke point ranges from 390°F to 470°F.
Vegetable oil is usually used for deep frying and stir-frying. If you pan fry with olive oil (not for its flavor), then vegetable oil can be used to replace olive oil as it has a higher smoke point than olive oil as olive oil will be oxidized and generate harmful compounds if overheated.
3. Health and Nutrition
You can use vegetable oil instead of olive oil, but the health and nutritional impacts may vary. Olive oil is generally considered more healthful than vegetable oil due to its high monounsaturated fat content & antioxidants, and low polyunsaturated fats. Extra-virgin olive oil, the highest quality of olive oil, also known as EVOO, is a staple in the Mediterranean diet and is known for its heart-healthy effects.
Olive oil is made from olives, which are the fruits of the olive tree, while vegetable oil can be made from a variety of plant sources, including seeds and nuts, such as soybean, canola, corn, and sunflower.
The manufacturing process of olive oil is generally simpler and involves fewer steps, which is intended to preserve the natural flavor and health benefits of the olives. While Vegetable oils often undergo a more extensive refining process, which may include the use of chemical solvents and hydrogenation.
Whether to Use Vegetable Oil Instead of Olive Oil Or Not
Olive oil is commonly used in salad dressings, marinades, baking, low to medium heat cooking/frying, sautéing, and more. Let’s see if vegetable oil can be used to replace olive oil in these dishes.
If you’re going to make a recipe that needs the flavor from olive oil, like salad dressing or roasted vegetables, then substituting vegetable oil for olive oil is not suitable as it will change the flavor of the final product, which will make the recipe tasteless due to its lack of flavor but bring the same texture and body.
Olive oil enhances the overall taste of marinated food by adding its own subtle flavor to dishes. Olive oil helps to distribute the flavors of the herbs, spices, and other ingredients in the marinade evenly across the surface of the food. It acts as a carrier for fat-soluble flavor compounds, ensuring that the flavors penetrate deeply into the meat or vegetables.
Therefore, vegetable oil is not appropriate to substitute olive oil in marinades in terms of flavor.
For baking that needs the flavor of olive oil to showcase in recipes where its taste can shine, so it might not be a good choice to use a neutral oil like vegetable oil.
Here are some kinds of baking where olive oil is often preferred:
Flavored Desserts (Olive Oil and Lemon Sorbet)
Olive oil adds a rich, fruity depth to the bright and tangy flavor of lemon in this sorbet. It also contributes to a smoother, more luxurious texture. The combination of olive oil and lemon creates a refreshing and unique dessert that is both sweet and slightly savory.
Cakes (especially citrus and herb-flavored cakes):
Olive oil can add depth and a nuanced, fruity flavor to cakes, particularly when the cake recipe includes citrus (like lemon or orange) or herbs (like rosemary or thyme). Olive oil cakes tend to be moist and have a tender crumb.
Brownies and Chocolate Cakes
Olive oil can complement the rich flavor of chocolate, adding a slight fruity note that can enhance the overall taste.
When you are baking, the choice of oil can depend on the recipe. If the recipe asks for a flavor oil, such as olive oil, replacing it with vegetable oil may change the final taste of the baked goods.
When you are looking for a neutral flavor, a higher smoke point, or a more cost-effective option, vegetable oil can be a good alternative for olive oil, especially for high-heat cooking methods like frying as olive oil burns at a lower temperature so it is not good for frying.
Here are some examples:
When frying donuts, tempura, or other delicate-flavored foods, you might prefer vegetable oil to avoid adding any additional flavor that comes from olive oil.
For deep frying foods like chicken, fries, or fritters, vegetable oil is often a better choice due to its higher smoke point.
For large volume frying, where you need a significant amount of oil, using a more cost-effective option like vegetable oil can be economical. For example, if you are frying a large batch of food for a big gathering, such as a fish fry or a large batch of fried chicken, using vegetable oil can be more cost-effective.
If you are making a stir-fry and realize you are out of olive oil, you can use vegetable oil as a substitute without significantly altering the dish’s flavor.
Vegetable oil, being neutral and versatile, is a reliable substitute for olive oil, especially when the oil’s role is more functional than flavorful. It’s an excellent choice for high-heat cooking methods, such as frying, where olive oil’s lower smoke point could become a problem. The 1:1 substitution ratio makes it a convenient alternative in a pinch.
However, when the distinct, fruity, and rich flavor of olive oil is central to a dish, like salad dressings, certain baked goods, and marinades, replacing it with vegetable oil will likely change the character of the final product.
Health is another angle to consider. Olive oil, particularly extra-virgin, is renowned for its nutrition and health benefits. Vegetable oils, while generally safe and widely used, cannot match up to olive oil’s nutrition and health benefits.
So, the next time your recipe calls for olive oil and you find your bottle running low, weigh your options. You can try and see what you prefer. Consider the role of the oil in your recipe, the flavor you are aiming for, and your health goals.