Can you fry with olive oil instead of vegetable oil for frying?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you fry with olive oil instead of vegetable oil for frying?”, and how to select the right type of olive oil for the right job?

Can you fry with olive oil instead of vegetable oil for frying?

Yes, you can fry with olive oil instead of vegetable oil for frying. The best oil for frying is the one that has a high percentage of monounsaturated fat that can withstand the high frying temperatures. 

Unlike polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats do not go rancid when exposed to high temperatures. Recent evidence shows that extra virgin olive oil is the most stable oil when heated when compared to other edible oils with higher smoke points (2).

The average temperature required for pan-frying is 248℉ or 128℃. The temperature range for deep frying is 320℉ – 375℉ (160 – 180℃)

While the smoke point of extra virgin olive oil is much higher than these frying temperatures i.e 410℉ or 210℃ (3). This means that extra virgin olive oil is safe for frying. All oils will oxidize and hydrogenate to a minor degree when heated several times using high temperatures, such as those used in industrial frying processes. It has been documented that olive oil is less prone to oxidation and hydrogenation when heated than other oils when heated because it is rich in monounsaturated fat. Recent evidence shows that when cooking with extra virgin olive oil (including deep frying and sautéing), there is a resultant increase in total phenols (antioxidants) in the cooked food (particularly when cooking raw vegetables) (2).

Europe produces about two thirds of the worldwide olive oil production with a high share of the remaining volumes coming from the other countries of the Mediterranean basin. Italy follows Spain, the first world producer in terms of volumes, with an average 20% of the total European olive oil production. About two thirds of total Italian production is represented by extra virgin olive oil (1).

Varieties of olive oil

Different versions of olive oil are available in the market, depending upon the type and extent of the processing. Extra virgin olive oil is the cold-pressed varieties while the rest of the varieties contain both cold-pressed and compressed oils.

Vegetable oil vs olive oil-Which is the healthies of the two?

Vegetable oil is heavily processed to remove odor and make it shelf-stable. This also results in a loss of essential nutrients. Olive oil is minimally processed especially its extra-virgin variety. This helps in retaining a lot of original flavor and micro-nutrients.

Vegetable oil is rich in omega-6 fatty acids which are polyunsaturated fats whereas olive oil has a considerable amount of monounsaturated fatty acids.

Vegetable oils are a source of edible fatty acids (FAs) (saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated), which play an important role in cellular metabolism as a way to store energy and also by providing energy when required. FAs are known to play an important role in cell division and growth. They are an integral component of cell membranes, hormones, neurotransmitters etc. Intake of different fatty acids has a direct influence on human health. Oleic acid is converted into linolenic acid, omega-6, and this is then converted to alpha-linolenic acid, omega-3, by action of enzymes. However, the human body cannot synthesize these fatty acids de novo, that is, the synthesis of complex molecules from simple molecules such as sugars or amino acids. Thus, these are essential fatty acids that need to be supplemented regularly in diet (5).

Monounsaturated fats have been found to promote heart health and have anti-inflammatory properties. While omega-6 fats, when taken in large amounts, have pro-inflammatory effects on the body. When taken in optimal quantities. Omega-6  reduces the risk of heart diseases, cancer and helps lower bad cholesterol.

Due to the least processing, olive oil preserves a rich amount of antioxidants like tocopherols, carotenoids, and anti-inflammatory compounds like polyphenols, phytosterols, and co-enzyme Q. 

Other than that, it also retains a decent amount of vitamin E and vitamin K. Vegetable oil does not have anti-oxidants due to the processing. 

The consumption of olive oil has been linked to many health benefits. There is evidence about the relation between olive oil and neurodegenerative diseases. In a clinical study done with healthy subjects, in the frame of a Mediterranean style diet, EVOO improved postprandial glucose and LDL-cholesterol levels. A higher olive oil intake has been associated with a modestly lower risk of type-2 diabetes in women from a US cohort and this agrees with the previous results (6).

How to select the right type of olive oil for the right job?

Olive oil has a lot of varieties and each variety has a distinctive flavor and a specific smoke point that decides its intended use. Olive oil is classified by quality criteria, considering the free acidity content and the extraction method. According to the Codex Alimentarius (IOC, 2003), olive oils are divided into the following types (4):

Extra virgin

Extra virgin olive oil is extracted by cold pressing from olives. As the name indicates, this variety has the rawest and hence the fruitiest and the most intense flavor. It works well with salad dressings, cold sauces, dips, and sauteeing. It has a smoke point ranging from 375 to 405°F. Extra virgin olive oil is obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by mechanical processes or other physical means under conditions, particularly thermal conditions, which do not lead to the alterations in the oil, and which have not undergone any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration, and whose acidity content does not exceed 0.8 % (in oleic acid) (4).

Virgin

It is extracted as a result of the second pressing of olives and has a comparatively milder flavor to the extra virgin variety. It goes well for sauteeing on low-medium heat and for pan-frying. It has a smoke point of 390°F. It is obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by mechanical processes or other physical means under conditions, particularly thermal conditions, which do not lead to the alterations in the oil, and which have not been undergone any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration, and whose acidity content does not exceed 2.0 % (in oleic acid) (4).

Ordinary virgin olive oil: virgin olive oil with a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, greater than 2 % and not more than 3.3 %. Ordinary virgin olive oil cannot be pre-packaged when destined directly to the final consumer, and must,necessarily, be destined for refining, and cannot be used to blend with refined olive oil.

Refined olive oil: olive oil obtained from virgin olive oils by refining methods that do not change the initial glyceride structure, with a free acidity not exceeding 0.3 % (in oleic acid).

Olive oil: oil consisting of a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil suitable for human consumption. It has a free acidity of not more than 1 % (in oleic acid).

Refined olive pomace oil: oil obtained from crude olive pomace oil by refining methods does not lead to alterations in the initial glyceridic structure. It has a free acidity, expressed in oleic acid, of not more than 0.3 %.

Olive pomace oil: oil consisting of a blend of refined olive pomace oil and virgin olive oils. The acidity cannot exceed 1 % (in oleic acid) (4).

Pure

It is extracted via the second pressing of the olives or the chemical extraction process. It has a mild to neutral olive taste and can be used for roasting, baking, and frying. It has a smoke point of 410°F.

Light

It is made by combining virgin varieties of olive oil with refined commercial varieties of vegetable oils. Hence lacks the flavor, aroma, and health benefits of raw olive oil. It has a smoke point of 470°F. 

How to bake with olive oil?

  1. Olive oil can be used in place of butter or vegetable oil to make muffins or quick bread. Some baked products are conventionally made with olive oil including biscotti, Mediterranean-style fruit cakes, and olive bread.
  2. Olive oil especially works best for muffins or loaves with a nutty and earthy flavor like pumpkin bread. Olive oil provides richness in taste and moistens the crumb.
  3. To substitute butter in baking, replace each ¼ cup of melted butter with 3Tbsp of olive oil. To replace vegetable oil, substitute an equal amount of olive oil in batter or dough.
  4. Do not use olive oil with a more pungent flavor in baking. Moreover, when the butter is supposed to be creamed with sugar as in cakes, substituting it with olive oil is not a good choice.

Other FAQs about Oils  that you may be interested in.

Can I use olive oil in a cake?

Can I use olive oil instead of sesame oil?

Can I use vegetable oil instead of canola?

Can you use olive oil in cupcakes?

Conclusion

In this article, we answered the question “Can you fry with olive oil instead of vegetable oil for frying?”, and how to select the right type of olive oil for the right job?

References

  1. Carbone, Anna, Luca Cacchiarelli, and Valentina Sabbatini. Exploring quality and its value in the Italian olive oil market: a panel data analysis. Agric food econ, 2018, 6, 1-15.
  2. de Alzaa, Ana Florencia, Claudia Guillaume, and Leandro Ravetti. Cooking with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Olive Oil—New Perspectives and Applications, 2021, 1-13. 
  3. Fullana, Andres, Ángel A. Carbonell‐Barrachina, and Sukh Sidhu. Volatile aldehyde emissions from heated cooking oils. J Sci Food Agric, 2004, 84, 2015-2021.
  4. Silva, Bruna Sanches, and Marcio Schmiele. From olive to olive oil: a general approach. Res Society Develop 10.3 (2021): e32210313408-e32210313408.
  5. Kumar, Aruna, Aarti Sharma, and Kailash C Upadhyaya. Vegetable oil: nutritional and industrial perspective. Current genomics, 2016, 17, 230-240. 
  6. Kiritsakis, A. K., K. A. Kiritsakis, and C. K. Tsitsipas. A review of the evolution in the research of antioxidants in olives and olive oil during the last four decades. J. Food Bioact, 2020, 11, 31-56.