In this guide we walk you through how to bake with olive oil and why you should make the switch over to this super healthy cooking fat!
Can You Bake With Olive Oil?
Yes, you can bake with olive oil, it lends a richness and moisture to cakes and bread that’s hard to beat.
If we’re being honest we’re not huge bakers. However, we do love the occasional brownie, chocolate loaf bread, or a good cookie. All of which we make with EVOO with great success.
The question shouldn’t be ‘can you bake with olive oil?’. It should be ‘does baking with olive oil create the types of desserts and breads that appeal to you?’.
After all, baking with this savory oil is not quite the same as baking with butter and it can even be considered an acquired taste.
How To Bake With Olive Oil
The key to baking with olive oil is understanding the product as a whole. By nature it's a savory, bitter, pungent product, therefore, works well when balanced accordingly.
It’s not going to make a great icing/frosting or incredibly fluffy dessert. However, it will make a delicious, dense, and decadent chocolate cake or brownies. In fact, with the right recipe, it can lend the consistency of fudge to just about any sweet.
When mixed with melted chocolate and then added to a cake or brownies it behaves as it always does, moving concentrated flavors, in this case chocolate, through the dish.
The product has a flavor of its own. However, its true genius lies in the way it transports flavors, and that’s why it’s our preferred baking fat.
Olive oil can serve as a replacement for canola, avocado, and coconut oil and also butter. It's also great for lining cake and bread pans. And you can use it for savory breads as well as a variety of different sweets.
Baking With Olive Oil vs Baking With Butter
These are two very different cooking fats, let's take a closer look at both.
Olive oil is a liquid at room temperature and doesn't solidify unless stored at approximately 42° F, however, this can range greatly depending on the grade of oil. In addition it has virtually no water content making it a very pure fat.
On the contrary, butter remains solid at room temperature (unless you live in a very warm place). While it's mostly a fat it does usually have about a 18% water content and this matters in cooking and baking.
In addition, olive oil is extracted from a fruit, making it vegan, while butter is produced from dairy cream and therefore an animal product.
Real Life Baking Applications
You can see the biggest difference between the two fats when making cookies.
For example, when you make cookies with olive oil they almost have a brownie-like consistency to them and stay moist for a really long time. This is a clear example of how the product really lends itself to the world of fudge and compact, concentrated flavor.
When you bake cookies with butter they're much lighter, rise better, and have nice crispy edges. However, they dry out much faster. This is because butter has a higher water content. Yes, the cookies will rise much better but they will also dry out a lot faster.
But there are some foods you simply cannot make out the cooking fat. For example, when it comes to pancakes we always stick with butter. Waffles on the other hand are a different story. But more on that later.
Butter to Olive Oil Conversion
Replacing butter for extra virgin olive oil in baking is not a 1:1 conversion. For some recipes, you can get away with simply adding a 1/4 less oil than butter and you’ll be fine.
For example, brownies are notoriously forgiving, however, you may need to adjust the amount of baking powder. It might take some experimenting to get things just right.
Also, remember that olive oil will make the recipe fudgier and will remain moist longer!
How To Choose A Good Baking Olive Oil
A lot of folks say choose a ‘neutral olive oil’ for baking. We do not agree with this statement. It completely depends on the dish and the person(s) consuming it.
For a lemon olive oil cake or other citrus-based cake use an oil that compliments the flavor profiles. We like the Turi because it pairs well with citrus and delicate flavors. For brownies with a zing, we use the Lina. And for a chocolate cake with a decadent frosting we use the Avus.
In order to choose the best baking olive oil, it’s important to understand, the different grades, how its produced , and why the price points are so vast.
Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality, has the strongest flavor, and is the most expensive option. When paired properly it brings dessert to the next level.
EVOO is produced by extracting the oil from the olive fruit through mechanical means at a maximum temperature of 27 °C (80.6 °F). The fruit must be picked from the tree not from the ground and it must meet certain physicochemical parameters pertaining to acidity level, peroxide levels, and more. The standards are strict and differ from country/state.
Extra virgin is the most expensive option because the oil is not refined and therefore, treated more like a juice. It takes a lot of time, energy, and resources (re: money) to produce.
The flavor profile also declines with time. However, this also means the fruit is extremely healthy and the product is very high quality. Extra virgin is also the most chemically stable compared to virgin and regular olive oil.
Choose an EVOO for baking based on the type of food you’re baking.
Regular olive oil has the most neutral flavor and is the least expensive option. It works well as a general option and can replace corn/soy oil when baking.
Regular is produced from virgin olive oil which is then refined. It may go through a process of homogenization where the oil(s) is heated in large quantities in order to make the taste consistent.
In addition, the parameters for lab results are lower. The fruit may be picked up from ground or nets placed below trees as they're allowed to fall. Regular olive oil often has a lower polyphenol content than extra virgin, check the lab results if you can. This product is extremely common to find in the US.
For Baking Desserts With Citrus
A citrus bread or cake would reap the benefits of an EVOO that has notes of floral, citrus, apple, almond, or fresh-cut grass. This balance of sweet and fragrant will be lovely.
Check the back of the bottle’s label or visit the company’s website for a thorough description of the product’s flavor profiles.
For Baking Desserts with Chocolate
Brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate cakes an EVOO with notes of ripe olive, floral, plum, vanilla, cinnamon, or apple would be lovely.
For Baking Breads
Bread is certainly more flexible than sweets with citrus or chocolate! You can use virtually any extra virgin olive oil if the bread is on the savory side.
However, for sweet breads select an EVOO that will be round and veers slightly away from herbaceous and more towards floral.
Does It Really Matter?
You might not care much about these differences because after all, are we concerned about the health benefits of an oil going into a batch of double chocolate chip cookies?
However, some folks want to know what happens behind the scenes with their food. Personally, we prefer baking with EVOO because well, it’s the product we know, love, and make.
Let’s Talk About Price
Olive oil is expensive, especially extra virgin. This is because it takes a tree approximately 7 years to start producing enough fruit to be profitable. It takes 15 years total for the plant to truly hit its stride.
This is why many brands are family-owned and much of the industry is built on multi-generational wealth. Without the plants that Giuseppe’s grandfather planted almost 100 years ago and the trees his father planted 30 years ago we wouldn’t have been able to start EXAU. This is a privilege that we must recognize.
Farmers have to care for trees for years before they’re able to turn a profit and time is money. Therefore, the product is expensive and if we’re being honest it should be more expensive.
The percent yield is between 10% to 20%. This means for every 100 kilos of olives a producers might get 15 liters of oil depending on the year. Compared to other foods and processed products the percent yield is extremely low and the risk is quite high. However, the product is amazing.
Learn More About Baking with EVOO
As olive oil producers and food enthusiasts we've had a lot of time to get familiar with our favorite cooking fat. So much so that we wrote an entire book dedicated to how its made, how to shop for it, and most importantly how to use it.
If you want to learn more about baking with olive oil order your copy of The Olive Oil Enthusiast today. It also has lots of recipe including one of our favorites, brownies.
Recipes to Practice With
Here are some recipes that all call for olive oil and are great for you to practice with. We recommend using the highest quality EVOO you can use to really notice the difference.
Jake Cohen’s Chocolate Loaf Cake which we’ve made at least a dozen times. It got to a point during the pandemic where we had the recipe memorized! It’s the perfect mix between a chocolate cake and a sweet bread because it’s not too sweet. The texture is incredible and it’s incredibly moist due to, well, olive oil of course.
Food Network’s Banana Bread, sub vegetable oil for olive oil 1:1. WOAH. To be honest, we aren’t usually big fans of Food Network recipes but this one is incredible and will be moved into regular rotation. We made this using the Turi and it was a great decision. The only thing is this recipe calls for quite a lot of sugar so in the future we may try and use less as we don’t have the biggest sweet tooths.
Melissa Clark’s Olive Oil Brownie’s With Sea Salt for NYT. Personally, we feel these are the brownies to end all other brownies. They’re rich, dense, decadent, and just straight-up delicious. The only downside is this recipe uses quite a few pots/pans to melt the chocolate. But we promise it’s worth it.
Broma Bakery’s Olive Oil Cake, we subbed almond flour for regular flour. This cake is delicious. We usually make this in the summer and line the bottom of the pan with nectarines and use sliced nectarines in the recipe instead. However, in the fall and winter we have used citrus or pears and it’s incredible. Once we even used semolina with extra juicy nectarines (semolina absorbs way more liquid) and it turned out killer. However, be aware that using semolina will 100% change the consistency of the better because semolina absorbs a ton of liquid.
Sohla’s Olive Oil Blondies for Food 52. First off, it’s Sohla. Second, there’s an entire Youtube video where Sohla and Ryan made these beauties together (RIP to Ry’s blondies). Make these, they’re delicious and store extremely well.
We can't wait to see what you make. Shop our selection of high quality Italian EVOO today.
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