Advertisement

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Advertisement

Best olive oil 2021: The finest cold-pressed, extra-virgin, cooking and flavoured olive oils from across the world

Advertisement

Whether you’re looking to dip, dunk, drizzle or fry, these are the best olive oils for every meal

The best olive oil doesn’t come from one particular part of the world. In fact, some of the tastiest and most-recommended oils originate in places you might not even associate with olive growing. What’s more, olive oil’s taste can vary greatly depending on the place it’s grown, as well as how it’s pressed and treated before being bottled. But with so many different styles and brands to choose from, how can you sort the good from the bad, and get the best quality olive oil for your money?

There are few basic things to look out for when choosing an olive oil, which you’ll find outlined in our buying guide below. If you’re new to olive oil or just want to find something extra-special for your next dinner party, we’ve got you covered. Below the buying guide, you’ll find our top picks for the best olive oil for every budget and taste.

READ NEXT: Best garlic crusher


Best olive oil: At a glance


How to choose the best olive oil for you

What types of olive oil are there?

The main types you’ll see sold online and in supermarkets are extra-virgin – sometimes called EVOO, refined olive oil and flavoured or “infused” olive oil.

Extra-virgin (EVOO) is the highest grade of olive oil you can buy. It’s extracted using the cold-pressing method, which ensures the olives are not heated to above 27°C. This preserves the flavour and antioxidant properties of the olives, and usually means the oil has a more aromatic flavour.

Not all extra-virgin oils are created equal, though. The industry isn’t well regulated, meaning some oils are of a much higher standard than others and so it pays to shop around. The best EVOO oils are typically used for salad dressings and drizzling over finished dishes.

Refined olive oil is usually made from black or overly ripe olives and is heat-treated, removing most of the fresh flavour and antioxidant properties. It has low acidity and is best for cooking and frying, as the flavour and fats aren’t compromised at high temperatures.

Flavoured or infused olive oil can be composed of refined oils, pure extra-virgin oils or a combination of both. Aromatics such as garlic, chilli and truffle are steeped in plain oil to produce flavoured variations. Flavoured oils aren’t usually used for frying, but are ideal for finishing dishes and for mixing into things like soup and pasta sauce.

READ NEXT: Best chef knife

What to consider when buying olive oil

Origin – Ideally you want to look for an olive oil that’s been grown, harvested and bottled in one area or a single country. This minimises the risk of getting an olive oil that’s had cheaper oils from other places added to it. For everyday cooking oil, this isn’t a big a concern but for virgin oils claiming to be of the best quality, it’s an important thing to look out for.

Also beware of ambiguous wording. Just because an oil says it’s a ‘product of Spain’, for example, doesn’t mean the olives were grown or harvested there. This can simply mean it’s been imported from elsewhere and bottled there.

Age –All premium olive oils will have a harvested or use-by date attached to them. This is because unlike wine, olive oil deteriorates with age. Most virgin olive oils will have a one to two year shelf life stated on the bottle, but can begin to deteriorate in as little as six months. Due to this, we recommend you only buy as much as you’ll need for a maximum of 12 months at a time.

Taste – While some olive oils have very subtle differences, others can vary wildly in taste. Peppery, fruity, buttery, floral and nutty are some of the key flavours you’ll find in the best olive oils.

A strong, spicy finish doesn’t mean an olive oil is bad or off, but a stale or bitter taste indicates that the oil is past its best. While old olive oil won’t harm you, it isn’t very pleasant to consume and should be avoided.

Bottle – Exposure to light can speed-up the deterioration of cold-pressed olive oil. That’s why producers tend to distribute extra-virgin oils in dark-coloured or opaque bottles. This doesn’t mean you should avoid light-coloured bottles altogether, but it’s something to keep in mind if you plan on storing your oil for a prolonged period of time.

How much should I spend on olive oil?

The answer to this question depends on a couple of factors: the type of oil you want and how often you plan on using your olive oil.

If you’re only interested in the best extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling and dipping, then you can expect to pay anywhere between £10-£40 per bottle. If you’re more interested in something you can sauté with, you can pick up a decent size bottle of olive oil for cooking for as little as £4.

Something else to consider when choosing how much to spend on oil is how often you plan on using it. As olive oil doesn’t have an infinite shelf life, you probably don’t want to spend £20 on a bottle you only use once every few months. By the time you’re halfway through it, the oil will have likely already gone stale or off and you’ll have wasted a lot of money.

The best olive oil to buy

1. Piculia First Day of Harvest: Best luxury olive oil

Price: £35 | Buy now from Harvey Nichols

This exceptionally fruity and buttery Spanish extra-virgin olive oil is one of the freshest you can get. Made from olives cold-pressed on the first day of the harvest – when they’re at peak ripeness – it has all of the classic hallmarks of a champion unrefined EVOO.

As well as a beautifully vibrant colour, Piculia’s limited edition oil is bursting with fresh, grassy flavours, spicy pepper and a hint of on-the-vine tomato. Unlike some extra-virgin oils, the peppery flavour is welcomingly subtle and is more like tingle at the back of your throat, rather than a lip-puckering wave of spice.

This olive oil is best enjoyed with salted, crusty bread or over a classic salad, and should be consumed as soon as possible to make the most of the delicate flavours.

Key details – Type of oil: Extra-virgin; Country of origin: Spain; Bottle size: 500ml

Buy now from Harvey Nichols


2. Filippo Berio Extra-Virgin: Best cheap extra-virgin olive oil

Price: £4 | Buy now from Tesco

Usually when the words cheap and olive oil are seen together, the end product isn’t exactly pleasant. But, if you’re on a tight budget and still want to enjoy that creamy EVOO taste, Filippo Berio’s extra-virgin olive oil is a great compromise.

While you won’t get any ground-breaking flavours from this oil, it’s still delightfully rich in colour and flavour, with peppery, leafy notes that linger in your mouth. It’s on the spicier side, but not unpleasantly so and is best enjoyed with foods that can handle the robust flavour. We like ours for bread dunking or tossed through some freshly roasted vegetables, but it’s great with rich pasta sauces too.

Key details – Type of oil: Extra-virgin; Country of origin: Italy; Bottle size: 500ml

Buy now from Tesco


3. Clearspring Tunisian Extra-Virgin: Best Tunisian olive oil

Price: £12 | Buy now from Amazon

Tunisia might not be the first country that springs to mind when you think of olive oil, but they’re actually the fourth largest producer in the world, and the largest producer of organic olives full stop. This organic Tunisian EVOO from Clearspring is wonderfully clean and fruity, showcasing the best the country has to offer.

Unlike some extra-virgin oils, this oil can be used for both finishing dishes and for frying up to 190°C. It imparts a wonderful, subtle green olive flavour to whatever it’s added to and is as good drizzled on salad as it is mixed through pasta. If you find Italian or Spanish olive oil too harsh, this delicate virgin olive oil is a great choice.

Key details – Type of oil: Extra-virgin; Country of origin: Tunisia; Bottle size: 1L

4. Grand Brahis Noir AOP Extra-Virgin: Best black olive oil

Price: £20 | Buy now from Sous Chef

If you’re looking for something a little different from your oil, this french EVOO has a unique flavour that sets it apart from “traditional” oils. It’s light on those classic earthy, pepper notes, but has an incredibly intense and aromatic black olive flavour that’s unlike anything else we’ve tasted. In fact, when drizzled on salads and pasta, you’d be forgiven for thinking there were actually black olives in your meal.

Because of its powerful flavour profile, Grand Brahis Noir isn’t going to be for everyone, and is best enjoyed with robust dishes like tomato ragus, rich meats or hearty sourdough. If you’re after an olive oil that actually tastes like olives, you’ll love it.

Key details – Type of oil: Extra-virgin; Country of origin: France; Bottle size: 500ml

Buy now from Sous Chef


5. La Espanola Olive Oil: Best everyday cooking oil

Price: £5 | Buy now from Ocado

Everyone needs a good EVOO for drizzling and dipping, but you should also invest in a half-decent basic olive oil for everyday cooking. Made from a mix of refined oil and extra-virgin oils, La Espanola is a wonderfully affordable everyday cooking oil. The delicate flavour makes it ideal for frying and baking, adding just a hint of olive oil flavour to any dish you’re preparing.

This oil’s bottle comes with a retractable spout, making it easier to control how much you pour out at one time. Better still, the dark green bottle helps protect it from harsh daylight, which can speed up the deterioration of olive oil. Put simply, it’s well designed, affordable and tastes great in everyday cooking.

Key details – Type of oil: Refined and virgin oil; Country of origin: Spain; Bottle size: 750ml

Buy now from Ocado


6. Truffle Hunter White Truffle Oil: Best truffle olive oil

Price: £17 | Buy now from Amazon

There are countless black and white truffle-infused olive oils out there, but the best of the best comes from Truffle Hunter. Infused with quality white truffles and finished with small truffle shavings, this cold-pressed white truffle oil is deliciously potent. If you’ve never tried white truffle oil before, it has an almost garlicky aroma, with hints of mushroom earthiness. The flavour can divide a room, but we really rate it, and this version is both strong and great value for money. 

It’s ideal drizzled on creamy risottos, pasta, pizza and over eggs, but pairs well with plenty of other dishes too when used sparingly. The large 250ml bottle represents the best value for money, but if you’re new to truffle oil, you should consider giving the 2x100ml black and white truffle oil set a try, to see which you prefer.

Key details – Type of oil: Flavoured extra-virgin; Country of origin: UK; Bottle size: 250ml

Read more

Best Buys