Vegetable oil is different from olive oil because vegetable oil is extracted from a blend of plant sources including seeds and fruits, while olive oil is extracted specifically from olives.
Vegetable oil has a higher smoke point and little to no flavor, whereas olive oil has a lower smoke point and a distinct flavor.
Olive oil is healthier than vegetable oil because olive oil is higher in antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients. Olive oil is also minimally processed while vegetable oil is highly processed.
Key Differences: Vegetable Oil vs. Olive Oil
|Blend of fats from plant sources
|Baking, deep-frying, and searing
|Sautéing, and in bread dips, salad dressings, and marinades
|Vitamins and Nutrients
|Little to no nutrients
|Vitamin E and K and anti-inflammatory properties
Vegetable Oil: What is it & When to Use
Vegetable oil is made by extracting fat from various plant sources including rapeseed, soybean, palm oil, sunflower, canola, corn, and cottonseed.
The oils are extracted from the plant sources, cleaned with chemicals, and processed to make vegetable oil. Vegetable oil remains a liquid at room temperature.
Processing Results and Health Effects
To make vegetable oil, a high level of processing is required, which includes chemical cleaning and heating.
During the processing of vegetable oil, micronutrients are stripped from the oil.
Vegetable oil also lacks antioxidants due to the processing of the plant sources to make the oil.
The blending of various plant sources to make vegetable oil results in a long process to balance the flavors by neutralizing them.
Vegetable oils release unhealthy by-products including free fatty acids and polar compounds when heated at high temperatures.
These by-products are caused by unsaturated fats that oxidize.
The oxidized fats harm body tissues and trigger inflammation which leads to heart problems.
When to Use Vegetable Oil
When choosing a type of oil to use, consider the cost, taste, and smoke point of the oil.
Vegetable oil is a budget-friendly oil that contains little to no flavor so the oil won’t affect the taste of the dish.
Vegetable oil can also be used in a variety of dishes that require cooking with a higher smoke point.
Use vegetable oil for any type of oven dish, such as roasted vegetables, as well as for frying vegetables on the stove.
Vegetable oil can also be used for cakes and bread to add moisture and richness to the batter.
Homemade mayonnaise and salad dressings can be made with vegetable oil due to its bland flavor.
Variations of Vegetable Oil
Different blends of vegetable oil are available in stores. Certain plant sources are used in differing degrees to produce vegetable oil — information that can be found on the label.
Avoid vegetable oil that is saturated or partially hydrogenated and instead look for unsaturated vegetable oil.
Unblended vegetable oils are healthier than refined vegetable oil that contains a blend of seed and nut oils.
When possible, use unblended vegetable oils such as canola oil and sunflower oil rather than refined vegetable oil.
Olive Oil: What is it & When to Use
Olive oil is made by pressing fresh olives manually or with a machine to extract the natural oil from the fruit.
The oil released from fresh olives is mostly unprocessed and holds in most of the nutrients from the fruit.
Extra virgin olive oil is unrefined and unprocessed, whereas normal olive oil is sometimes minimally processed.
Processing Results and Health Effects
The process of extracting oil from fresh olives doesn’t require heat or chemicals, which results in a more natural product.
Olive oil can be extracted either by pressing olives or by crushing them, mixing them together, and then using a centrifuge to separate the pulp from the oil. Pomace oil is a highly processed variation of olive oil.
Olive oil comes in different varieties, but all contain a high level of monounsaturated fats — which improve heart health — in addition to antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
Extra virgin olive oil contains the most nutrients, including micronutrients such as vitamin K and E.
Replacing vegetable oil with olive oil is known to improve brain health as well.
When to Use Olive Oil
Olive oil has a strong taste and a lower smoke point compared to vegetable oil, which affects how olive oil should be used.
Use olive oil as a dressing or dip to add flavor to bread and finger foods. Olive oil is also good for drizzling over pasta and pizzas to add extra flavor.
To prevent olive oil from passing its smoke point, use olive oil for dishes that need shallow frying such as stir-fries, eggs, and thin chicken breasts.
Cakes and cookies can be made with olive oil to produce a unique flavor that will also highlight the flavors of other ingredients like chocolate and nuts.
Variations of Olive Oil
There are five variations of olive oil, each made with a different level of processing.
The different types of olive oil contain different levels of nutrients and offer various levels of flavor. When choosing a type of olive oil, consider the price, the content of nutrients, and the flavor.
The five types of olive oil are:
- Pomace Oil — Pomace oil is the most processed form of olive oil and is made by chemically extracting the last bits of oil from the olive fruit flesh. This oil is cheaper than normal olive oil but contains little or no nutrients. Pomace oil is useful for high-heat frying.
- Refined Olive Oil — Refined olive oil is lower quality than virgin olive oil due to the processing of the oil. Refined olive oil can be used for all types of cooking, particularly high-heat cooking. Refined olive oil contains the same amount of calories and fats as the other types of olive oil but has less flavor.
- Pure Olive Oil — Pure olive oil is a mix of virgin olive oil and refined olive oil. Pure olive oil is made when the quality of the refined oil is too low and needs to be improved with virgin olive oil. Pure olive oil has a better flavor and more nutrients than refined olive oil, and is useful for high-heat cooking.
- Virgin Olive Oil — Virgin olive oil is created by cold-pressing olives, which means it is unrefined and minimally processed. Virgin olive oil is temperature resistant and should be used for low-heat cooking. Virgin olive oil has a milder taste than extra virgin olive oil and has a higher acid content than the other types of olive oil.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil — Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the highest quality olive oil and is extracted through cold-pressing. EVOO has a lower acid content than virgin olive oil and a much stronger taste than the other types of olive oil. EVOO contains the most nutrients and can be used as a dip, as a dressing, and to flavor dishes.
In a Nutshell
Both vegetable oil and olive oil are commonly used for cooking a variety of savory and sweet dishes.
- Vegetable oil is made from a blend of oils extracted from vegetables, nuts, and seeds, whereas olive oil is extracted from olive fruit.
- The extraction process of vegetable oil removes the nutrients from the plant sources, whereas olive oil is minimally processed so it keeps the nutrients from the olives.
- The key uses for vegetable oil are deep frying and cooking dishes at high heat, whereas olive oil is used as a dip, to flavor foods, and for low-heat cooking.
- Vegetable oil is available in different blends, whereas olive oil is available in five types: pomace, refined, pure, virgin, and extra virgin.
- The processing of vegetable oil removes the flavor of the various oil sources, whereas olive oil — especially extra virgin olive oil — has a strong and unique flavor.
Vegetable oil and olive oil are not the same because they have different smoke points, nutritional values, and tastes.
Olive oil is healthier than vegetable oil because it is minimally processed and the nutrients remain in the oil.