Much like wine, olive oil can be a complex ingredient. So before you reach for the same golden nectar you always buy, we’d recommend branching out with one of these tried and tested oils instead. Trust us: your next meal will seriously thank you for it.
Whether it’s for cooking with or finishing off dishes, olive oil is, without doubt, one of the most heavily used ingredients on rotation in our kitchen. But which country produces the “best” olive oil and how much should you spend? We’ve rounded up our favourites from around the Mediterranean and beyond, including Greece, Spain, France and Palestine, starting from a very reasonable £5.96.
When making your selection, look out for the term “extra virgin” (or EVOO), which means that the juice comes from the very first pressing of the olives. This will result in a more pronounced, complex flavour, which makes it ideal for drizzling on the likes of pizza, pasta and salads, just before serving.
“Cold-pressed” refers to olives that have been kept at a cool temperature to retain the optimum fresh, fruity notes we associate with a top-quality product. “Early harvest” means olives will be under-ripe, which doesn’t sound like such a good thing, but it actually results in vibrantly flavoured oils.
A well-balanced olive oil might open up with a fresh, grassy aromatic note before moving to a fruity mouthfeel and ending with a nutty, peppery and sometimes bitter finish. Some bottles will let you know the harvest date (when the olives were picked), and we’d recommend using it within 18 months, while the flavours will be at their most nuanced and bright.
So, now you know what to look out for, these are the best olive oils to buy today.
The best olive oils for 2021 are:
Best overall – Belazu early harvest arbequina extra virgin olive oil bag in box 3l: £39.95, Belazu.com
Best for dipping bread – Two Fields extra virgin olive oil: £15, Farehousetrading.com
Best for a variety of flavours – Frantoio Muraglia extra virgin olive oil tins, 2 x 250ml: £18.45, Theredbeetle.com
Best for a peppery punch – Le Coste olive oil 500ml: £22.50, Shopcuvee.com
Best for subtle flavours – Grand Brahis noir AOP Vallee Des Baux de Provence extra virgin olive oil 500ml: £19.99, Souschef.co.uk
Best for versatility – Picualia premium extra virgin olive oil 500ml: £22.95, Harveynichols.com
Best for drizzling over salad – Odysea PDO Kalamata extra virgin olive oil 1l: £12, Odysea.com
Best for marinading – Lia extra virgin olive oil 500ml: £18.50, Waitrose.com
Best Borough Market buy – Oliveology 22°C organic extra virgin olive oil 750ml: £18.50, Oliveology.co.uk
Best value for money – Olive Branch Greek extra virgin olive oil 500ml: £5.96, Ocado.com
Best for a distinctly bitter taste – Zaytoun Palestinian olive oil 250ml: £10.80, Ottolenghi.co.uk
Best truffle-infused oil – Truffle Hunter black and white truffle oil, 2 x 100ml: £14.95, Trufflehunter.co.uk
Best for fruit flavours – Leoube olive oil 500ml: £19.99, Daylesford.com
Belazu early harvest arbequina extra virgin olive oil bag in box 3l
We’ve been working our way through this 3l bag in a box of extra virgin olive oil since the beginning of the first lockdown. Yes, really. Belazu supply their speciality ingredients to chefs and restaurants across the country so the quality is superb, and it’s a treat to know we have such a steady supply on hand. Sourced from Spain, it’s called “early harvest” as it takes the juice from arbequina olives before they have fully ripened and turned black, which results in a more concentrated flavour.
Although restaurateur Mark Hix says this is too good to cook with, we can’t resist adding a splash to everything. It elevates the simplest of ingredients into a stunning dish, with a grassy, lightly peppery, nutty and fruity quality. Excellent value.
Buy now £39.95, Belazu.com
Two Fields extra virgin olive oil
Best: For dipping bread
Brothers Harry and Will (no not those brothers), own 200 trees across two humble fields in a small village in Crete. Choosing to respect the ancient craft of making olive oil over and above yield, the koreneiki olives are still grown, picked, and pressed within the village (as they have been for generations), before being bottled and hand-numbered. Working in harmony with the land, this aromatic and pure-tasting organic oil is perfect for dipping crusty bread into, or adding a cheffy drizzle to Mediterranean dishes.
Buy now £15.00, Farehousetrading.com
Frantoio Muraglia extra virgin olive oil tins, 2 x 250ml
Best: For a variety of flavours
Now we’ve established that olive oil can display such a wide variety of flavours, you might want to invest in two, to compare and contrast. This pack is ideal, as it contains tins from the same Italian producer, with widely different results. You can expect a more intense, rich flavour from the coratina (which we love using to finish roasted vegetable pizza and pasta), while the peranzana is more balanced, making it more suitable for every day. And the brightly coloured tins will cheer up the pantry too – just don’t get them mixed up!
Buy now £18.45, Theredbeetle.com
Le Coste olive oil 500ml
Best: For a peppery punch
The world of wine and olive oil have plenty in common and this one is made by an Italian winemaker, who allows the vines and groves to happily sit alongside one another. Super impactful, this bursts into the mouth with a bright grassiness and a good thwack of pepper. Made using a blend of local olives, it will add plenty of flavour to dishes so a little will go a long way. And why stop there? We’d recommend adding a bottle of wine to your order as well!
Buy now £22.50, Shopcuvee.com
Grand Brahis noir AOP Vallee Des Baux de Provence extra virgin olive oil 500ml
Best: For subtle flavours
Not everyone is a fan of an overly peppery finish, and not every dish calls for such a distinct note. This organic oil from Provence stands out from the crowd for exactly that. Complex, rich and wonderfully fragrant, it might sound silly, but this is like drinking silky smooth black olives. There’s so much going on that you want to pair it with equally full-flavoured, robust dishes from the region such as ratatouille, bouillabaisse or omelette with truffles. Superb.
Buy now £19.99, Souschef.co.uk
Picualia premium extra virgin olive oil 500ml
Best: For versatility
The first Spanish olive oil in our round-up takes its name from the Picual olives which are known for having a particularly high level of antioxidants. Spicy and a little bitter, this bright blue bottle contains a complex liquid, with a long, pronounced finish. It has a high smoking point, making it just as good for cooking as it is for drizzling over pan con tomate.
Buy now £22.95, Harveynichols.com
Odysea PDO Kalamata extra virgin olive oil 1l
Best: For drizzling over salad
Continuing on our olive oil tour of the Mediterranean, we’re back in Greece for Odysea’s new fruity nectar. You may be familiar with the “kalamata” olive, but the name actually refers to the region (which has been awarded PDO status), as opposed to the fruit. Naturally, this is ideal for drizzling on Greek salads, and you can expect a light, fruity aromatic oil with a slight fleck of pepper on the finish. The oil comes in seven sizes of tins and bottles, and there is an organic version too.
Buy now £12.00, Odysea.com
Lia extra virgin olive oil 500ml
Best: For marinading
This stylish matte white bottle has picked up numerous awards over the years. Created with Greek koroneiki olives, it’s smooth but not overly full-flavoured, making it a good option for marinating meat, fish and veg while looking very elegant on the kitchen counter.
Buy now £18.50, Waitrose.com
Oliveology 22°C organic extra virgin olive oil 750ml
Best: Borough Market buy
For those that live locally to the iconic Borough Market, you may have paid a visit to the Oliveology stall. For everyone else, it’s thankfully available online for nationwide delivery. This Greek olive oil is produced on a family holding at the foot of the Taygetus mountains, grown organically and hand-harvested according to traditions used through countless generations. Mild and smooth, it’s versatile enough to use in many dishes.
Buy now £18.50, Oliveology.co.uk
Olive Branch Greek extra virgin olive oil 500ml
Best: Value for money
This is another EVOO from Greece, but we think it’s one representing excellent value for money, especially given the complexity. The co-operative works closely with farmers in the local area, picking the olives by hand and cold-pressing the fruit within hours. Fruity with a well-balanced, slightly peppery finish, we’d use this as a finishing oil, drizzled over salads and pasta for maximum effect.
Buy now £5.96, Ocado.com
Zaytoun Palestinian olive oil 250ml
Best: For a distinctly bitter taste
Zaytoun is a social enterprise, drumming up interest here in the UK for artisanal Palestinian produce, including herbs, almonds and maftoul, a nutty grain often mistakenly presumed to be couscous. This was the first olive oil in the world to be given Fairtrade status and is sourced from farmers in the West Bank. The organic oil is pleasingly bitter, adding a distinct note to dishes. We loved it swirled through homemade hummus. If it’s good enough for Ottolenghi…
Buy now £10.80, Ottolenghi.co.uk
Truffle Hunter black and white truffle oil, 2 x 100ml
Best: Truffle-infused oil
We reckon every chef needs a little truffle oil on hand to spruce up everyday dishes. We love adding a drizzle to scrambled eggs and homemade gnocchi. This pack contains two elegant slim bottles, one infused with garlicky white truffles and the other with earthy black shavings. This would make a fantastic gift for the foodie in your life, or kept for yourself to elevate pizza, pasta and risotto.
Buy now £14.95, Trufflehunter.co.uk
Leoube olive oil 500ml
Best: For fruity flavours
We’ve already established that vineyards and groves go hand in hand and Daylesford’s Bamford family work closely with Leoube to grow both in sunny Provence. Adding a subtle flavour when used for cooking, we like this fruity nectar best in salad dressings where the elegant bitterness shines through.
Buy now £19.99, Daylesford.com
The verdict: Olive oil
We think every kitchen should have a 3l box of Belazu’s versatile EVOO on hand. Not only is it excellent value for money, lasting an age, but it can be used in such a variety of ways. From cooking meat, fish and veg with it, to knocking up tasty salad dressings, we can’t get enough.
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