What’s the difference between olive oil and extra virgin olive oil. Are they the same thing? My neighbor insists otherwise.

Olive oil is a staple in many kitchens, renowned for its flavor, culinary versatility, and numerous health benefits. It’s a key component of the Mediterranean diet, celebrated for its potential to lower the risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions. However, not all olive oils are created equal.
The distinction between olive oil and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is significant, and understanding the differences is crucial for choosing the right oil for your cooking needs as well as gaining the nutritional benefits you seek. Despite their common origins, olive oil and extra virgin olive oil differ in several key aspects including production process, flavor, chemistry, and best uses in the kitchen.
1. Production Process
Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality olive oil, made from the first pressing of the olives. This process, known as cold pressing, avoids the use of heat or chemicals, which can degrade the oil’s flavors and health benefits. To qualify as extra virgin, the oil must also meet certain chemical parameters and sensory standards—it must be free of sensory defects, and have a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of 0.8 grams per 100 grams or less.
Regular olive oil, which your neighbor might refer to simply as “olive oil,” is often a blend of cold-pressed and processed oils. It can include both virgin oils and refined oils obtained through heating or chemical extraction which strips away flavor and acid content, resulting in a more neutral profile and longer shelf life. The refinement process also reduces the oil’s nutrient content.
2. Flavor and Aroma
Extra virgin olive oil is revered for its rich, distinct flavor, which can range from fruity to grassy, peppery, or bitter depending on the type of olives used and their growing conditions. It’s often used in dishes where its robust flavor can be appreciated, such as in salad dressings, for drizzling over bread, or finishing dishes.
On the other hand, regular olive oil has a milder taste and aroma. This is because the refining process dulls the natural flavors of the olive, making it more suitable for cooking at higher temperatures where the subtle nuances of EVOO would be lost. It’s also a good all-purpose cooking oil due to its neutral taste profile.
3. Nutritional Content

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