As a lover of olive oil, it does my heart good to see so many people embracing it as a flavorful and healthy way to eat. There’s nothing better, in my book, for both the taste buds and…well… every other part of your body!
One look at store shelves will tell you just how big olive oil is becoming. At the store where my wife Jan and I usually shop, we’ve gone from having a handful of choices to a dozen or more. Olive oil makers—including us here at Vervana—are bringing even more product options to the table, too. Flavored olive oils, especially, are taking off like a rocket.
Personally, I love flavored olive oils and always have at least one or two on hand… like garlic and lemon, which my son, Step and I use in this video:
If you’re looking for more ways to use olive oil or a little more variety in flavor, flavored olive oils are an awesome option to have, but they do add another layer of complexity where shopping for oil is concerned.
How to Choose the Best Flavored Olive Oils
It used to be that knowing cold-pressed California olive oils are better than other varieties was enough to make a healthy decision about what went in your grocery cart. In the world of flavored olive oils, that rule still applies—it’s just that you also need to understand the different ways those flavors are added to the oil.
In label terms, that means knowing the difference between an infused olive oil and a crushed, or fused, olive oil.
Let’s break look at each and then talk about why one type is a hands-down better choice than the other…
What Is Infused Olive Oil?
Flavored olive oils that are “infused” are made using a two-step process. The first step is producing the olive oil and the fruit/herb oil that will be added to it. The second is mixing those two oils to produce the desired flavor.
Mixing specifics vary from one manufacturer to the next, but it’s not uncommon for it to include heating the oils (even microwaving them!) to encourage blending. In fact, if you’ve ever researched making your own infused olive oil, you probably know many recipes require it.
To me, the use of heat is a real downside of infused oil. I always recommend cold-pressed olive oil because the polyphenols in it—the nutrients that give olive oil many of its health-supporting benefits—are easily damaged by heat. Even if the olive oil is cold pressed to begin with, once it’s heated to a high temperature there’s potential to start losing some of those benefits.
On the plus side, infused oil is cheaper and easier to make than the alternative, and that usually translates into lower prices and wider availability.
There’s one other kind of infused oil that I want to mention before we move one, and it’s the one you often see on a restaurant table—with sprigs of rosemary or basil in it. Honestly, there’s no actual infusion going on there. And unless the sprigs are completely dried when they’re added to the bottles, they can introduce bacteria that cause food poisoning. You definitely don’t want that!
What Is Crushed/Fused Olive Oil?
Now let’s look at flavored olive oils that are “crushed,” or “fused.”
The first thing to know about these is that the same process is used to make both crushed and fused oils. To make a crushed olive oil, the olives—along with the fruit or herbs that are being used to flavor it—are all loaded up and cold pressed together, in one fell swoop. The water and pulp are removed using a centrifuge, leaving behind only the oils, which mix instantly and naturally.
The biggest plus of crushed flavored olive oil is the minimal amount of processing it takes to produce it. You literally crush it, separate it, and bottle it. It’s about as close to nature as you can get, outside of a whole food.
The downside is that it’s difficult to make a lot of crushed flavored olive oil. Presses have to be extensively cleaned between batches to prevent unwanted flavors from sneaking in, and there’s a shorter period of time when crushed oils can be produced—you have to time the growing cycle just right so the olives are ripe at the same the time fruits and herbs are. Unfortunately, that translates into a higher price at checkout.
The Head-to-Head Winner? Crushed Flavored Olive Oil
No surprises here—I’ll spend my dollar on crushed olive oil every time. In fact, it’s not even a close competition.
As a cardiologist, the fact that crushed oil is completely cold pressed is really important. If you want all the great antioxidant benefits that olive oil has to offer, you need to make sure the oil you’re eating contains as many polyphenols as it possibly can. That means cold-pressed—for regular olive oil and flavored oils.
I also like crushed oil because it’s less processed overall than infused oil, so it retains more of the natural vibration of the raw fruits and/or herbs. If eating and living in a high-vibrational way is one of your goals, then crushed oil is a no-brainer.
Finally, there’s flavor. It’s a subjective measure, I know—but as someone who’s tasted dozens (if not hundreds) of olive oils in my lifetime, I can tell you that crushed oil pops in a way that that most infused oils don’t. It’s richer, more intense, and just a flat-out better taste experience.
Don’t believe me? Take a head-to-head taste test, and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about!
Things You Won’t Find on Crushed Olive Oil Labels
Now that you know you should be shopping for flavored olive oil that’s crushed (and cold pressed), here are a couple more tips.
Namely, you’re not going to find flavored olive oils that are extra virgin. An olive oil can be graded extra virgin only if it’s 100 percent pure olive oil. Obviously, adding fruit or herb oils to the mix changes that. For the same reason, you also won’t find a certification from the California Olive Oil Council. That seal also applies only to extra virgin varieties.
Try Flavored Olive Oil Today
If you haven’t tried flavored olive oil yet, I’ve got only one thing left to say: There’s no better day than today!
I’m biased, but while you’re here, please check out our Vervana blends. In addition to the product details, I’ve included a few suggestions on how to incorporate them into your meals.
Blazing habanero (new this season, and really, really hot – I love it!)
Our oils are all cold-pressed with California olives and fruits, peppers or herbs that are grown using organic farming practices. But best of all, they taste incredible!
There you have it. Raise your olive oil game with some crushed flavored oils—you’ll be glad you did!
- California Olive Oil Council. Certification Process. Accessed August 17, 2018.
- Caponio F, Durante E, et. al. Effect of infusion of spices into the oil vs. combined malaxation of olive paste and spices on quality of naturally flavoured virgin olive oils. Food Chem. 2016 Jul 1;202:221-8.
- Reboredo-Rodríguez, Patricia et al. “State of the Art on Functional Virgin Olive Oils Enriched with Bioactive Compounds and Their Properties.” Ed. Maurizio Battino and Francesca Giampieri. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 18.3 (2017): 668. PMC. Web. 24 Aug. 2018.
- Clodoveo ML, Dipalmo T, et al. Comparison Between Different Flavored Olive Oil Production Techniques: Healthy Value and Process Efficiency. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2016 Mar;71(1):81-7. doi: 10.1007/s11130-016-0528-7.
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