Guide to Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Hippocrates called olive oil “the great therapeutic.” Homer called it “liquid gold.” For some, that’s reason enough to slap on a high price tag and call it a day. Not at Trader Joe’s. Our buyers seek out Extra Virgin Olive Oils from experienced producers in the world’s best growing regions—Spain, Italy, Greece, California... Then our tasting panel examines them from every angle: body, fruitiness, bitterness, pungency and, of course, price. Only those that receive high marks across the board are bottled under the Trader Joe’s name and brought to you. Before we examine what’s in those bottles, let’s take a look at what it means to be Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
What It Means To Be Extra Virgin
When it comes to Olive Oil, Extra Virgin equates with highest quality and best flavor.
To qualify as Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the juice must come from the first pressing of olives. All Extra Virgin Olive Oil is categorized as “cold pressed” because no high heat (at levels that could degrade the oil) or chemicals are used to extract the juice.
In addition, to qualify as Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the juice must meet certain levels in laboratory testing for things like peroxide and acidity. For instance, Extra Virgin Olive Oil must have no more than 0.8% acidity.
And equally important, to qualify as Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the juice must be deemed to have excellent flavor and odor. In other words, it must taste like fresh olives.
Trader Joe’s Extra Virgin Olive Oils
Since Extra Virgin Olive Oil is simply fruit juice that has nothing added to it—its quality, flavor, and fragrance are influenced by things like the varieties of olives, the terroir where they were grown, the impact of a region’s weather conditions, pressing techniques, storage methods, and a myriad of other decisions related to harvest and production. As a result, not all Extra Virgin Olive Oils are the same. Some are mellower, which makes them well-suited to cooking. Others have a lively fruitiness that makes them ideal for tapenade-ing. And then there are those with bold, complex flavors that stand up well to hearty meats and sip like fine wines. Find the bottles of Trader Joe’s Extra Virgin Olive Oils that best suit your culinary needs:
Mellow & Mildly Buttery
Tunisian Organic Extra Virgin Unfiltered Chetoui Olive Oil: $9.99 (1L)
Description: These oils are subtle, with mildly buttery flavor, a gentle aroma, a touch of pepper, and a light finish.
Suggested Uses: Get cooking. These oils are well-suited to frying or sautéing. They won’t add strong flavors to your dishes, so they’re perfect accompaniments with more delicate foods like white fish, mozzarella or pasta.
These are not the very best oils when you want to add tang – for instance, when creating a base for salad dressings. Generally, oils with more distinctive flavor (see Smooth & Sound or Fruity & Fresh) are better suited to this task.
Smooth & Sound
Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil: $7.99 (1L)
Extra Virgin California Estate Olive Oil: $5.99 (500ML)
Sicilian Selezione Extra Virgin Olive Oil: $7.99 (500ML)
Description: These trusty oils can wear many hats. Their flavor profiles – harmonious, well-balanced, smooth finish and just the right amount of pepper to keep things interesting – appeal to a wide range of tastes. These are prime all-purpose oils.
Suggested Uses: All day, every day: as a bread dip, for pasta, seafood, salad dressings, grilled or roasted vegetables, poultry... These oils blend well with the flavors of most any dish, without overpowering it.
These are not the oils you want to run out of! Truly though, these oils are so versatile you can use them with practically anything. While you can use them for frying or sautéing, we would recommend using a Mellow & Mildly Buttery oil instead (since heat subdues the flavor of olive oil anyway).
Fruity & Fresh
100% Italian President's Reserve Extra Virgin Olive Oil: $9.99 (1L)
100% Italian Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil: $5.99 (500ML)
Spanish Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil: $5.99 (500ML)
Description: If you’re looking to branch out and expand your olive oil collection, try one of these bottles. These oils have more pronounced fruit flavors, pungency and pepperiness than the Smooth & Sound. Some lean more green and grassy (Premium EVOO & President’s EVOO), while some lean more ripe fruit and round (100% Italian EVOO & Organic Spanish EVOO). All will take your dishes to the next level.
Suggested Uses: For everything you would use a Smooth & Sound olive oil for, and more! Make your own olive tapenade, bake an olive oil cake, or drizzle over our Super Premium French Vanilla Ice Cream.
These are not the very best oils to use for sautéing or frying. They are also not ideal for dressing a delicate salad.
Pungent & Piquant
Novello Italian Reserve Extra Virgin Olive Oil: $14.99 (1000ML)
Description: These unique olive oils are bursting with flavor, for the more adventurous palates. They offer a more robust flavor profile, with a strong, spicy bite that tingles in the back of your throat. The lingering finish really sets these oils apart.
Suggested Uses: To accompany dishes with more distinctive flavors – drizzle atop steak, brush over bruschetta, mix with tomatoes and slow roast, or use in a hearty dish, like paella. They’re equally excellent for using as a dip with crusty bread – their bold flavors make a statement and a little goes a long way. Definitely “put a bow on it”: each of these bottles makes a great gift.
These oils should not be used flippantly – they pack a powerful punch! So much so that they may overpower your dishes. As such, they aren’t the oils you want to use for frying, sautéing or lightly dressing.
Want more? Learn How To Host An Olive Oil Tasting!
Storing Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive Oil is best used within the first year of pressing. Our stores move through bottles very quickly, so you can be assured the product on our shelf is fresh.
Once opened, it is recommended to use the oil within 3 months for optimum flavor. Olive oil does not improve with age and will become rancid if not handled properly.
Generally, olive oil should be kept in a cool, dark place, such as a pantry. If you need to decant it into a smaller container, use terra cotta, green or brown glass, stainless steel, or tin. These containers help to protect the oil from light. Make sure your container has a very tight lid. (Never use a plastic container; it will impart the taste of plastic into the oil.)
To Refrigerate or Not Refrigerate? Yes.
As with many other food products, refrigeration is used to extend the shelf life of Extra Virgin Olive Oils. The high amount of monounsaturated fat makes Extra Virgin Olive Oil highly perishable and, if kept for more than one month, it should be refrigerated.
The process of refrigeration can cause condensation to occur on the inner lip of a container. If water falls back into the oil, the flavor can weaken. As such, we recommend the following:
For very flavorful oils (uses: dipping, drizzling dressing): purchase in smaller amounts and store in the cupboard or pantry (away from light and heat).
For mildly-flavored, everyday oils (uses: sautéing, marinating, frying): purchase in larger containers and refrigerate to maximize shelf life.
Note: Refrigeration can cause Extra Virgin Olive Oil to become cloudy and slightly solid. This is not an indication of quality or purity. The Extra Virgin Olive Oil will return to its liquid state once removed from the refrigerator and placed on the counter for a few minutes.
Get Cooking with Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Its rich flavor, coupled with its monosaturated properties, make Extra Virgin Olive Oil desirable for cooking. It is even great for high temperature methods such as frying or sautéing – the key: avoid turning the heat up too high. A high-quality extra virgin olive oil’s smoke point – the temperature at which the oil begins to break down and smoke – is generally around 380 to 410 degrees Fahrenheit, giving you plenty of latitude for cooking at high heat.
Tips For Frying with Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Deep fry at 350 to 365 degrees.
- For best coverage, use at least 2 1/2 inches of oil.
- To avoid lowering the temperature of the oil during frying, do not crowd the pan.
- To eliminate as much excess fat as possible, drain fried foods on wire racks.
Using Extra Virgin Olive Oil in place of butter or other oils can reduce the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in many pastries and breads. Keep in mind that this substitution will affect the texture and flavor. As such, it’s best to use lighter bodied, mildly flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oils for baking.
Handy Butter To Olive Oil Conversion Chart
|1 tsp||3/4 tsp|
|1 TBSP||2 1/4 tsp|
|2 TBSP||1 1/2 TBSP|
|1/4 cup||3 TBSP|
|1/3 cup||1/4 cup|
|1/2 cup||1/4 cup + 2 TBSP|
|2/3 cup||1/2 cup|
|3/4 cup||1/2 cup + 1 TBSP|
|1 cup||3/4 cup|
Dressing Recipes with Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette: This vinaigrette is bright and tangy, with shallots, lemon juice, rice vinegar, dijon, honey and Extra Virgin California Estate Olive Oil. Try it mixed with warm lentils, wilted kale and fresh heirloom tomatoes in a Spring Lentil Salad.
21 Seasoning Salute Vinaigrette: A classic Italian herb vinaigrette gets a boost with TJ's 21 Seasoning Salute. Made with grated cheese, red wine vinegar, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a touch of sugar, it makes an ideal dressing for a Tortellini Salad.
Umami Dressing: What gives this dressing a "pleasant savory taste"? Anchovies of course! Be bold and be brave — whisk in a little garlic, lemon, dijon, cayenne, and Sicilian Selezione Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Smokey Chimichurri Sauce: A vibrant mixture of cilantro, parlsey, garlic, oregano, red wine vinegar, and Spanish Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. A hint of smokey flavor via TJ's South African Smoke Seasoning (Seasonal Product - coming back in May) finishes it off! Spoon it over grilled bread and fresh mozzarella to make Chimichurri Toasts.
Roasted Shishito Pepper Sauce: Shishito peppers are known for their grassy and pepper flavors as well as an element of surprise—about 1 in 10 have a kick of heat. Super simple to prepare, they make a perfect base for a creamy sauce. Simply add Spanish Olive Oil, lime juice, greek yogurt and garlic and blend. Drizzle it on fish filets, tacos, or anywhere you need a (surprise) kick of grassy heat.