Baking with olive oil can be tricky. Let’s go over the ground rules.
Baking is temperamental and precise. I don’t enjoy the process; I find it tedious and restrictive. So many rules, less opportunity for customization. I know there are a lot of chefs/home cooks that would agree with me on that one! Customizing baking recipes is always a gamble– one small adjustment and the entire recipe is thrown off. It’s food science; One must understand the ingredients, their properties, and the role they play in the recipe before swapping out this for that. Let’s talk baking with olive oil!
Here are the fundamentals:
You can almost always swap oil for oil.
Extra virgin olive oil is a fantastic heart-healthy alternative to vegetable or seed oil. Swapping EVOO for another oil will have no effect on the final texture of whatever dish you’re creating UNLESS the oil you intend to replace is Crisco or lard. Since they’re saturated fats and solid at room temperature, it’s not a good swap. Olive oil will perform differently due to density. Only use EVOO in place of another liquid oil.
One instance we do not recommend using olive oil in place of seed or vegetable oil is when deep frying. A neutral, high smoke point oil should be the only oil used for frying. EVOO is too pungent and intense. It will overwhelm the flavor of whatever food is being fried. That, and it’s too expensive to use in such a high volume. So olive oil fried apple fritters are a no-go.
Consider the flavor profile.
Our flavored olive oils are perfect for baking. Especially our citrus olive oils– they pack so much flavor into baked goods. Pasolivo Tangerine Olive Oil makes THE BEST carrot cake. Want to level up a lemon cake box mix? Use half Pasolivo Olive Oil and half melted butter rather than canola. You’ll have everyone convinced you made it from scratch. Or how about Basil Olive Oil in homemade pizza dough? The possibilities are endless.
Buttery and mild is often best.
There are over 100 varieties of olives in the world, and each of them has a different flavor profile. Of course we LOVE the bold, intensely peppery and full-bodied olive varieties! They’re unique and extra special in their intended context. Baked goods, most often, are not an opportunity for a grassy, polyphenol-rich olive oil. (That’s unless the recipe calls for a bold, fruity olive oil, like some olive oil cake recipes.)
In most other situations, when substituting for butter or a neutral oil, Pasolivo Cucina Olive Oil is the best option. It’s our most buttery and mild EVOO—intended for everyday use and versatility, baking included. You can find it in our Crispy Cinnamon Treat recipe, or our Chocolate Chip Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting.
The limitations of swapping oil for butter:
Softened Butter vs. Olive Oil
Olive oil is a liquid fat, and butter is a solid fat. Any recipe that calls for softened butter, beware. It’s probably best to make the recipe as written. Especially if the instructions involve the creaming method, where butter is beaten in a mixer with sugar until it’s light and fluffy. This would not work with a liquid oil.
Swapping Melted Butter for EVOO
Butter does not only consist of fat—it also has water content and milk solids. Olive oil is a pure fat, so substituting equal parts does not yield the same result. When melting butter, some of that water content burns off. One must account for evaporation when swapping olive oil for butter. See our conversion chart above.
When using olive oil in place of melted butter, consider the texture of the baked goods. Olive oil is a fantastic substitute for melted butter in many cakes. Cookies are a bit different. In cookie recipes that call for melted butter, use half butter and half olive oil. Using olive oil entirely as a substitute can impact the texture of the cookies once baked. Once again, olive oil is a pure fat, and butter is not. Baking cookies with olive oil leads to a fine crumb cookie, almost cake-like. Melted butter creates a chewy texture that’s essential to a good batch of cookies.
Celebrate the Olive
Olive oil desserts can be delicious if the recipe is made to highlight the profile of the olive. Instead of swapping and substituting for the sake of eating less saturated fat, find recipes created to showcase the full flavor profile that quality extra virgin olive oil has to offer. Our small batch, award-winning olive oils can take any dish to the next level.
Here are some delicious baking recipes to inspire your next olive oil baking project:
Let Dessert Be Dessert
Healthy substitutes are great to a degree. Where can one prioritize health in favor of a polyphenol-rich unsaturated fat without compromising flavor and texture? Sometimes baking recipes are simply not the place for healthy substitutes. Just enjoy the cookies–butter and all. You only live once!
If you are looking to try baking with olive oil, we’ve got what you need! Join our club for discounts on olive oils, gourmet foods, bath and body products, and more, delivered directly to you. Happy baking!