The “Delicious” Oil I’m Using in All My Salad Dressings (No, It’s Not Olive)

published May 8, 2024
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overhead shot of homemade italian dressing being spooned over a simple salad.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Olive oil is a staple in my pantry, as it is for many other editors at The Kitchn. While I’m not overly fussy about brand name, I typically go for an extra virgin olive oil with a robust flavor. I mainly use it for cooking and making salad dressings. If I’m feeling extra fancy, I’ll use it as a finisher on a dish. 

So when I heard about the newest innovation in the oil world, Algae Cooking Club Cooking Oil, I was intrigued. I am into all things sustainability (reducing waste as much as possible, avoiding single-use items like paper towels and napkins, and recycling), and the claims on the website about it being “better for the planet” definitely caught my attention. I can’t lie — the cute packaging drew me in. too. 

It seems I’m finding out about it at a time when olive oil may be in short supply. Just last week, CNBC published an article detailing the struggles the industry is facing, calling it one of its “toughest moments ever.” Spain, one of the top producers — responsible for 40% of the world’s supply — has experienced two straight years of high temperatures and drought, resulting in low olive yields and small harvests. 

What does this mean for us shoppers? Olive oil may be getting (even) more expensive soon, which makes now a particularly opportune time to test out a new alternative. And that’s exactly what I did. 

What You Should Know About Algae Cooking Club Cooking Oil

For starters, you’re probably wondering what algae oil even is. So was I. Turns out, the oil is made from microalgae using a fermentation process similar to making wine or beer, according to the company’s website. The microalgae is fermented in large stainless steel tanks, fed sugar to plump up in size, then pressed so you’re just left with the oil. 

The process doesn’t use any harsh chemicals or pesticides; it’s also way quicker to produce. Rather than waiting a full year for a fresh harvest, the algae oil can be made in just a few days from start to finish. The company also claims it has 47% fewer carbon emissions than canola oil and uses one-tenth of the land and water usage that vegetable oil does. 

The perks don’t stop there. It also has a higher smoke point than most other oils at 535°F, including extra virgin olive oil’s 410°F and canola and vegetable oil’s 400°F. So in addition to dips and dressings, you can use it for searing, sautéing, roasting, baking, grilling, and more. 

The algae oil is sold in a sleek, cream-colored aluminum bottle (that’s recyclable), with a groovy orange font. The aluminum helps protect the oil from oxygen and light, which can reduce its quality over time. To join the “club,” you can buy Algae Cooking Club Cooking Oil directly on the company’s website. At $24.99 for a 16-ounce bottle, it’s roughly the same price as the winner of our recent olive oil taste test, but half the size. However, you can get it at a discount, for $21.24, if you subscribe.

Credit: Alexandra Foster

My Honest Review of Algae Cooking Club Cooking Oil

Though it says cooking clearly in the name, I tested the algae cooking oil a few different ways. I poured some into a ramekin, first trying it on its own before dipping part of a crusty baguette. The cooking oil is a pale yellow color, akin to a vegetable oil, and far lighter than the olive oils I typically use, with none of the greenish tinge. The scent was faint (read: nonexistent), so I tried smelling the oil from the bottle itself. It had a somewhat earthy, sourness to it. It might have been the packaging itself, though.

Credit: Alexandra Foster

The oil is smooth and buttery. It’s slick and less viscous than olive oil. Plus, it doesn’t have that distinct olive taste. Instead, the flavor is neutral, muted, and light with a velvety smoothness. I can see it working well in a lot of different uses. I added a drizzle of balsamic glaze, and it paired nicely with the bread. 

Credit: Alexandra Foster

Next, I made a quick quinoa kale salad and one of my go-to dressings with the oil, tahini, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a bit of maple syrup. It emulsified well, and the dressing came out nice and smooth. I couldn’t really tell the difference — if anything it was a bit fluffier and more whipped in texture! 

Finally, I cooked fried rice with broccoli for dinner. I’ll be the first to admit I can be a bit chaotic in the kitchen. (I like to multitask, so I often leave something on the stove until it’s smoking, and then run to turn my vent hood on.) I cooked the fried rice on medium-high heat and didn’t have any issues with the pan smoking. Again, the flavor of the oil isn’t strong, so it didn’t necessarily add any flavor to the dish, like some olive oils might.

Credit: Alexandra Foster

Overall, I’m a fan — and I’m not alone. “I was impressed by the neutral, clean flavor of the oil, and the chefs I spoke with who have used the oil spoke favorably about it, too,” says Christine Gallary, food editor-at-large at The Kitchn, who’s tried the algae cooking oil in dips, laminated desserts, and even fried chicken at various tasting events. She also noted it isn’t an exact replacement for olive oil, saying, “I would use it as a sub for vegetable or canola oil, but definitely not olive oil if I want the flavor of olive oil.”

The only drawback for me is the price, which admittedly is quite steep. Still, it’s worth trying for yourself. It just may be the oil of the future.

Buy: Algae Cooking Club Cooking Oil, $24.99 for 16 ounces at Algae Cooking Club

Have you tried algae cooking oil yet? Tell us about it in the comments below.