We Tried 8 Brands of Extra Virgin Olive Oil — And the Winner Tastes Like It’s From a Fancy Italian Restaurant

updated Mar 18, 2024
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multiple different brands of olive oil on marble surface
Credit: Alex Lepe

As grocery staples go, a bottle of extra virgin olive oil is one of the most prevalent in our homes. “I use olive oil for everything,” says Andrea, our Associate Food Editor. “If I run out of olive oil, nothing is getting cooked.” Needless to say, she’s not alone — editors at The Kitchn always have EVOO within reach, which is why we felt it was about time we take a closer look at the bottles we’re buying.

Credit: Alex Lepe

There are a lot of olive oils on shelves these days. For the purposes of this taste, we focused on EVOOs that print a harvest date on their bottles. (The harvest date tells you when the olives were picked from the trees, aka how fresh the oil is.) We eliminated any potential contenders that only list a best by, use by, best if used by, etc., which ended up disqualifying several olive oils, many from major brands. 

From there, we narrowed our selection to EVOOs available in everyday grocery stores across the country (or readily available online) and are priced at $20 or less (for a 750mL bottle), at the time of this tasting. We also looked at past taste tests and consulted with Nancy Ash, president of Strictly Olive Oil, longtime member of the California Olive Oil Council Taste Panel, and a ​​U.S. International Olive Oil Competition judge, to round out the selection.

Quick Overview

The Best Extra Virgin Olive Oils At-a-Glance

Before we break down the day’s events, we also need to talk about the bottles themselves: Most grocery store olive oils come in either glass or plastic bottles, with varying degrees of darkness. Between the two, Nancy recommends EVOO in dark glass bottles because they better protect the quality of the oil. “Plastic packaging is porous on a microscopic level,” she says, “so it allows a certain amount of oxygen to pass into the bottle.” (Think about opening a bag of chips and how easily they can go stale.)

Credit: Mara Weinraub

If you are #TeamPlasticBottle, consider how frequently you go through a bottle before your next restock. “​You’re not going to notice much change in the flavor profile,” Nancy says, “if you’re using up a bottle of oil in a month.” Three months, however, is a different story. 

Now, let’s get into the results from this epic afternoon of slurping and tallying — we even surprised ourselves with this taste test.

Credit: Alex Lepe

Best Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Paesanol Unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Paesanol Unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil was the only EVOO to receive threes or higher. Nearly half of all tasters voted it as their top pick of the pack. Made from a blend of three Sicilian olive varieties (“Nocellara del Belice,” “Biancolilla,” and “Cerasuola”), the olive oil is cold-pressed within eight hours of picking, according to the bottle. It is “visibly greener in color,” says Alex, our Editorial Assistant with a “nutty and herbaceous” scent, adds Anna, our Executive Creative Director.

Paesanol also has a thicker consistency than most others in the group — “it really coats the tongue,” says Sofia, our Associate Lifestyle Editor — as well as a grassy, buttery, and smooth taste, according to several tasters. The strong flavor makes “it feel higher quality,” Sofia adds. Reece, our Account Coordinator, even says, it “tastes like it would be put out at an expensive restaurant.” High praise from the typically discerning taster!

What’s So Great

  • “Nice olive green color”
  • Smooth and buttery with grassy notes
  • Top pick of four tasters!

Good to Know

  • Slightly harder to find in stores than others

Buy: Paesanol Unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil, $17.54 for 750 mL at Amazon

Credit: Alex Lepe

Runner-Up: Graza Sizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Graza first graced shelves in 2022 (we covered it here!), and in that short time span built up a loyal following. While not novel, the brand is credited with making squeeze bottles trendy again, so much so other brands in the space are releasing their oils in similar bottles. None of that mattered here, though, as we tasted all the EVOOs blindly. 

This golden-hue olive oil, which is made with Picual olives from the same region in Spain where over half the world’s olive oil is produced, stood out for its “mild, [yet] lovely flavor,” says Rachel, our Associate Director of Project Management. “You really get that olive flavor,” adds Alex, who also calls Graza Sizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil “smooth” and “kind of fruity and floral.” If you like a more neutral-flavored oil and go through it relatively quickly, this is the bottle for you. (The company also sells a more-robust flavored finishing oil, aptly named “Drizzle.” It was not a part of this taste test.)

Another plus: In addition to being sold online, you can easily find it (on sale!) in national retailers like Target and Whole Foods.

What’s So Great

  • “Good for cooking or dressings.”
  • Very giftable

Good to Know

  • Sold in a plastic bottle, which is porous

Buy: Graza Sizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil, $16.00 for 750 mL at Graza

Credit: Alex Lepe

Honorable Mention: 365 Whole Foods Market Unfiltered Extra Virgin California Olive Oil

A measly two points separate 365 Whole Foods Market Unfiltered Extra Virgin California Olive Oil from the runner-up (and in both cases, two tasters voted each their favorite). So it felt apropos to include this chartreuse-colored EVOO. Made with California-grown olives, as the name suggests, this oil “incredibly smooth with a slight bite at the back,” says Venus, our Project Manager. That robust flavor turned out to be polarizing among the tasters. While a few found it a bit harsh, those into a bit of bite, like Rachel, “feel this would be good for cooking and lovely just with bread.” Anna agrees: “I’d dip bread in this.”

What’s So Great

  • Robust flavor 
  • Good for cooking and dipping

Good to Know

  • May cause you to cough

Find it in stores: 365 Whole Foods Market Unfiltered Extra Virgin California Olive Oil, $13.99 for 1 liter at Amazon

Credit: Mara Weinraub

How We Tested the Extra Virgin Olive Oils 

We held a blind taste test with eight different bottles of extra virgin olive oils found in national grocery stores and recruited nine EVOO enthusiasts (so you know they’re qualified) who work in our office to participate in an epic afternoon of tasting. Each taster was given a “How to Taste Olive Oil” guide, provided by Nancy.

Credit: Mara Weinraub

Each olive oil was also assigned a letter to conceal the brands’ identities. Prior to the tasting, Maya, our Studio Assistant, poured each of the olive oils into unmarked sample-size paper cups. To get a baseline, all tasters started by sampling an unknown olive oil from a popular national brand that doesn’t include a harvest date on its bottles. After that, they were instructed to sample the olive oils in random order to avoid giving any one entrant an advantage. We also had sliced green apples, pieces of crusty bread, and a pitcher of cold water on hand for palate cleansing. 

Credit: Mara Weinraub

Tasters rated each of the extra virgin olive oils on a scale of one to five (1 = No, thanks; 2 = Meh; 3 = Pretty good; 4 = Really like; 5 = Yes, Please!) across four criteria — look, smell, texture, and flavor — and included any specific observations, tasting notes, and general opinions worth mentioning. They were also asked to answer, arguably, the most important question of all: Would you buy this olive oil?

Credit: Mara Weinraub

Why You Should Trust Us

This was a blind taste test, which means tasters had no knowledge of the brands being evaluated ahead of or at the time of the tasting. It was held over one day and tasters were instructed to sample the ranch dressing in random order (to stave off palate fatigue and not give any one bar an unfair advantage). The group of tasters included a mix of food professionals and some very enthusiastic extra virgin olive oils fans who work at The Kitchn. All participated in the taste test voluntarily, and we thank them for being so generous with their time and feedback. 

Speaking of, each taster filled out a score sheet (without discussion or influence) ranking the olive oils across several criteria (listed above). The results were also tabulated without any visibility into the brands. Only after the numbers were finalized, did we reveal which brands corresponded to the winners.

Did your favorite ranch dressing make the list? Tell us about it in the comments below.