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"Light" Olive Oil

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2010

Some grocery stores carry "light" olive oil. Does it have fewer calories than regular olive oil?

The label is misleading. Light olive oil contains the same number of calories as other olive oils; the “light” refers to flavor. After the first press for extra-virgin oil, European producers squeeze the olives again and sell this flavor-stripped, highly processed oil to American consumers who want the health benefits of olive oil in recipes—usually baking—where its characteristic strong flavor might be unwelcome.

In these cases, light olive oil worked well: Tasters found it as undetectable as vegetable oil in yellow cake. However, in vinaigrette and roasted vegetables, testers preferred richer extra-virgin olive oil. The bottom line: If you’re looking for a neutral oil for baking, light olive oil (about 30 cents per ounce for Filippo Berio brand) is an option. But in the test kitchen we’ll stick with far cheaper vegetable oil (about 8 cents per ounce for Wesson brand) for such applications.