The Best Trader Joe’s Olive Oils For 2021: Blind Tasted by 5 Experts

The Best Trader Joe’s Olive Oils For 2021: Blind Tasted by 5 Experts

OliveOil.com Staff

The olive oil section of the supermarket can be downright overwhelming. So OliveOil.com assembled a team of trained olive oil tasters to sample Trader Joe’s entire EVOO selection and provide their unbiased expert opinions on the best olive oils at Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe’s has a devoted following among shoppers thanks to its unique and varied offerings—and when it comes to olive oil, there’s no shortage of options from around the globe. So, figuring out which one to choose isn’t easy! That’s where we come in.

Our tasting team sampled every available extra virgin olive oil from Trader Joe’s (14 products total) and made some surprising discoveries. Yes, there was some correlation between price and the tasting team’s ratings, but—spoiler alert!—several of their favorite picks were actually on the lower end of the price spectrum.

Below, learn how we conducted the tasting and who was on our panel, then dive into our unbiased reviews. Our goal: To help you find the right olive oil (or oils!) for all of your drizzling, dipping, and cooking needs. Oh, and if you were about to ask, “but you can’t cook with olive oil, can you?,” let’s address that right now: Yes, you can!

How we conducted the tasting.

Each of the Trader Joe’s EVOOs was sampled by a team of expert tasters. Because of the ongoing pandemic, the group could not meet in person. Instead, each taster received a set of samples to taste at home. All olive oils were purchased in early January 2021 in Northern California and sampled shortly after. Here’s a bit more about our tasting process and methods:

Multiple tasters sampled the oils.

Sensory analysis—aka taste testing—by a trained, calibrated taste panel is part of the legal grading process of olive oil. Official olive oil taste panels include multiple tasters. This allows them to accurately grade olive oil according to its sensory characteristics with much more precision and reliability than a single taster or sommelier. So we used multiple tasters too!

The tasting was blind.

The tasting was blind—no one knew the identity of the oils. To keep things top secret, a set of coded samples in amber bottles were sent to the tasters. Upon receiving the samples, they used warmed, regulation blue glasses to taste the anonymous oils and then connected via Zoom to discuss them. The identities of the oils were revealed to the group only after the tasting was complete.

Each olive oil was evaluated based on one bottle.

Evaluations were based on a single bottle of each oil. Because EVOO is a natural product, variation between and within lots is always possible. In this tasting, there was one oil that did not make the list at all. It had an off flavor that the tasters found objectionable. This might be limited to the lot or batch that the team tasted, but it resulted in the oil being dropped from the list.

Tasters considered the following characteristics + factors.

  • Usability in the kitchen. Tasters focused on numerous characteristics related to usability in the kitchen. Would they put it on salad? Use it for sautéing? Use it to drizzle on a dish of pasta? In some cases, the consensus was that the oil could be used for all purposes. In some cases, the oils got more limited ratings due to sharp aromas of overripe fruit or other shortcomings, and the tasters agreed they would use them for cooking rather than raw applications. (Subtle unpleasant aromas disappear when the oil is heated.)
  • Olive oil intensity + fruitiness. For each oil, tasters described the overall intensity and the type of olive fruitiness present. Intensity is a measure of how strong or delicate an oil tastes—it includes peppery (or “pungent”) and bitter notes. The Fruit Character rating is about how ripe or green the fruitiness tastes. Remember that in olive oil, fruitiness is a broad category that includes vegetative notes like fresh-cut grass and tomato leaf on the green side, and buttery on the ripe side.
  • Are there pleasant bitter and peppery notes? Tasters use the term bitter—and contrary to popular belief, that’s actually a good quality! Bitterness—and pepperiness—are a sign of the presence of healthful polyphenols, and are not the same as rancidity. If you taste a raw green olive right off the tree, you will immediately know where that bitterness in olive oil comes from—it’s a positive part of the taste of a fresh olive.
  • How fresh does the oil taste? Tasters often use the term "tired" to describe an oil that is beginning to show its age, but that’s not yet rancid. With age, an oil experiences a general flattening of the flavors due to natural oxidation, and it may eventually leave a greasy after-effect in the mouth. Keep in mind: A tired oil may not be as bright or intense as it once was, but it will still have plenty of value in the kitchen! You just need to use it up relatively quickly before it goes rancid.

Meet our expert tasting team

Each taster on our team was a current or former member of an official olive oil taste panel and has served as an international and/or domestic olive oil competition judge. They brought an impressive array of skills as makers, buyers and sellers of olive oil, culinary professionals, olive oil tasting instructors, and gourmet cooks. These are people who know olive oil and food—and, more importantly, how they go together. The olive oil tasting team for this evaluation was: Deborah Rogers, Nancy Lilly, Alexandra Kicenik Devarenne, Glenn Weddell, and Sandy Sonnenfelt

How you can use these EVOOs in the kitchen.

You can use extra virgin for all your oil needs, including cooking. Of course, if you wanted to make something with extremely high heat, like blackened fish, you might opt for some highly refined product like rice bran oil. But sautéing, roasting, baking, pan-frying, even deep-frying, can be done with extra virgin olive oil (and they have been for millennia in the Mediterranean!).

Most kitchens will benefit from having at least two olive oils on hand: one less expensive choice to use for cooking, and one more flavorful, high-quality option for raw applications. Why? Because heat evaporates aromas, you’ll get more impact from a flavorful EVOO if you pour it over the dish after it comes off the heat. The warm food releases those wonderful aromas as you seize your fork...Mmm! In fact, you may want to keep a couple options on hand—one mild and one robust—to make different dishes sing.

If you are reading about olive oil, chances are that you are interested in healthy eating. Since extra virgin olive oil is an almost magical ingredient that makes virtually everything taste more delicious—especially healthy foods like vegetables and legumes—the last thing we want to do here is turn you off your olive oil. The important thing is that your olive oil taste good to you. At the same time, hopefully this gives you some information to help you distinguish among the various options on a supermarket shelf, and maybe turns you on to some new ideas and options. Hopefully you will be inspired to experiment a little and discover new ways to enjoy extra virgin olive oil at your table!

The results.

These 13 out of 14 olive oils (one was left out) are ranked from highest to lowest in overall score. Keep in mind, our team of expert tasters consisted of serious olive oil connoisseurs with super-high standards, so even the lowest rated olive oils are at least good to cook with!

Trader Joe's California Extra Virgin Olive Oil (500mL)

Overall
3.4 out of 5
Intensity
Fruit Character
RipeGreen
Origin

California

Harvest Date

Oct/Nov 2019

Best Before

02/10/2022

Variety

Not Specified

Price Per Oz

$0.38

Taster Notes

“Pleasant” with a “nice mix of green and ripe flavors”. Green and ripe banana, grassy and leafy plus floral notes. Slight and balanced bitterness and pepperiness.

Packaging Notes

Includes Harvest and Best Before dates but are very hard to read.

Recommended Uses

All Purpose


Trader Giotto's Sicilian Selezione Extra Virgin Olive Oil (500mL)

Overall
3.2 out of 5
Intensity
Fruit Character
RipeGreen
Origin

Sicily, Italy

Best Before

07/15/2022

Variety

Biancolilla, Ogghiaredda & Cerasuola

Price Per Oz

$0.47

Taster Notes

“Nice, mild oil, somewhat complex. Green and ripe.” “Not very complex but useful.” Green banana, green apple, grassy with nutty, ripe olive, almond and floral notes.

Packaging Notes

Clear glass bottle—will need protection from light.

Recommended Uses

All Purpose


Trader Joe's Premium 100% Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil (1L)

Overall
2.7 out of 5
Intensity
Fruit Character
RipeGreen
Origin

Greece

Best Before

04/16/2022

Variety

Presumed Koroneiki

Price Per Oz

$0.30

Taster Notes

“Would use this in my kitchen—pleasant, delicate.” “Lots of good fruit notes.” Green banana, herbaceous green notes; nutty, buttery, floral ripe flavors. Classic mild Koroneiki profile.

Packaging Notes

Clear glass bottle—will need protection from light. Label says “Greek Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil” implying Kalamata as the region of origin but this is not clear.

Recommended Uses

All Purpose


Trader Joe's Single Varietal Olive Oils: Arbequina (250mL)

Overall
2.7 out of 5
Intensity
Fruit Character
RipeGreen
Origin

Spain (Packed in Italy)

Best Before

03/15/2022

Variety

Arbequina

Price Per Oz

$0.39

Taster Notes

Has some good flavors and balance. “Useful in the pantry.” Nutty, buttery, tropical with leafy green notes. Pleasant pepperiness and hint of bitterness.

Packaging Notes

Sold in 3 pack with other single varietals. Clear glass bottle will need protection from light.

Recommended Uses

All Purpose


Trader Joe's Single Varietal Olive Oils: Koroneiki (250mL)

Overall
2.5 out of 5
Intensity
Fruit Character
RipeGreen
Origin

Greece (Packed in Italy)

Best Before

03/15/2022

Variety

Koroneiki

Price Per Oz

$0.39

Taster Notes

“Balanced overall good versatile oil.” Starting to be a little flat but definitely usable.” Leafy and green banana notes with ripe olive, buttery, nutty, floral and banana/tropical flavors.

Packaging Notes

Sold in 3 pack with other single varietals. Clear glass bottle will need protection from light.

Recommended Uses

All Purpose


Trader Joe's Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil Mediterranean Blend (500mL)

Overall
2.4 out of 5
Intensity
Fruit Character
RipeGreen
Origin

Italy & Tunisia

Best Before

01/02/2022

Variety

Not Specified

Price Per Oz

$0.24

Taster Notes

Mostly ripe, getting a little tired but would be suitable for all purpose use. Ripe olive, nutty, buttery flavors dominate. Our top rated Certified Organic of the tasting.

Packaging Notes

Best Before date is printed on the cap, but legible.

Recommended Uses

All Purpose


Trader Giotto's 100% Italian President's Reserve Extra Virgin Olive Oil (1L)

Overall
2.3 out of 5
Intensity
Fruit Character
RipeGreen
Origin

Puglia, Sicily, Calabria - Italy

Best Before

03/16/2022

Variety

Not Specified

Price Per Oz

$0.27

Taster Notes

"Very ripe fruit. Ripe olive, nutty. Some green notes. Slight bitterness and pepperiness. “Would be fine for cooking.” A bit tired.

Packaging Notes

Best Before date is on the cap but legible.

Recommended Uses

Cooking


Trader Joe's Tunisian Organic Extra Virgin Unfiltered Chetoui Olive Oil (1L)

Overall
2.0 out of 5
Intensity
Fruit Character
RipeGreen
Origin

Tunisia

Best Before

08/27/2022

Variety

Chetoui

Price Per Oz

$0.30

Taster Notes

Predominately ripe fruit: ripe olive, nutty, buttery. Some leafy green notes. Peppery finish. Getting tired.

Packaging Notes

Comes in a can that provides complete protection from light. Best Before info printed on top of the can using codes that are not clear (P = Production, E = Best By).

Recommended Uses

Cooking


Trader Joe's Single Varietal Olive Oils: Coratina (250mL)

Overall
1.9 out of 5
Intensity
Fruit Character
RipeGreen
Origin

Italy

Best Before

03/15/2022

Variety

Not Specified

Price Per Oz

$0.39

Taster Notes

Mix of ripe and green with some bitterness and a peppery finish. Some overripe character. Ripe olive, nutty and banana with some leafy, grassy, green banana notes. Getting tired.

Packaging Notes

Clear glass bottle will need protection from light.

Recommended Uses

Cooking


Trader Giotto's 100% Italian Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (500mL)

Overall
1.9 out of 5
Intensity
Fruit Character
RipeGreen
Origin

Italy

Best Before

03/19/2022

Variety

Not Specified

Price Per Oz

$0.35

Taster Notes

“Very delicate.” “Flat.” Nutty, ripe olive and floral with some leafy and hay green notes. Better suited to cooking than raw use.

Packaging Notes

Cap was frustrating. The security ring wouldn’t break off, and once it was opened, the cap didn’t seal well.

Recommended Uses

Cooking


Trader Joe's Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil (1 Qt)

Overall
0.9 out of 5
Intensity
Fruit Character
RipeGreen
Origin

Spain, Tunisia (Packed in USA)

Best Before

12/2022

Variety

Not Specified

Price Per Oz

$0.23

Taster Notes

Moderately peppery and bitter character. Dominated by overripe aroma. Ripe olive, buttery, with some herbaceous leafy notes. Best suited to cooking.

Packaging Notes

Comes with a pour spout. Origin and Best Before printed clearly on glass. Origin of the oils is not listed next to “Packed in USA.”

Recommended Uses

Cooking


Trader Giotto's Extra Virgin Olive Oil (1L)

Overall
0.9 out of 5
Intensity
Fruit Character
RipeGreen
Origin

Italy, Greece, Tunisia
(Packed in Italy)

Best Before

04/07/2022

Variety

Not Specified

Price Per Oz

$0.19

Taster Notes

Distinct bitterness and peppery character. Leafy, buttery and ripe olive flavors. Dominated by aroma of overripe fruit. Better suited to cooking than raw use.

Packaging Notes

Best Before date is on the cap but legible. Origin countries printed legibly on the back label but not next to Packed in Italy on the front.

Recommended Uses

Cooking


Trader Joe's Organic Extra Virgin Spanish Olive Oil Unfiltered (750mL)

Overall
0.5 out of 5
Intensity
Fruit Character
RipeGreen
Origin

Spain

Best Before

06/07/2022

Variety

Not Specified

Price Per Oz

$0.28

Taster Notes

Overripe flavors dominate. Better as a cooking, and not suited to raw applications. Distinct peppery and bitter flavors.

Packaging Notes

Clear glass bottle will need protection from light.

Recommended Uses

Cooking