Most baking recipes call for butter or margarine, or neutral tasting oils like canola oil, vegetable oil, or light olive oil. But these aren’t your only options! The truth is, while extra virgin olive oil is typically associated with salad dressings and sautéing, it makes a delicious addition to many baked goods, from muffins to quick breads to biscotti.
Because of its moderate-to-high smoke point, abundance of heat-stable monounsaturated fats, and high levels of polyphenol antioxidants (which help prevent oxidation when the oil is heated), EVOO is not only one of the most flavorful oils to bake with, it’s one of the healthiest, too.
Here’s what to know about baking with extra virgin olive oil. (Be sure to check out our detailed guide on cooking with EVOO, too.)
Olive oil yields healthier and tastier baked goods.
A high-quality extra virgin olive oil is often quite bold and it lends a fresh, floral, and ever-so-slightly peppery flavor to baked goods. This can really complement savory, nutty, and fruity flavor profiles, particularly citrus (which is why we’re obsessed with this gluten-free lemon olive oil cake). Keep in mind, you can find smoother, more “buttery” EVOOs if you want baked goods to have a more subtle flavor.
Pro tip: Always choose a high-quality oil for your baked goods. Meaning, only use an EVOO that tastes good on its own (i.e. one you’d enjoy using on a salad or as a dipping oil). Funky or off flavors may actually be amplified when baked, and no one wants that.
The health benefits of EVOO make baking with it a no-brainer, too. Extra virgin olive oil is chock full of heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fats and potent bioactive compounds like polyphenols, which have been studied for their antioxidant properties and ability to protect against oxidative stress—a type of physiological stress that can lead to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s.
When to skip EVOO in your baked goods.
Olive oil can always be used in place of other liquid oils. But, when a recipe calls for “creaming butter and sugar” together with a mixer, you really should use butter. That’s because, the process of creaming dissolves the sugar and aerates the mixture, which lends a light, fluffy texture to finished baked goods and frostings. Liquid oils, on the other hand, don’t become aerated when beaten with sugar, which may cause recipes to fall flat.
EVOO conversions for baking.
Extra virgin olive oil is actually pretty common in recipes for biscotti, olive bread, focaccia, and other Italian and Mediterranean baked staples. But if you don’t see it on a recipe’s ingredient list, you can almost always substitute it in if you know the right conversion.
To use olive oil in place of another liquid oil, the conversion is a simple one-for-one. And to use EVOO to replace margarine or butter, use 3 parts olive oil for every 4 parts butter. Below is a list of common butter-to-olive oil conversions to make life easier if you’re not a fan of math:
- 1 teaspoon butter = 3/4 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter = 2 1/4 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter = 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup butter = 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/3 cup butter = 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup butter = 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2/3 cup butter = 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3/4 cup butter = 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup butter = 3/4 cup olive oil
Using olive oil in place of butter or highly processed oils in baking is a great way to ramp up the flavor, cut back on saturated fats, and get a healthy dose of antioxidants from foods (breads, brownies, cookies, etc) that don’t typically contain them. Sounds like a win-win-win!