Difference between Olive Oil and Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Updated on February 20, 2018

Usually people tend to speak about olive oil in general without going into details about its type. Sometimes we hear “use some extra-virgin olive oil to sprinkle  over veggies”. So what is the difference between ordinary and extra-virgin olive oil?


Olive oil
Olives and olive oil

Olive oil is extracted from the fruit of the tree called Olea europaea that grows mainly in Mediterranean countries. Olive oil is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Extra-virgin olive oil is produced by simply pressing olives and getting the juice without any further processing with the use of chemicals and refining. Extra-virgin oil has a pleasant flavor of freshly picked olives, but the qualities and taste of olive oil mainly depend on the particular sort of olives.

Comparison chart

Olive oilExtra-virgin olive oil
May be used to name any type of olive oil, including extra-virginUnprocessed olive oil with no additives (so-called “olive juice”)
If refined – is good for frying and cookingPerfect for salad dressing or cosmetic purposes
Ordinary refined olive oil has almost no smell and tasteHas a rich taste and natural olive aroma

Olive oil vs Extra-virgin Olive Oil

What is the difference between usual olive oil and extra-virgin olive oil?

The main difference between them is that “olive oil” is basically a general name for all possible types of olive oil that can be found on the market, whereas extra-virgin means the highest quality unrefined olive oil. Everybody knows that the only source of olive oil is the fruit of olive trees, so the source of olive oil we buy can’t be different. Therefore it’s all about olive oil extraction technology, processing means, and various additives, along with the natural level of oleic acids that bring tons of benefits to human health.

There are actually several types of olive oil available in stores in order of their quality:

Extra-virgin olive oil – best quality olive oil; virgin olive oil – has a bit lower quality, but is still very good for dressings and cooking in general; refined olive oil –  basically virgin olive oil that has undergone special refining procedures, it has neither a specific olive taste, nor smell and is quite good for frying; olive pomace oil – refined pomace olive oil mixed with some virgin oil.

At first sight it would be easy to say which bottle contains extra-virgin olive oil and which one doesn’t – its regular analogue if there is no label. Extra-virgin oil usually has a darker color. But keep in mind it’s only one detail, the color may vary depending on the producer.  Another factor is the free oleic acid content. It is much richer in extra-virgin olive oil – that is why it is so healthy. Extra-virgin olive oil is generally derived from the first pressing of the olives and doesn’t undergo chemical or temperature impact.

Is extra-virgin olive oil interchangeable with other types of olive oil in recipes?

Without going deeply into details, the answer will be yes – if you just add raw oil into salads or sprinkle it over the ready cooked dish – extra-virgin olive oil is recommended. Non-virgin olive oil is lighter in color and taste, and is considered more suitable for cooking. All in all, the question of which oil to choose for cooking is mostly based on health benefits and personal tastes.

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