Aldi olive oil review

Table of Contents

What to Buy: Baking Products

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Aldi is rapidly expanding in the U.S. Already, the no-frills German supermarket chain has nearly 1,800 stores in 35 states offering super-low prices on brand-name knockoffs. Indeed, 90% of Aldi’s products are exclusive store brands, and many mimic the packaging and taste of national brands. We found several great items at Aldi that deserve a spot on your grocery list based on quality or value — or both.

But after checking in with shopping experts, as well doing comparison-shopping (and taste-testing) on our own at stores in Northern Virginia, we found that some deals at Aldi aren’t worth it. First, brand-name knockoffs don’t always taste as good as the real deal. Second, Aldi doesn’t accept manufacturers’ coupons or offer a loyalty program. That means you can find certain brand-name products at other retailers at comparable prices to Aldi’s knockoffs once you factor in sales, coupons and loyalty perks. Take a look at what to buy — and what to avoid — at Aldi.

SEE ALSO: Surprising Benefits of Amazon Prime

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Under the Baker’s Corner store brand, Aldi was selling a 32.8-ounce bag of brown sugar for $1.29; a four-pound bag of pure cane sugar for $1.69; and a five-pound bag of all-purpose flour for $1.19. By comparison, Giant charged double the price (or more) for comparable brand-name baking products: $2.69 for a 32-ounce bag of Domino light brown sugar; $4.49 for a four-pound bag of Domino pure cane sugar; and $3.19 for a five-pound bag of Pillsbury Best all-purpose flour. Aldi’s 16.9-ounce Carlini extra-virgin olive oil was selling for $3.49 versus $8.99 for the same size bottle of Bertolli EVOO at Giant.

“Flour, sugar, oils are all great quality and priced very well,” says Tracie Fobes, a money-saving expert at PennyPinchinMom.com. “The only time when the regular store may be a better deal is around holidays when they often have rock-bottom prices on baking products.”

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What to Buy: Bread

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You can snag a 20-ounce loaf of Aldi’s L’oven Fresh white bread for just 85 cents. That same size loaf of bread at Walmart sells for $1.28, under the Great Value store brand.

Wondering about national bread brands (which, by the way, are often baked at the same commercial bakeries that cook up store brands)? A 20-ounce loaf of Wonder Classic White bread was selling for $2.49 at Giant, while a 22-ounce loaf of Sunbeam sandwich bread was priced at $3.29.

SEE ALSO: 7 Ways Lidl Is Disrupting Supermarket Shopping

What to Buy: Cheese

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You’ll find national brands of cheese at Aldi alongside store-brand cheeses. A 16-slice, 12-ounce package of Kraft American white cheese was selling at Aldi for $2.68. Giant stocks the same Kraft cheese but charges $4.99.

“Aldi offers a wide variety of quality cheese products and prices that can blow away your local grocery store,” says Fobes. “In one example, we found Baby Bel cheese for $3 at Aldi, and it was more than $7 at our local grocery store for the exact same product.”

In addition, Cindy Livesey, founder of the bargain-hunting website LivingRichWithCoupons.com, recommends Aldi’s cream cheeses and shredded cheeses.

What to Buy: European Sweets

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Aldi wears its German roots proudly. Look no further than the strudel in the freezer case for proof. You’ll find German and other European chocolates on store shelves, too. According to Fobes, specialty chocolates, in general, are among the best things to buy at Aldi because they are “smooth and creamy at a much lower cost than most other stores.”

Sweet treats come and go. Over the holidays we found German specialties including Winternacht solid and hollow chocolates, chocolate Santa figurines, Merci European chocolate, Witor’s pralines, Choceur chocolate coins, Ferrero Rocher chocolates, Rolo candies, Winternacht marzipan logs and Duca Reserva panettone.

SEE ALSO: 5 Best Things to Buy at Aldi for the Holidays

What to Buy: Ketchup

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Yep, ketchup. Aldi’s signature Burman’s tomato ketchup was selling for $1.49 for a 38-ounce bottle. Walmart was selling a 38-ounce bottle of Heinz ketchup for $2.98; at Giant, the same size bottle of Heinz was priced at $3.49.

And not only is Aldi’s store-brand ketchup significantly cheaper than national brands, it “tastes as good as, if not better than, the big-name bottles,” says Fobes.

SEE ALSO: 13 Secrets to Shopping at Aldi

What to Buy: Milk

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Aldi was selling a gallon of its Friendly Farms brand whole milk for $1.49. That price was well under the $2.30 that Walmart was charging for a gallon of its Great Value brand whole milk. At Giant, a comparable gallon of whole milk went for $2.79.

Note that these prices are for conventional milk. Organic milk costs more. As for taste? We couldn’t detect any difference between the milk brands.

What to Buy: Pure Maple Syrup

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Aldi was selling a 12.5-ounce jar of 100% pure maple syrup for $6.69 under its Specially Selected store brand. That’s not cheap. You can buy a bottle of Aunt Jemima syrup for a fraction of that price.

So why did Aldi’s syrup make our list? Quality. The lone ingredient listed for Specially Selected 100% Pure Maple Syrup: pure maple syrup. There’s no added sugar or color. By contrast, the main ingredients for Aunt Jemima are corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, water, cellulose gum and caramel color. Livesey, of LivingRichWithCoupons.com, is a fan of Aldi syrup, not only for the taste but also for the smaller bottle size. Unless you’re Buddy the Elf, you probably don’t consume a lot.

What to Buy: Spices

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Aldi’s line of Stonemill spices can sell for 99 cents per container, including a 2.7-ounce container of garlic powder and a 2.12-ounce container of paprika. That’s a significant savings over national brands. A 3.4-ounce container of McCormick garlic power, for example, was selling for $3.44 at Walmart; at Giant, the same McCormick garlic powder was priced at $4.19.

One caveat when it comes to Aldi spices: “Great prices but limited assortment,” says Livesey.

SEE ALSO: 8 Secrets Wegmans Shoppers Need to Know

What to Buy: Wine

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“They have an amazing assortment of wines that taste absolutely wonderful — and you’ll love the prices,” Fobes says of Aldi. “I am a big fan of the Winking Owl moscato — one of my favorites.”

Winking Owl is Aldi’s answer to the “Two Buck Chuck” wines produced by Charles Shaw that originally sold at Trader Joe’s for just $2 a bottle. Today, Aldi’s store-brand Winking Owl varieties, including chardonnay, pinot grigio, shiraz, zinfandel, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, sell for $2.89. And they’re not bad. You can watch one of the many reviews of Winking Owl wines on YouTube if you don’t believe us.

When we roamed the wine shelves at Walmart, the cheapest bottle we found was a Rex Goliath pinot grigio going for $5.47. Giant sold the same pinot grigio for $8.99.

What to Avoid: Cereal

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If you’re looking at straight-up everyday prices on cereal, Aldi’s private-label Millville cereal is hard to beat. Millville’s Fruit Rounds, a knockoff of Kellogg’s Fruit Loops, sell for $1.29 for a 12.2-ounce box. Walmart sells a comparable box of real Fruit Loops for $2.58. But $2.58 is the everyday price. Most grocers run frequent sales on cereal. Plus, cereal manufacturers are generous with their percent-off and dollar-amount-off coupons. Check coupon websites or sign up with manufacturers on social media.

“You can often find better deals on name-brand cereals at your local store when combining coupons and sales,” says Fobes.

SEE ALSO: 12 Secrets to Shopping at Home Depot

What to Avoid: Deodorant

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Buying deodorant at Aldi didn’t pass our sniff test. Selection was thin, and, going against the grain of the Aldi model, there were only national brands available. And you can often score a better price on those national brands at a drugstore by combining manufacturers’ coupons with loyalty deals (think: CVS’s ExtraCare program or Walgreens’ Balance Rewards program, both free to join).

“You can do much better at your local drugstores with a promotion and coupon than buying at Aldi,” says Livesey.

What to Avoid: Paper Products

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Say no to store-brand napkins and paper towels from Aldi, says Livesey. Paper products from Aldi’s Boulder line can feel flimsier than national brands, and sales and coupons can make national brands including Bounty competitive in price. Even without a sale, we found comparable rolls of paper towels selling for the same price at Target and Aldi.

“Paper products are not always less expensive ,” agrees Fobes. “You may find a better deal and quality at the big-box stores.”

SEE ALSO: Unlock 11 Secrets of Home Improvement Shopping at Lowe’s

What to Avoid: Shampoo

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Don’t get yourself in a lather over buying shampoo at Aldi. Like deodorant, selection is limited to a few national brands. You could do better with sales and coupons at your local drugstore.

Alternatively, pick up shampoo in bulk for less at big-box retailers including Target and Walmart, or at a warehouse club such as Costco or BJ’s. Big bottles of name brands including Pantene or Head & Shoulders can be found for $10 or less.

Mixed Reviews: Meats

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Our savings experts are on the fence about buying meats at Aldi. “When they have a meat on a promotion it’s a good price, but their overall prices on meat are higher ,” says Livesey. Unlike Trader Joe’s, which never puts items on sale, Aldi does offer weekly specials on select products.

Fobes agrees: “Aldi is great when you need chicken and it is not on sale at your local store,” she says. “However, time it properly and you will find better deals at your grocery store.”

SEE ALSO: Best Kirkland Products You Should Buy at Costco

Mixed Reviews: Produce

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When it comes to produce, we’ll admit that Aldi has made progress. Not long ago, fruits and vegetables were sold unrefrigerated straight from the boxes they were shipped in. That’s still true in some older stores, but in new and newly remodeled stores produce that benefits from cool storage, including leafy greens, is now sold from refrigerated cases.

However, some Aldi shoppers still avoid buying produce. Our recent experiences support their reluctance. On one visit to Aldi we saw damaged loose apples and packages of organic tomatoes that were already soft. Seemingly good lemons we purchased turned brown after a day.

“While is priced lower than regular stores, sometimes it is already ripe or going past ripe at the time of purchase,” says Fobes. “Carefully look over each produce item before you buy, and then consume it soon so it does not go bad.”

Mixed Reviews: Salty Snacks

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Some Aldi cheerleaders really dig the salty snacks sold under Aldi’s various store brands, with packaging that is stunningly similar to those of national brands, right down to color schemes and typefaces. Chips fans hail the Clancy’s kettle chips, dead ringers for the Cape Cod potato chips stocked in supermarkets. The price is right, too. An 8.5-ounce bag of Clancy’s chips sells for $1.39, versus $2.88 for a slightly smaller bag of Cape Cod chips at Walmart (and $3.79 at Giant).

Intrigued, we took the bait and picked up a bag of Aldi’s Savoritz baked cheddar cheese flavored crackers that was displayed alongside Pepperidge Farms Goldfish. Both bags were 6.6 ounces, with Savoritz selling for $1.49 and real Goldfish selling for $1.78. The verdict in our personal taste test: Aldi mimicked the packaging, but not the product. The bland penguin-shaped Savoritz crackers weren’t worth the 29-cent savings to us.

SEE ALSO: 12 Secrets to Shopping at Trader Joe’s

EDITOR’S PICKS

  • Best Kirkland Products You Should Buy at Costco

  • Best States to Retire 2018: All 50 States Ranked for Retirement

  • 12 Secrets to Shopping at Trader Joe\’s

Copyright 2018-2019 The Kiplinger Washington Editors

21 Olive Oil Brands Certified for Authenticity

Need help selecting an olive oil? Check out this list of olive oils certified for both purity and quality by the North American Olive Oil Association.

The North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) conducts the nation’s largest olive oil testing and certification program. We collect samples of extra virgin olive oil and olive oil off-the-shelf and test them for the full range of purity parameters in the global trade standards set forth by the International Olive Council (IOC), a United Nations-chartered organization that has been recognized for more than 50 years as the worldwide quality-standard setting body for the olive oil industry.

Brands that have opted to join our seal program agree to testing at least twice a year and their olive oils are tested for quality as well as purity. Brands in the NAOOA Quality Seal Program now represent more than one-third of the total tracked retail volume share of olive oil, plus a large share of private label olive oil volume.

Our list of seal brands changes on a regular basis. Please refer to our master list of certified olive oils for an up to date list of certified olive oils.

Brands that are part of the NAOOA seal program bear this mark in either black and white or color.

As of December 5, 2016, the list is as follows:

365 Brand (Whole Foods)

  • 365 Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Spain
  • 365 Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Greece
  • 365 Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Spray)
  • 365 Organic Mediterranean Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 365 Unfiltered Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 365 100% Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 365 Mediterranean Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Aldi

  • Simply Nature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Athenos

  • Athenos Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Bertolli

  • Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Carlini

  • Carlini Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Carlini Olive Oil

Cibaria

  • Cibaria Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Classico

  • Classico Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Classico Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Colavita

  • Colavita Premium Selection Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Filippo Berio

  • Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil Delicato
  • Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil Robusto
  • Filippo Berio Light-Tasting Olive Oil
  • Filippo Berio Olive Oil
  • Filippo Berio Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Goya

  • Goya Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Goya Unico Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Goya Puro Olive Oil
  • Goya Light-Tasting Olive Oil

Iliada

  • Iliada Extra Virgin Olive Oil

La Tourangelle

  • La Tourangelle Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Pompeian

  • Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Robust
  • Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Smooth
  • Pompeian Classic Olive Oil
  • Pompeian Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Pompeian Light-Tasting Olive Oil

Roland

  • American Roland Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sclafani

  • Sclafani Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sprouts

  • Sprouts Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sprouts Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sprouts Extra Virgin Olive Oil Arbequina
  • Sprouts Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cornicabra
  • Sprouts Extra Virgin Olive Oil Greek
  • Sprouts Extra Virgin Olive Oil Italian
  • Sprouts Extra Virgin Olive Oil Spanish
  • Sprouts Extra Virgin Olive Oil Tunisian

Star

  • Star Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Wegmans

  • Wegman’s 100% Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Wegman’s Italian Novello Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Wegman’s Mediterranean Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Wegman’s Organic Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Wegman’s Sicilian DOP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Wegman’s Toscano IGP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Wegman’s Olive Oil

* Note: As of Jan 31, 2017, Wegman’s is no longer participating in the NAOOA seal program.

Whole Foods

  • Whole Foods Market Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Sicily
  • Whole Foods Market Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Seville
  • Whole Foods Market Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Greece
  • Whole Foods Market Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Portugal

Zathune

  • Zathune Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Zoe

  • Zoe Extra Virgin Olive Oil

There are many brands of olive oils not listed above. Absence from the above list does not mean that there are issues with the olive oil. In addition to the Certified Quality Seal Program, the NAOOA has been monitoring the overall market and testing both member and non-member brands for more than 25 years. In the past three years, the NAOOA tested nearly 500 bottles of olive oil, averaging 167 bottles per year, with the brands collected representing about 40-50% of the total retail olive oil market each year. On average, 5% of the bottles tested didn’t meet the IOC standard, while the market share of the brands not meeting the standard was only 1% combined.

You can feel confident purchasing olive oil in North America knowing that the vast majority of olive oils sold in our market meet global trade standards maintained by the IOC.

Extra virgin olive oil reviews

In this article:

  • What does ‘extra virgin’ mean?
  • The top tasting oils
  • Sensory and chemical test failings
  • Shelf life and date marking issues
  • We need better labelling
  • Top 5 tips for choosing and using olive oil
  • Is olive oil healthier?
  • How we tested
  • Jargon buster
  • Product table – 23 extra virgin olive oils compared

What you need to know

  • To be ‘extra virgin’ standard, olive oil needs to meet certain chemical and sensory criteria.
  • We tested 23 extra virgin olive oils bought from Australian retailers and found five didn’t meet the criteria.
  • The oil may meet the criteria when it leaves the manufacturer, but poor storage and handling along the supply chain can cause it to degrade earlier than it should.
  • Labelling extra virgin olive oil with a “harvested on” date would give consumers a better idea of freshness than a “best before” date.
  • Store your olive oil in a cool, dark place and use within six months.

What does the ‘extra virgin’ label mean?

For an olive oil to be labelled extra virgin, the International Olive Council (IOC) says it must meet certain chemical criteria and be free from taste defects as determined by a sensory panel trained to IOC standards.

We carried out sensory analysis and three different chemical tests of the 23 oils using IOC-approved methods – tests that are designed to check for signs of:

  • fruit damage
  • poor harvesting operations
  • poor storage of fruit or oil before processing or bottling
  • refining (such as bleaching or deodorising)
  • deterioration due to ageing
  • deterioration due to poor storage of the bottled oil.

Any of these issues could mean the oil isn’t of extra virgin quality when you buy it – even if it’s within its best-before date.

The 18 oils that passed the chemical and sensory tests went on to be assessed in a show judging-style blind tasting. Trained tasters rated the oils out of 100, looking for well-balanced oils with good taste, aromas and fruity flavours.

See How we tested for details.

Whether cooking, baking or frying, our cooking oil guide will help you find the right one for the job.

Top tasting oils

The top five oils in our show judging were all produced in Australia, with Cobram Estate Classic Flavour scoring 85%, a result worthy of gold medal status. Tasters commented on its “intense fruity nose”, “long pepper pungency” and notes of “citrus, artichoke, green corn, green banana and herbs”.

See the table for details of all oils tested.

Top tasting oils

Cobram Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil Classic Flavour
Show judging score: 85%
Price per 100mL: $1.73

Red Island Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Show judging score: 79%
Price per 100mL: $1.29

Maggie Beer Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Show judging score: 77%
Price per 100mL: $2.93

Rosto Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Mellow
Show judging score: 76%
Price per 100mL: $1.73

Woolworths Select Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Show judging score: 76%
Price per 100mL: $1.00

Always Fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Show judging score: 76%
Price per 100mL: $1.82

Sensory and chemical test failings

Five oils weren’t included in the show judging because chemical or sensory test results fell outside the parameters for extra virgin olive oil as specified in the IOC trade standard. To get a better sense of whether the problem was specific to that particular bottle or batch, a new bottle from the same batch and a new bottle from a different batch for each of the five brands were sent to the lab for analysis. We sent the test results to the companies for their review.

Sensory test failings

The IOC-accredited sensory panel detected a “rancid” defect in the Minerva and Minos oil samples. A rancid defect is described by the IOC as the “flavour of oils which have undergone an intense process of oxidation”. Subsequent tests found the same defect in a new bottle of the same batch for Minerva, but not in a third bottle (of a different batch) which we’d bought from a different store. The defect was detected in bottles from both batches of the Minos oil.

After conducting its own tests on a retention sample of the same batch of oil, Minerva presented us with evidence that its oil met extra virgin requirements both at the time of production and after having been kept in their cool and dark storage facility, suggesting that less-than-ideal storage conditions had resulted in the deterioration detected in the sample we tested.

A Minerva spokesperson tells us, “The organoleptic parameters of extra virgin olive oil depend largely on the storage conditions and probably the deviation found was due to storage under wrong conditions (e.g. exposure to light or heat).” She says, “We are fully confident that there is nothing wrong with our products which can definitely maintain their high quality till the best-before date when they are kept under the correct storage conditions.”

The distributor for Minos similarly suggested the rancid findings in our test “resulted from storage, distribution and handling”. A spokesperson says, “It is important to note that given the samples were only months away from best-before date, they have spent longer time in the distribution channel potentially exposed to heat and light.” She adds, “Minos is a quality EVOO product that has always passed lab tests to qualify it for EVOO status.”

The panel detected a “fusty/muddy sediment” defect in the Squeaky Gate The All Rounder Classic & Fruity oil, a defect which – according to the IOC – is “the characteristic flavour of oil obtained from olives piled or stored in such conditions as to have undergone an advanced stage of anaerobic fermentation, or of oil which has been left in contact with the sediment that settles in underground tanks and vats and which has also undergone a process of anaerobic fermentation”.

The panel detected the same defect in a second bottle of the same batch (bought from a different store in case the first bottle had been affected by poor storage conditions at the retail level), while the third bottle tested (from a different batch) was defect-free. Both samples from the first batch also had the highest FFA percentages in our test, indicating potential damage to the fruit at the time of crushing.

Squeaky Gate says our findings aren’t consistent with the results of its own testing of a retention sample for the batch in question. A spokesperson tells us, “Squeaky Gate employs a robust quality assurance and self-testing regime on an ongoing basis with all of its product batches. On top of farmers’ own quality control at production of the olive oil, Squeaky Gate adds further layers of quality control, accreditations and a program of stringent testing including via IOC-accredited laboratories.”

The spokesperson goes on to say, “Unfortunately, Squeaky Gate is not able to control its product through the distribution chain once sold to a wholesaler or retailer, where transport and storage conditions (or even uncontrolled sample transport as in the case of this review) may contribute to a change in the intended taste-profile over time, possibly even degradation of the sample.”

Chemical test failings

Results for one of the three components of the UV absorption test done on the Bertolli Organic and Pukara Estate oils were slightly higher than the limit specified in the IOC standard, indicating the oils may have degraded during storage – despite both being well within their best-before dates. Repeating the test on a new bottle of the same batch produced a similar result for Pukara Estate, and a result just under the limit for Bertolli. Samples from a different batch of both oils met the standard.

While oils must meet the specified UV absorbance parameters at the time of production, the IOC standard notes it’s up to commercial partners in the country of sale whether or not they require compliance with this particular UV absorbance limit when the oil is made available to the end consumer. This caveat isn’t present in the Australian Standard for olive oil.

Responding to our communications, Stuart Maher, managing director of Deoleo Australia and New Zealand, said, “We welcome the results of the CHOICE Extra Virgin Olive Oil Test, which confirm both Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil Originale and Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil Organic are high-quality, 100% extra virgin olive oils with an enjoyable flavour profile.”

Steve Goodchild of Pukara Estate and signatory to the Australian Olive Association (AOA)’s code of practice, told us it’s of concern to him that the test results indicate the oil had aged faster than expected when compared to the same oil stored in more suitable conditions.

“The real concern in this case is that the oil wouldn’t meet the best-before date indicated on the bottle, which again highlights the negative impact of UV light and higher ambient temperature sensitivity of the product when it is exposed to the harsher conditions out there in the market place,” he says. “The link between the producer, transport and the retailer are key to achieving the best-before dates that are forecast by the producer.”

Date markings and shelf life

Unlike wine, extra virgin olive oil doesn’t improve with age. It instead starts to deteriorate from the moment it’s pressed from the fruit, affecting both taste and nutritional value, so freshness is essential to oil’s quality. The closer to its production you use it, the better. For this reason, local oils often have the edge over imported as they’re able to reach the supermarket shelf faster.

‘Harvested on’ or ‘pressed on’ dates are the best indication of oil freshness, but few products have them on the label, so we’re reliant on the accuracy of the best-before date – a prediction of the length of time a product will retain its quality parameters (a timeframe also known as shelf life).

Different oils degrade at different rates, depending on their chemical composition. Testing of Australian olive oils over five years, for example, found that the true potential shelf life ranges from as low as six months to more than 30 months, with only 40% of oils showing a potential shelf life of more than 18 months. The widely used ‘two years from bottling’ rule of thumb for best-before labelling is therefore likely to be optimistic.

The importance and benefits of best-before date accuracy is increasingly being acknowledged by industry. The AOA has long recommended a model for predicting shelf life based on a series of quality tests, although it’s expensive – perhaps prohibitively so for smaller producers. More recently a prediction based on one test only – less accurate but cheaper – has been proposed.

These models work on the assumption that oils are stored in ideal conditions, which in reality is not often the case. So formulas need to be tweaked accordingly.

We need better labelling

Since the implementation of the Australian Standard for olive oil in 2011, the proportion of oils – both imported and Australian – meeting quality requirements for EVOO has increased, according to Peter McFarlane, whose business monitors compliance with the voluntary AOA Code of Practice protocols. And certainly our recent test results are an improvement on those in our 2010 test when half the oils failed. But there’s still room for improvement.

We should be able to trust that when we buy an extra virgin olive oil, it’s exactly that. As consumers, we have no control over the transport and storage of oils before we buy them – poor handling during this time is an issue for producers to follow up with distributors and retailers.

All we have to go on when selecting a good quality oil – other than the brand – is the date marking on the label. And unfortunately current labelling requirements don’t help us choose the freshest.

We’d like to see extra virgin olive oil producers provide pressed-on or harvest dates on their labels, in conjunction with realistic best-before dates based on an objective test.

Top 5 tips for choosing and using olive oil

  1. Buy the freshest oil possible. Look for a “harvested on” date, as best-before dates aren’t necessarily a good indicator of freshness.
  2. Don’t buy oils from stores where they’ve been displayed near heat sources (such as refrigerator motors) or in a shop window where they’re exposed to direct sunlight.
  3. Store in a cool dark place at home (i.e. not next to the stove/oven/window).
  4. Keep your oil tightly stoppered and use it in a timely manner. As a rule of thumb, buy a container size that matches your monthly consumption.
  5. Avoid using olive oil for cooking that requires very high oil temperatures (such as deep frying).

Is olive oil healthier?

Olive oil is rich in ‘better for you’ monounsaturated fats and contains a wide variety of valuable antioxidants. According to the Dietitian’s Association of Australia, extra virgin olive oil is the main source of fat in a Mediterranean style diet, which research has found to be good for weight control and heart health.

It’s a healthier substitute for saturated fats such as butter or palm oil, but bear in mind that it still contains the same amount of kilojoules as any other fat.

Want to cook with less oil? Find the best non-stick frypans in our induction-compatible frypan reviews .

How we tested

We tested popular brands of olive oil, all labelled ‘extra virgin’, and excluding flavoured oils.

CHOICE buyers purchased the olive oil samples direct from retailers according to our own guidelines. At the time of testing each oil had a minimum of five months to go before its best-before date indicated on the label.

Our test includes both Australian and European oils, so for this article we’ve referenced the widely accepted IOC Trade Standard rather than the Australian Standard. For the quality criteria we’ve tested against, the limits – though not the wording – are the same in both standards. Signatories to the AOA Code of Practice must comply with the Australian Standard, but this is a voluntary standard.

We sent a single, unopened sample of each oil to the IOC-accredited NSW Department of Primary Industries Oil Testing Service at the Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute for chemical and sensory testing using IOC-approved methods. For any oil that failed a test, a new bottle from the same batch and a new bottle from a different batch was sent for analysis.

Chemical tests

According to the IOC trade standards, extra virgin olive oil must meet established limits for a range of quality criteria including free fatty acid (FFA) level, peroxide value (PV) and UV absorption at different wavelengths.

The FFA level is an indicator of oil quality – the lower the percentage the better the quality. It provides a good indication of the fruit condition before crushing, care taken in producing the oil and oil storage conditions. The level can increase if the fruit is damaged, or due to poor handling and storage of fruit between harvest and processing, however it’s fairly stable once the oil is bottled.

The PV is a measure of an oil’s oxidation at any given time. High levels can indicate degradation of the oil during processing and storage (primarily through exposure to oxygen, heat or light).

The UV absorption test may also detect degradation of the oil during storage. UV absorption continues to rise as the oil ages. It may also detect the presence of refined oils.

Sensory test

Extra virgin olive oils must have fruity attributes and be free from defects as determined by an IOC-accredited sensory panel of at least eight tasters in order to meet the standard. Defects include fusty/muddy sediment, musty, rancid and winey-vinegary flavours.

Show judging tasting

Each oil that passed the chemical and sensory tests was included in a show judging-style tasting. Three trained tasters from the sensory panel tasted the oils “blind” and gave each oil a score out of 100.

Jargon buster

  • “Virgin” olive oil is extracted from olives by a mechanical process without using chemicals or excessive heat to ensure that it’s not altered and that it retains its nutritional value.
  • “Extra virgin” olive oil, in addition to the above, has low acidity (0.8% or less) and should comply with other technical specifications, as well as being free from taste defects.
  • “Light”, “lite” or “pure” olive oil has been refined through a combination of physical (heat) and chemical processes, resulting in oil with no distinctive aroma colour or taste. A small percentage of virgin oil may be mixed with this oil to give it flavour. Processing reduces the amount of antioxidants, so these oils aren’t as healthy as extra virgin. They aren’t lower in fat or kilojoules than regular oils.
  • “Cold pressed” and “first press” are outdated and unhelpful marketing terms. All virgin oils have to be “cold extracted” – extracted from the olive without the use of excessive heat (manufacturers can extract more oil from olives with heat but the quality suffers). Traditional hydraulic presses have been almost entirely replaced by centrifuges, and all virgin oil comes from a single extraction – there’s no second press.

Olive oil comparison table

We tested 23 extra virgin olive oils, ranging in price from $0.80/100mL to $6.40/100mL. We’ve listed them below in alphabetical order. To order by another criteria, simply click on the column headings.

Product Recommended Price/
100mL ($)
Country
of origin
Bottle
size (mL)
Price
paid $
Meets ‘extra virgin’
quality criteria
– chemical
Meets ‘extra virgin’
quality criteria
– sensory
Show judging
taste test
score (%)
Taster comments Bottle image
Cobram Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil Classic Flavour Yes 1.73 Australia 750 13.00 Yes Yes 85 Intense fruity nose, good transfer and harmony. Citrus (lemon/lime), artichoke, green corn, green banana and herbs. Long pepper pungency.
Red Island Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Yes 1.29 Australia 500 6.45 Yes Yes 79 Tomatoes, spices, fresh, balanced, mown grass. Rounded. Medium complexity. Green apple, nutmeg.
Maggie Beer Extra Virgin Olive Oil Yes 2.93 Australia 375 10.99 Yes Yes 77 Lemon tea and fresh nuts with late bitterness and pungency.
Rosto Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Mellow Yes 1.73 Australia 750 12.99 Yes Yes 76 Banana, peaches, flowers. Lacking complex aroma. Cut grass, white pepper in the mouth. Balanced, delicate. Late chilli finish.
Woolworths Select Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Yes 1.00 Australia 500 5.00 Yes Yes 76 Slight lemon zest-low. Full bodied. A little grass. Spices, good bitterness, low pungency.
Always Fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil Yes 1.82 Spain 500 9.10 Yes Yes 75 Clean, fresh exotic fruits on nose. Green beans. More bitterness than pungency.
Macro Organic Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1.00 Spain 500 5.00 Yes Yes 67 Exotic fruits on nose, little transfer, late warm pungency.
Moro El Primero Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1.60 Spain 500 8.00 Yes Yes 67 Light tropical fruits with robust herbaceous flavours and lingering warmth.
La Espanola Extra Virgin Olive Oil 0.90 Spain 500 4.50 Yes Yes 66 Exotic fruits on nose, herbaceous, olive leaves and a strong lingering bitterness.
Woolworths Select Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1.00 Spain 500 5.00 Yes Yes 65 Tropical fruits with smooth lingering flavours.
Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil Originale 1.73 Italy 750 12.99 Yes Yes 60 Lacking freshness and fruity aroma.
Coles Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1.00 Australia 500 5.00 Yes Yes 60 Light grassy aroma with delicate flavours.
Coles Extra Virgin Olive Oil 0.80 Spain 500 4.00 Yes Yes 60 Strong fruity tropical nose but flat, bland, thick in mouth.
Dante Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1.60 Italy 500 7.99 Yes Yes 60 Flat on nose, crushed nuts, building pungency.
Just Organic (Aldi) Extra Virgin Olive Oil 0.94 Spain 500 4.69 Yes Yes 60 Mild fruity nose. Some apple. Some fruit transfer but lacking fruit taste. No harmony.
Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1.80 Italy 500 8.99 Yes Yes 55 Mild fruit aroma.
The Olive Tree (Aldi) Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Fruity 0.90 Australia 1000 8.99 Yes Yes 55 Mushroom, earthy aroma. Lacking clarity and freshness. Flat.
Coles Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1.00 Spain 500 5.00 Yes Yes 50 Mild nose of overripe apple.
Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil Organic (A) 1.75 Italy 250 4.38 No (A) Yes na na
Minerva Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil (B) 1.56 Greece 500 7.80 Yes No (B) na na
Minos Extra Virgin Olive Oil (B) 1.40 Greece 500 6.99 Yes No (B) na na
Pukara Estate Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil (A) 6.40 Australia 250 15.99 No (A) Yes na na
Squeaky Gate The All Rounder Classic & Fruity Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil (B) 1.07 Australia 750 8.00 Yes No (B) na na

TABLE NOTES

Price The price we paid (not on special) in stores in August 2017. Price per 100mL calculated for comparison. Larger sizes may be more economical.

Extra virgin quality criteria For details of chemical and sensory testing see How we tested.

Score A show judging taste test score of 65–74% is bronze medal standard, 75–84% is silver medal standard, and 85–100% is gold medal standard.

(A) Not entered in show judging tasting – first sample analysed failed one of the three UV absorbance tests.

(B) Not entered in show judging tasting – first sample analysed failed sensory test.

na Not applicable

Read our body fat scales reviews and learn how they can help you keep track of your physical health.

Ain’t Found A Good Title Blog

ALDI – Carlini 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Food Review

by steveo

ALDI – Carlini
EVOO

This is surprisingly one of the best olive oils I’ve tried. It’s about the equal of my favorite, Trader Joe’s Spanish extra virgin olive oil.

February 27, 2016

Soft, buttery, not bitter, with a gentle taste of olives, this is an exceptionally good olive oil. Previously, several olive oils were compared head-to-head. Trader Joe’s Spanish extra virgin olive oil came out on top. It is then natural to do a head-to-head comparison between this and the Trader Joe’s (TJ) olive oil.

Carlini is a shade lighter in color. The TJ oil seems to be slightly more viscous. They’re about equal in mouth feel. Both have a very nice buttery smoothness. Neither is really bitter at all, especially when compared to some other oils. Both have nice gentle faint olive tastes. I’ve had the Carlini olive oil in salads with a balsamic vinegar, in tomato sauce and on bread. For this comparison the oils were compared straight up, that is licked from my clean finger (I was the sole licker).

Which one should you pick up? To me, they’re so equal, it doesn’t matter. Carlini comes in a 500 ml bottle, half the size of the TJ olive oil. Per 500 ml, Carlini is about 80 cents less (the TJ oil is currently $7.99 per liter). If you don’t use a lot of olive oil, the 500 ml bottle is probably a better size to buy, as it won’t sit in your cabinet or refrigerator for extended periods of time. Although it’s never been a problem for me, olive oil (in fact any oil) can go bad during storage. The other potential consideration is that according to the bottle label, the Carlini olive oil is sourced from Italy, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey. Will the oil change from bottle to bottle if the proportion of oil from each country changes over time? Only a few more purchases will give us that answer.

Calories 120 per Tbsp (15 ml) Price $3.19 (500 ml)

ALDI – Carlini
EVOO – Back

ALDI – Carlini
EVOO

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Tags: aldi, calories, carlini, extra virgin olive oil, food, olive oil, price, review

This entry was posted on 02/27/2016 at 15:57 and is filed under ALDI, Recipes, food, cooking and related items. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  1. Lara/Trace Says:
    03/01/2018 at 09:22 | Reply

    My cousin was telling me Goya has a lite Olive Oil – have you tried it? I really buy Trader Joe’s for everything.

    LikeLiked by 1 person

    • steveo Says:
      03/01/2018 at 13:49 | Reply

      No, I haven’t tried the Goya. I generally don’t use lite oils. TJ’s Spanish EVOO is the best I’ve tried. The ALDI Carlini EVOO is very close.

      LikeLiked by 1 person

  2. Sami Says:
    09/06/2017 at 12:09 | Reply

    I was told recently, to only buy the ones with the stamp, because they are the purest. Is this true?

    LikeLiked by 2 people

    • steveo Says:
      09/06/2017 at 12:55 | Reply

      It’s always helpful to have some sort of certification for any product we buy to help insure we’re getting what we pay for. Although some companies may have quality products without participating in a certification program. The International Olive Oil Council conducts one such program. There are others.

      Here’s a list from a different certification authority.

      Keep in mind that things change over time.

      LikeLiked by 1 person

  3. Roy Says:
    08/25/2017 at 01:49 | Reply

    Doing some research on olive oil, came upon your review of Carlini at Aldi. I have bought this before. Glad to know it not Fake. According to Internet sites, up to 70 percent of olive oil are not pure. Fyi

    LikeLiked by 2 people

    • steveo Says:
      08/25/2017 at 08:28 | Reply

      Thanks for commenting. I hope your research found this one to be just olive oil. For consumers, like us, it’s mostly a matter of trust when we pick up anything off the shelf.

      LikeLiked by 1 person

  4. The Shower of Blessings Says:
    06/04/2017 at 00:53 | Reply

    Hi my dear friend,

    If you have no trouble opening my site you can ignore this message.
    I messed up my site link. I made a little change and got in big trouble.
    My old site (deleted, that’s why you can’t find me anymore)

    My new site is The Shower of Blessings (the “s” is in different place, so is the link)
    The new link is https://theshowerofblessings.wordpress.com

    You may have to click the new link and follow my new site again in order to see me show up in your Reader.

    Sorry for the trouble. Miriam

    LikeLiked by 1 person

  5. MZ Says:
    04/01/2017 at 15:20 | Reply

    Since Aldi and Trader Joe’s are owned by the same company …they could be the same only different labels for each store….

    LikeLiked by 2 people

  6. iam he Says:
    02/09/2017 at 06:44 | Reply

    whereas the label has changed… no longer says 100%, I don’t know that contents have changed… I have some of the old bottles in the basement… I will compare them.. so far I have not noticed a change in taste or anything else other than the label change.

    LikeLiked by 1 person

    • Mike Who Knows Says:
      08/01/2017 at 08:09 | Reply

      ALDI and Trader Joe’s are NOT owned by the same company. While they may share a similar heritage, they have been separately owned and managed since the 1960s. How do these rumors get started and sustained in these days of Google?

      LikeLiked by 1 person

      • steveo Says:
        08/01/2017 at 19:37

        Here’s the wiki entry for Trader Joe’s, for anyone interested in learning more. Also click on the link for Theo Albrecht to get a better be understanding.

        LikeLike

  7. rman56 Says:
    01/24/2017 at 18:03 | Reply

    steveo, i appreciate your thanks. I posted my second one because I didn’t notice the picture the first time around. I only wish people on other sites could point out a mistake as politely as you did and I mean that seriously.

    LikeLiked by 1 person

    • steveo Says:
      01/24/2017 at 20:14 | Reply

      Cool. No problem. Sometimes I think the manufacturers put out all these variations just to add confusion. It’s pretty easy to overlook the smallest thing and end up taking home something we didn’t want. I know I’ve done that more times than I’d like to admit to. And then add to that some of the terms they use have no real standards behind them and where are we? Bottom line however on this olive oil, it was better than most I’ve tried and reasonably priced.

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      • rman56 Says:
        01/24/2017 at 22:45

        I’ve used Carlini quite often. I’m a fan myself. I’m not a brand person like I once was. Mostly due to a fixed income now. I find the oil good and affordable, two things that work really well for me!!!

        LikeLiked by 1 person

      • steveo Says:
        01/25/2017 at 00:04

        Me too! ☺️

        LikeLike

  8. Margaret johnson Says:
    12/19/2016 at 23:37 | Reply

    Bought Carlini olive oil at Aldie’s last week. Arriving home, I realized that my new bottle did NOT say, “100% virgin olive oil”. 100% was not on the front. Also, it did not have cold-pressed. Please explain. Thank you.

    LikeLiked by 1 person

    • steveo Says:
      12/20/2016 at 01:11 | Reply

      First, I’m just an ALDI customer. I have no connection with ALDI. I believe Carlini is just their store brand for several types of oil they sell. If you haven’t opened it, the store may take it back? They can also help find the 100% extra virgin olive oil I wrote about or explain if they don’t have it.

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    • rman56 Says:
      01/24/2017 at 13:25 | Reply

      Many olive oils are blended oils. You are responsible for checking whether it says 100% olive oil or not. Blended oils vary in composition of olive and any other oil(s). In a blended oil, there can be a very small amount of olive oil. This is not a case of ALDI being duplicitous, every store sells blended olive oils. If it contains olive oil, it can be sold as olive oil, it just can’t be sold as 100% olive oil.

      LikeLiked by 1 person

      • steveo Says:
        01/24/2017 at 14:10

        Thanks for commenting. The review was for a bottle labeled as 100%. See the picture included in the review. ALDI sells several different grades of olive, as most stores do. Some of those may not labeled 100% or extra virgin. As consumers, based on the label and other information we may come upon, we make decisions for what best fits our needs.

        LikeLiked by 1 person

    • rman56 Says:
      01/24/2017 at 13:31 | Reply

      However, if the bottle said 100% virgin olive oil and you know it is not 100%, it’s an issue I would take up with the company and possibly the FDA if you want to waste your time, literally, but ALDI is wonderful about returning and all other aspects. The vast majority of my shopping is done there. I live on a limited budget and you can’t beat their price and quality. I have found many things I prefer from them than from stores such as Mariano’s, which I love. I won’t even get into my feelings about Whole Foods. I’m sure they don’t allow the language.

      LikeLiked by 1 person

      • steveo Says:
        01/24/2017 at 13:59

        Thanks for adding to the discussion.

        LikeLike

  9. litadoolan Says:
    05/13/2016 at 11:38 | Reply

    Awesome find. I was looking at designer olive oil at a celebrity restaurant this week – it was a crazy price !! This will work. Will check it out. Thanks for the tip.

    LikeLiked by 2 people

  10. Barbara Says:
    05/13/2016 at 08:13 | Reply

    I saw Dr. Oz program 5/12/16 showing that the buying public is not getting Olive oil but a mixture of oils. We trust Carlini Olive oil and want verification we are getting pure unadulterated olive oil. What say Carlini?

    LikeLiked by 1 person

    • steveo Says:
      05/13/2016 at 09:22 | Reply

      An interesting question. I don’t know. I just shop at ALDI and write my own reviews of their products. Here’s the ALDI customer contact url, https://www.aldi.us/en/contact-us/ If you’d like to write them, they are pretty good about answering quickly.

      LikeLiked by 1 person

      • sam marino Says:
        09/24/2016 at 10:23

        I am 63 year old Italian American and never thought much about olive oil, until my wife brought home some carlini olive oil,it was so good I had to find the bottle to investigate more. I was a little disappointed because it was from Spain and not Italy, but it was udeniable the best tasting Olive oil I ever had,.

        LikeLiked by 1 person

Top 8 olive oils tested

THE task I set myself this week was to find the best value in olive oils at the lower end of the market.

I avoided plastic bottles as I don’t like the idea of the acids in the oil causing the possible leaching of chemicals from the plastic, so it’s the cheapest of the glass bottles or cans we have here.

Most plastic ones were only marginally cheaper anyway.

Most of what is available is extra virgin oil which is not good for cooking with at high temperatures, though is fine for slow, low cooking.

Very high heat affects the natural chemicals in the oils, so look for ordinary, fattier olive oil for cooking with.

I have recently succeeded in cooking at high heat with rapeseed oil flavoured with a little chilli oil to get rid of the heavy taste of the rapeseed.

Use the olive oils here to add at the last minute to soups and stews, in salads and hummuses and in low, slow cooking of onions and garlic.

I looked for the cheapest in glass from each supermarket, ideally dark glass, which is best to avoid deterioration.

Use opened oils within four months for best flavour.

Clear glass bottles should be kept in a dark place. If you find that your olive oil has become solid or cloudy, fear not, it will clear once gently heated. Colour is no indication of quality.

Dunnes Stores Family Favourites extra virgin 750ml €3.29 (€4.38/litre)

This wins the prize for the cheapest oil. Made from Spanish olives, it is in a clear glass bottle which is not ideal for storing, so must be kept in a cupboard. A beautifully balanced oil with just the right amount of green kickback in the throat.

Score: 9

San Leandro 500ml €4.49 (€8.98/litre)

In a white frosted bottle, this is a smooth oil with just a little kick at the back of the throat. A second offering from SuperValu, it surpassed a few other brands more widely available in supermarkets. Delicious for both cold salads and hot vegetables and soups.

Score: 8.5

Marks & Spencer Italian extra virgin 500ml €5.99 (€11.98/litre)

From a large range, some in plastic, some in interesting rectangular bottles, this was the cheapest. A dark bottle was a plus. The oil is medium weight and has a fruity, very peppery finish.

Score: 7.75

Delitaly extra virgin 1 litre €6.99

This canned oil has a medium weight and light colour and taste which does not overpower other food flavours. A good all-rounder for those who like it mild. I use it for mayonnaise and Hollandaise. Perhaps not fruity enough for those who want a strong taste of olives.

Score: 8.5

Tesco Greek extra virgin 300ml €3.59 (€7.18/litre)

In a dark green bottle, it has a strong flavour and a peppery kick. A medium weight, with a lovely, silky texture. Good for bland vegetables and salads.

Score: 7

Aldi Specially Selected Puglian extra virgin 500ml €3.69 (€7.38/litre)

In a dark bottle and made in the heel of Italy, the oil, typical of the region, has quite an aggressive kick at the back of the throat. Medium weight, it’s delicious on a chickpea salad and in soups.

Score: 7

Supervalu Kalliston 1 litre €8.79

In a can from Greece, this was the cheapest of the SuperValu offerings. A nice, smooth finish will not overpower other flavours. There is a gentle kick at the back of the throat as we expect.

Score: 8

Lidl Italiamo extra virgin 500ml €3.69 (€7.38/litre)

In a clear bottle, this oil is quite light and has a definite peppery kick which is a little harsh. Good on hot vegetables.

Score: 7

Photo:

We’ve all got a bottle of olive oil in the pantry—it’s one of the most versatile ingredients in a cook’s arsenal, good for everything from dressings, to dipping, to cooking. But there are a few factors to consider when selecting the ideal bottle for your specific kitchen needs. As you stare down the zillion olive oil options at the grocery store, here are a few things to look for on the label.

Check the date

You’re probably used to checking for dates on refrigerated items like milk and eggs, but don’t forget to do the same with your olive oil. According to the UC Davis Olive Center, better producers will let you know when the olives were harvested. Opt for the most recent harvest which is usually November and December in the northern hemisphere (like producers from California, Italy and Spain) and May and June in the southern hemisphere (like producers from Australia or South America).

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But, don’t be fooled by the “best by” date on a bottle of olive oil, as that tends to be two years from when the bottle was filled—not when the olives were processed. This makes it an unreliable indicator of quality, according to UC Davis. For example, extra virgin olive oil is best used within 18 months of the harvest, so it may go off before the “best by” date.

Look for a quality seal

If you want an olive oil that meets stricter guidelines than the USDA’s minimal standards, you may want to look for a quality seal from producer organizations like the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) and the Australian Olive Association. They require olive oil to meet higher quality standards. But don’t just grab the first bottle with a gold seal: other seals may not offer the same quality assurance, according to UC Davis.

You can also look up which olive oils have received these quality seals on the COOC and the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) websites.

Understand the different types

There are different types of olive oil, which can make the buying process a little confusing. As we’ve explained previously, you’re likely to see three different types of olive oil in the store:

  • “Regular” olive oil: The bottle will just say “olive oil” or “pure olive oil,” in an attempt to rise above its station. This is usually a blend of virgin and refined olive oil, which means at least some of it has been heat- and/or chemically treated. It has a pretty neutral flavor, and can used for all-purpose cooking.
  • Extra virgin olive oil: “EVOO,” if you’re a food blogger from the aughts. This is the good, unrefined stuff that has the most color, flavor, and antioxidants. You could use this for cooking—just know that it has a pretty low smoke-point (325 to 375°F), and that high-heat cooking will obliterate the oil’s flavor, so save the fancy stuff for finishing and (maybe) some light sautéing.
  • “Light” oil: This oil is not lacking in calories, but in flavor and color. It is refined, and has a higher smoke point of 465°F, so feel free to use it for frying.

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Have an idea of what you’d like to use the olive oil for before you go into the store and use that to determine which type you buy.

Look for the region of origin

This is where things can get a little murky. According to the NAOOA, federal laws require olive oil manufacturers to list the place of origin, but that can mean a few different things. In an interview with Serious Eats, oleologist Nicolas Coleman explains that the important part is that a bottle lists the country and region of origin.

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Any good brand of olive oil will let you know exactly where it came from, so that in itself is telling of the quality. Simply saying “product of Italy” isn’t enough, he notes, because that could mean it was just bottled and shipped out of Italy, rather than actually produced there. Also, as the NAOOA notes, blending of olive oils from different countries is common in order to achieve specific flavor profiles, so don’t be alarmed if more than one country or region is listed.

As far as whether certain olive oil-producing regions are better than other, it’s like apples and oranges. Coleman says that no single country or region has a monopoly on “good” olive oil, and that high-quality olive oils are being produced in Australia, North and South America, North and South Africa and the Mediterranean.

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Pay attention to the container

Olive oil should be protected from heat and light, so storing it in an appropriate container is important. According to UC Davis, ideal containers are made of dark glass, tin, or even clear glass largely covered by a label or placed in a box. And don’t ignore shelf-placement at the store: if the bottle is on the top shelf and exposed to a lot of light, it could hurt its quality, the COOC notes. The same goes for dusty bottles (meaning it’s probably been sitting for a while) or oils with an orange tint (indicating over-exposure to fluorescent lighting and/or heat), according to guidelines from the NAOOA.

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Editor’s note: A previous version of this article, originally published on 11/8/13 and updated on 6/11/19, referred to the findings of two reports from the UC Davis Olive Center, published in 2010 and 2011. In an email to Lifehacker, a representative from the UC Davis Olive Center explained that the brands listed in those reports as not meeting certain olive oil standards have since made improvements. The representative specified that the best way for consumers to select an olive oil would be to educate themselves using resources provided by UC Davis as well as organizations like the COOC and NAOOA, all referenced in this article. This story was updated on 6/19/19 to provide more thorough and current information.