This Is What Makes Olive Oil “Extra Virgin”

Updated: Apr. 01, 2022

Olive oil is a staple of kitchens the whole world over—but not all oils are produced equally.


Olive oil is probably sitting in your cupboard right now. And it should be. Even though it isn’t always the cheapest option at the supermarket, its versatility is proven. With some coarse-ground pepper it’s great for bread-dipping, with some vinegar it’s great for marinating or dressing, and it’s usually a safe bet when coating a pan. (Just don’t go frying stuff with it.)

But not all olive oil is the same. (In fact, there’s a pretty solid chance that you might be buying the fake stuff.) Obviously, there’s going to be a difference from a bottle you picked up fresh from the grove or fresh from the gas station, but there’s also a difference denoted right on the bottle. And if you’re buying olive oil that’s “Extra Virgin” you’re buying the highest quality possible.

There are a few boxes an olive oil has to check off to be considered extra virgin:

  • It has to be unrefined
  • It has to contain no more than 1 percent oleic acid
  • It has to be produced only through cold pressing
  • It cannot be chemically modified
  • It has to be reviewed and approved by international standards

Olive oils which do not live up to these standards do not earn the EVOO label. Non-EVOO olive oils will be produced through chemical processing, blending of different olive oil, heat pressing, or may go through different refinement processes. This isn’t to say that they aren’t usable, but they will tend to be less flavorful, less aromatic, and lighter in color than EVOO.

If you encounter an olive oil that’s simply labeled “virgin,” this means that the oil is up to all the standards of EVOO, except for its oleic acid concentration.

[Source: Tasting Table, Kitchn]