For as long as we can remember, olive oil has been the gold standard when it comes to cooking fat—for both the superior taste and the health benefits. You’ve seen it called for in a million recipes, and for good reason: It’s mild but not completely tasteless, it’s good for your heart and Ina Garten buys the *good* stuff practically in bulk. So when avocado oil walked onto the scene, we were curious about the relative newcomer (and not just because we enjoy a slice of avo toast from time to time). When it comes to avocado oil vs. olive oil, is one healthier (or tastier) than the other? Here’s what we found out.
Avocado Oil vs. Olive Oil: What’s the Difference?
Both avocado oil and extra-virgin olive oil are vegetable oils that are made by pressing the flesh of their respective fruits. (Yep, avocados and olives are both considered fruits.) They’re both liquid at room temperature, available in unrefined (cold-pressed) and refined varieties, and, for the most part, similar in price.
The only real (and obvious) difference between avocado oil and olive oil is that they’re made from different fruits, and avocado oil is slightly greener in color than olive oil. But surprisingly, even though they come from different sources, you might not be able to tell the difference from their nutritional profiles alone.
What’s the Nutritional Info for Avocado Oil?
According to the USDA, here’s what one tablespoon of avocado oil contains:
- Calories: 124
- Fat: 14 grams
- Saturated fat: 1.6 grams
- Monounsaturated fat: 9.8 grams
- Polyunsaturated fat: 1.9 grams
- Vitamin E: 1.8 milligrams
What’s the Nutritional Info for Olive Oil?
According to the USDA, here’s what one tablespoon of olive oil contains:
- Calories: 119
- Fat: 5 grams
- Saturated fat: 1.9 grams
- Monounsaturated fat: 9.8 grams
- Polyunsaturated fat: 1.4 grams
- Vitamin E: 1.9 milligrams
Is one healthier than the other?
Looking at just the numbers, avocado and olive oil appear almost identical. We asked two registered dietitians to weigh in (you know, just in case) and they both had similar responses.
“Both avocado oil and olive oil are similar in nutritional value and provide numerous health benefits,” Brittany Michels, a registered dietitian for the Vitamin Shoppe, told us. “Olive oil does provide slightly more vitamin E, but it’s important to note that it can be lost when cooking at high temperatures.”
Rebekah Blakely, also a registered dietitian for the Vitamin Shoppe, concurred: “Both avocado oil and olive oil are excellent choices to incorporate into a healthy diet. They are very comparable, both containing similar levels of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. The main difference is in their smoke points.” (But more on that in a minute.)
So there’s your answer: Avocado oil isn’t any healthier than olive oil, and vice versa. From a nutritional standpoint, you really can’t go wrong with either. Where your choice does matter? Flavor preference and cooking application.
How do they taste?
You’ve seen the olive oil aisle at the store: There are a jillion varieties. They can taste vastly different from one bottle to another, ranging from herbaceous to nutty to vegetal, but in general, extra-virgin olive oil (our bottle of choice) tastes light, peppery and green.
Avocado oil, on the other hand, tastes a lot like, well, avocados. It’s slightly grassy and extremely mild, lacking the signature bite that olive oil is known for. That’s not to say it’s completely neutral (like canola oil), but it’s decidedly mellow in the flavor department.
So which one should you cook with?
Remember that whole thing about smoke points? Here’s why it matters. A smoke point is the temperature at which your cooking oil will stop shimmering and start smoking. That’s not always a bad thing (sometimes you want a ripping-hot pan), but it should be a consideration. Go too far past the smoke point and the oil will start to break down, taste acrid, release free radicals and get close to lighting on fire (yikes). Basically, it tastes bad and is bad for you.
“Avocado oil has a higher smoke point temperature than olive oil,” Blakely says, “and olive oil starts to break down and degrade at a lower temperature.” To be precise, unrefined avocado oil has a smoke point of about 480°F, while extra-virgin olive oil hovers around 350°F.
That means olive oil is best used in raw applications (like salad dressing) or for cooking at low temperatures (like baking, oil poaching and slow roasting). Another thing to note: Michels says that extra bit of vitamin E in olive oil can actually be lost when cooking at high temperatures, so it’s especially important to save your fancy EVOO for cold applications if you want to maximize its health benefits. Which sounds better: black fig and tomato salad or naked lemon and olive oil cake? (Trick question.)
On the other hand, avocado oil can handle moderate- to high-temperature cooking, but we still wouldn’t recommend it for ultra-high temps (so no stir-frying or deep-frying, OK?). It shines in sautés, is great for roasting vegetables and can be baked with too. For starters, we’re using ours to make this zesty chargrilled broccolini.
So which cooking oil should you choose? The bottom line is that both avocado oil and olive oil are healthy options, packed with good-for-you antioxidants and heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Choose the one that tastes best to you, fits your budget and works with your recipe.