If your kitchen had a VIP lounge, olive oil would be at the top of the guest list. You cook with it, use it in all your favorite salad dressings, dip bread in it, drizzle it over burrata…heck, you’ve even tried it in a hair mask. But have you infused your own EVOO? It’s a simple way to bring flavor and excitement to your usual dishes, plus it’s super easy to do at home. Read on to learn how to infuse olive oil with all your favorite herbs and ingredients.
What You Need
Don’t worry, you don’t have to go all Ina and splurge on an expensive bottle of olive oil right away. Start with a non-pricy olive oil that you know you already like, then once you’re a pro at infusing and have a recipe you love, treat yourself to the good stuff.
You’ll also need an opaque olive oil dispenser to keep your concoction in. Plain olive oil has a shelf life of about 18 to 24 months. Air, light and heat exposure can shorten that window. So, if light or heat get into the bottle, say from a sunny window through a transparent glass pourer, it can make the olive oil go rancid quicker. If you don’t want to get a dispenser, any airtight container or jar will do—just be sure to use it in a timely fashion.
Then comes the fun part: deciding which dried herbs, spices and ingredients to infuse the oil with. Popular choices include garlic, lemon, rosemary, sage and basil, but there’s a *ton* of flexibility. Think everything from sun-dried tomatoes and crushed red-pepper flakes to orange zest and lavender. Just go with add-ins you love, just don’t leave anything in the olive oil that has traces of moisture, like fresh peppers or herbs, garlic cloves and citrus peels. This can cause mold and bacterial growth.
Some people infuse by simply adding herbs and spices to a dispenser, pouring olive oil over them and letting them get acquainted for a few weeks. But we recommend heating the olive oil and add-ins on the stove together to extract as much flavor from all the ingredients as possible. Plus, you won’t have to wait 14 days to use it. Here’s what you’ll need to infuse olive oil with garlic, lemon and thyme. Feel free to adjust according to your preferences.
- 2 cups olive oil
- 6 to 8 sprigs dried thyme
- 10 to 12 cloves garlic, peeled
- Peel of 1 to 2 lemons, thoroughly washed and dried
How to Infuse Olive Oil
The only prep involves washing the lemon, then peeling the lemon and garlic, which should take about 10 minutes. Then between the cooking and cooling, you’ll need about 45 minutes from start to finish.
- Pour the olive oil into a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Once it begins to bubble slightly, add the dried thyme. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then reduce the heat to low.
- Add the garlic and lemon peel. Remove as much of the lemon’s pith (aka the white stuff on the inside of a citrus fruit’s peel) as possible before adding the peel to the pot—it’ll give the oil an unpleasant bitterness. Keep the mixture warm on low heat and let the ingredients steep for about 20 minutes, or until the garlic is slightly browned. Don’t let it get so hot that the oil is simmering, spitting or bubbling.
- Remove the pot from the heat. Once the oil is cool, strain and discard the solids (unless you want to cook with the garlic). Pour the oil into a dispenser and store in a dark, cool place for about two weeks or the fridge for about one month. Feel free to add extra thyme or lemon peel to the bottle if you want it to look fancy.
Now that you have infused olive oil, cook with it, use it in marinades and dressings, dip crusty hunks of bread into it, brush it on meat, spice up your weekly caprese salad—you name it. The oil dispenser is your oyster.