We’ve all been there. You start making brownies and realize you’re missing a key ingredient. Whether you’re out of eggs, have no chocolate, or have the wrong kind of oil, you may need to get creative now and then!
However, what about a simple issue, like if your brownie recipe asks for vegetable oil, but all you have is olive oil? Are the two oils interchangeable?
Can you use olive oil instead of vegetable oil for brownies? Let’s find out!
What is Olive Oil?
Before diving into the uses and substitutions of oils, let’s look at what each oil is.
Olive oil comes from the fruit of an olive tree (Olea europaea). It’s an ancient commodity produced since 4,000 B.C. and used for food, cosmetics, soap, medicine, and lamp fuel.
Olive trees begin bearing olive fruits when they are about five to twelve years old, with some trees maturing to over 2000 years old and still producing usable olives.
After harvesting the fruit, they are washed and crushed by large stones or steel blades. They then mix the olive paste to release the oil.
After extracting the oil, they spun it in an enormous centrifuge to remove excess water. What’s left behind is the olive oil sitting on your counter right now!
What is Vegetable Oil?
While olive oil is made strictly from olives, vegetable oil can come from several sources.
Vegetable oil is, in fact, a blanket term that covers any oil extracted from fruits, seeds, grains, and nuts. Under this description, some would even consider olive a vegetable oil.
The most popular ingredients in vegetable oil are rapeseeds, soybeans, corn, sunflowers, safflowers, peanuts, and palm kernels.
Any vegetable oil product can be any blend of these ingredients, but most specific brands will have a proprietary mix to produce a consistent product.
In making vegetable oil, manufacturers crush the vegetable to extract the liquid in its flesh in a process called pressing. They then heat the mix with a chemical solvent to help separate the remaining oil.
Finally, the oil undergoes refining to remove impurities, odors, colors, and bitterness before packaging and distribution.
The Purpose of Vegetable Oil in Brownies
Before deciding which oil is best for brownies and if they are interchangeable, think about the purpose of vegetable oil in brownies.
Oil is the primary fat in brownies, making the brownies soft and gooey as well as preventing clumping in the batter. In short, if you want silky rich brownies, you need fat!
Vegetable oil tends to be a very neutral-flavored oil, which allows the rich chocolate taste of the brownies to shine through.
Most bakers also prefer this oil because it doesn’t aerate batter (as butter may) and helps make fudgy brownies fatter than a cakey texture.
Can You Make Brownies with Olive Oil?
The short answer is yes. You can use olive oil in place of vegetable oil when making brownies.
Both types of oils have the same density and should measure the same. Although, you should be aware of the effects of making this substitution, both good and bad.
Benefits of Using Olive Oil
There are a few pluses to using olive oil in brownies.
First, olive oil is considerably healthier than vegetable oil. Olive oil comes from a single type of fruit, so you’ll always know what you’re putting into your plate.
Secondly, olive oil is processed gentler than vegetable oil. It doesn’t use chemicals and relies solely on traditional grinding methods to produce the oil.
Thirdly, olive oil is also much more nutritious than vegetable oil. It has a high level of monounsaturated fatty acids, proven to be good for your health by many experts.
All these benefits will be baked right into your brownies when you use olive oil instead of vegetable oil!
Downsides of Using Olive Oil for Brownies
Many people describe olive oil as slightly bitter when used in baked goods, something you and I don’t want in our confection!
Thankfully, there’s a trick to avoiding this hitch. And it’s as simple as using a light olive oil rather than the more potent extra virgin oil.
Also, make sure to purchase a good brand of oil. Cheaper olive oils usually have a more intense smell than the better-known brands.
Speaking of olive oil brands, you may notice quite a price difference between olive and vegetable oil products. Olive oil is generally much more expensive than vegetable oil and will increase the cost of your brownies.
So, keep that in mind when scooping out a few tablespoons of gourmet olive oil to mix into your brownie batter!
Is It Better to Bake With Olive or Vegetable Oil?
You can use both olive and vegetable oil for baking. In fact, you can replace the latter with olive in any dessert recipe using a one-to-one ratio.
That said, it’s worth noting that there’s a good reason most bakers use vegetable oil for their pastries. And it’s got something to do with its taste.
See, vegetable oil has a very mild taste, so you won’t detect it when eating your brownies. In contrast, olive oil has a stronger, more pungent taste, which may come through in baked goods.
So, unless you want your confection to taste olive-like, I’d still recommend using vegetable oil for baking.
Other Oil Options
If olive oil doesn’t seem like the right brownie fat for you, but you still don’t want to use vegetable oil, there are other options you can try.
Corn and canola oil, for example, are both very common in baking and will produce the same brownie results as vegetable oil. They are both mild and inexpensive—perfect for brownie baking!
Coconut oil is another excellent oil, but it’ll lend a subtle coconut taste to your brownies (but chocolate and coconut are a fantastic combination!).
Of course, you can always turn to classic butter as the fat in your brownie recipe. However, butter can cause the brownies to puff up slightly, which might make the brownies more cakey rather than fudgy.
If you’re in the middle of baking brownies and only have a bottle of olive oil on hand, don’t worry—you can definitely use olive oil to make brownies!
That said, keep all the points I raised in mind so that the brownies coming out of the oven are what you expect.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.