We have all been there. You start making brownies and realize you are missing a key ingredient. Whether you are out of eggs, have no chocolate or have the wrong kind of oil, you may need to get creative every 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 take a look at what each oil actually is. Olive oil is made from the fruit of an olive tree.
Olive trees begin producing olives when they are about five to twelve years old, with some trees maturing to over 2000 years old and still producing usable olives.
Once the olives are picked, they are washed and then crushed by large stones or steel blades. The olive paste is then mixed to release the oil.
The oil is then spun in a large centrifuge to remove any excess water and what is left behind is olive oil!
What is Vegetable Oil?
While olive oil is made strictly from olives, vegetable oil can come from a variety of places. The blanket term ‘vegetable oil’ covers any oil that is extracted from fruits, seeds, grains and nuts.
The most popular ingredients in vegetable oil are rapeseeds, soybeans, corn, sunflowers, safflowers, peanuts and palm kernels. A vegetable oil can be any blend of these ingredients however most specific brands will have their own proprietary mix that they use to produce a consistent product.
To make vegetable oil, the vegetables are crushed to extract the oil and then the mix is heated with a chemical called hexane to help extract the rest of the oil. The oil then undergoes a refining process to remove impurities and bleach as well as deodorize the oil before it is packaged.
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.
To begin, oil is the primary fat in brownies, making the brownies soft and gooey as well as preventing clumping in the batter. If you want silky rich brownies, you need a fat!
Vegetable oil tends to be a very neutral tasting oil which will allow the rich chocolate taste of the brownies to shine through. Vegetable oil is also preferred as it does not aerate batter (as butter may) and helps make fudgy brownies fatter than a cakey texture.
Can You Make Brownies with Olive Oil?
To answer the main question at hand, the answer is yes. You can use olive oil in place of vegetable oil when making brownies. Use the same quantity of olive oil as the recipe is asking for in vegetable oil.
Both oils have the same density and should measure the same. However, 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 is sourced from a single food, olives, so you will always know exactly what is in the oil you are using.
Olive oil is processed in a much more gentle way, skipping the use of chemicals and relying solely on traditional grinding methods to produce the oil.
Olive oil is also much more nutritious than vegetable oil. It has a high level of monounsaturated fatty acids which have been proven to be good for your health.
All of 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
As mentioned before, vegetable oil has a very neutral and mild taste so you will not detect it when you are eating your brownies. Olive oil, on the other hand, has a stronger, more pungent taste which may come through in the brownies.
Many people describe olive oil as being slightly bitter when used in baked goods, something you definitely do not want for your brownies! To avoid this, use a light olive oil rather than a stronger extra virgin oil.
Also, make sure to purchase a good brand of oil. Cheaper olive oils tend to be more pungent than the better known brands.
Speaking of olive oil brands, you may notice quite the price difference between olive oil and vegetable oil. Olive oil is much more expensive than vegetable oil and will certainly increase the cost of your brownies.
Keep that in mind when you are measuring out a few tablespoons of that gourmet olive oil to mix into your brownie batter!
Other Oil Options
If olive oils doesn’t seem like the right brownie fat for you but you still do not want to use vegetable oil, there are a few other oil options you can try.
Corn oil and canola oil 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 also a good oil to try but will lend a subtle coconut taste to your brownies (but chocolate and coconut are a fantastic combination!).
You can always turn to classic butter as the fat in your brownie recipe. Butter can cause the brownies to puff up slightly so keep in mind that the brownies may be a little more cakey rather than fudgy.
If you are in the middle of baking brownies and only have a bottle of olive oil on hand, do not worry, you can definitely use olive oil to make brownies. However, keep all of these points in mind so that the brownies coming out of the oven are exactly 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.