Olive oil consumption in the US, at 362,000 metric tons annually, is way below the consumption of other edible oils, classified as vegetable oils. However, despite the huge difference in consumption volumes, olive oil is regarded as a healthy option with a long list of benefits. A question that has been doing the rounds with increasing persistence is – can you substitute olive oil for vegetable oil? By virtue of the composition of various oils, suitability of oils for specific purposes has more or less been established. It is in this context that the question holds relevance, especially as individuals are turning health conscious. So let’s take an informed look to ascertain if olive oil can substitute vegetable oil.

Differences between olive oil and vegetable oil

Before we set out to answer the question – can you substitute olive oil for vegetable oil? – it is necessary to understand the differences between both oil varieties.

Olive Oil

Vegetable Oil


Extracted from Olives

Differs – from seeds of fruits, nuts

Saturated Fat

14% saturated fat

6% to 92% saturated fat

Monounsaturated Fat

73% monounsaturated fat

6% to 82% monounsaturated fat

Calories120 calories/tablespoon120 calories/tablespoon
Primary UsesCooking, skincare, medicinal, ritualsCooking, industrial, cosmetics, medicinal
TypesExtra virgin oil, Virgin Oil, Pure Olive OilNut oils and seed oils – soya bean oil, sunflower oil, palm oil, sesame oil, canola oil, corn oil, rice bran oil, grape seed oil, argan oil etc.

Olive oil is from a single source, while vegetable oil could be from one of many sources. This makes it difficult to compare the two types of oil in a head to head comparison. However, from an overall standpoint of view, olive is considered as the healthier option. The biggest supporting datapoint is the percentage of monounsaturated fat in olive oil. It is time to look closely at the benefits of olive oil before we get to answer the question – can you substitute olive oil for vegetable oil.

What are the benefits of olive oil and when can you substitute olive oil for vegetable oil?

Olive oil has a long list of benefits and delivers nutrition at levels unseen in other oils. Some of the top benefits include :

#1 Abundant in antioxidants

The large amounts of antioxidants make olive oil extremely healthy and nutritious. The anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to prevent oxidation of blood cholesterol make help to reduce heart disease risk.

#2 Monounsaturated fat

With one of the highest levels of monounsaturated fat through the oleic acid, olive oil helps reduce risk of heart attack through various mechanisms of action. From the prevention of oxidation of LDL cholesterol, preventing the formation of blood clots, to reduced blood pressure, olive oil helps improve heart health and importantly reduces risk of attack/stroke.

#3 Combats weight gain

Another important advantage are proven results from studies that clearly demonstrate olive oil as beneficial in helping fight weight gain. Individuals who were the subject of the study consumed olive oil for an extended period and results showed that no weight gain was recorded.

Now that the top three advantages of olive oil have been listed out, lets look at the question – can you substitute olive oil for vegetable oil. As explained earlier, both oil types have various compositions, and are typically suitable for specific purposes. Let’s look at the best use cases of both oils – here’s a little table to help you.

Olive OilVegetable Oil
Lower smoke point – more suitable for use in preparations that involve lower temperature Higher smoke point – more suitable for use in preparations that involve higher temperature
Not suitable for use in recipes that involve stir frying and deep fryingIdeal for use in recipes that involve stir frying and deep frying
Lends greater taste to the preparationLends little or no taste to the preparation

As can be seen above, there are clear differences about suitability of differnet types of oil for various preparations. So, can you substitute olive oil for vegetable oil? Yes, and No. Yes – Olive oil can be substituted for vegetable oil in certain preparation types. No – Olive oil is not the right choice for use in preparations where more heat is involved. 

For instance, wherever the oil is used at medium heat during preparation, you can substitute olive oil in place of vegetable oil. If you need to stir or deep fry, then stick to vegetable oil. Here, it is important to add that the flavor of the preparation is an important consideration. Olive oil lends its flavor to the food being prepared. This could be subtle or heavy depending on the ingredients and the method of preparation. However, the oil lends its flavor to the finished dish/preparation. In the case of vegetable oil, the oil does not lend its flavor to the preparation/dish – it is neutral in nature. Therefore, if your dish or preparation should highlight the taste of the ingredients and not be altered through other oil, then vegetable oil is the best choice. However, if you need to enrich the flavor of the dish and give it the unmistakable and rich texture of olive, then choose olive oil.

So, when can you substitute olive oil for vegetable oil?

If your primary concern is health, then you can substitute olive oil for vegetable oil in all your preparations, by slightly altering the choice of dishes. Opt for preparations that involve sautéing over low heat, and choose healthy options such as a salad. Here, it is essential to remember that olive oil has to be ruled out during baking of food products. While the oil is not exposed to direct heat like that of deep frying or stir frying, the distinct flavor of the oil will linger in the baked food product and this have an impact on the taste of the product. This may not be the best option in most baked food products and therefore olive oil needs to be avoided when baking. In conclusion, olive oil can be substituted in place of vegetable oil for specific preparations that do not involve high temperature.

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