In our ambitious quest to find the best olive oils, we tested more than 100 bottles over a two-week period. The good news? We found plenty of olive oils we loved at every price level. The bad news? We also found bottles we really really didn’t like too.
The particularly upsetting part is that even the bottles we did like upon first taste were no longer as vibrant when we tasted them again, one week later. That’s why we suggest buying a reasonably priced (whatever that means to you) extra-virgin olive oil from the most recent harvest, storing it smartly, and using it with abandon every morning, noon, and night. Get through it while it’s still fresh!
In fact, several of our Test Kitchen editors admit to only keeping one bottle of olive oil in their kitchens for cooking, baking, dressing salads, and adding a finishing drizzle to dishes that need it. If you, too, are that type of cook, you’ll be set with the highest scoring olive oil in our roundup: Monini GranFruttato Extra-Virgin Olive Oil.
But, like I said, we picked a few other top contenders. For our methodology and the full list of oils we tasted, scroll to the bottom. But first: our picks for the best olive oils of 2021.
Best olive oil overall: Monini GranFrutatto
This top-scoring Italian blend is balanced with a lingering peppery bite. Senior editor Maggie Hoffman found it grassy with sage-like undertones. It also tastes, unmistakably, of olives (which, funny enough, you can’t say for every brand).
One thing that may contribute to this bottle retaining its freshness and vibrancy is that the manufacturer has installed a “pop-up pourer” underneath the cap, which limits the amount of oxygen that can get in. (Remember: Oxygen, heat, and light can all turn a good oil bad.) Use this bottle in any and all olive oil applications.
Best budget-friendly olive oil: Colavita Italian Blend
We found this Italian olive oil floral with a nice aroma and a touch of peppery flavor. While some bottles in this category were insipid or watery, this hits the middle of the mark in terms of pungency (that is to say, it’s neither a mild flavor nor an extremely robust flavor—it fell into a happy place in between). Tasters also noted flavors of bitter almond, green pepper, marjoram, and citrus.
We also liked Merula Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. For a milder option around $20, go for this Spanish blend. Commerce editor Emily Johnson found it to have a soft herbal flavor reminiscent of sage or oregano. The delicate flavor would play well in both sweet and savory bakes or in cooking something like scrambled eggs, where a hint of olive oil is nice, but a bold oil may be overpowering.
California Olive Ranch Everyday also stood out among the pack. Although California Olive Ranch has faced a bit of backlash following its transition from 100-percent California-grown olive oil to its Destinations Series, which sources from varied olive oil ports to cope with variations in the harvest due to climate change, we found that we still liked this Test Kitchen standby. It’s mild, nutty, and rich. And even if isn’t the most exciting and vibrant oil on the roster, we’d still use it for cooking every day.
Best midrange olive oil: Monini D.O.P. Umbria
This oil has a distinct savoriness—almost like rosemary—that would make it play well with something sweet. Emily called out an underlying “creaminess” that made her want to pair it with an orange-loaded salad. Of course, we’d also be happy to drizzle it over a meat and cheese platter, garnish a bowl of winter-squash soup, or bake it into a quick and delicious apple cake.
Best high-end olive oil (bold and fruity): Calivirgin Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
If you’re looking for a fresh olive oil that’s bold and bracing, balanced by a fruity flavor, here’s your bottle. The unfortunately named Calivirgin had an intense, spicy finish, offering a sweet fruitiness alongside vibrant grassy, almondy flavors.
We also liked Olive Oil Jones: Siena Tuscany. For a milder, buttery option, pick up a bottle of Olive Oil Jones’s Tuscan blend. While it still boasts a peppery back note, up front it’s all lush almonds and apricots with an herbal whisper.
Best olive oil splurge (grassy and tannic): Brightland Alive
Instead of spring grass, this Instagram star has an essence of grass clippings and wet leaves. It tastes stemmy and woody, its warmth and spice paired with unabashed bitterness and a tannic quality. This isn’t the oil for everyone, but several of our tasters adored it.
What we were looking for in the olive oils
We set out to find the best extra-virgin olive you could buy in a large cross section of America’s grocery stores, plus a few that could easily be purchased online.