Pairing Food with Olive Oil plus a handy chart!

Pairing Food with Olive Oil plus a handy chart!

Pairing Food with Olive Oil plus a handy chart!

You can create harmonious flavors by pairing food with olive oil.  It is similar to pairing wine and food. Extra Virgin Olive Oils (EVOOs) are varied in taste. The multiplicity of tastes and aromas make olive oil attractive to consumers who are looking for taste sensations to match each meal.

There are basically two distinct ways to pair olive oil with food:  complimentary and contrasting.

  • Complimentary flavors:  blend of two similar ingredients where you do not overpower primary flavors
    • Delicate oils (mild) will enrich and complement subtle flavors like fish, mushrooms, mayonnaise, seafood pasta and baking.
    • Robust oils will enrich and complement heartier foods like read meats and rich pastas.
  • Contrasting flavors: tasting each ingredient separately, which can add interest like drizzling robust oil over fresh mozzarella or drizzling medium oil over pecorino cheese.

Extra-virgin olive oils come with different aromas, taste and color. People often tell me that they can tell an extra virgin olive oil because it is green in color and has a strong taste.   This is not true.  Extra virgin olive oil ranges from a light yellow color to a deep green and from a mild (low intensity) to bold or robust (high intensity).  The quality of any extra-virgin olive oil is dependent on several factors: climate, type of olive, time of harvest, harvesting method, and production process.

Taste to Suit your Cooking Needs

It’s always a fun activity to taste different olive oils to determine what is best to suit your cooking needs.  Here are some guidelines:

  • Treat olive oil in the same manner as you treat wine.
  • Make sure that the taste and flavor of the olive oil you choose is suitable for the type of food that you are preparing
  • Answer the question ….do I want a complimentary or contrasting taste?
  • Heat destroys many of the of the complex flavors and aromas of olive oil, so only use premium EVOO as a finisher.
EVOO Attributes & Tasting Notes Best Use
Low Intensity/Delicate
  • Smooth and mild, delicate, light, elegant flavor, mellow yet rich
  • Slight bitterness and fruitiness
  • Buttery
Dishes that require subtle flavor enhancements, e.g.:

  • Fish
  • Pesto
  • Eggs
  • Baking/preparing desserts
  • Popcorn
  • Mayonnaise
  • Tender salad greens
  • Intensely olive fruity
  • Pleasant bitterness and pungency
  • Hint of peppery finish
  • Artichoke, avocado, nut
Dishes that call for fruity flavor enhancements, e.g.:

  • Salads
  • Grilled Chicken
  • White meat
  • Lamb
  • Vegetables
  • Fresh pasta
  • Great for dipping with bread or vegetables.
  • Red wine vinaigrette
  • Bitter greens
  • Corn salad
  • Fish dishes which are spicy
  • Sautéed or slow-roasted meat dishes such as lamb shanks
Robust/ Intense
  • Intensely bold and assertive
  • Pungent
  • Spicy
  • Grassy, artichoke, tomato, herbs
Dishes that call for a bold flavor; e.g.:

  • Pasta Sauces
  • Bitter greens
  • Spicy dishes
  • Soups (as ingredient and drizzled on top)
  • Stews
  • Grilled meats & roasts
  • Bruschetta
  • Aged cheeses
  • In seafood paella
  • With garlic mashed potatoes


, , ,


  1. Food Pairing - How Best to Use Extra Virgin Olive Oil - September 12, 2015

    […] Firenze, C. Pairing Food with Olive Oil plus a handy chart! […]