We Tried 21 Olive Oils to Find the Best. Here’s What We Thought of Each.

The top bottles for cooking, drizzling and everything in-between

September 22, 2023 9:22 am
a lineup of olive oils on a grey background with olive branch illustrations
Up your cooking game with these EVOOs.
Sardel/Frankies/Wonder Valley/Flamingo Estate/Graza

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Olive oil is a wonderful thing. Not only does it taste absolutely delicious, but it’s super healthy as well. It’s full of monounsaturated fatty acids, which can help reduce LDL (read: bad) cholesterol, and it also contains polyphenols, antioxidants that can protect cells from damage. But finding the right bottle for your kitchen can be daunting, firstly because olive oil is expensive, and secondly because the olive oil industry is famously shady and misleading. The good news is that so many great brands with honest missions have cropped up in recent years, making it easier than ever to snag an excellent bottle of liquid gold. 

So how exactly did we test all of these bottles? We sat down in a room with multiple loaves of sourdough rye baguettes from Librae Bakery in New York City and went to town. Every single olive oil that we sampled is extra virgin. Some were better for cooking, others were perfect for salads and many of them would make great gifts. Here are the 21 olive oils we tried so you can stop searching and start drizzling and sizzling.

Brightland Awake is made by cold pressing early-harvest Arbequina olives from California’s Central Coast. While the brand touts this as their bolder and more robust olive oil to use for roasting and sautéing, they also mention that it’s great for bread. And we agree. Our tasters found it “light and refreshing, and many described it as “bright” and “fruity.” While we all concur that the bottle is beautiful enough to display on a countertop, the no-spout design is messy and leaves the bottle greasy after pouring. Brightland does sell a stainless steel pour spout for $10 if you love the oil and want a less messy experience.

Brightland Alive is made with early-harvest Arbequina, Arbosana and Koroneiki olives from California’s Central Valley. It’s advertised as the brand’s smoother olive oil that’s great for salads, hummus and bread, and we couldn’t agree more. Almost everyone said that it’s milder than Awake with a little “kick” on the finish. Again, gorgeous bottle design, terrible for pouring, so it’s worth investing in the brand’s pour spout if you stick with these bottles. 

Graza Sizzle is aptly named, as the brand says it’s perfect for anything you would put in or on top of the oven. It’s made with mid-harvest Picual olives from Jaen, Spain. While our panel found it too bitter, we all agreed that it would be great for cooking, and one taster said it’s “the best cooking oil.” It also got high marks for “design innovation” — the easy-pour spout means “no greasy fingers.”

Drizzle is Graza’s finishing oil, and it’s made from the same Spanish Picual olives, but they are harvested earlier than the fruit that goes into Sizzle. Our tasters found it bright and fruity — and much milder than Sizzle. One even said it’s “subtle but nice.” Again, everyone appreciated the nozzle and “good bottle design.”

This olive oil is made from cold-pressing hand-picked olives from a family-run farm in Ojai, California. Flamingo Estate describes it as vibrant and peppery, and we agree. Our panel found it sharp, spicy and with a great minerality. One taster noted that it “packs a punch,” and another thought it would be great to “dress a briny pasta or salad.”

Kosterini Original is made with cold-pressed early harvest Koroneiki olives from southern Greece, and it was definitely one of the favorites during the tasting. “Pleasant” and “lovely” were used by two different tasters, and a couple people said that it’s “universal” and a “crowd pleaser.” And the value ($29.95 per bottle) was definitely mentioned more than once.

Kosterina Organic Everyday is still made from early harvest Koroneiki olives, but it’s priced $10 less than the Original and is made for cooking. Our tasters found it to have a mild, pleasant flavor (though a couple thought it was too bland), and a few said they would use it to “dip bread” or drizzle on salads and other things in addition to cooking. Everyone loved the bottle design and easy-pour, mess-free spout.

Wonder Valley’s 2022 olive oil is made from a blend of Arbequina, Favalosa and Tuscan olives from Lake County, California, that are pressed within hours of harvesting. The brand describes it as herbaceous and peppery, and it delivers: nine out of 10 tasters described it as either grassy or earthy (or both), and many noted that they liked the spice. There were also many comments about the excellent bottle design, though the oil comes out way too fast when using the optional pour spout.

Rubirosa olive oil comes from the NYC restaurant of the same name, and that certainly comes through in the product. Many tasters said it has “Italian restaurant vibes,” and one even noted it “feels like Nonna’s house.” Some thought it was citrusy, others found it pleasantly spicy and everyone touted the “great design,” saying it has an “incredibly cool bottle.” Rubirosa actually uses this olive oil — which originates from a fourth-generation family farm in southwestern Sicily — in its own restaurant kitchen.

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Heraclea Mature Harvest is made in Turkey from late-harvest Memecik olives. It’s meant to be a cooking oil, and our tasting panel found that to be true. It was definitely too spicy when dipping bread, but tasters noted that it would be good for roasting and sauteing. The bottle has a nice, sleek design, but the pour spout is messy, so wipe it down before displaying it on the countertop.

Heraclea Early Harvest is also made from Turkish Memecik olives, albeit from earlier in the season. This produces an olive oil that is “smooth” and perfect for dipping bread or making salad dressing. One taster called it “light, fresh and likable.” Again, beautiful bottle design, but not the best pour spout functionality. 

We totally judged Sardel by its cover — just by looking at the bottle, our panel thought the olive oil would be lackluster. But man were we wrong. Produced in Puglia, Italy, from Coratina olives, Sardel Organic “takes you on a journey” with its “spicy” yet “creamy” flavor and texture. More than one taster called it “luxurious,” and another said it was the “star of the show.” Others noted that it would be perfect for a special occasion or giving as a gift. 

The Biancolilla Centinara olive was nearly extinct until Dr. Pasquale Marino, the chief scientist of Bona Furtuna, helped rediscover it. It now thrives on La Furtuna Estate, a 300-hectare organic farm outside Corleone, Sicily. It makes for a smooth olive oil that our tasters found “earthy” with a “rich, rounded” flavor. A couple people commented that it’s “reliable” and “perfectly solid,” making it great for every day.

Bona Furtuna Forte is made by cold pressing the the most potent olives on the La Furtuna Estate, and our panel certainly found it to be stronger and spicier than the Biancolilla Centinara. “Elegant,” “bright” and “versatile” were some other adjectives that came up during our tasting, and one panelist said it would be good for gifting. 

Laudemio is sourced from 21 estates across Tuscany. This was probably the most robust olive oil we tried during our tasting. While it would be excellent for cooking, our tasters found it too bitter for dipping bread. But Laudemio’s strong spicy flavor would be perfect for roasting meats or sauteing heartier vegetables.  

We don’t have to tell you Trader Joe’s has some amazing products for an unbeatable value. But are you privy to the grocer’s Sicilian Selezione olive oil? It’s made from a blend of Biancolilla, Ogghiredda and Cerasoula olives, and it costs $8.49 for a 16.9 ounce bottle in the store (it’s more expensive on Amazon). Our tasters said it was the “best bang for your buck,” and the “savory, robust flavor is a miracle for the price.” It’s good for cooking and drizzling/dipping alike.

Frankies Spuntino is one of Brooklyn’s most beloved restaurants. But even if you can’t be there to try their famous cavatelli with sausage and sage brown butter in person, you can channel their Italian cuisine with their signature olive oil. Our tasters were slightly split on this one. Some found it slightly bitter, while others thought the flavor to be pleasantly savory. But almost all agreed that it would be a “reliable” kitchen staple, and everyone loves the packaging. 

I’ve been using this olive oil for years — I usually leave my local Greek market with two three-liter tins, and it lasts forever. I definitely wondered how such an affordable olive oil would hold up against some of the fancier bottles we tried, and everyone was as sold as I am. Our panel found it “very, very good,” and one taster even said, “I love her, I want to swim in it.” The flavor was described as bright and buttery by more than one person, and everyone acknowledged that it’s an incredible value. 

Bono is the largest producer of olive oil in Sicily, and their expertise certainly comes through in their bottlings. The Val di Mazara PDO olive oil is made from a mix of Biancolilla, Cerasuola and Nocellara del Belice olives from West-Central Sicily, which gives it a grassy, vegetal aroma. Our tasters found it “very good” and “immensely tasty,” and more than one person said it has “just the right amount of spice.”

Bono’s Sicilia PGI olive oil is also made from a mix of Biancolilla, Cerasuola and Nocellara del Belice olives from Sicily. While one taster found it to be a little too spicy for their palate, others found it to have a “nice spice” and “grassy” flavor. One panelist exclaimed that it’s delicious and they “would use for everything.”

Fancy Peasant arrived after our tasting, so our full panel didn’t get to try it. But because we’ve heard such good things, I sampled it with a smaller group of bread and EVOO enthusiasts at home. The brand’s Everything olive oil is made from hand-picked, organically grown Koroneiki olives from a single estate in Lechania, Greece. It has a smooth, buttery flavor with just the right amount of grassiness that can truly be used for everything — sautéing, salads, you name it.


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