What’s the Best Olive Oil for Salads to Buy at the Grocery Store?

In a recent Instagram poll, I asked followers about olive oil loyalty. Do you prefer a certain brand? If so, what’s the best olive oil for salads and everyday cooking? Here’s what surprised me: among responses, three names kept repeating—including one that, turns out, has also won at least five olive oil taste tests online.

What's the best olive oil for salads and everyday cooking? / Go Eat Your Bread with Joy

Anyone who buys olive oil—and that’s essentially all of us, according to last week’s Instagram poll—knows the challenge of sifting through shelves of options at the store. How should you decide which one to buy? Is price most important? Or should you focus on source? Are oils from Spain better? What about Italy?

I asked you for your opinions last week, and about 24% of the 200 people polled said yes, you are loyal to a certain brand. Of those respondents, most people gave me one of three repeated answers.

Most Popular Olive Oil Brands, per Instagram Poll

In total, poll respondents provided five different olive oil brand names, not including a few answers based on source (Spain, California) and one based on family trees (from Italy! Imagine!), rather than brand.

So, in addition to one person who said CostCo and another who recommended Chaffin Orchard, here were the three brands with more than a few loyal fans:

  • California Olive Ranch
  • Trader Joe’s (various varieties or unspecified)
  • Aldi

Having personally bought both California Olive Ranch and Trader Joe’s olive oils (currently partial to the kalamata variety from TJ’s, which was journalist and olive oil expert Tom Mueller’s pick here) but never Aldi’s, I found this interesting. Following up with one respondent, I heard that Aldi’s has been ranked high for its price, although we couldn’t locate the test that said so.

This got me thinking. How do different store-bought olive oils compare?

Olive Oil Taste Tests + Their Results

Rather than conduct my own olive oil version of the tomato test a few weeks ago, I decide to crowd-source. What tests have already been done, and what have they found? Are there similarities? Repeated outcomes? Yes and yes–in fact, they agree with you. Here’s what I find.

  1. The Best and Worst Olive Oil from the Grocery Store / My Recipes (Nov 2017). This roundup of ten different grocery store olive oils catches my eye mostly because of the second-place winner. Right after Lucini, an Italian variety that “begins herbal, but ends with a present-but-not-overwhelming flavor that evokes a blend of black and green olives,” there is one of your favorites: California Olive Ranch. “If you’re making a salad dressing, this one’s your go-to,” says Lissa Townsend Rodgers.
  2. The Best Olive Oils, According to People Who Consume a Lot of It / NY Mag’s Strategist (Aug 2018). Rather than a ranking of worst to best, this roundup calls out the strength of each bottle, from those that are best for finishing to best Italian. Under the first category, “best olive oils for everyday use,” there it is again: California Olive Ranch.  Writer Nikhita Venugopal says it’s “affordable, versatile, and available in three different flavors for everyday use.”
  3. The Best Olive Oils for Pasta, Salads, and Everything Else / Good Housekeeping (Dec 2017). I don’t have to look far to spot California Olive Ranch in this roundup: it’s the first listing, dubbed “Most Versatile” and “if you’re only going to buy one olive oil, let this be the one.” Three for three! Looking good, California Olive Ranch.
  4. You’ll Never Cook with Butter Again after Trying These Delicious Olive Oils / Best Products (Nov 2018). OK, here it is again. California Olive Ranch wins Best Overall in this test, too, which sought to find and name the top five brands making tasty, versatile and high-rated options.
  5. The Best Olive Oil You Can Buy at the Grocery Store / Tasting Table (Sept 2017). Last but not least, another win. By this point, I’m not surprised to find California Olive Ranch ranking as the top pick. Here, writer Andrew Bui says it “was the unanimous group favorite.” In this test, also notably, Trader Giotto’s 100% Italian Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil gets second place, priced $0.32/ounce compared to the California Olive Ranch’s $0.65/ounce. (But, also worth mentioning, this is in direct contrast to Mueller’s opinion, shared at The Kitchn article linked above, which calls that particular TJ’s option “defective,” compared to others.)

What Does This Mean for You?

So what does all of this information prove? If you are already loyal to a particular olive oil brand, and that brand is not California Olive Ranch: not much.

If, however, you are on the hunt for a good olive oil—say, the best olive oil for salads or marinades or everyday use? Social proof says this is the one to try! It’s not only beloved by survey respondents; it’s also a repeated winner in official tests and reviews online.

Learn more about California Olive Ranch olive oil*!

(Or, if you’re more of a Trader Joe’s loyalist, read this roundup from Tom Mueller: Trader Joe’s Extravirgins (and Floozies).)

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