The Very Best Grocery Store Olive Oils

A very thorough, very oily taste test.

7 min read

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The best extra virgin olive oil, with its complex, delicious symphony of flavors, elevates everything it touches — salads, raw and grilled veggies, meat, seafood, soups, stews, pasta, risotto, and even desserts (vanilla ice cream is a personal fave). Dishes go from fine to excellent with the addition of quality EVOO. 

But how to go about choosing a bottle from the long lineup available at supermarkets? I set out to taste my way through the bottles to determine which could deliver on quality and flavor. 

The Methodology

Professional olive oil tasters use blue glasses that look a little like votives for tea candles. They sip the oil straight to get a completely pure taste of the oil, and the opacity of the glass means you won’t be swayed by the oil’s color. I just used a small juice glass, but I otherwise followed the pros’ method. 

Next, I cupped each glass with my hand and gave it a swirl, which warms up the oil and unleashes its aromas. Then I stuck my nose in and gave it a good, enthusiastic sniff. (Just like tasting wine.) 

Then, I sipped! I look for three main assets in good olive oil: fruitiness, pungency, and bitterness. Fruitiness entails anything on the nutty or fruity spectrum, from notes of almond to green banana. Pungency amounts to a peppery tickle at the back of your throat. Olives are intensely bitter, and bitterness in olive oil is a great sign of an abundance of polyphenols, antioxidants that contribute to olive oil’s nutritiousness.

Defects include rancidity which is caused by oil going bad, fustiness due to fermentation from the absence of oxygen, and mustiness, a basement floor taste of olives that have gone off. 

The Taster

 Hi! That’s me! I fell in love with olive oil at Fairway Market in New York City, where I worked as a copywriter about a decade ago. The olive oil section was prodigious, and part of my job was writing signs and material to communicate what set apart our hundreds of extra virgin olive oils. Since then, I’ve taken a deep dive into olive oil: harvesting olives in Crete, helping to host the New York International Olive Oil Competition, visiting olive mills in Spain and Italy, and writing for the Olive Oil Times (yes, that’s a thing).

For this taste test, I chose a dozen olive oils available at major grocery stores (and on DoorDash!) around the country. I sipped from my juice glass and gave them a dip in bread, because in real life, olive oil is an ingredient rather than a delicacy on its own. These are the six bottles that found a place in my kitchen and in my heart. 

 Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil Rich Taste 


Immediate green flag: This oil includes a harvest date as proof of its freshness, one of the most important traits in olive oil. Flavorwise, it starts off with a luxurious buttery-ness and finishes with that satisfying peppery piquancy in the back of my throat. In between, there are notes of fresh herbs and just-mown grass. This is an especially delicious pick with crusty bread.

Cobram Estate Australia Select Olive Oil


Cobram was a small brand back in my Fairway days, but it has been growing in a big way since then. This oil felt beautifully balanced, with enough body and bite to stand alone but mellow enough to meld into a recipe where I wouldn’t want it to take over — I’m using it in my next veggie pasta dish. Notes of artichoke and green olive with its slightly punchy finish make this olive oil shine.

Graza Sizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Graza has sparked controversy among olive oil professionals, including some who point out that plastic bottles degrade over time. (The company says an opaque finish keeps the plastic stable.) But it has exactly what I look for in my search for flavorful, superb oil that would elevate my everyday cooking — a bright, fruity, peachy freshness and a tingly, balanced bitterness. This pick feels just right for summertime grilled veggies and Caprese salads.

 Paesano Organic Unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil


This Sicilian oil made from three local olive varieties — Nocellara, Biancolilla, and Cerasuola — immediately won me over. It had the personality of a sunny day in Sicily (I haven’t yet been, but I can imagine!). Paesano’s vibrant freshness, almondy richness, and that telltale throat tickle set it apart. I’m saving this for drizzling over steaks and arugula salad. 

Lucini Premium Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil


This legacy olive oil brand has been on my radar for a long time. While many other big olive oil brands have moved towards super-high-density mechanical harvesting (which produces a higher yield per acre but, traditionalists argue, sacrifices quality), Lucini is made from hand-harvested olives grown in Tuscany and Central Italy. It’s more delicate than most in the lineup, with subtle notes of fresh tomatoes and ripe melon. Still, it’s bursting with bright, herbaceous oomph. I’d bring this to a picnic for dipping a fresh baguette.

California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 100% California


 This is California Olive Ranch’s flagship oil pressed from olives grown exclusively in California. It’s at a price point that makes me feel comfy to use for marinating and sautéing (I save my expensive oils for finishing). I’m a fan of its feisty bitterness, green freshness, and harmonious balance.


Photography: Paul Quitoriano
Prop Styling: Gerri Williams
Art Direction: Sarah Ceniceros Gomez