Olive oil and grape seed oil are both widely available cooking oils from plants. Nutritionally, they are both considered “good” oils as they are high in unsaturated fat, low in saturated fat and cholesterol-free. They are very similar in terms of nutritional value. When choosing between the two types of oil to use for various cooking needs, the main considerations are the relative tastes and smoke points.
Olive oil is made by pressing olives; grape seed oil is made by pressing grape seeds. Olive oil is categorized by the type of pressing: extra virgin olive oil comes from the first pressing of olives and is unrefined; regular olive oil is a blend of refined and virgin olive oils. The method of production results in several types of olive oil being available to consumers to suit diverse needs and tastes. Grape seed oil is made by pressing grape seeds left over after the fruit is pressed into wine. Proponents of grape seed oil laud its environmentally friendly nature of production because it eliminates the waste of a byproduct of wine-making.
Olive oil and grape seed oil are virtually identical in terms of nutritional content. Per tablespoon, both oils have around 120 calories, 1.8 grams of saturated fat and 9.7 grams of unsaturated fat. All oils from plant sources are cholesterol-free, so both olive oil and grape seed oil are relatively heart-healthy choices. Although both oils provide vitamin E, valued for its antioxidant properties, grape seed oil contains more. It has about 3.9 milligrams per tablespoon compared with 1.9 milligrams in a tablespoon of olive oil.
Grape seed oil and olive oil have different aromas and flavors–a major consideration when picking an oil to use. Grape seed oil sometimes has a very mild grape taste and scent but is generally neutral in taste. This means it is suitable for cooking foods with delicate flavors that could potentially be masked by stronger-tasting oil. It can be used for baking and whenever a recipe calls for a neutral oil. Olive oil, on the other hand, usually retains a fruity taste with a slight hint of olives. Extra virgin olive oil has the most flavor; regular olive oil is milder. The strength and character of olive oil’s flavors and aromas can vary considerably by brand. The flavor of olive oil complements Mediterranean cuisine but can potentially overpower other milder flavors. The decision of which oil to use really comes down to personal taste preferences.
The smoke point of a cooking oil is the temperature at which the it begins to give off smoke. Oils should never be heated beyond their smoke points–the flavor deteriorates, the oil can not be reused after deep-frying and it’s dangerous. The smoke point becomes a factor when you want to use oil for deep frying or sauteing at high temperatures. Olive oil has a relatively low smoke point, around 320 degrees Fahrenheit, although there are some brands available that can tolerate higher heat. This smoke point is not high enough for deep frying. Grape seed oil has a much higher smoke point of around 420 degrees Fahrenheit, so it can be used safely and successfully for deep frying and sauteing at a high heat.
Grape seed oil can be used for virtually any cooking need from salad dressings to deep frying. Its neutral flavor increases its versatility. Olive oil’s more distinct taste limits its compatibility with other foods and can overpower milder flavors. Grape seed oil could therefore be considered a better “all-around” oil. Olive oil has more limited applications but many people enjoy its taste and cook with it whenever possible. Both are some of the most healthful oils available.