How to Choose the Best Olive Oil for Salad
Olive oil is one of the go-to salad toppings, both on its own and as an ingredient in a dressing. But choosing an extra virgin olive oil for salad is not as simple as grabbing whatever olive oil is closest to you. Read on and discover how to choose an olive oil for salad, plus tips for making your own salad dressing.
Choosing an Olive Oil for Salad
What olive oil you use for your salad will depend on the ingredients in the salad itself, as well as whether you want the olive oil to complement or contrast the food. A complementary salad dressing enhances the flavors that are already there, elevating them rather than competing with them. A contrasting olive oil is as strong as the flavors in the rest of the food, so you experience both tastes at once. Either option can work for your salad. It is all about what you prefer.
Olive oil is sorted into three flavor intensities: delicate, medium and robust. If you want complementary flavors, then a delicate olive oil would pair best with fruit salad or dainty greens that have a mild flavor and are easily overwhelmed. A medium olive oil is very versatile and goes well with spinach, lettuce and other classic salad greens. A robust olive oil will have the strongest taste out of all of them and is best for salads that feature bitter greens such as arugula or strong toppings such as blue cheese.
Beyond the strength, the taste of the olive oil will also depend on what region it comes from and what olives were used to make it. A very fruity olive oil does not go well on every salad in existence, which is why it is important to familiarize yourself with how different olive oils taste. You can also enhance your salad even more by choosing a flavored olive oil that features the taste of the olive oil itself, plus whatever ingredients it is infused with.
If you tend to keep only one olive oil in your cupboard, a medium extra virgin olive oil, like our ALIVE olive oil, will go with the widest selection of salads. However, your salads will benefit a lot if you widen your palate and keep several different olive oils on hand to use in all sorts of dishes.
Making Olive Oil Dressing for Salads
While olive oil is a tasty topping on its own, most people like to mix it with some other ingredients to really add flavor to their salads. Homemade vinaigrette may seem impressive, but it only takes five minutes to put together and it takes no special cooking skills. Here are common dressing ingredients that you should keep in your pantry so you can make a homemade version whenever you feel like it:
- Balsamic vinegar for bolder dressings
- Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar for lighter dressings
- Dijon-style mustard
- Garlic powder or chopped fresh garlic
- Honey or maple syrup to add sweetness
- Dried or fresh spices
For making vinaigrette, a good ratio for olive oil, vinegar and mustard/honey is 6:2:1. So if you used one tablespoon of olive oil, you would add one teaspoon of vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon of mustard and/or honey and then adjust the proportions from there. Salt, pepper and herbs are all added according to taste, so make sure to start off small. You can always add more, but once you have added it to the salad dressing, there is no going back. Simply put all the ingredients in a measuring cup, whisk with a fork and enjoy your olive oil dressing on your salad!
Once you get comfortable with a standard vinaigrette recipe, start branching out and substituting or adding new ingredients. For instance, you can swap in a lemon olive oil for a citrus twist or a basil olive oil to add a touch of herbs. Embrace the possibilities and you might be surprised which homemade salad dressing you enjoy.
At Brightland, we offer a range of California extra virgin olive oils that taste great on all kinds of salads, including regular olive oils and flavored olive oils. Our AWAKE olive oil is a peppery, herbaceous, grassy olive oil that could be paired with stronger tasting veggies, whereas our ALIVE olive oil might be a better fit for more delicate greens. Each of our olive oils are bottled in opaque packaging to protect against UV damage and prolong the shelf life of our olive oil. Browse our many olive oil options today.