The best olive oils that won't break the bank

There are a lot of places outside the United States where you'd be hard-pressed to find a bottle of salad dressing. That isn't to say people aren't eating salads, it's just that instead of drowning their fresh vegetables in ranch, they add fat and flavor to their greens with a few drizzles of balsamic vinegar and a high-quality extra virgin olive oil. Diners make their own little vinaigrette at the table and it never, ever disappoints.

Olive oil — the good stuff, that is — has a rich and complex flavor that should be savored. Of course, if you buy cheap or compromised olive oil, you're not getting a product worthy of your fresh summer salads. In fact, sub-standard olive oil will taste rancid and musty — not appetizing at all. 

Fortunately, you don't have to drop big bucks to find a quality product. These extra virgin olive oils have passed purity tests and get great reviews so you know picking up a bottle of your own is a smart move. These are the best olives oils you'll find under $25 as of March 2019 (but keep in mind that prices vary over time and by location). 

​Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Costco, $17 for 2 liters (for Costco members)

Despite the media's attention on olive oil fraud, it's not too difficult to find a quality product. In fact, you can find a decent extra virgin olive oil at a great price the next time you have to swing by Costco. As Jenn Garbee of LA Weekly points out, Kirkland Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil was the least expensive olive oil to pass the purity standards as set by the 2010 report from researchers at UC Davis and the Australian Oils Research Laboratory. And it's not just academics that back Kirkland's quality. Chef and author of the cult cookbook Salt Fat Acid Heal Samin Nosrat also feels that Kirkland Signature is one of the best-tasting olive oils for your buck. 

While a lot of the better olive oils from that study are made with domestic fruits, Kirkland Signature Organic stands out as a product imported from Italy. As far as flavor goes, Kirkland Signature Organic is fresh, fruity, and robust — an easy addition to any of your favorite Mediterranean-style dishes.

McEvoy Ranch, Traditional Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil

McEvoy Ranch, $25 for 375 mL

According to a 2012 Consumer Reports taste-test of 23 different olive oils, California's own McEvoy Ranch Organic Extra Virgin earned some of the highest scores and was one of only two products deemed "Excellent." Furthermore, Food & Wine magazine lists McEvoy Ranch among their choices of the world's best olive oils. Made from olives grown in the unique microclimate of the Petaluma Gap in West Marin County, just north of San Francisco, McEvoy Ranch also stands out from the crowd due to their transparency concerning their farming practices.

You can find this variety of McEvoy on the shelves by the distinctive blue-tailed skink on the label. As far as flavor goes, McEvoy's traditional blend invokes herbaceous flavors of raw artichoke and sweet green almond with slightly bitter, peppery finish thanks to notes of cinnamon from the Leccino olives included in the blend. Enjoy its green, complex flavor by making a quick dressing with garlic, red pepper flake, grated Parmesan cheese, salt & pepper to taste, and fresh chopped parsley (optional). Toss the dressing with fresh greens or pour it over pasta for a simple weeknight meal. 

Trader Joe's Extra Virgin California Estate

Trader Joe's, $6 for 500 mL (not available online)

The other product that achieved top marks from the 2012 Consumer Reports taste-test was Trader Joe's California Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Made from a blend of the first press of Arbequina olives sourced from various ranches in the Sierra foothills. Since it comes from a single blend of olives, it's going to have the more singular flavor profile associated with Arbequinas. It's a pure, unfiltered oil that boasts a gentle and balanced flavor that features both sweet and spicy notes. 

Consumer Reports isn't the only one praising TJ's California Estate. Writer and olive oil expert Tom Mueller doesn't like all of the Trader Joe's olive oil options, but he did find that California Estate is "typical of a well-made Arbequina." That means for around just $6 you can get a 500 mL bottle of sweet, delicious EVOO that's as good as any of those designer oils out there. Oh,Trader Joe's — what did we ever do to deserve you? You give and you give and we are ever so thankful. 

Trader Joe's Premium 100% Greek Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Trader Joe's, $9 for 1 L (not available online)

Speaking of the giving nature of your neighborhood TJ's, the California Estate isn't the only EVOO of which Tom Mueller approves. In fact, of the six oils he sampled, his favorite was Trader Joe's Premium 100% Greek Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Mueller describes the oil's aroma as "spicy, complex," and "very fresh" while containing flavors of "nice mature fruit, real zing of pungency, pleasant bitterness," and "a gentle nutmeg-like spiciness." And while the California Estate comes in an elegant 500 mL bottle, Trader Joe's 100% Greek Kalamata Olive Oil is an overall better deal at around $9 for twice that amount. 

This product also stands out on the list as the first option made from Greek Kalamata olives. Kalamatas have a deep, almost wine-like flavor that pairs well with the tangy feta cheese and crisp vegetables found in Greek village salads. They can be distinguished by their almond shape as well as gorgeous, purple-black coloring… but don't expect to see dark hues pouring from the bottle. Once pressed, the oil of Kalamatas develops into a deep green hue that matches its fresh and fruity notes. While it may not be the most complex olive oil on the market, it's a great base for your favorite homemade vinaigrettes. 

California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil

California Olive Ranch, $13 for 500 mL

When a Redditor asked the community to help them find an affordable, quality olive oil, the responses were varied, but one came out on top. California Olive Ranch seems to have lead the way in the case of the Golden State's olive boom of the early 21st century. The CA-based brand's extra virgin olive oil is available in several varieties (though our favorite is Everyday) and is perfect for roasting vegetables, frying eggs, and replacing butter in baked goods. It's more mild flavor makes it more versatile, but you still get a slight peppery aftertaste courtesy of the high levels of the polyphenol oleocanthal — a mark of quality in olive oils that also reduces inflammation. All that at about $13 for 500 mL.

In 2018, New York Magazine listed California Olive Ranch's product as the "Best oils for everyday use." Author of Virgin Territory: Exploring the World of Olive OilNancy Harmon Jenkins, says California Olive Ranch Everyday is "a good beginner olive oil" that's both "affordable" and "versatile." Likewise, author of Eating Between the Lines: The Supermarket Shopper's Guide to the Truth Behind Food Labels Kimberly Lord Steward also claims she uses California Olive Ranch as they manage to maintain the integrity of the oil while keeping the overall price at an affordable rate. 

California Olive Ranch Limited Reserve

California Olive Ranch, $22 for 500 mL

California Olive Ranch joins Trader Joe's as the second brand to have two high-quality, low-cost olive oils on this list. Their Limited Reserve Extra Virgin Olive Oil earns its place because while the Everyday is great for, well, every day, the Limited Reserve features a more robust and complex flavor that is better suited for dishes where the oil is a main component. In fact, the 2008 Limited Reserve harvest earned a gold medal from the California Olive Oil Council.

There are many ways one can compare olive oil to wine — they are both derived from fruits that require similar growing climates, for one — but unlike wine, olive oil does not get better with age. California Olive Ranch's takes that truth to heart with their Limited Reserve. Each bottle is hand-selected by their in-house experts to provide the very best product with a flavor that is unique to the year's climate and growing conditions. It's bottled shortly after harvest, which makes it cloudy and full of all those tiny olive particles that help make EVOO so delicious. Best of all, each year's Limited Reserve batch tastes different and is made in small quantities, making it worth the slightly higher (but still affordable) price tag of around $22 for 500 mL. 

Texas Olive Ranch's Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive OIl

Texas Olive Ranch, $15 for 250 mL

California isn't the only state to get in on "the other oil boom." The climate in parts of central and south Texas can be very similar to that of the Mediterranean – mild, rainy winters and very hot, dry summers. In these pockets of the Lone Star State, certain types of olives can flourish. Thus sprung Texas Olive Ranch. Located outside Carrizo Springs, Texas, Texas Olive Ranch boasts more than 50,000 olive trees and is one of the most prevalent olive oils with the GO TEXAN stamp of approval. Texas Olive Ranch mainly focuses on oils made from single-varietal Arbequina fruits. And while they aren't the cheapest on the list at about $15 for 250 mL, they do get points for growing their fruits without chemicals or GMOs

As far as flavor goes, Texas Olive Ranch's Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive OIl is fresh and well-balanced with low acidity. The base notes are buttery and rich, but finish with peppery and spicy notes. The Arbequina Extra Virgin is Texas Olive Ranch's most versatile product, but they also specialize in flavored oils that invoke the wild spirit of Texas. Their "Rattlesnake" variation has added spice thanks to an infusion of chipotle and crushed red chili peppers while their Mesquite Infused Olive Oil taps into the traditions of Central Texas BBQ with smokey, woodsy notes — both of them are perfect for creating your own "Tex-Mediterranean" creations. 

La Tourangelle Organic 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil

La Tourangelle, $11 for 500 mL

How you store your olive oil has a lot to do with how long it will retain its quality. Excessive exposure to light and air speeds up the oxidation process and can cause your olive oil to spoil, leaving a rancid, dirty taste in your mouth. La Tourangelle Organic 100% Extra Virgin Olive stands out not only for its awesome price and quality, but also its container. While most olive oils are packaged in a glass or plastic bottle, La Tourangelle packages their artisan oils in lightweight aluminum canisters that keep the light out and delicious freshness in. It's a great everyday oil that won't break the bank at around $11 for 750 mL.

La Tourangelle is North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) certified for authenticity, meaning their Extra Virgin Olive Oil meets a full range of purity parameters based on the global trade standards set forth by the International Olive Council (IOC). Made from Spanish Picual olives, La Tourangelle is a smooth and full-bodied oil with a clean, fresh smell.

Lucini Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Lucini Italia, $14 for 500 mL

Argentina has a tendency to pump out its own versions of Italian classics, be it popes, wine, or — of course — olives. The temperate climate and rich soil of the Andean foothills is the perfect environment to grow several types of olives – many of which are used to make Lucini Italia Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil (which is produced in Italy). Lucini consistently meets standards established by the International Olive Council (IOC) when tested by the UC Davis Olive Center. So you know you're getting the good stuff anytime you buy it. 

In a "Supermarket Standoff," Bon Appétit editors found Lucini to have the best flavor out of the nine they tested. Lucini has a smooth, full-bodied flavor that incorporates "fruity, nutty, and pepper-y" notes. It's the perfect accompaniment to your favorite balsamic vinegar to make a quick and easy salad dressing that compliments fresh vegetables rather than overpowering them. It also makes a great base for marinades when roasting meats. 

Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Colavita, $12 for 750 mL

When it comes to Old World quality, you don't have to look much further than Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Made by the Colavita family since 1912, this EVOO is certified by the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA). That means it falls within the purity parameters set forth by the International Olive Council (IOC), so you know you're getting a legitimate product. And despite its wallet-friendly price — around $12 for 750 mL — Colavita has the recognition to back up its reputation as a quality product. It's received high ratings from The New York Times and is also a two-time winner of the "Best Everyday Cooking Oil" in Men's Health Magazine's Annual Nutrition Awards.

Colavita EVOO has a very light and agreeable flavor. However light it is, though, you can still expect that spicy, peppery finish that you should seek from a quality product. Since it is a blended oil with a mild flavor profile, Colavita is a great oil for making your own infusions with herbs from your garden, assorted peppercorns, or whatever fun flavor combinations you can come up with. 

Partanna Sicilian Extra Virgin Olive Oil

World Market, $14 for 500 mL

There's a scene in the fourth season of Sex and the City where Charlotte tries to set up her wedding planner Anthony Marentino with Carrie's man-bff Stanford Blatch. 

"Marentino, is that Italian?" Stanford asks. 

"Sicilian," Anthony responds.

"Is that different?" asks Stanford. 

To which Anthony answers, with obvious exasperation, "YES." 

The point of this little anecdote — besides dating myself with television references from 2001– is to point out that Sicilian identity matters. Therefore Partanna Sicilian Extra Virgin Olive Oil deserves its own place separate from its Italian cousins. The Asaro family has been growing, pressing, and packaging Partanna on the island of Sicily since 1916. If you frequent any rustic Italian restaurants, you may have noticed its iconic, pastoral-themed tins in one corner or another. It's a common choice among chefs due to its high quality, versatility, and great value. Those who need to feed a lot can buy at bulk at the great price of 3 liters for around $33 — though the average household will be fine with a 500 mL tin for about $14. 

Partanna has a rich, green color and cloudy viscosity. The flavor is full-bodied, but not overly-complex. It's probably best described as "buttery" in flavor, making it an especially great choice for adding fatty flavor to lean meats like fish and poultry as well as roasted root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beets, and onions. It's also the obvious choice to use when preparing a baking dish for Sicilian-style pizza, naturalmente.  

Whole Foods 365 Organic 100% Italian Olive OIl

Whole Foods, $10 for 1 L (not available online)

Whole Foods frequenters, rejoice! Your favorite specialty grocery giant isn't one to miss out on an opportunity to make a quality product. At $10.99 for 1 L, Whole Foods 365 Organic 100% Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil is one of the best deals out there, rivaling Trader Joe's when it comes to affordability. And just about all of Whole Foods' extra virgin olive oil varieties — including their Spanish, Greek, and Mediterranean blends– are certified by the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) for authenticity

Whole Foods 365 has a very green, "refreshingly light" flavor with notes of crisp bell pepper right at the front and just enough spice in the finish. Beyond its "green-ness," there isn't much complexity to Whole Foods 365. It's a great oil for those who aren't looking for a bunch of bells and whistles, simply a nice, basic EVOO they can turn to when it comes to everyday cooking. This makes it a great pick when you want to add the health benefits of olive oil to your dishes without imparting unwanted flavors.